Here’s what happens every Major League Soccer season:
1. Some newcomers will live up to expectation. Some won’t.
2. Some team predicted to finish near the basement will be considerably better than expected.
3. We will continue to wonder what Chivas USA or Toronto FC is trying to do. But maybe one of them will be the answer to #2.
So I’ve given up trying to rank teams in preseason. Instead, here’s a list ranking teams in order of how many questions we have about them, from least to most.
19. San Jose Earthquakes. Supporters’ Shield winners return most of the team, with little sign of aging.
18. Houston Dynamo. Omar Cummings joins the bulk of the team that made the MLS Cup final last season. They’ll be fine.
17. New England Revolution. Must not be any quick fixes for this team. They certainly haven’t tried any.
16. Sporting Kansas City. Lost Roger Espinoza and Kei Kamara, added DP Claudio Bieler and Benny Feilhaber.
15. Los Angeles Galaxy. Bruce Arena won’t be worried about the adjustment to the post-Beckham era. And while he’ll be missing Landon Donovan at the start of the season, perhaps Donovan won’t miss that much time with the national team this time around.
14. Colorado Rapids. Casey and Cummings out, Buddle in. The defense should be better with Diego Calderon.
13. Montreal Impact. A bit more Italian and Swiss than they used to be.
12. Seattle Sounders. Not a ton of turnover, but Shalrie Joseph and apparently Obafemi Martins are coming in, with Fredy Montero out on loan.
11. Real Salt Lake. By their standards, this offseason constituted “blowing up the team.” But Morales, Beckerman and Rimando are still there.
10. Columbus Crew. A lot of new names, including a couple of homegrown players and some discovery acquisitions.
9. Chicago Fire. They’ve rebuilt the midfield with Lindpere and Larentowicz, which would be a terrific name for a law firm or a folk-rock duo.
8. Vancouver Whitecaps. Nigel Reo-Coker should be an interesting guy to watch on a promising team.
7. FC Dallas. Still trying to pick a goalkeeper to replace Kevin Hartman. And how will they get Eric Hassli, Kenny Cooper and Blas Perez on the field at the same time?
6. D.C. United. Carlos Ruiz? Seriously?
5. Portland Timbers. Is Caleb Porter truly a genius whose college acumen will translate to the pro game?
4. New York Red Bulls. Heavy turnover is never a surprise here, but it’s often interesting, particularly with Mike Petke taking over on the sideline.
3. Philadelphia Union. Tying up a good chunk of your salary cap on a player who isn’t going to play for you (Freddy Adu) is a good thing? How will returnee Sebastien Le Toux and aging big man Conor Casey gel with a core of kids?
2. Toronto FC. New president? Check – Kevin Payne. New coach? Let’s get a guy who’s still playing in the EPL and see if we can convince his team to let him quit. Welcome, Ryan Nelsen. They weren’t good last year, and they let some talented guys go.
1. Chivas USA. Didn’t this whole “Mexican-American offshoot of Chivas” thing flop horribly the first time around? Or have they come up with better players this time around to fill the space between Dan Kennedy and Juan Agudelo.