Hm. Twenty minutes until this technically isn't an MLS 2009 Season Preview anymore, and it becomes an MLS 2009 Season Duringview. Well, better never than late.
FAKE EDIT AFTER DOING TWO AND A HALF TEAMS OUT OF FIFTEEN:
Yeah, not even close. Let's make this an Eastern Conference preview only, shall we?
Hey! Jamie Trecker stole my idea!
Wait. What do you call it when someone actually takes the trouble to implement an idea before you even thought of it?
Oh, right. Jamie Trecker thought of something before I did in a timely manner! I was going to troll the boards for opinions on how the season is going to go, because I want to be a journalist in Portland when I grow up. But Trecker actually wrote to various fan groups and asked "What you think season do?"
Are people just borrowing my alphabetical power rankings, or what? People are in LOVE with these guys. Just head over heels. Which would be fine if the first names they mention are Busch, Segares and Soumare. Sure, it's an awesome defense. But so is the one in Ohio, only it's deeper. And the Fire lost Diego Gutierrez and Steven King, two very useful guys at opposite ends of their respective careers.
However, the guys they concentrate on are Blanco and McBride. Both of whom, I cheerfully admit, have done better in red than I thought. However, their combined age is 3,487. McBride gets hurt a lot. And while Blanco may be one of the deadliest players in the league in the first sixty minutes, he's an absolute liability in the last half hour.
You would have thought some of this would have come up after losing to Columbus, the last ten minutes with GBS killing time on the bench, but maybe in Loopville they think it was all Sigi, smoke and mirrors. Okay then.
MY GUESS: second in the East. And what's it been, two years since an Open Cup? By Fire standards in the USOC, that's like a Cubs drought. Get with the program.
Don't you hate when people do nothing but predict what happened last year? Isn't that just tedious and unimaginative? Let me try to pick holes in the Crew.
They didn't improve, for one thing. Understandable, but occasionally you get championship teams made up with players who just happened to have their career years in the same season. Is William Hesmer really an elite MLS keeper? Okay, maybe, probably. Is Eddie Gaven going to have two good years in a row? A little more doubtful.
Schelotto is old, so is Hejduk.
Warzycha is new and...never mind. Former MLS players do great jobs in this league.
Jeez, now I know why people are picking Chicago. Maybe Houston thinks they can hang with these guys, too, but everyone else has to hope to catch the Crew on a bad evening.
And according to Jamie, Crew fans are shy, shunning the limelight and hesitant to voice their opinion.
If GBS hits the wall, or Warzycha turns into Eddie Firmani, then it's going to be a much more difficult year than advertised. Which is, like, a huge insight, isn't it? A team loses their best player, they're not as good.
MY GUESS: Theoretically, a team can climb to above average in the West, and win the Shield by getting fat on the rest of the circus peanuts in that division. On the other hand, the West stinks like a vomitorium again this year. But the only thing between then and another double is something goofy in the playoffs, AND DON'T SAY IT WON'T HAPPEN. Kansas City, New England, New York, or Toronto won't be that easy, and after them it's probably the Fire again. Then an MLS Cup against the fifth place team in the East, and again, Kansas City, New England, New York or Toronto won't be that easy.
Tom Soehn has been averaging a trophy a year, and he's on the hot seat! What gives?
Oh, the horrible roster full of underperformers going nowhere fast. I'm not going to judge Christian Gomez by his disappointing performance last year. I'm also going to lump in the disappointing performance from the year before, and the playoffs the year before that. If the Rapids had benched him earlier, they might have made the playoffs.
The United are still trying to recover from their single worst season of foreign acquisitions. None of them was the transcendent, shattering failure of a Matthaeus or an Azizi or a Hong Myung-Bo, but there were four significant foreign acquisitions that contributed absolutely nothing. This was so unusual for DC United, their fans didn't know what to do.
Oh, wait, yes they did - they screamed for Soehn's head.
MY GUESS: DC is a fairly popular pick to finish butt-naked last in the East, and contend for the worst record in the league. The Red and Black will be bled and racked. At this rate, the USOC winner will never get into the Champions League. I do think they get their stadium, though, which will give them momentum for next year when Bruce Arena returns.
Claudio Lopez admits he wasn't worth the money, and agrees to a pay cut. I have all the time in the world for that guy, that is totally admirable. Well, except for the part where he played so poorly that he felt obligated to take a pay cut.
The worst thing that happened to this team was Atlanta, Miami, Montreal and (probably) Ottawa all missing out on expansion. Not because they would play against expansion slugs, but because they'd be returned to the West, where they would be perennial Shield contenders. Could be worse - they could be in a Central Division with Chicago, Columbus and Houston.
I like this team as much as I do - to wit, not that much - because of the defense. With Parkhurst turned Viking and Heaps and Albright turning old, it's the third best in the division, and therefore at worst fourth in the league. A lot will depend on how good Adam Cristman is, because Josh Wolff isn't durable.
There might be some pressure to start actually winning, but then again, there's always fifth place and the Western garden path to Seattle. It's weird that Onalfo with no trophies is in less trouble than Soehn with two, but that's the life they have chosen.
MY GUESS: Third. Do I like these guys enough to have them upset the Fire in the first round? I sort of don't. I do think it'll be more exciting than the face you're making right now, all disappointed that it won't be Fire-Revolution. Still Santiago Hirsig has "Popeye Herrera for today's generation!" written all over him, and I think Roger Espinoza sucks. There, I said it.
Well, let's see if Joe Public killed these guys. MLS Quick Kicks is trying to sell me on a 4-5-1 with Twellman as the 1, which is a big red flag. They haven't replaced Parkhurst to my satisfaction, not that they were asking my opinion.
The midfield could go one of two directions. Ralston and Joseph could keep doing what they've done for years, Larentowicz and Castro add another dimension to their game, and Nyassi blooms into a true threat, meaning New England will hover around the top of the league from March to November.
Or, Ralston could finally feel the years catch up with him, Larentowicz, Castro and Nyassi don't fulfill their potential, and New England finishes an ugly fifth.
MY GUESS: Ugly fifth. Thus getting into the Western bracket and getting to MLS Cup. Congratulations, guys!
You know, they were a fifth-place team last year for a reason.
That defense is horrible. I mean, almost DC and Los Angeles horrible. Mike Petke returning impresses me roughly as much as Christian Gomez returning home from a similar stay in the mountain air. It wasn't like Petke can barely lift his arms what with being weighed down with Rapids championship gear, is what I'm getting at.
Things pick up a lot once you leave the back line. I think Seth Stammler is about to get some real fans in this league, not just in Giants Stadium. Recently, teams who add wily veteran midfielders and aren't the Galaxy or Dallas tend to do very well, so there's plenty of reason to be optimistic about Celades.
But the real noise should come from Richards, Kandji and JPA. Assuming they're not trying to come back from three-goal deficits all year.
The other problem will be the hideous mid-season acquisition that Osorio saddles this team with. At least they got rid of Pietravallo....what?
MY GUESS: Fourth, an appropriately ironic improvement that will see them bounced in the first round with no questions asked
Trecker hates these guys. I think he underrates Sutton, but not by much. Harmse and Serioux are worthless, though. I wouldn't trust Amado Guevara with a loaf of moldy bread at this point, and....
Okay, De Rosario. Let's just say it, the guy phones in the regular season. At least he was consistent last year, also phoning in the playoffs. He could get away with it because Houston was really good, and because everyone else in the West was pretty terrible - and the Dynamo still only won the division once in the past three years. Last year, when no one wanted to win the damned thing. I don't want to say that was all De Rosario, but it was. He's Mr. October, or at least Mr. October of 2007 and earlier.
Would I want any part of the Red Squirrels in the playoffs? No, but what has that got to do with anything?
Sure, it's reasonable to expect De Rosario would bloom in the green green grass of home. But there is no grass at BMO. And what did Thomas Wolfe tell us about going home again? That's right.
MY GUESS: They win that Nutralite Championship thing.