5 Teams that Could Win the 2015 MLS Cup
The 2014 MLS season was incredibly exciting, with many close matches and strong performances in both the Eastern and Western conferences.
Though the Seattle Sounders won the Supporters' Shield and finished the year with the best regular season record, they ultimately fell short in the playoffs - an occurrence that seems to happen every year. Rather, it was their Western Conference rivals, the LA Galaxy, who brought home the title in Landon Donovan's final season. In the final, the LA Galaxy and their potent attack proved to be too much for the New England Revolution, who fell 2-1 in extra time.
Nonetheless, no matter the accomplishments of the MLS squads in 2014, the new season provides a blank slate for the teams to start fresh. Every team is tied at the top (or bottom, whichever way you look at it) at 0-0-0, but the anticipation is building. With the two new expansion clubs, Orlando City and New York City FC, in the Eastern Conference, things should be shaking up all across the league, which could provide many interesting storylines.
Whichever way you view the current MLS situation, one thing is for sure - teams are already preparing to make their runs at the chance to colect the 2015 MLS cup. Here are the Top 5 MLS clubs (as well as a few honorable mentions) who I think could make deep runs and possibly win it all.
Write this up folks: with star midfielder Kaka, USMNT regular Brek Shea, and the first overall pick in this year's MLS SuperDraft, Cyle Larin, I expect Orlando City to be the better of the two expansion clubs this year (sorry New York). They have solid players all throughout their lineup, and with goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, the 2013 MLS Goalkeeper of the year, they have a great advantage in goal. THey are not ranked only because the team lacks any history, and whether or not the players will gel in just the first year is up in the air.
Sporting Kansas City
This is a squad that underperformed last season. After winning the MLS Cup in 2013, they finished a disappointing 5th place in the Eastern Conference. This season should be different, as the team is focused up and has a clear goal in mind of re-claiming their title. They should look at their knockout round loss to the New York Red Bulls as motivation to prove that they belong back in the conversation for the MLS Cup. With the recent additions of solid players such as Roger Espinoza, Kevin Ellis, and Servando Carrasco, I see them making noise in the playoffs this season.
Real Salt Lake
Another team in a similar situation as SKC, they failed to live up to their talent - even though they finished 3rd in the competitive Western Conference last season. They had a spectacular 11-5-1 record at home, only to have that mitigated by a disappointing 4-6-7 record on the road. WIth players such as Nick Rimando and Javier Morales, the have a solid lineup in both the attack and the defense. They should find their way in the playoffs again, yet are currently on the outside looking in with a broken left foot for last year's leading goal scorer Joao Plata.
Top 5 (in no particular order):
New England Revolution
I expect New England to win the Eastern Conference this year, but it will be another close race. It won't be likely that Lee Nguyen posts another MVP caliber season, but it is also unlikely that he needs to. After bringing in heralded Juan Agudelo from Europe, a 22 year old forward on the USMNT, they hope to feature him in their attack. Last season, New England proved that they could win, claiming a victory in 17 of their 34 regular season games and winning their way all the way to the MLS title; however, they fell just short due to more fight from the LA Galaxy in the end. These boys are incredibly hungry for a championship and should vie strongly for the title.
It seems as if the team for LA is on the shortlist to win the title every year, and this season should be no different. Though star player Landon Donovan is gone, they still boast a potent attack with Robbie Keane and a feared defense led by Omar Gonzalez. In fact, last season they led the league in goals against and goal difference, allowing only 37 goals en route to a whopping goal difference of 32. What's more is that they expect to sign Steven Gerrard after the Liverpool star finishes his career at his current club. His addition could be what they need after losing Landon Donovan, and with the other players on their team remaining, they will try and prove that they deserve to repeat as MLS champions.
Call me a believer for thinking that the squad from up north can bring home the title after failing to make the playoffs last year; however, they went to work this offseason and geared up to create a team that should be feared. Jozy Altidore is back in the states after spending some time in the Premier League; Michael Bradley came last season from AS Roma to be a force in the midfield; and Sebastian Giovinco brings his talent from Juventus. These three players alone should jolt a Toronto squad that direly needed attackers last season.
After winning the Eastern Conference last season, D.C. United should be right back in the mix following their disappointing loss to the New York Red Bulls in the MLS playoffs last year. Though they couldn't quite capitalize on their spectacular regular season performance, they still showed that they can defend - and defend they did - allowing a league least 37 goals. This team has no one quite like Clint Dempsey, Steven Gerrard, or Sebastian Giovinco, but they have tons of solid players who can step up when needed - especially in goal with MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, Bill Hamid. If they can fix a few mistakes and get more chances, they will be able fight their way to the title.
Seattle Sounders F.C.
Every year since they joined the league, the Sounders have made the playoffs. And every year, they seem to lose before they get a chance to play for the title. In fact, last year was one of their most impressive seasons yet, winning both the U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters' Shield. With Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey, and Lamar Neagle in the attack, and Chad Marshall and Osvaldo Alonso in the defense and midfield respectively, this team has talent from top to bottom. They added even more depth by trading up in this year's MLS SuperDraft, and are rightful contenders from the get-go. I expect them to bounce back from their playoff defeat and jump right back into the mix to win it all in 2015. They have won the other competitions already. Now they look to seize the one title that has eluded them - the MLS Cup.