Know Your Enemies: Western Conference 2014
You just can’t get enough of MLS savant Stephen Mangat’s .gif parade, can you?
MLS First Kick is right around the corner, so let’s do it West Coast stylee…
San Jose Earthquakes
The Earthquakes are like this year’s Barcelona (first time anyone has ever said that, I’m betting) — still capable of hitting the heights of prior years, but not with the same consistency when the team was at its peak. Atiba Harris and Jean-Baptise Pierazzi are new arrivals who fit the San Jose mold of quality and physicality. Chris Wondolowski, Alan Gordon, and Steven Lenhart remain up top to wreak havoc on defenses, and Clarence Goodson pairs with Victor Bernardez to lock things down in the back.
Real Salt Lake
Jason Kreis is out and Jeff Cassar is in. Quality is guaranteed from Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Tony Beltran, Álvaro Saborio, Javier Morales, and Ned Grabavoy. And keep an eye out for breakout seasons from youngsters Devon Sandoval, Luis Gil, Olmes Garcia, Carlos Salcedo, Joao Plata, and Sebastian Velasquez.
Eddie Johnson is out. Kenny Cooper, Chad Marshall, and Marco Pappa are in. It’s a full season of Clint Dempsey too, so it’s probably going to be a typical Seattle team — very good and entertaining, but not quite good enough to win the West. It’ll be fun to see if DeAndre Yedlin becomes a big timer this season.
Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, Omar Gonzalez, Juninho, Bruce Arena. No big names have come to LA this year, but take the aforementioned and add extra quality in the form of Marcelo Sarvas, Todd Dunivant, AJ DeLaGarza, and new man Samuel, and LA will be a contender. The development of Gyasi Zardes may just decide how good this team actually is.
Not sure what to expect from this group. Robust midfield (Gershon Koffie, Nigel Reo-Coker), good defense (Jay DeMerit, Jordan Harvey, Steven Beitashour, Andy O’Brien), but unpredictable up top. Questions revolve around the attack: Can Kenny Miller not suck? Will Darron Mattocks fulfill his potential? Can Mehdi Ballouchy deliver? How much will Kekuta Manneh and Johnny Leveron contribute? New coach Carl Robinson’s success will depend on the answers to those questions.
Hero of taking kicks-to-the-balls Schellas Hyndman is gone (if you don’t know, now you know.), and the honorary .gif is below. New men Hendry Thomas and Adam Moffat will look to plug holes in a midfield that left a solid defense and attack a bit exposed at times last year. Standouts in Big D are goalie Raul Fernandez, center back George John, big forward Blas Perez, speedy forward Fabian Castillo, and midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson. Also, watch out for new Uruguayan striker David Texeira, who came from the Dutch league’s FC Groningen, as well as USMNT-youther Kellyn Acosta.
The Rapids don’t have a head coach yet. Pablo Mastroeni is doing the job now, though it doesn’t appear it’s going to be a permanent thing. That said, a late appointment worked for NYRB last season. It’s a solid unit (per usual) and creative hopes rest on ex-Earthquakes man Marvin Chavez (meh). Goals should come from the strong front group of Edson Buddle, Jamaican international Deshorn Brown, and Panamanian international Gabriel Torres, but will they get many chances? By the way, as a side note, do you think Jamaican internationals are high on Colorado these days?
Most of the dramatis personae from last year’s great run are still around, and this 2014 cast adds some spice in the form of new Argentinians Gaston Fernandez and Norberto Paparatto. Should be another great year in Rip City, though Concacaf Champions League fixtures later this season could suck points in a conference where each one is at a premium.
OnTheFire.com should buy Don Garber SC and put an end to this nonsense. This team sucks, though it’s fun to read who is on the team because it’s random as hell. Carlos Bocanegra?! Ex-Aston Villan Luke Moore?! Ex-Mexico international Adolfo Bautista?! Mauro Rosales?! This will be a mess, but put OTF in charge and I promise we’ll be more random. How about a frontline of Roy Lassiter, a zebra, and Diamond David Lee Roth?
OTF co-editor and writer Stephen Mangat is just a gigolo. Follow him @smangat12