Preview: 2012 Major League Soccer Western Conference

The 2012 MLS season is a mere stones throw away, and one of world footballs fastest growing leagues is looking to continue the success of 2011 which saw David Beckham’s LA Galaxy lift the MLS cup.

Here is our preview of the Western Conference, featuring 2011 champions LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake.

Club Deportivo Chivas USA

2011: 8th (missed playoffs)

In: M Ryan Smith (trade from Sporting KC); D James Riley (from Seattle, via trade from Montreal); M Oswaldo Minda (SD Quito); M Miller Bolaños (LDU Quito); F Casey Townsend; D R.J. Allen; G Brian Rowe; D Daniel Steres; D Fabian Kling; D Kevin Venegas; G Tim Melia (free); D John Valencia (Atlético Junior); M Marvin Iraheta (Cosmos Academy); D Rauwshan McKenzie (free); M Peter Vagenas (free); F Cesar Romero (free)

Out: F Justin Braun (trade to Montreal); M Gerson Mayen (trade to Montreal); D Zarek Valentin (expansion draft); M Paulo Nagamura (trade to Sporting KC); D Andrew Boyens (Re-Entry Stage 2/LA Galaxy); F Chukwudi Chujindu ; M Simon Elliott; G Zach Thornton; D Mariano Trujillo ; D Michael Umaña (free/Comunicaciones); F Marcos Mondaini; G Sergio Arias; F Víctor Estupiñán; D R.J. Allen; D Fabian Kling

Coach: Robbie Fraser

Stadium: The Home Depot Center (27,000)

2011 Average Attendance: 14,830

Nicknames: Red-and-White; Goats; Goats USA; Rojiblancos; Rebaño Angelino

Best Finish: Play-offs Quarter Finals (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009)

Star Men: Juan Pablo Angel; Dan Kennedy; Heath Pearce

Chivas often rely on a youth-first policy and therefore have a bit of a revolving door scenario year on year. Thankfully for them, JP Angel has stayed, alongside the brilliant goalkeeper Kennedy. One of MLS’ lowest budget franchises will do well to keep off the bottom of the conference table this year.

Prediction: Will unfortunately struggle to finish any higher than 9th

Colorado Rapids

2011: 5th (lost to Sporting Kansas City in Eastern Conference semi-finals)

In: D Hunter Freeman (Re-Entry Stage 2/Houston); M Tony Cascio; M Kohei Yamada ; G Joel Helmick; M Jaime Castrillón (free/Independiente Medellín); M Martín Rivero (loan/Rosario Central); D Luis Zapata (free)

Out: M Sanna Nyassi (expansion draft); D Mike Holody; D Danny Earls; D Miguel Comminges; F Caleb Folan; F/M Macoumba Kandji (trade to Houston)

Coach: Oscar Pareja

Stadium: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (19,680)

2011 Average Attendance: 14,838

Best Finish: Winners (2010)

Star Men: Conor Casey; Martin Rivero; Pablo Mastroeni

Had a bit of a stop-start season in 2011, but still managed to scrape a play-off spot. Unfortunately they were easily dumped out by SKC. Connor Casey is key to any success that they have, as well as playmaker Rivero.

Prediction: Could struggle to make the play-offs this year…6th

FC Dallas

2011: 4th (eliminated in wild card play off by New York Red Bulls)

In: F Blas Pérez (free/Indios de Ciudad Juárez); D Hernán Pertúz (free/Independiente Medellín); D Matt Hedges; D Alex Lee; F Walter Hines; D Ian Kalis; D Carlos Rodríguez (Tauro FC)

Out: D Edson Edward; D Jeremy Hall (trade to Toronto); F Maykel Galindo; F Maicon Santos; M Marvin Chávez (trade to San Jose); M Jackson (loan to Cruzeiro)

Coach: Schellas Hyndman

Stadium: FC Dallas Stadium (20,500)

2011 Average Attendance: 12,861

NicknamesFCD; Hoops; Red Stripes; Toros; Burn; Dallas 96

Best Finish: Runners-up (2010)

Star Men: Brek Shea; David Ferreira; Blas Perez

Struggled last year with the added pressure of an impressive Champions League run which left their small, young squad stretched to its limits. Still qualified for the play-offs but by then fatigue had really set in. In Brek Shea they have one of the hottest young properties in the US and they will be relying on him if they are to improve on last years performance. The return of David Ferreira, their Designated Player is also very important.

Prediction: Should be fighting it out for a play-off spot….may have to settle for a wild-card…4th

LA Galaxy

2011: 1st (Supporters Shield and MLS Cup winners)

In: D Andrew Boyens (Re-Entry Stage 2/Chivas USA); D Chris Leitch (Re-Entry Stage 2/San Jose); F Pat Noonan (Re-Entry Stage 2/Seattle); M Marcelo Sarvas (free/Alajuelense); M Jose Villarreal (Home Grown); G Nick Noble (free/Ljungskile SK); D Tommy Meyer (SuperDraft); M Kenney Walker; F Bryan Gaul; M Rafael Garcia; F Yuri Gorentzvaig; F Steven Posa; D Justin Davies; F Edson Buddle (free); M Kyle Nakazawa (trade from Philadelphia)

Out: D Gregg Berhalter (retired); G Donovan Ricketts (trade to Montreal); G Jon Conway (retired); M/F Miguel López (loan expired); M Jovan Kirovski (retired); D Dasan Robinson (retired); D Chris Leitch (retired); D Frankie Hejduk (contract expired); F Yuri Gorentzvaig

Coach: Bruce Arena

Stadium: The Home Depot Center (27,000)

2011 Average Attendance: 23,335

Nicknames: Galaxy; Los Galacticos

Best Finish: Winners (2002, 2005, 2011)

Star Men: David Beckham; Landon Donovan; Robbie Keane

All eyes were on the whole “will Beckham return?” shenanigans, and thankfully for the Galaxy, the biggest name in MLS history has signed a new contract. LA were by far the best team in MLS last season, and they’ll be under pressure to win the competition once more. With the likes of USA legend Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane fresh from their Premier League loan spells, they could well be victorious in 2012. Look out for the impressive Brazilian midfielder Juninho, whose work rate and passing ability takes the pressure off some of his more illustrious team mates.

Prediction: Will win the conference and could well repeat their MLS Cup win of 2011…1st

Portland Timbers

2011: 6th (missed playoffs)

In: F José Adolfo Valencia (Independiente Santa Fe/Colombia); F Brent Richards (Home Grown); D Andrew Jean-Baptiste; M Brendan King; D Hanyer Mosquera (free); M Ryan Kowaluk; M Miguel Ibarra; G Doug Herrick; M Logan McDaniel; F Kris Boyd (free); M Charles Renken; M Franck Songo’o (free); GK Joe Bendik (Sogndal)

Out: D Kevin Goldthwaite (retired); F/M Ryan Pore; G Adin Brown; M Rodrigo López; M Peter Lowry; F Brian Umony; F Kenny Cooper (trade to New York)

Coach: John Spencer

Stadium: Jeld-Wen Field (20,323)

2011 Average Attendance: 18,827

Nicknames: The Timbers

Best Finish: 6th in Western Conference (2011)

Star Men: Kris Boyd; Jack Jewsbury; Diego Chara

Were fairly impressive in their début season in 2011, especially at home. However, they have lost top scorer Kenny Cooper to New York which could be a blow. Scottish striker Kris Boyd has been brought in to replace him, and he should flourish at this level. The Timbers fans make a hell of a racket at the Jeld-Wen Field, and they could be crucial if Portland are to get into the play-offs in their 2nd season.

Prediction: Could well get a wild-card spot if Boyd can get the goals…5th


Real Salt Lake

2011: 3rd (lost to LA Galaxy in Western Conference Final)

In: M Enzo Martinez; D Diogo de Almeida; M Sebastián Velásquez; M Andy Rose; F Emiliano Bonfigli; F Oliver Kupe; D Leone Cruz (trade rights from Seattle)

Out: G Tim Melia; M Collen Warner; D Robbie Russell (trade to D.C.); M Jean Alexandre (trade to San Jose); M Arturo Alvarez (Re-Entry Stage 1/Chivas USA); M Andy Williams (retired); D Nelson González; D Rauwshan McKenzie; M Blake Wagner; M Andy Rose (trade to Seattle)

Coach: Jason Kreis

Stadium: Rio Tinto Stadium (20,008)

2011 Average Attendance: 17,594

NicknamesClaret and Cobalt, Royals, RSL, Real, Lakers, Los Monarcas, La Realeza

Best Finish: Winners (2009)

Star Men: Alvaro Saborio; Kyle Beckerman; Fabian Espindola

Were impressive last year both in MLS and in the Champions League, where they reached the final. The 2009 champions will be looking to go one better this year and reach the MLS final, but they will be heavily reliant on last years top scorer, the Costa Rican Saborio. Watch out for rookie Enzo Martinez

Prediction: Will be there or there about’s again….should certainly make the play-offs…3rd


San Jose Earthquakes

2011: 7th (missed playoffs)

In: M Shea Salinas (trade from Vancouver); M Jean Alexandre (trade from RSL); M Marvin Chávez (trade from FC Dallas); D Víctor Bernárdez (free/Anderlecht); F Sam Garza; M Jacob Hustedt ; G Chris Blais; F Cesar Diaz Pizarro; D David Tiemstra; D James Kiffe; D Tyler Krumpe; F Sercan Güvenisik (Preußen Münster); M Tressor Moreno (free); M/F Simon Dawkins ( loan)

Out: D Bobby Burling (expansion draft); M Matt Luzunaris; M/D Bobby Convey (trade to Sporting KC); D Chris Leitch (Re-Entry Stage 2/LA Galaxy); M André Luiz; M Jacob Peterson; F Scott Sealy; G Andrew Weber; F Chris Agorsor; F/D Donny Toia

Coach: Frank Yallop

Stadium: Buck Shaw Stadium (10,300- can be slightly increased)

2011 Average Attendance: 11,858

Nicknames: Quakes; The Boys in Blue; Los Terremotos de San José

Best Finish: Winners (2001, 2003)

Star Men: Chris Wondolowski; Ramiro Corrales; Simon Dawkins

One of the smallest clubs in MLS will again do very, VERY well to make the play-offs. Once more they will be heavily reliant on the superb Chris Wondolowski who was tied for the Golden Boot award in 2011 with Dwayne De Rosario. They had a bit of a late surge towards the play-offs last year, eventually missing out- their mid season slump didn’t help matters.

Prediction: Will miss out on the play-offs, repeating the performance of 2011 and finishing 7th


Seattle Sounders

2011: 2nd (lost to Real Salt Lake in Western Conference semi-finals)

In: G Michael Gspurning (free/Skoda Xanthi); D Marc Burch (Re-Entry Stage 2/D.C. United); D Adam Johansson (free/Göteborg); M Christian Sivebaek (free/Midtjylland); D Andrew Duran; F Babayele Sodade; D Tim Pontius; F Jason Banton; F Abdul Aman; D Wes Feighner; M Andy Rose (trade from Real Salt Lake); F Cordell Cato (free/Defence Force FC); Eddie Johnson (trade from Montréal)

Out: G Kasey Keller (retired); D James Riley (to Chivas USA, via expansion draft); D Tyson Wahl (trade to Montreal); GK Terry Boss (retired); D Taylor Graham (retired); F Nate Jaqua (Re-Entry Stage 2/New England); F Pat Noonan (Re-Entry Stage 2/LA Galaxy); M Erik Friberg (transfer/Malmö); F Mike Fucito (traded to Montreal); M Lamar Neagle (traded to Montreal)

Coach: Sigi Schmid

Stadium: CenturyLink Field (67,000- reduced to 35,700 for MLS games, although can be more if needed)

2011 Average Attendance: 38,496

Nicknames: The Sounders, Rave Green

Best Finish: Conference Semi-Finals (2009, 2010, 2011)

Star Men: Mauro Rosales; Fredy Montero; Alvaro Fernandez

Now in their 4th season, MLS’ best supported club really need to make that next step fairly soon. With 3 impressive seasons so far, the Sounders will be under pressure to at least make the Conference Final this year. They have a hugely talented squad, including the 3 Designated Players Rosales, Montero and Fernandez. Montero’s goals could be key, he scored 12 last season and will be expected to bag more. The Sounders fans are famed for creating a hostile atmosphere at the CenturyLink Field, making it a tough place to play.

Prediction: Will be strong at home and this talented squad should easily make the play-offs, whether they can do better than previously is the big question…2nd

Vancouver Whitecaps

2011: 9th (missed playoffs)

In: M Bryce Alderson (Home Grown), D Lee Young-Pyo (free); M/F Lee Nguyen (weighted lottery); M Matt Watson (free/Carolina); D Martín Bonjour (free: Rampla Juniors); F Darren Mattocks; D Chris Estridge; G Brad Knighton (Carolina); D Geinier García; D/M Greg Klazura; G Andrew Fontein; D Mark Fetrow; M Jun Marques Davidson (free); F Sébastien Le Toux (trade from Philadelphia); M Barry Robson (free: Middlesbrough, arriving in July); F Etienne Barbara (free/rights acquired from Montreal)

Out: D Jeb Brovsky (expansion draft); D Bilal Duckett; M Nizar Khalfan; M Alexandre Morfaw; M Shea Salinas (trade to San Jose); D Greg Janicki; M Pete Vagenas; D Jonathan Leathers; G Jay Nolly (trade to Chicago); D Geinier García (trade to Montreal); F Mustapha Jarju; M Philippe Davies

Coach: Martin Rennie

Stadium: BC Place (21,500- can be increased to 54,320 if needed)

2011 Average Attendance: 20,412

Nicknames: ‘Caps; Blue and Whites

Best Finish: 9th in Conference (2011)

Star Men: Eric Hassli; Sebastien Le Toux; Jay DeMerit

It was a fairly disappointing début season for the Canadian side, despite their mini-revival towards the end of the season. However, they have a new coach in the form of the very highly rated Martin Rennie, who has overseen a large overhaul of the roster. Le Toux is a brilliant acquisition from Philadelphia and former Tottenham left-back Lee Young-Pyo brings a wealth of experience. Scottish midfielder Barry Robson is arriving from Middlesbrough in July and he will add quality. This could prove to be a season of transition for Vancouver, though.

Prediction: They may take time to gel, or they could hit the ground running. May be in with a shout of making the play-offs but I think they’ll finish 8th


Overall prediction

1. LA Galaxy

2. Seattle Sounders

3. Real Salt Lake


4. FC Dallas

5. Portland Timbers


6. Colorado Rapids

7. San Jose Earthquakes

8. Vancouver Whitecaps

9. Chivas USA

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