With MLS teams beginning to open training camp, across the country I am beginning to sit down and figure out who is actually going to play for each of these teams. Obviously a few signings here and there could change all this, but here’s who I am feeling good about and who I am not feeling so hot for.
Teams I am feeling good about:
The Galaxy. Bruce Arena seems to be on the road towards making a credible MLS team out of the absolute crater he came upon last season. I always thought Thomas Rongen left the largest roster craters upon departure, but Gullit certainly is in the running after 2008. Ricketts cannot possibly be worse than the stiffs the Gals had in goal last year, and just the simple presence of MLS-tested vets like Dema, Miglioranzi and Magee will help this team. I am curious to see just where Arena goes with his defense and if he chucks Omar Gonzalez and/or AJ Dellagarza into the lineup immediately. Finally, the biggest change, the extremely-likely departure of Landon Donovan and the still-looking-likely departure of David Beckham gives Arena the potential for a lot of room to work on this roster. Assuming the cap space does get freed up, could we see him chase an experienced CB and another scorer during the season?
New York. The Red Bulls continue their experimentation with the concept of continuity which, considering they’re a cup finalist, is a good thing. I like their moves so far and assuming that just a few of the “relay team” members up front have enough skills to stick in MLS, that kind of speed will bother a lot of defenses in this league. It still seems to me that they have questions in goal, unless they decide the future is now and hand the keys to Cepero.
Toronto. Sigh, if only they had a competent coach rather than the poor man’s Joe Kinnear. This team reminds me a bit of DC last year. If the defense and goalkeeping can just not stink completely, this unit (especially with DeRo) should score enough to make them playoff contenders. I’ll make this bet, Carver doesn’t make it to the end of the season. I can very much see this team canning him (potentially with Mo taking back the reins) and having a NE-post-Clavijo sort of run.
Teams I am not feeling good about:
United. The ole’ hometown team is not leaving me stinking of optimism right now. The more I think about their draft, the less I like the fact they didn’t trade up to get Gonzalez. (Lifton, you’ve convinced me.) On top of that, Gallardo’s hair appears to be the only part of him he hasn’t injured in the past year. If Olsen cannot return, we’ve just seen it confirmed that his salary cannot come off the books and at the moment United has only one central defender worthy of starting in this league. All this on top of the continued reliance of big money players that aren’t getting any younger like Moreno have me concerned that United has fallen into its old trap of falling in love with its own guys again and not knowing when to say goodbye.
Colorado. Does anyone ever feel good about the Rapids, ever? Not to get too Gardner-esque, but you never want to hear your coach saying this anymore.
And if this team had to play teams like Kidderminster Harriers and Stevenage Borough they might have a chance of succeeding. Also, you have to wonder a bit about their scouting when their draft produces players from George Mason, Albany, South Florida, Redlands, Winthrop, and Michigan. While a few of those teams ended the season high in the polls, they don’t immediately strike you a factories for pro players.
Chivas USA. Rumors of a managerial shakeup, sales of their best players, and former players ripping the tactics. To blatantly rip off Bill Simmons, ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 Chivas USA! Feel the excitement!
That’s it for now. If your favorite team isn’t here, it doesn’t mean they’re doomed. I just haven’t had a chance to read too much about them yet.