A member of the Timbers Army waves a flag in a cloud of smoke after Gastón Fernández (10) scores a goal to tie the game 1-1 in the second half. The Portland Timbers play the Chicago Fire at Providence Park in Portland, Ore. on March 16, 2014. (Michael Shaw/Emerald)

On The Record: 2017 MLS Season Predictions

Tonight the 2017 MLS season begins!

With the beginning of any new season comes prognostications. I’m not afraid to put any of mine on the record, despite the fact that MLS is without a doubt the most unpredictable league in the world.

So, without further ado, let’s officially put down  how I think the teams will finish in regards to their regular season standings.*

*Disclaimer: I reserve the right to completely overhaul these rankings by Monday, because I’m sure I’ll want to.

WESTERN CONFERENCE:

  1. FC Dallas – They’re the best team. They may not prioritize Supporter’s Shield as much this season, but even so, they’ll still be up there. It’s really simple if Hedges and Zimmerman are healthy Dallas will allow fewer goals than they’ll score. And they’ll score. A lot.
  2. Seattle Sounders – Nico Lodeiro, Jordan Morris, and a rejuvenated Clint Dempsey will be a deadly trio. But Chad Marshall and Roman Torres will be the ones who’ll keep the team consistently stingy and help keep the team accumulating points.
  3. LA Galaxy – They always find a way to be near the top don’t they? If Zardes is healthy, they’ll be a potent attacking team. Jermaine Jones, if healthy he’ll give the team a necessary edge.
  4. Vancouver Whitecaps – After a much hyped flop last season, I think their CCL run will give them a boost and the confidence to start hot. I also love the attacking talent with Manneh, Davies, De Jong, Shea, Montero, et al.  They also have the best goalkeeper in the league.
  5. Houston Dynamo – Is it just me or did someone in Houston say “Let’s just do what Dallas is doing.” In comes the Colombian coach, the Central American DP’s and I think a totally new and improved Cubo Torres. I think it’ll work.
  6. Sporting KC – At some point this team will grow old and stale. I’m not sure Besler and Zusi are worthy of being Designated Players anymore. But they have a winning coach and winning players. They’ll squeak in.
  7. Portland Timbers – Despite the MLS Cup and good publicity, Caleb Porter now officially has more failures on his resume since leaving Akron than successes. And also at this stage I’m just not sure Nagbe is the player we all want him to be.
  8. Colorado Rapids – With no Jones and an injured Howard, they should get off to a slow start. I think most pundits agree that they’re due for a fall from grace. I don’t think I can disagree. That being said, they could just as well prove us all wrong again.
  9. Minnesota United – I’m not sure anyone in the Twin Cities is going to care too much about where the Loons finish provided they don’t make fools of themselves. They could, but I think their attacking players will score goals and keep them feisty even if their defense is questionable.
  10. Real Salt Lake – This team is rebuilding with youth and the West is as competitive as ever. As much as we all love Rimando and Beckerman I don’t think the aging core of this team is going to be enough.
  11. San Jose Earthquakes – It pains me to rank a Dominic Kinnear team this low. The guy just grinds out wins and has had more than a year to shape his roster. Problem is, it just isn’t good enough.

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

  1. Toronto FC – This team has too much talent and expectations not try and go for a Supporters Shield, which I believe they will win. I also think they’re even better than last season. Provided that Jozy Altidore stays healthy and confident they will be a juggernaut.
  2. Atlanta United – I know this is way too high. I acknowledge this is a stretch. But I have a feeling this team is going to have a regular season for the history books. They got the talent, they got the coach. Why not?
  3. Red Bull New York – They may get off to a rough start with all the turnaround and influx of academy guys. But Marsch, Kljestan, and BWP will do what they do best, win regular season games.
  4. Montreal Impact – Yes, they’re old in the midfield. Yes they barely got in last year. But this is Ignacio Piatti’s team now. And I think he’s going to take over and put himself into MVP contention this season.
  5. Chicago Fire – Maybe it’s the Red Bulls fan in me. But Dax McCarty and Juninho are two really good MLS players. I can’t see them not leading this team to a Colorado Rapids style turn-around.
  6. D.C. United – I could see any of the next four teams making the playoffs. And while United never look sexy on paper, they have a roster full of solid MLS types and they always seem to get the job done, even if its ugly. But now they have their one creative guy too in Luciano Acosta.
  7. Philadelphia Union – No idea what to expect from this team. They collapsed at the end of last season and Jay Simpson and Oguchi Onyewu are the major signings. Going to have to see a lot from Alejandro Bedoya this season to make playoffs.
  8. Columbus Crew – I think they’re better than they showed last year. And they did seem to straighten out after Kei Kamara left. But I don’t know they’re improved enough to break into the top six. Although if Ola Kamara is the real deal and Jonathan Mensah can fix the defense, they can shoot right up this list.
  9. New England Revolution – They have the talent to be much, much higher. But Fagundez and Agudelo never seem to take the next step. Nguyen seems to be getting less effective and Kei Kamara is kind of a headache. I have no idea what to expect here. All I know is it doesn’t seem the defense is any better.
  10. New York City FC – I’m still not sure how they were as good last year as they were. They’ll need a lot to go right again, including another MVP-type performance from David Villa. They’ll also need to get something out of Andrea Pirlo. It’s going to be a tall task.
  11. Orlando City – My how the mighty Jason Kreis has fallen. This ownership group was supposed to be ambitious. Yet somehow Atlanta is the group that seems to have assembled a better roster despite Orlando’s two year head start. I just don’t see it for Orlando this season.

Some Miscellaneous Predictions:

MVP: Nicolas Lodeiro – I just don’t think Giovinco has 3 MVP worthy seasons in a row in him. League’s too physical.

Golden Boot: Cyle Larin – Orlando will score. And Larin will be in Europe by next January.

Rookie: Ian Harkes – If he can earn a regular job and live up even remotely to his hype the media will be eager to hand him the award.

Comeback Player of the Year: Erick “Cubo” Torres – Granted, Dempsey will be the front-runner, but I think Torres has 15 goals in him.

Defender of the Year: Roman Torres – Seattle is going to be great and Torres is going to be a high profile part of their recipe for success.

MLS Cup Winner: Toronto FC – They have unfinished business and the roster to make another run. Plus they’ll make another big mid-summer signing. Good a guess as any.

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