Tuesday, March 17, 2009

SSN Big Fat MLS Preview

Ah springtime. The mud is muddy, you feel fat because you're breaking out the light clothes after a winter of sloth, there's another story about A-Rod doing something stupid in Florida and the MLS regular season deathmarch begins. North America's seventh most popular professional sport will offer up a lot of what you've come to expect by now: a long mostly pointless regular season in which the matches are spaced too far apart and most of the teams get into the playoffs, a new playoff format which you won't understand, a whole bunch of roster moves prompted by the arcane and ever-changing waiver and salary cap rules, a bunch of former stars from Europe and South America showing up to cash easy checks and finding themselves kicked off the park, a pointless All Star game and a public that gets way more worked up over August exhibition matches with European giants moving at half speed than meaningful matches with divisional rivals. It will all be capped by the crowning of a champion that got hot at the right time and rode their luck rather than grinding out the most wins. So bring it on already! What follows is a team-by-team capsule of the league and some predictions which Sanford is going to guarantee to the tune of $100/per, to be collected at default time by anyone with the stones to ask. Here are the previews ranked in order of last season's finish:

East Division

Columbus Crew
Last year's deserved champion, they pulled an unusual feat for an MLS team- they won the Supporter's Shield (awarded to the team with the best regular season record, this exists so that fans of teams who win it can complain that the playoffs are bullshit after they don't win MLS Cup as well). Guillermo Barros Schelotto was easily the league's best player and Frankie Hedjuk was easily the league's most annoying hippie. They made the smart move of lowballing coach Sigi Schmidt who promptly took a better offer from Seattle. They're not going to take anyone by surprise this season but they should be pretty solid.

Chicago Fire
The Fire started their 2008 season lukewarm, got worse, signed Brian McBride and proceeded to scare the hell out of everybody. They ultimately lost to a better Crew team in the away leg of the East Division championship while New Jersey was spanking Real Salt Lake. Q: Why were New York playing a worse team in a different division despite having a much worse record? A: Who the fuck knows? Anyway, this team returns pretty much unchanged. They had the league's best defensive record and a full season of McBride and Blanco with the dangerous Chris Rolfe and promising second year player Patrick Nyarko should produce the goals. I am picking them to finish best in the East because I've got season tickets and that's what I do.

Prince and the New England Revolution
They had a tough year in '08- they started the year with no Taylor Twellman due to injury and they limped into the playoffs without Steve Ralston. They lost Michael Parkhurst, one of the best outside defenders in the league. They're going to be worse, sez I.

Kansas City Wizards
Last year's Argentine star, Claudio Lopez, was largely disappointing. This year's Argentine star, Santiago Hirsig, hopes to do better. If this team is going to do anything Josh Wolff will need to score a lot. Draw your own conclusions.

New Jersey Metro Donkeys
This team played in the final last fall because of the idiotic seeding system set up at league office. Steaming fucking load. Coach Juan Judas Osorio turned over most of the roster this winter. Fuck him and fuck this team.

DC United
Whiniest fans in MLS had a lot to cry about last year. They shipped out former MVP Christian Gomez and brought in big shot Argentine Marcelo Gallardo, who didn't show much stomach for the fight. He's gone back south and they brought back Gomez who finished last season on the bench in Denver. They're moving the team to the suburbs. Good luck with that.

Snobronto FC
Toronto's fans pride themselves on being the best in the league, because Toronto is more "European", whatever that means. Apparently being the best involves fighting with traveling fans (the few that are given the opportunity to buy tickets under TFC's beloved "Fuck Them" policy), trashing public transport and drinking a lot so as to ignore how much their team loses. They brought in Canadian superstar Dwayne DeRosario and they've done a fair amount of overhauling on the roster. They're a fashionable pick in the east right now but I'm not buying it- you don't just build a whole new team and expect to win right out of the gate. Well not a whole new team- Danny Dichio is back!

West Division

Houston Dynamo
Last year the defending champs played in too many competitions and they crapped up most of them. They began badly in the league and improved enough to win this horrible division, then lost in the first round of the playoffs. They lost their playmaker. Can't see them doing as well this year, but you never know.

Chivas USA
Showed improvement last year, then lost their keeper. Still relying on Razov for goals. Their playmaker, Sacha Klejstan, is the most hot and cold player in the league, and he's looking to head to Europe in the summer. They'll make the playoffs.

Real Madrid (Salt Lake)
Last year was their first trip to the playoffs and they were respectable, losing to a Metrodonkeys team that had no business being there. Some people like them this year, some people don't. When forced to evaluate this team's chances I tend toward Bartleby, the Scrivener: "I would prefer not to."

Colorado Arsenal Rapids
Why can't they get their shit together? I don't really care. No playoffs.

FC Dallas Burn
See the Colorado entry for a succinct summary on this team.

Jewel of MLS
Ha ha ha. Worst in '07, worst in '08, get ready for worst in '09. Half of their salary is tied up in two players who don't want to be there, one of whom is going to miss at least half of the season. They don't have a good striker, their starting CB is ancient and barely played between 2005-07. They're starting rookies in key positions. They're expecting a big year out of Eddie Lewis. Bruce Arena is a fat jerk. Have fun watching the Lakers and the Dodgers, LA sport fans.

San Jose Natural Disasters
So they don't draw well, they move the team to Houston and then give San Jose an expansion team two years later. I don't get it. In '08 they were lively but bad and their big player was the mighty Darren Huckerby. Instead of doing the right thing and trying to sign the rest of that Leeds team (Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Woodgate at the back, Viduka and Fowler at the front, David Batty breaking the legs and Harry Kewell dazzing on the wing) they went out and bought the oldest broken down 25 year old in pro soccer, Bobby Convey. I never saw it with him- he's fast but makes poor decisions, doesn't have a great touch and doesn't strike the ball all that well. They're going to lose a lot again in '09.

Seattle FC Sounders
Seattle's ownership group is talking a big game, saying they're going to be the best expansion team ever. Sorry, that title will always belong to the amazing '98 Fire squad. They brought in Freddie Ljundberg, a great but injury-prone player four years past his prime who hasn't played a full season since about 2002. And they're asking him to play on astroturf. If nothing else he'll look stunning on the billboards and singlehandedly finance a local production of "Mamma Mia!" They'll have great goalkeeping with Kasey Keller but I think that will be about it. Drew Carrey is slowly morphing into a cross between Rosie O'Donnell and Ellen DeGeneres. Sigi Schmidt has looked like that for years, it's a match made in heaven. At least attendance will be good.

Playoff Predictions
Playoffs: Chicago, Columbus, Toronto, KC / Houston, RSL, Dallas, San Jose (NOTE: at least one team from the West will qualify with a losing record)
Finals: Chicago / RSL
MLS Champ: Chicago in a walk.


Pedro said...

Who's the genius at MLS that scheduled the league kick-off on the first day of the NCAA tourney?

The Editor said...

Hah! Another brilliant move by the MLS brass. They are experts at shooting themselves in the foot.

Bobbie BS said...

My take on that is this: ESPN doesn't have any tourney games. ESPN did poorly in the ratings department with their Thursday night MLS broadcast last year. ESPN made MLS go with the Thursday night kickoff because they hold all of the cards and they'd rather not get crushed with something they actually care about, like Pardon the Interruption or an NFL mock draft.

Pedro said...

Well, whatever the case, I bet even the players will be checking their brackets in the halftime locker room.