Major League Soccer clubs have either opened up their training camp or about too. So it is a perfect time them for the first MLS rankings of 2011, courtesy of the MLS Soccer.
There is little surprise that the team who made the single biggest splash this offseason is ranked number one. Couple of surprises for me in that the Philadelphia Union is ranked #10 as they enter their second year while the Revs are ranked #17, below the expansion Portland Timbers. Do you agree or disagree with the rankings?
1: LA Galaxy
The acquisition of JPA was huge, and the Galaxy are banking that it helps ease the loss of a double-digit scorer in Buddle. The team has some holes to fill – midfield general Kovalenko and locker room guru Cobi Jones are gone – but just look at that roster.
Key losses: Edson Buddle, Dema Kovalenko, Tristan Bowen, Eddie Lewis
Key additions: Juan Pablo Angel, Frankie Hejduk, Chad Barrett, Adam Cristman
2: Real Salt Lake
Jason Kreis says his team is looking better than ever before. Not much personnel change during the offseason, which could mean an even tighter unit in 2011. But could the group be affected by CCL play in February?
Key loss: Robbie Findley
Key addition: Arturo Alvarez
3: New York Red Bulls
The Norwegian Solli seems like a solid addition and the DPs will begin their first full season in MLS, which are the obvious positives. Not a ton of change outside of the JPA loss for Hans Backe, who continues to make minor tweaks to a talented team.
Key losses: Mike Petke, Seth Stammler, Jeremy Hall, Juan Pablo Ángel
Key addition: Jan Gunnar Solli
4: FC Dallas
Like RSL, they’ve mostly held together the core of a good team. Time will tell if the losses of McCarty, Harris and Cunningham will have a notable effect, but Brek Shea and Zach Loyd are poised for breakout seasons. If FCD get a pure goal-scorer, they’ll be very dangerous.
Key losses: Jeff Cunningham, Dax McCarty, Atiba Harris
Key additions: Chris Seitz
5: Colorado Rapids
They’ll have the swagger of champions, but do they have the tools to repeat? Not a lot of changes to Gary Smith’s club, but there are some inklings that their run through the postseason was simply a well-timed fluke. Can they instead become the RSL of 2010?
Key loss: Julien Baudet
Key additions: Sanna Nyassi, Tyrone Marshall
6: Seattle Sounders
Relatively quiet in the offseason. The loss of Sturgis could be interesting to watch, and the club also lost Nyassi, who was beginning to come into his own late in the season. Still, no surprise some of us had the Sounders as high as second.
Key losses: Sanna Nyassi, Tyrone Marshall, Nathan Sturgis
Key addition: Erik Friberg, O’Brian White
7: Sporting Kansas City
Got to like the combination of Teal Bunbury and Kei Kamara. If they can pull that off and integrate Bravo into the mix, this could be this year’s Colorado Rapids. Plus, they have some incentive while playing in a brand new park.
Key losses: Jimmy Conrad, Josh Wolff
Key additions: Omar Bravo, Luke Sassano
8: San Jose Earthquakes
Lenhart isn’t quite a top-shelf forward, but he can make a difference. He could combine well with Chris Wondolowski, allowing the Golden Boot winner to drift out wide into dangerous areas while the former Crew man creates havoc in the box.
Key losses: Geovanni, Arturo Alvarez, Joe Cannon, Cornell Glen
Key additions: Steven Lenhart
9: Columbus Crew:
They left it a bit late to restructure their roster and they’ve still got work to do, which is why 2011 could be an interesting year after such an impressive run of success. Very curious to see the effects of a Crew team with no Schelotto.
Key losses: Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Eric Brunner, Frankie Hejduk, Steven Lenhart, Brian Carroll
Key additions: Sebastián Miranda
10: Philadelphia Union
The Sebastien Le Toux-Danny Mwanga combination could blossom into something even bigger this year, but this is still a young team that lacks an identity. Carroll was a solid pickup, and all eyes will be on veteran Colombian goalkeeper Mondragón.
Key losses: Alejandro Moreno, Shea Salinas, Chris Seitz
Key additions: Brian Carroll, Faryd Mondragón, Carlos Valdés
11: Houston Dynamo
Houston still haven’t fully addressed their biggest problem from 2010: losing Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark in the midfield. Brian Ching was plagued by injuries and patchy form last season, and is fending off talks of retirement. Still, the strong draft class helps.
Key losses: Pat Onstad, Ryan Cochrane, Joseph Ngwenya, Richard Mulrooney, Adrian Serioux
Key additions: Jason Garey, Hunter Freeman, Kofi Sarkodie, Will Bruin, Jordan Graye
12: Chivas USA
The Robin Fraser hiring is a solid one on paper, but he’s still staring down his first season in charge of a rebuilding team. The additions of Moreno, Conrad and Bowen, though, should help, and we’re already intrigued by Victor Estupiñán.
Key losses: Jonathan Bornstein, Giancarlo Maldonado, Marcelo Saragosa
Key additions: Jimmy Conrad, Tristan Bowen, Alejandro Moreno, Zarek Valentin
13: D.C. United
Definitely an upgrade from a frustrating 2010, but this team is still a year or two away from realizing the full potential. McCarty is a franchise player, and everything about Kitchen says he’ll be a difference maker. And can Wolff find some magic up top?
Key losses: Troy Perkins, Jaime Moreno, Pablo Hernandez, Rodney Wallace, Danny Allsopp
Key additions: Dax McCarty, Josh Wolff, Joseph Ngwenya, Steve Cronin, Perry Kitchen
14: Toronto F.C.
An impressive coaching overhaul, but do they really have the players to play Total Football? Not yet. They’ll once again lean on Dwayne De Rosario week in and week out, and there’s some pressure on Julian de Guzman in 2011.
Key losses: Chad Barrett, Mista, O’Brian White, Nick Garcia
Key addition: Nathan Sturgis
15: Chicago Fire
It could be a long year in Chicago, where the Fire lost more talent this offseason than any other team. Yes, the McBride and Brown retirements hurt, but the loss of Thorrington could be just as meaningful.
Key losses: Brian McBride, C.J. Brown, John Thorrington, Wilman Conde, Freddie Ljungberg
Key additions: Cory Gibbs, Josep Mikulic
16: Portland Timbers
The one big question here: Can Cooper regain his form from the glory days with FC Dallas? If he can, the Timbers can make some noise in the stands and on the field in 2011. And Perkins is on a mission to regain his footing.
Key additions: Kenny Cooper, Troy Perkins, Darlington Nagbe, Eric Brunner, Jeremy Hall, Kerrea Gilbert
17: New England Revolution
Steve Nicol’s crew had a quiet offseason after a disappointing 2010. The additions of Cochrane and former Greek pro Domi should shore up the team a bit, but there’s still a ways to go to return to the glory days at Foxborough.
Key losses: Cory Gibbs, Preston Burpo, Emmanuel Osei
Key additions: Ryan Cochrane, Didier Domi
18: Vancouver Whitecaps
The addition of Rochat was huge, adding a defender with some Champions League chops to go along with DeMerit. But while they scored with the youngster Michael Nanchoff, they likely won’t see any returns from top SuperDraft pick Salgado this year.
Key additions: Jay DeMerit, Alain Rochat, John Thorrington, Atiba Harris, Joe Cannon, Shea Salinas, Michael Nanchoff, Omar Salgado