MLS

2012 Western Conference Preview

Chivas USA

Chivas USA
Profile
2011: 8th - Western Conference (8-14-12). Did not qualify for Playoffs.
Key Additions: M Ryan Smith (trade - KC), D James Riley (trade with Seattle), M Oswaldo Minda (Int'l), M Miller Bolaños (Int'l), G Tim Melia (signing), D John Valencia (Int'l), F Cesar Romero (Int'l).
Key Subtractions: : F Justin Braun (trade - Montreal), D Zarek Valentin (expansion draft), M Simon Elliott (free agent), G Zach Thornton (declined), D Michael Umaña (free agent), F Marcos Mondaini (declined).
2012 Outlook
The list of changes for Chivas USA this season is long and will lead to another change in formation and philosophy for Los Angeles' other MLS club. Second year head coach Robin Fraser will hope to lead his squad into the playoffs after a tough first season behind the bench. Life will be tough in the West and the new lineup will need to gel faster than the old one to give Chivas any chance of being a player or even making a dent this season. Juan Pablo Angel will be the key either way, expect their fortunes to rest on exactly how much this veteran still has left in the tank.

SuperDraft: F Casey Townsend (1-5).

Canadian Match-Ups: Mar. 17 vs. Vancouver, Apr. 14 at Toronto, Jun. 20 vs. Montreal, Jul. 7 vs. Vancouver, Oct. 3 at Vancouver.

Colorado Rapids

Colorado Rapids
Profile
2011: 5th - Western Conference (12-9-13). Eastern Semifinalist (Wild Card).
Key Additions: D Hunter Freeman (Re-Entry: Houston), M Jaime Castrillón (Int'l), M Martin Rivero (loan), D Luis Zapata (Int'l).
Key Subtractions: : F Macoumba Kandji (trade - Houston), M Sanna Nyassi (expansion draft), D Mike Holody (declined), D Danny Earls (declined), D Miguel Comminges (declined), F Caleb Folan (released).
2012 Outlook
Life was tough last season for the defending champions as they struggled through injuries to main players Conor Casey and Omar Cummings. Couple that with a lengthy suspension to Brian Mullans and they never really had a shot of winning two titles in a row. Head Coach Gary Smith has since moved on to coaching in England and the Rapids are under the stewardship of Oscar Pareja, a former assistant with FC Dallas. In the end, health will be the biggest factor in improving last season's fifth-place Western finish. Talent-wise they are among the best teams in the league.

SuperDraft: M Tony Cascio (1-14).

Canadian Match-Ups: May 26 vs. Montreal, Jun. 16 at Vancouver, Jul. 4 vs. Vancouver, Jul. 18 at Toronto, Sep. 23 at Vancouver.

FC Dallas

FC Dallas
Profile
2011: 4th - Western Conference (15-12-7). Qualified for Wild Card.
Key Additions: F Blas Pérez (Int'l signing), D Hernán Pertúz (Int'l signing), D Carlos Rodríguez (Int'l signing).
Key Subtractions: F Maicon Santos (declined), D Edson Edward (waived), D Jeremy Hall (trade with Toronto), F Maykel Galindo (declined), M Marvin Chávez (trade with San Jose), M Jackson (loaned to Brazil).
2012 Outlook
Being eliminated in the Wild Card round was not the plan for FC Dallas, especially considering how great they were coming out of the gate. Despite the disappointment, Brek Shea had a breakout season scoring 11 goals and getting into the conversation for league MVP. Keeper Kevin Hartman will be expected to play a major role in fortifying the Dallas defence and if he is able to have another great season will make them tough to beat. Their offence will be tough to handle if they are able to get and stay hot this season.

SuperDraft: D Matt Hedges (1-11).

Canadian Match-Ups: Apr. 14 vs. Montreal, Apr. 21 at Vancouver, Jul. 4 vs. Toronto, Aug. 15 at Vancouver, Sep. 15 vs. Vancouver.

Los Angeles Galaxy

Los Angeles Galaxy
Profile
2011: 1st - Western Conference (19-5-10). MLS Cup Champions.
Key Additions: M Kyle Nakazawa (trade - Philadelphia), D Andrew Boyens (Re-Entry: Chivas), D Chris Leitch (Re-Entry: San Jose), F Pat Noonan (Re-Entry: Seattle), M Marcelo Sarvas (Int'l), G Bill Gaudette (Int'l), F Edson Buddle (signed).
Key Subtractions: G Donovan Ricketts (trade - Montreal), M Jovan Kirovski (retired), D Gregg Berhalter (retired), M Miguel López (expired).

2012 Outlook
Everything went right last season for the Los Angeles Galaxy: two of the best players in the league, winning both the Supporters Shield and the MLS Cup. Adding Robbie Keane to the lineup was the final piece to a puzzle many thought would come together in 2010. David Beckham choosing to stay in LA over a move to Paris is not just a marketing boom, he was the comeback player of the year and had his best season since his high profile move to the United States. The 2012 title is theirs to lose and if they play up to their potential the rest of the league will be battling for second best from first to last kick.

SuperDraft: D Tommy Meyer (1-19).

Canadian Match-Ups: May 12 at Montreal, Jun. 23 vs. Vancouver, Jul. 18 at Vancouver, Sep. 1 vs. Vancouver, Sep. 22 vs. Toronto.

Portland Timbers

Portland Timbers
Profile
2011: 6th - Western Conference (11-14-9). Did not qualify for Playoffs.
Key Additions: F José Adolfo Valencia (Int'l), D Hanyer Mosquera (Int'l ), F Kris Boyd (Int'l ), M Charles Renken (waivers), G Joe Bendik (Int'l).
Key Subtractions:F Kenny Cooper (trade with New York), D Kevin Goldthwaite (retired), F/M Ryan Pore (declined), F Brian Umony (declined).
2012 Outlook
Making a good showing in their expansion season, the Timbers stayed in the playoff race almost to the end of the season. Winning the first five games they played at home gave them the confidence they needed to get a foothold in the league and they will hope to come out of the gate as hot again this season. They will lean on the steadying hand of midfielder Jack Jewsbury this year to help fortify the middle of the pitch. If they are able to regain their early-season form of 2011, they can give their fans a bigger thrill than just an upset victory over the LA Galaxy which was probably the top moment of their debut campaign.

SuperDraft: D Andrew Jean-Baptiste (1-8).

Canadian Match-Ups: Apr. 28 at Montreal, May 26 vs. Vancouver, Aug. 15 at Toronto, Aug. 25 vs. Vancouver, Oct. 20 at Vancouver.

Real Salt Lake

Real Salt Lake
Profile
2011: 3rd - Western Conference (15-11-8). Western Conference Finalist.
Key Additions: D Leone Cruz (trade - Seattle).
Key Subtractions:: D Robbie Russell (trade - DC), G Tim Melia (waived), M Collen Warner (expansion draft), M Jean Alexandre (trade - San Jose), M Arturo Alvarez (Re-Entry: Chivas), M Andy Williams (retired), D Nelson González (declined), D Rauwshan McKenzie (declined), M Blake Wagner (declined), M Andy Rose (trade - Seattle).
2012 Outlook
Disappointment followed Real Salt Lake from beginning to end last season. They opened the year by falling in the CONCACAF Champions League and ended it by being eliminated by the eventual-champion LA Galaxy in the playoffs. A strong starting line but inexperienced bench could make the season difficult for head coach Jason Kries. The offence of leading scorer Alvaro Saborio will drive the attack and Real Salt Lake made sure he stuck around by signing him as a designated player. Expect them to be involved in the MLS Cup chase right to the end.

SuperDraft: M Enzo Martinez (1-17).

Canadian Match-Ups: Apr. 4 vs. Montreal, Apr. 28 vs. Toronto, Jul. 27 vs. Vancouver, Aug. 11 at Vancouver, Oct. 27 vs. Vancouver.

San Jose Earthquakes

San Jose Earthquakes
Profile
2011: 7th - Western Conference (8-12-14). Did not qualify for Playoffs.
Key Additions: M Shea Salinas (trade - Vancouver), M Jean Alexandre (trade - RSL), M Marvin Chávez (trade - Dallas), D Víctor Bernárdez (Int'l), M Tressor Moreno (Int'l), M Simon Dawkins (loan).
Key Subtractions: M Bobby Convey (trade with KC), M Jacob Peterson (declined), D Bobby Burling (expansion draft), M Matt Luzunaris (waived), D Chris Leitch (Re-Entry: LA), F Scott Sealy (declined).
2012 Outlook
Thirteen was an unlucky number for San Jose in 2011 as they went winless in that many games in the middle of the season to ruin any chance of making the playoffs. Chris Wondolowski tied Dwayne De Rosario for most goals in the league last year and will be needed to repeat that success or San Jose's midseason dip could turn into a full campaign slide. Having Steven Lenhart back in the lineup and hopefully for a full season should allow them to remain competitive in the West, though they will need all of the breaks to go their way if they are going to challenge the top teams in the conference.

SuperDraft: F Sam Garza (1-6).

Canadian Match-Ups: Mar. 24 at Toronto, Apr. 7 vs. Vancouver, May 5 at Vancouver, Jul. 22 at Vancouver, Aug. 18 at Montreal.

Seattle Sounders

Seattle Sounders
Profile
2011: 2nd - Western Conference (18-7-9). Western Semifinalist.
Key Additions: D Marc Burch (Re-Entry: DC), G Michael Gspurning (Int'l), D Adam Johansson (Int'l), M Christian Sivebaek (Int'l), F Cordell Cato (Int'l), F Eddie Johnson (trade - Montreal).
Key Subtractions: G Kasey Keller (retired), D James Riley (expansion draft), D Tyson Wahl (trade - Montreal), M Erik Friberg (transfer), F Mike Fucito (trade - Montreal), M Lamar Neagle (trade - Montreal).
2012 Outlook
The model expansion franchise needs to find a way to take the next step in 2012. Last year they reached the playoffs for the third time, this time being eliminated in the Western Conference semifinal. Mauro Rosales, Lamar Neagle, Fredy Montero and Osvaldo Alonso will be even more important in the Northwest this season after the retirement of veteran keeper Kasey Keller. The Sounders are deep and will need to be to navigate the CONCACAF Champions League and the beginning of the MLS season. This team has been built for the long haul and if they continue to improve will be clearing space in the trophy case for some much deserved hardware.

SuperDraft: D Andrew Duran (1-15).

Canadian Match-Ups: Mar. 17 vs. Toronto, May 19 at Vancouver, Jun. 16 at Montreal, Aug. 18 vs. Vancouver, Sep. 29 at Vancouver.


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