30 March 2006

2006 MLS Predictions: East is East

If anything, the east is even more difficult to forecast than the west. There are those that the top seed is New England's to lose. Others that say "No, wait, the world cup is really going to mess them up." On the other side, the SE Podcast thinks that Columbus could be one of the worst teams since the 1999 Metrostars. Or perhaps it's Red Bull New York that's the patsy of the group. The point is, the situation is murky, and I've drafted this list six or seven times, and the top seed and bottom seed and last place were never the same on any of those lists. So, in the absence of any real statistical reason to point to, I give you the haziest of all justifications: My instinct.

  1. DC United: I know what you're thinking. "D's an objective guy, and he knows that RSL and Chicago Fire fans are trying to jinx DCU, there's no way he'll pick his own team to finish first." Well, jack the superstition and bring the expectations. I do know that DC has unanswered questions, but so do all of the teams. So ultimately, as a fan, I asked myself "Do I believe this team can take the top spot?" And the answer is "yes, yes, a thousand times, yes!" At some point, I figure that it is possible to get so close to a team all you notice are the flaws. Screw that. I believe in this team, its coaches, and its staff. Are they favorites to win it? Probably not. But reasonably, you can believe that they will, and that's enough for me.
  2. New England Revolution: Plenty of talent, the World Cup may cost them a few points, but not enough to seriously damage the team. In fact, I think a few results in July may surprise people from the depleted Revs. I do think they'll give up more goals this year, but the flip side is that at full strength they may score more goals as well.
  3. New York Red Bulls: Here's where people are going to seriously question my sanity, given the preseason performance of this team, it's untested attacking options, and overall tawdry ownership situation. So let me break this out for you: Alexi Lalas is better than people, including me, give him credit for. He may not have the coach he want, but that's only because Coach Mo managed to get results to make him impossible to fire. Gaven for Buddle will pay dividends. If this team has a glaring weakness, it's that Lisi is weak in the middle, and they'd have been better off with Bradley (an impossibility given the politics of the situation, but there you go). This team has some really decent players, and I expect the system to struggle at first, then click and go on a tear.
  4. Columbus Crew: Yes, the other team that people think are going to be awful, and I have them in the playoffs. I'm a fan of Sigi Schmid as a coach. I'm actually prepared to believe in Johnny Walker (?!) between the posts. What's more, this team is largely one without an identity. But all the indications are that the organization as a whole has its act together this year, and I believe in leagues like MLS, a strong organization can actually trickle down and impress itself on a team with a new coach and no major headcases.
  5. Chicago Fire: This is a team that could almost be looking for an excuse to underperform. A tough opening schedule and immature cast of characters will give them every excuse, and even a strong finish may not help them. Last season, the stars aligned for this team, but I don't expect it to happen again.
  6. Kansas City Wizards: Yes, they have Eddie Johnson, but they lose him to the World Cup, and potentially to Europe mid-season. I expect them to struggle during the Cup, much more than the Revs. On paper, defense shouldn't be a problem, but I don't see depth and I do see goalkeeper situation with Bo Oshoniyi and, well, nothing really, that even makes the most ardent Rimando/Perkins debater say "Damn, that's a mess."


At 30 March, 2006 10:50, Blogger Crew Fan said...

D's an objective guy

Yeah, you're about as objective as I am about Columbus. I do have to agree with your predictions about Columbus; with Sigi at the helm and last year's pathetic season behind them, I expect to see great things this year.

At 30 March, 2006 11:25, Blogger D said...

Yeah, every time I drafted the list, I had DCU in a new position, ranging from first to fourth. So finally I said "Am I going to be a fan of this team, and believe, or not?" So I allowed my homerism to triumph. Am I going to be stunned if they don't win the east? Nope. But I do believe. And I also believe in your Crew. Or, at least, I believe they won't finish dead last.

At 30 March, 2006 11:37, Blogger Kinney said...

Okay two quick questions:

1. Isn't O'Rourke going to be the Metros DMid? Do you have them in a 3-5-2 with Lisi as the other one?

2. Walker is starting?!? This is important for my fantasy team so could you get back to me before Saturday on this one. A Sigi team with Busch in goal is going to be hard to score on and Busch is underpriced because of his injury last year. But if Walker starts I need to change that up.

At 30 March, 2006 11:42, Blogger Mr. Fish said...

RB 3rd? Thanks for drinking the you-know-what. Not sure if I'd put Chicago out of the playoff mix, though, as they'll get a huge boost in the season's 2nd half in the Firehouse, and won't be hurt by WC roster depletions. Top notch thoughts as always.

At 30 March, 2006 11:57, Blogger D said...

1 - I have, on paper, a midfield of Henderson / O'Rourke / Guevara / Lisi / Canero. I know MLSNet is projecting Gaven in the midfield, but that was prior to him being dealt for Buddle, and it never really made much sense to me anyways.
2 - Walker is not starting... yet. But I think he will win the job before game #16. Thus, the "?!" annotation.

Mr. Fish:
Yeah, look, right now as I see it there are 5 playoff contenders for four spots. I'm fairly confident that KC is going nowhere this season. The safe thing would have been to put Columbus or New York out of the playoffs. But what the hell, why not make the bold prediction, and drink the Columbus Kool Aid and the New York... whatever it is.

At 30 March, 2006 12:50, Anonymous The Belly said...

Who thinks Columbus will be awful? I don't see them taking either of the top two spots but I think they'll cause some trouble in the third and fourth place race. Bottom line: I have a certain amount of confidence in Sigi's ability to field a competent team.

Red Bull's coming in last in the East. Did you see them play last week?

At 30 March, 2006 17:10, Anonymous SE Podcast said...

I'm the one who said Columbus would be awful and, based on some other previews I've read, I seem to be the only one who thinks so. The reason is that I don't see much improvement over last year's team. It seems like they got rid of some mediocre players and replaced them with more mediocrity. I don't know much about Gonzales, though.

I'm not a huge Sigi fan, but I give him credit for having consistently gotten results. But his system relies on having a striker who can score on one chance a game, like he had with Ruiz, and he does not have that with the squad he has now.

At 30 March, 2006 17:37, Blogger Scott Black said...

Where's the Western Conference? Luckily I don't think even you are crazy enough to jinx RSL like I jinxed DC. Are you?

At 30 March, 2006 18:03, Blogger D said...

SEPod: You are, to be fair, not the only one. When Kali was in town and I said I thought Columbus would make the playoffs at dinner, I got some very strange looks.

Aero: Western Conference was two days ago... and I had RSL fifth. But barely. And to be honest, I hope I am wrong and they make it.

At 31 March, 2006 13:00, Blogger Scott Black said...

Oops. My bad. I somehow managed to miss that.

I think you are pretty accurate in that it is going to be a tight race between the three bottom teams in the West for that last playoff spot. It could end up being any one of the three.



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