Wednesday, March 18, 2009

MLS predictions are a perilous business. Just take a look around at the various prognosticators beating down this path and you'll see some wildly divergent views on what's going to take place over the next seven months. Even the redoubtable Brucio -- as cultured an MLS mind as you ever will find -- picked Columbus to finish dead last in the east last season.

But that's part of what makes our humble little league glorious to follow. Anything can happen. Toronto might learn how to play defense. Sigi Schmid might finally give birth. Seattle might defy recent history by failing to lay a stinking turd in the middle of the pitch during its inaugural campaign. Grandpa Doe might score 20 goals. Heck, Los Angeles might even make the playoffs (yeah, not likely).

It may not be the finest futbol in the world, but it's certainly not boring or predictable. So without further ado, from worst to first, my undoubtedly dunderheaded MLS predictions:

15. Los Angeles Galaxy: No club has proven as remarkably inept as the league's highest profile squad. Full credit goes to ass clown extraordinaire Alexi Lalas. He might have departed, but his legacy lives on. With two of the highest paid players in the league -- Landon Donovan and Beckman -- the Galaxy apparently have no money left under the league's salary cap to fill out a reasonably competent roster. At least I assume that's their excuse, because Bruce Arena has added almost nothing to a team that finished tied for the worst record in the league with the expansion side San Jose Earthquakes. Rookies Omar Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza, along with senior citizen Tony Sanneh, will be counted on to bolster a defense that gave up a remarkable 62 goals last year (11 more than the next leakiest defense). The new man between the pipes is Donovan Rickets. Which reminds me of The Onion's headline after Obama's election: "Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job." Good luck Mr. Rickets!

14. D.C. United: 2008 was a real bummer for the league's most successful franchise. Every single player they brought in to the side was a monumental bust. Marcelo Gallardo was a desperation buy after Juan Sebastian Veron left Dave Kasper standing at the altar holding a No. 10 jersey. The Argentine showed flashes of mesmerizing skill, but was hobbled by injuries and generally seemed indifferent to the team's plight. The Brothers Gonzalo -- Martinez and Peralta -- were exciting to watch, but excitement is not really an attractive quality in defenders. After dumping all that money on foreign players, the team's best acquisition turned out to be a lowly USL2 player: Pittsburgh Riverhounds defender Greg Janicki. All those 2008 busts seem to have left Kasper gun-shy. D.C. has been uncharacteristically quiet this offseason. They've added a couple of unproven defenders (Anthony Peters, Dejan Jakovic) and rescued playmaker Christian Gomez from the Colorado bench. But D.C.'s attack looks rather old and slow, while its defense seems likely to remain porous. The D.C. faithful will be calling for Tom Soehn's head by July.

13. Chivas USA: Preki deserved serious consideration for coach of the year in 2008 considering what he accomplished with a weak roster that was decimated by injuries. Unfortunately the team's cursed luck looks to be continuing into this season. Claudio Saurez, the seemingly ageless central defender who's been the backbone of the team over the last two seasons, retired in a huff. Francisco Mendoza returned to the Chivas mothership. Sacha Kljestan appears to be European-bound before the season's over. And the team heads into its first match with no less than seven injuries afflicting potential starters. Throw in a new 'keeper in Dan Kennedy and the Goats look to be a mess.

12. New England Revolution: No coach has mined the MLS draft more effectively than Steve Nicol. In 2002 he tapped Shalrie Joseph in the second round, and the Grenadan's developed into the league's best defensive midfielder. Two years later Nicol plucked another rough-hewn diamond out of the draft with Clint Dempsey. Then in 2005 the Revs coach landed Michael Parkhurst, arguably the best defender in the league over the last four years. But only one of those players remains (Joseph) -- and Nicol's draft-day magic seems to have faded in recent years. (Wells Thompson?) Gabriel Badilla and Amaechi Igwe will try to fill Parkhurst's central defense role, while young Gambians Kenny Mansally and Sainey Nyassi will provide some flair on the flanks. But last season's late swan dive -- winless in their final six regular season games; first round playoff exit -- seems like an ominous sign for 2009.

11. F.C. Dallas: Every year I think Dallas is going to be the surprise squad of the campaign -- and every year they end up playing thoroughly mediocre soccer and exiting the playoffs early. This year they won't have to worry about the playoffs. Similar to most other teams destined for the bottom of the table, the chief problem is defense. Duilio Davino may have proven a monumental bust in anchoring the back line, but that doesn't mean the team should throw up their hands in despair and hand the keys to Aaron Pitchkolan. The Dallas midfield -- which seems to turn over every off-season -- should prove a more interesting experiment. The marquee signing is playmaker David Ferreira, a veteran of the Colombian national team and Brazilian club Atletico Paranaense. He'll be joined by promising youngster Andre Rocha and savvy veteran Dave van den Bergh. Up top Dallas boasts two of the most prolific goal scorers in MLS history -- Jeff Cunningham (104 goals) and Kenny Cooper (33 goals).

Back tomorrow with slots six through ten in the table