2008 MLS Pre-Season Power Rankings: Science!

I’ll begin by apologizing for the constant need to explain my posts and myself. Sorry.

Welcome to the first, and first-ever, Major League Soccer (MLS) pre-season power rankings I have ever compiled. In the past, too few teams playing meaningful games equaled too many unknowns, so I didn’t see the point. I don’t really now….good times, aside. Oh, how we’ll laugh when we look back. That confessed, I’m going to embrace this form wholeheartedly and dress it in the available trappings of science.

I’ll begin with methods, a problem I never resolved during 2007 (mainly because I caught the issue too late in the game). By judging teams on different criteria at different points in the season, I tarnished the results. I started, if memory serves, by ranking MLS clubs based on form – e.g. a broad-brush impression of which team would beat which on the Saturday ahead. By the end of the season, however, I altered the formula to address something that seemed more important: the teams I believed would make the playoffs took the top 8 spots and I placed the teams I thought would go deeper in the post-season nearer the top, regardless of form. I move that the last organizing principle be branded as stupid and relegated to the Hole of Non- and Never-Existence.

With that in mind, the methods employed in the season ahead will adhere closely and permanently to those that first guided me – that is, I expect the team above to beat the team below 6 games out of 10 at a minimum; a brief explanation of my thinking will follow each team listed and each post will close with a discussion of trends and points of interest – assuming any come to me. With consistent methods in place, sound results, analysis, and conclusions should follow – if only logically…and internal logic at that. And – voilà! – we have science…of a sort.

And, later today, I’m going to up the science a little more by roping in all the pre-season power rankings I have seen so far in order to revive the Collective Power Rankings from last season. But, after the jump, I’ll lay out how I see all 14 MLS teams entering this deeply fascinating 2008 season. It promises to be a wild one, (but, c’mon, we all know deep down it’s going to peter out into a dogfight involving the usual suspects…I mean, how many people are rating Red Bull New York…pssh).

1. DC United
This is less about my belief in, say, Gallardo than my belief in Zach Wells and “The Gonzalos”; if DC has sorted out their defense, they’ll improve.
2. Houston Dynamo
They have not so much the best as the most consistent starting eleven in MLS…when they’re all together.
3. Chivas USA
The “other LA” fields a good team, but did they add enough to make their move?
4. New England Revolution
According previous work, I ranked a contender ranked lower than a dark horse; I believe the Revs will start slow and must, therefore, keep with my methods.
5. Kansas City Wizards
What makes me think they’re in for a better year? Kurt Onalfo’s apparent realization that coaches only talk about exciting, attacking soccer.
6. FC Dallas
A wild card in the truest sense of the word: I think they’re strong but I think that every year….which, I believe, is the definition of insanity.
7. Chicago Fire
One man’s name prompted me to flip this team and the one below in my Eastern Conference preview: Dasan Robinson. Till I saw him, I really worried about age. The Conde thing does worry me, though….
8. Red Bull New York
After 12 seasons of mediocrity, I don’t care who you have for forwards. Remember, they had the same guys last year: it’s a set-up man they’re needing. That said, they’ll rise…just don’t know how far.
9. Real Salt Lake
Tough to beat and hungry to the point of starvation: like Red Bull above, I expect this team will move in fairly short order – unlike Red Bull, I don’t know which way.
10. Colorado Rapids
Another team with potential to move up, but the injury issues carried over and Tam MacManus (still being pursued) hardly looks like an answer at forward.
11. Columbus Crew
I want very, very badly to rate this team higher, but seeing and believing come in that order where Columbus is concerned.
12. Los Angeles Galaxy
Nope. Don’t buy it. Still, I won’t be surprised when they move up. And I won’t be surprised when they stay stuck in the cellar. I don’t know what to expect.
13. San Jose Earthquakes
I don’t see this changing until they have a full roster. But it could be worse…see below.
14. Toronto FC
All I’m gonna say is, read the press out of Toronto. We only know Cinderella is pregnant, not where she is.

NOTES
– There are no trends – too early for that. I just want to flag one idea: until further notice, I view slots #4 through #12 as essentially inter-changeable. I don’t really know whose going to bust out of the gates and who will stumble…or even whether New York will endure another “Barbaro-esque” start to the season with the attendant hype (c’mon, you remember ’07; the parade of clean sheets, the 4-0 start, the hailing of The Bruce as a genius…didn’t last).
– That said, I think the top 3 genuinely are the top three; ditto for the bottom two. But the rest is wonderfully wide open.

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4 Responses

  1. […] Center Holds It (Jeff’s – e.g. mine) ESPN.com (a collective, even a famous one) Orlando Sentinel (Brant Parsons, I think) 3rd Degree (Parrish Glover) Blue Blooded Journo (a collective) Sideline Views (Luis Bueno) Soccer By Ives (Ives Galarcep) […]

  2. […] pre-season power rankings from Center Holds It has KC in fifth. They also have a complete Eastern Conference preview available. KC is a […]

  3. […] and jabbering aimed at justifying them appear after the jump. And, as always, the previous week’s ranking appears in parentheses after the current week’s rankings. This will go into the collective […]

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