The DEFINITIVE 2011 Major League Soccer Eastern Conference Preview

I can't just say "They all kinda suck," and call it a post, can I?

No?

Okay, fine.

A lot of people think the Red Bulls won't suck, and I can understand why. Yeah, they technically finished third in the league last year, but they also technically embarrassed themselves in the playoffs against a hugely ordinary Earthquakes team.

More to the point, I'm a serious unbeliever in Henry and Marquez, let alone Mehdi Ballouchy.

I also think Dane Richards had the best year of his career last year. And Bouna Condoul's career has so far been one great season followed by two where he's hurt all the damn time.

Still, all of America is in love with Tim Ream and Juan Agudelo, and that's nothing compared to the love Hans Backe has for Jan Gunnar Solli. Backe's building his team, and they look great...except, he's going to find out that no matter what, he has to play Henry and Marquez. If they're hurt, or if they're pouty, or if they're unmotivated - well, the Red Bulls are stuck with them. I'm not sure the rest of the Red Bulls are good enough to overcome two Beckhams.

Fortunately for New York, the rest of the conference is unspeakably bad.

The Columbus Crew remind me of Princess Diana. The Crew were once commoners who became MLS royalty. They never lost touch with their down-to-earth roots, even at the peak of their success. And last year, they hit the wall and died.

The Crew also remind me of Dale Earnhardt Sr. A hard-working champion who...wait, where are you going?

Seriously, anyone who caught their act against Salt Lake this past couple of weeks has got to be bailing off the Columbus bandwagon. The only reason Warzycha's not a huge favorite to be the first coach fired this season is, well, the rest of the conference.

Sporting Kansas City has a young national team player with an awesome nickname popular with the Internet and oh, we've heard this song before, haven't we. They also have a Mexican superstar famous for scoring goals and wait, I think I know how this one goes, too.

New England Revolution, Eastern Conference Champions. Speaking of songs we've heard before. Weren't they gonna replace Twellman at some point?

Although - I'm not worried about Shalrie Joseph's run-in with the law. Not leaving a party when he was told to? What, does he have a curfew? Okay, yeah, I suppose he does, but...he's 32. This isn't Freddy Adu with a red plastic cup and a glazed look on his face with a co-ed on each arm. He's a man, man. Yeah, he was suspended last year. Yeah, he was arrested. But unless he's completely full of crap, this seems like an expedition to the top of Mt. Molehill. In a related story, a few Soccer America commenters need to take a long walk off a short pier.

My problem with the Revolution is that Joseph's 32, and the window on him producing MVP-caliber seasons has seemingly slammed shut. Maybe Chris Tierney is going to be a superstar, but even if he is, that leaves nine other guys you need on the field.

Right now "Party like it's 2002!" is the headline on the Union website. Carlos Ruiz was apparently okay with Puebla, considering he was all but finished back in 2008. Now he's the second most famous Carlos Ruiz in Philadelphia sports. I can't picture any scenario where Ruiz and Peter Nowak don't have a fistfight by May. The Union will be unpleasantly difficult to play against and beat, which should be enough to contend in this miserable division.

Hey, Houston's in the division this year! And, if this were 2007, that would mean something. With the new stadium and all, the future is bright and beautiful for the Dynamo. Which is good, because even if Geoff Cameron comes all the way back, just look at all that average. Probably the right season to slum it in the East, but it's still going to be a challenge for them.

I'm not going to sit here and say there's no reason to pay any attention to DC United this year. There's Davies, Najar, and McCarty. But it's much more important for them to get their own stadium, that short of a run for the championship, nothing on the field compares with the risk of losing this team to Baltimore or Grand Rapids or wherever. Nothing against Menckenopolis, but if Baltimore wants to see FC Homicide in MLS, let them find a multi-millionaire like everyone else.

Wow, the Fire. Hey, for all I know Cháves and Marić have just had a bad couple of years. But wow, they do not look like the types who will turn this team around. On the other hand, they just beat TFC in a preseason game, with Logan Pause red-carded in the first half, so they probably won't finish last.

That will probably be Toronto. Who, according to their website, have fourteen players on their team. On the bright side, more than a few of them are awful. Wait, that's not the bright side. On the bright side, Dwayne De Rosario is ending his career under a storm cloud of shame and disgrace. Wait, that's not the bright side either. On the bright side, Vancouver is in the league and Montreal joins next year, so that's two more seasons the Reds can coast on cheap drama rather than build something resembling a professional soccer team. Wait, that's not the bright side. On the bright side, the Reds may be the best team in the entire MLSE umbrella. Wait, that's not the bright side. On the bright side, they have nice uniforms.

...seriously, we complained throughout the offseason until we were purple in the nipples about Western teams in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Now three of these baskets of crap are going to make it, no matter what. Happy now? I mean, who exactly were we dying to see here?

Predictions:

1. New York
2-9. doesn't matter

The whole season will lead to the playoff showdown between the Red Bulls and what will probably be the fifth best team in the West. Should be a heck of a series. Whoever wins that goes to MLS Cup.

Thank God all these teams hate each other so much, so at least there will be some cool on-field brawls.