Will it be the Eastern or Western Conference of MLS that will take the honors during the 2014 season? There’s no doubt there’s plenty of talent among the teams in the Western Conference, but there are plenty of question marks too.
Here’s our preview of the 2014 MLS Western Conference (see below) as well as our preview of MLS’s Eastern Conference.
2013 Season: (6W – 20L – 8D) 26 points, Last in West
Key acquisitions: M Mauro Rosales, D Andrew Jean-Baptiste
Key losses: M Gabriel Farfan, D Jorge Villafaña, F Tristan Bowen
Chivas USA added a great midfielder to the mix this upcoming season with Mauro Rosales.
Rosales joins the Red-and-White after three productive seasons with Seattle Sounders FC where he appeared in 86 matches (73 starts) and where he became one of the league’s most dangerous playmakers in the middle. During his time in Seattle, the Argentine recorded 34 assists and added 12 goals and was named MLS Newcomer of the Year in 2011.
While some see the purchase of Chivas USA by MLS as an unwise move for the league, I strongly believe the opposite. I believe the purchase will rejuvenate a franchise that’s been bleeding for a while now. MLS has said it is actively looking for a new ownership group, and that they will need a plan to move out of StubHub Center and be in their own soccer specific stadium.
2013 Season: 14W – 11L – 9D (51 points), 5th in West; lost in Knockout Stage
Key acquisitions: M Marvin Chávez, D/M Marc Burch
Key losses: F Atiba Harris, M Hendry Thomas, M Tony Cascio
To me, one of the main storylines in Colorado is “who on earth is the coach?”
After Óscar Pereja stepped down in January, Pablo Mastroeni was named interim head coach, but that’s all we know. Players have been saying all the right things, but at the end of the day, with the season set to kickoff, Mastroeni is simply an interim. Who will be the man in helm at the midpoint of the season?
Other than that, let’s be honest… Did anyone see Colorado making the playoffs last season? I sure didn’t, but thanks to their young guys Deshorn Brown and Dillon Power, the Rapids were good enough for the 5th seed and a matchup versus Seattle Sounders FC. Colorado lost 2-0, but with that experience, the sky’s the limit for the Rapids and their young guns. Now, if only they get the coaching situation fixed.
2013 Season: (11W – 12L – 11D) 44 points, 8th in West
Key acquisitions: F Andrés Escobar, F David Texeira, M Hendry Thomas
Key losses: M David Ferreira, F Kenny Cooper
Óscar Pareja returns to his old club and will try to pick up the pieces of the wagon that broke midway through the 2013 MLS Season.
Dallas looked unbeatable in the first three months of the season, but after a few losses, and some key injuries, they ended up finishing second-to-last in the Western conference.
Keep an eye out on Hendry Thomas, who was acquired from Colorado.
I strongly believe Thomas will make the biggest impact for Dallas in 2014. Last season for the Rapids he was a borderline Best XI player. Thomas is a few years past his prime (29), but he’s still performing as if he was 25, which gives Dallas fans every reason to hope for a repeat of last season’s Best XI player.
Los Angeles Galaxy
2013 Season: (15W – 11L – 8D) 53 points, 3rd in West; lost in conference semifinal
Key acquisitions: F Samuel, F Rob Friend
Key losses: F Jose Villareal, M Hector Jimenez, D Sean Franklin
Robbie Keane just signed a contract extension with the club, and looks healthy and ready to go. I strongly believe that when Keane and Landon Donovan are healthy and playing their best, this team is unstoppable.
With that being said, the Galaxy are getting up there in age and sometimes it looks as if they are losing their dominance in the West.
One of the best young talents in the Galaxy roster is speedster Gyasi Zardes, who despite only producing four goals and four assists last season, will be called to step up this season and will become a major player within the Galaxy organization.
Also, keep an eye on Omar Gonzalez and Landon Donovan. With the eminent World Cup call-up for the two USMNT studs, will Gonzalez and Donovan have “World Cup hangover”? The emotional ups and down of whatever happens in Brazil will tell a lot about what to expect down the stretch from the Galaxy.
2013 Season: (14W – 5L – 15D) 57 points, 1st in West; lost in conference final
Key acquisitions: F Gastón Fernández, M Steve Zakuani, D Norberto Paparatto
Key losses: F José Valencia, D Andrew Jean-Baptiste, M Sal Zizzo, D David Horst
Despite losing Andrew Jean-Baptiste in the trade with Chivas USA that landed them Jorge Villafaña, the Timbers’ back line still looks as strong as ever, and lets not forget, 2013 Goalkeeper of the Year Donovan Ricketts is still in net.
The question I have is how healthy will Diego Valeri be? There is no doubt that when healthy, Valeri is one of the premier players in the league with his ability to instantly transition from facilitator to playmaker to finisher and back to facilitator.
There are not many midfield pairings like Will Johnson and Valeri, the 2013 MLS Newcomer of the Year. Will this midfield, along with the acquisition of forward Gastón Fernández, make a run at the MLS Cup?
There are not many midfield pairings better than Will Johnson and 2013 MLS Newcomer of the Year Diego Valeri. Plus, with new members Zakuani and Villafaña teaming up with some of the league’s most electrifying young players in Darlington Nagbe and Rodney Wallace, expect no shortage of goals from Rose City.
Real Salt Lake
2013 Season: (16W – 10L – 8D) 56 points, 2nd in West; lost in MLS Cup Final
Key acquisitions: M/F Jordan Allen, M Luke Mulholland
Key losses: M Yordany Álvarez, D Brandon McDonald, D/M Lovel Palmer
The defending Western Conference Champions are the team that will have the most to prove this upcoming season.
Yes, most of the main players will be back this season and that should be enough to make the MLS Cup Playoffs. However, coach Jason Kreis, the genius who took them to not only the MLS Cup Final but the U.S. Open Cup Final, has left to become the first coach of 2015 MLS Expansion-side New York City FC.
It remains to be seen if new coach Jeff Cassar will be able to tap in the talent pool left at his disposal.
San Jose Earthquakes
2013 Season: (14W – 11L – 9D) 51 points, 6th in West
Key acquisitions: F Atiba Harris, M Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi, D Shaun Francis
Key losses: M Ramiro Corrales, D Justin Morrow, M Rafael Baca
The signing of Jean-Baptiste Piezazzi is a huge one for the Quakes in 2014. Piezazzi, who signed with Snn Jose in January after an eight-year career with AC Ajaccio of France, has played nearly 200 games in Ligue 1 & 2, and was a long-time captain of AC Ajaccio and will now be a huge piece of the Quakes especially in set pieces.
Don’t forget Chris Wondolowski.
Despite Wondo’s woes in 2013, the Quakes DP finally looks healthy and in the 2012 form, when he tied the league record with 27 goals. Wondo may be called to the USMNT and so the same question I had for the Galaxy will apply to him, will he have any “World Cup hangover?” That remains to be seen.
Seattle Sounders FC
2013 Season: (15W – 11L – 7D) 52 points, 4th in West; lost in conference semifinal
Key acquisitions: GK Stefan Frei, D Chad Marshall, F Kenny Cooper, M Marco Pappa, D Jalil Anibaba
Key losses: F Eddie Johnson, M Mauro Rosales, GK Michael Gspurning, F Steve Zakuani, F Fredy Montero
I’m not sold on the Sounders this season. Losing big pieces like Eddie Johnson and Mauro Rosales will hurt them in the long run. And I don’t see Clint Dempsey stepping up to the plate anytime soon.
Despite Dempsey’s monster contract, I strongly believe he is uninterested in the game. And after a terrible loan spell at Fulham, and a disappointing match versus Ukraine, Deuce’s morale might be at an all-time low. After his triumphant return to MLS last season, Dempsey only scored once in nine appearances for the Sounders.
If Dempsey isn’t up for the task, designated player Obafemi Martins will have to carry the scoring load, especially with Eddie Johnson (who led the Sounders in goals last season) off to DC with a brand-new DP contract of his own.
Martins had eight goals and four assists for the Sounders last season.
Keep an eye out on new signee Chad Marshall who played under Sigi Schmid in Columbus when the Crew won the Supporters’ Shiled and MLS Cup in 2008.
Can there be a career renaissance in Seattle under his old boss?
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
2013 Season: (13W – 12L – 9D) 48 points, 7th in West
Key acquisitions: D Steven Beitashour, GK Paolo Tornaghi, M Sebastian Fernandez
Key losses: F Camilo Sanvezzo, GK Joe Cannon, GK Brad Knighton
After a breakout 2013 season, which saw him score 22 goals and have six assists, Camilo bolted from Vancouver for the warmth of Mexican-side Querétaro. Now the Whitecaps will have to find a way to fill the void left by the Brazilian.
One of the players the Whitecaps will call on will be second-year man Kekuta Manneh. Last season as a rookie, Manneh appeared in 20 games, started six, and scored six with four assists. Expect Manneh to get plenty of more chances now that the 2013 Golden Boot winner is gone.
So you don’t miss games this 2014 season, view the MLS TV schedule. You can also watch games via MLS Live. And be sure to stay updated on the MLS news throughout the season via the MLSsoccer.com site.