The 2015 MLS season is less than a month away. Preseason is in full swing, and everyone in MLS circles has begun making predictions. If Simon Borg can make multiple crazy forcasts and retain his job and the majority of his twitter followers, then so can I. So, at the risk of losing credibility and getting being told I’m crazy on twitter, here are five of my bold predictions for MLS in 2015:
5 MLS Bold Predictions for 2015
1. Real Salt Lake will miss the playoffs:
Like any good Galaxy fan, I know never to count the original Money Ball team of MLS out of anything, but this could be a rough season for the Claret and Cobalt. They lost Ned Grabavoy and Nat Borchers. General Manager Garth Lagerwey is now in Seattle. Designated Players Alvaro Saborio and Javier Morales have had trouble staying healthy for several years, and Jao Plata will miss at least the first month of the season with a broken foot.
Other than Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando, much of the core that this team has built success around is injury-prone or young. I’m not sure that Luis Gil and Chris Schuler are ready to elevate their game to the level needed to sustain success. Maybe in a few more years they’ll be the new core, but not in 2015. RSL can still win against anyone in MLS on their day, but I just don’t see them making the playoffs this year. To be fair, if they were in the Eastern Conference, I think they’d be a wild card lock.
2. Kaká wins MVP:
Brand new expansion team that seem to have a decent chance at making the playoffs and a centerpiece DP who’s the focal point of their attack? Yes please. The Brazilian international has been on fire in preseason, scoring, assisting and doing THIS. There’s no question he’s going to be one of the best chance creators in MLS this season. As Orlando City’s captain and the leader of a relatively young attack, he will influence those around him in ways most MLS players can’t or don’t have the opportunity to. If The Lions makes the playoffs, Kaká is going to be a big reason why. I think they will make the playoffs and as a result, Ricardo Lzecson dos Santos Leite is the first ever Landon Donovan MVP Award recipient, and it ain’t going to be close.
3. Columbus Crew and FC Dallas will make the conference finals:
Two young but very talented teams. Each has a coach that has built the roster around a very particular and workman style of play. Both had good seasons last year and valuable playoff experiences despite getting eliminated in the first round. Neither of these teams may be on the radar for winning their respective conferences, but these are fearless Davids with the potential to be giant slayers come November. The Galaxies, Sounders, and Revolutions of the world better not overlook these two teams. A healthy and consistent season could see the Hoops and the Crew in the top three in their conference. I say they grow more throughout their season and learn from last year’s post season disappointments. Columbus and Dallas will both make the conference finals.
4. Nat Borchers wins Defender of the Year:
Borchers comes to a Portland Timers side that was middle of the pack in goals conceded in 2014. He’ll step in and start next to Liam Ridgewell and help anchor that back line. With Will Johnson missing the beginning of the season due to a broken leg, some of the Timbers’ usual midfield defensive support will be missing. If Portland can break even with the addition of Borchers in the early going, Johnson’s and Diego Valeri’s return will give them an excellent shot at making the playoffs.
We’ve seen two recent trends in the Defender of the Year recipients. They come to a new team, anchor the defense, and drastically improve the team’s defensive stats like Chad Marshall last year and Jose Goncalves in 2013. The other trend is a defender stepping into a new role as the leader of the back line and elevating their play to completely new level like Matt Besler in 2012 and Omar Gonzalez in 2011. Borchers fits the Marshall/Goncalves mold. The defense is going to have to improve for Portland to make the playoffs this year. I believe they will qualify, and Borchers’ physical play and experience is going to be a big part of that. Combined with a drop off in RSL’s defending due to his absence, and Nat Borchers takes home the 2015 Defender of the Year Award.
5. Toronto FC will miss the playoffs again, fire Greg Vanney and hire Bob Bradley:
I saved my boldest and crazies prediction for last. Yes, TFC has upped their game this off season. We just got word Giovinco is joining the team for preseason as opposed to July as originally planned. Michael Bradley will be healthy and won’t miss as much time due to the lack of a World Cup. Last year’s lesser DPs are gone and Jozy Altidore is in. Last year their back line was a dumpster fire, and they’ve added pieces there in signing Damien Perquis (who I do like) and two 1st round draft picks. Even with all the fire power up front, their defending and injuries kept them out of the playoffs last year. They’re younger, healthier, better defensively, and most of the dead weight from 2014 is gone.
But this is still TFC and if anyone in MLS can pull off missing the playoffs with this much DP fire power, it’s them. Getting used to the league, style of play, and travel takes time for new players. Giovinco and Perquis could have some early struggles. While there is no World Cup, TFC will likely lose Altidore and Bradley during the Gold Cup. There’s still potential issues in Steven Caldwell insisting he remain captain and TFC getting lots of media attention, which can exacerbate problems.
My big red flag for TFC this year is Head Coach Greg Vanney. As much as TFC has been committed to bringing in savior DPs and breaking the bank to do so, they’ve yet to hire a proven head coach in their history. Vanney could turn out to be a great head coach in MLS someday, just not this season. He was promoted within last year after the sacking of Ryan Nelsen. Vanney spent two years as an assistant at Chivas USA (which could be taken as negative two years experience on his coaching resume) before joining The Reds at the youth coach level. This is his first head coaching position. I’m not sure he has the experience to help this team win yet. There’s also a skill to managing big egos in a locker room culture.
If the team stays remotely healthy this year and they don’t make the playoffs, I’ve got to think Vanney’s gone. TFC has finally made the right moves on DP and other player signings. If Vanney’s gone, I’d expect TFC to go with finally someone proven, with experience and the ability to handle big name players. With Sigi Schmid and Bruce Arena locked up and no other expensive, block buster, proven option available currently in MLS, what bigger move would there be than to bring in Bob Bradley? He’s only got one year left on his Stabaek contract. He’s proven in MLS, internationally, and with quality players with the USMNT. Who knows Michael Bradley better than his own dad? He’s said in the past he wants to coach internationally. A talented roster a big pay raise could change his mind. That’s been TFC’s way of late.
If Bob Bradley can’t get Toronto FC to the playoffs in 2016, no one ever will.
Think I’m crazy? What are your crazy predictions for MLS in 2015? Comment below or hit me up on Twitter.
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