The MLS Talk 2011 Season Predictions

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After weeks of previews, discussions, and debates, we are roughly 36 hours away from the beginning of the fifteenth MLS season.  The league has seen an offseason full of drafts, some national team names fleeing to Europe, some old friends returning to the league, some of the league’s first faces becoming the next wave of head coaches, and a new playoff structure that divides fans but gives us some intriguing championship possibilities.

And now it’s time for some soccer.  As a reminder, join me tomorrow evening on this site as we live chat during the MLS First Kick – Los Angeles pays a visit to Seattle for the league’s official first match.  As for the predictions below, the MLS Talk writers were asked to submit their predictions for the final rankings of the 2011 season, as well as the conference playoff winners, MLS Cup winners, and recipients of some of the more high-profile postseason awards.  Agree or disagree?  Sound off in the comments section below.

There were some common elements in our conference standings.  First, we all thought New York was the class of the East and a lock for the #1 seed this year.  As for the rest of the conference, there are some… differences.  Out West, everyone has Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles as the top two seeds, in some order.  Everyone also had the Sounders making the playoffs.  The Wild Card picks were diverse, including some of us who thought the West would have all four wild card spots.  Here are your 2011 conference predictions (playoff teams in bold):

Daniel Feuerstein

Eastern Conference Western Conference
New York Red Bulls Real Salt Lake
Houston Dynamo Los Angeles Galaxy
Sporting Kansas City Seattle Sounders
Toronto FC FC Dallas
New England Revolution Chivas USA
Columbus Crew Colorado Rapids
DC United San Jose Earthquakes
Chicago Fire Vancouver Whitecaps
Philadelphia Union Portland Timbers

Earl Reed

Eastern Conference Western Conference
New York Red Bulls Real Salt Lake
Sporting Kansas City Colorado Rapids
DC United Los Angeles Galaxy
Philadelphia Union Seattle Sounders
Columbus Crew San Jose Earthquakes
Houston Dynamo FC Dallas
New England Revolution Chivas USA
Chicago Fire Portland Timbers
Toronto FC Vancouver Whitecaps

Kristan Heneage

Eastern Conference Western Conference
New York Red Bulls Los Angeles Galaxy
DC United Real Salt Lake
Houston Dynamo Seattle Sounders
Chicago Fire FC Dallas
Toronto FC Colorado Rapids
New England Revolution Chivas USA
Columbus Crew Portland Timbers
Sporting Kansas City San Jose Earthquakes
Philadelphia Union Vancouver Whitecaps

Robert Hay

Eastern Conference Western Conference
New York Red Bulls Real Salt Lake
Sporting Kansas City Los Angeles Galaxy
DC United Colorado Rapids
Houston Dynamo Seattle Sounders
Philadelphia Union FC Dallas
Columbus Crew Chivas USA
New England Revolution San Jose Earthquakes
Chicago Fire Portland Timbers
Toronto FC Vancouver Whitecaps

MLS Cup predictions: Daniel, Earl, and I agreed that the MLS Cup champ would be a one seed, with Daniel taking the hometown Red Bulls as his pick and Earl and I picking Real Salt Lake.  Kristan went out on a ledge and took DC United to win their fifth MLS Cup.

Most Valuable Player: Again, the top teams reigned in this category.  Daniel selected former Arsenal man Thierry Henry, Earl and Kristan picked U.S. national Landon Donovan, and I went with Alvaro Saborio from the future MLS champions Real Salt Lake.

The Golden Boot: There was much uncertainty in this prediction, and only Earl and I were ambitious enough to wager a guess.  Earl picked my MVP Saborio to take the top goal scorer crown, while I am tipping my cap to our Sounders contigent and picking surprise candidate Fredy Montero.

Coach of the Year: Last season’s coach of the year was veteran coach Schellas Hyndman, although only three of those coaching years were in MLS.  All of our coach of the year selections were new MLS coaches, with Daniel seeing Toronto head man Aron Winter wining the award while Earl and I again agreed upon DC United’s Ben Olsen.

Newcomer of the Year: This category spurred some interesting thoughts from the group.  Last year’s controversial winner was Thierry Henry, showing that MLS sometimes values a name over contributions on the field.  Our predictions were somewhat all over the place: Daniel went with Fabien Castillo of FC Dallas, Earl and I chose Omar Bravo for Sporting KC, and Kristan went with Erik Friberg of the Seattle Sounders.

Rookie of the Year: Much like Newcomer of the Year, the 2010 MLS Rookie of the Year race was controversial and had three worthy candidates.  With a loaded draft class this past offseason, you would expect our picks to be very random, and they certainly are.  Daniel continued to predict great success for the Red Bulls by tabbing Juan Agudelo to win the award.  Earl, Kristan, and I were influenced by the University of Akron hype and took Will Bruin, Darlington Nagbe, and WIll Bruin respectively.

Most Improved Player: I asked everyone to submit a suggestion for this category because every year there is an MLS player or two who finally fulfill their hype or potential, and suddenly become big names in the league.  Kristan and Daniel thought that Dane Richards, the Red Bulls winger, would be that player in 2011, while Earl picked Richards’ teammate Tim Ream.  Since I wanted to show my Black-and-Red colors a little, I thought the player who would finally fulfill his promise would be D.C. United’s Branko Boskovic.

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