1. FC Dallas
When Colin Clarke was fired and his opponent ex Arsenal man Steve Morrow was promoted, many believed little would change in philosophy at Pizza Hut Park. Well just about everything has changed this off season. FC Dallas let go of its three best midfielders from a year ago- Ronnie O’Brien and Richard Mulrooney are now in Toronto while Simo Valakari is back in Europe. However a signing of former Argentine National Team and Real Valladolid midfielder Pablo Richetti coupled with the addition of Colombian Juan Carlos Toya will more than alleviate the hole in midfield. Roberto Mina, who was one of Ecuador’s final cuts before the World Cup can also play in midfield but prefers to play up front, and in Morrow’s 4-3-3 he will have his shot. Mina will be joined up front by Carlos Ruiz, one of the best players to ever step on an MLS pitch and 6′-4” Kenny Cooper, whose apprenticeship at Manchester United helped to make him a revelation last year. Speedy Ghanian Dominic Oduro, and talented Abe Thompson will provide needed depth to the front line. The defense is outstanding and is anchored by Chris Gbandi, and Drew Moor. The Goalkeepers are fantastic. Dario Sala is suspended for the first six games of the season, but when he returns his inspired and rugged play will make him the starter. His backup is Shaka Hislop who recorded a clean sheet versus Sweden and then shut out England for 70 plus minutes in the World Cup. Not bad for a backup! Keep an eye on young Honduran midfielder Ramon Nunez, and American U-23 holding midfielder Dax McCarthy. FC Dallas lost a lot in the off season, but actually recovered nicely with the two midfield signings and have critical depth at every position. This team is a legitimate title contender.
The defending MLS Champion Houston Dynamo return a largely unchanged squad except for the loss of M/F Adrian Serioux. They may be the only team that did not add one significant player to their roster. Perhaps AEG didn’t have any money left after signing Beckham and Blanco for their two chosen franchises to fill either of the two vacant senior international slots in Houston. Inspite of being the ugly stepchild of the AEG MLS trio of teams, Houston will once again be the best of the three. Despite a strong starting eleven that includes Dwayne De Rosario, one of the best finishers in the history of the league, along with US World Cup veteran Brian Ching, Alejandro Moreno, and Scottish International Paul Dalglish as attacking options, and a midfield anchored by an improving but injory prone Ricardo Clark, this team is very thin on the bench. This team could be one major injury away from a possible disaster. Clark is potentially the replacement for Claudio Reyna with the US National Team but he must remain healthy. Brian Mullan and Craig Waibel are also excellent midfielders. The defense is anchored by the rock solid Eddie Robinson and Zach Wells continues to be a top keeper.