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). Continue reading

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MLS 2008 Western Conference Preview: Contenders, Dark Horses, Filler, and C.H.U.D.s

Having already unloaded all my caveats in yesterday’s Eastern Conference Preview, there’s nothing to do here, but get to it. For your convenience, here are the resources borrowed and applied in creating what comes below: WVHooligan’s most current list of off-season player movement and Climbing the Ladder’s best guess at starting elevens for Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Western Conference sides. The same labels will apply as well: Contender, Dark Horse, Filler, and C.H.U.D. For your convenience, here’s a copy/paste on the meaning of the terms from yesterday:

“The first two are pretty obvious – e.g. ‘Contender’ attaches to a team with a clear shot at the title, while ‘Dark Horse’ flags a team with the talent and depth to steal the title, but only provided good form and luck through ‘08. For ‘Filler’ teams, the playoffs are within reach, but the title…well, it ain’t gonna happen. Finally, ‘C.H.U.D.s’ – aka, ‘Cannabalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers’: these are the teams that will suffer through a season in the confines of MLS’s cellars, only coming out from time to time to feast on the flesh of the living.”

So, let’s get to it…teams are listed in descending order from Contender to C.H.U.D. Continue reading

MLS Results and Moves: A Soft-Lens Impressions

Having been “underground” when Major League Soccer (MLS) Roster Compliance Day came and went (and, to celebrate, I threw out tons of crap, just like the teams I like!), motivation to soberly analyze all those rosters isn’t coming; besides, fans and fan sites have probably did all this to near-death earlier in the week. Moreover, not knowing much about the players coming in, I’m not really equipped to do a hard-data write-up. As such, a looser approach feels more appropriate – or, as I put it in the title, a soft-lens impression, which I’ll form based on what I recall of each team’s results (I’ll provide links when I have ’em) and the moves each team has made so far. I’ll be using Soccer America’s round-up of off-season moves for this last bit.

And away we go…

Continue reading

R O’B to SJ + If I Were Kelly Gray….

A big ol’ Slap o’ Life is coming down the pike and that will keep me away from the site from the end of the day Friday until….well, let’s just say it depends on how many swings Life takes until it thinks I’ve had enough. The upshot of that isn’t major – god knows outlets for snark, soccer, or both aren’t in short supply on the Web – but this does mean I won’t get to my final Off-Season Progress Report until sometime next week. And that’s just as well, in some ways, because all the players, furniture, etc. get nailed down by next Monday (for the most part), which will give us something concrete to talk about.

In the meantime, however, any player movements that make their way over the transom will get due coverage – provided, at least, I know anything about the players involved. Put another way, you’ll have to look elsewhere for the meaning of Franco Carracio’s arrival in Houston or Kenny Deuchar’s house-call (oh, the doctor puns!) to Real Salt Lake.

What I can kick around is the apparent trade that sent Ronnie O’Brien from Toronto FC to the San Jose Earthquakes. Or, as I like to think of it, wow, Toronto just traded away their offense. An exaggeration perhaps? Mm…maybe. Or, as the Toronto Star’s write-up suggests, maybe not: Continue reading

Crew TSII: Pre-Season Tilt in SLB

Given the low frequency of these posts, it no doubt seems I’ve stopped keeping tabs on the Columbus Crew. If any Crew fans out there feel chagrined, don’t fret: I’ll be posting something on the Rapids with an introduction that reads exactly the same, but with the names changed around.

The hard reality is, there’s not much to report where Columbus are concerned. Back in early February, it seemed a day didn’t go by without something coming out on the Crew. As February creeps toward March, however, there’s little more to talk about than which trialists didn’t stick around (as mentioned in the Crew “section” of the sprawling off-season report I posted earlier, neither Lars Ricken nor Roman Friedli will join the team).

There’s something deeper at work as well. I know the Crew well enough, but without first-hand access, which would allow for sitting in on practices, etc. I’m sorta stuck waiting for the games they play to make it to TV – and that’s not going to happen until the regular season. They will play a pre-season game tonight, this one in San Luis Obispo against the San Jose Earthquakes, but it’ll be learning-by-match report on that one. And that’s never a favorite for me.

At any rate, I think/hope I’ll have more to say about the Crew – what makes them tick, where they’re short on the field, who’s taking up space, etc. – when the regular season hits. And sometime before the season, I’ll go nuts with team previews, weighing strengths and weaknesses, etc. But that’s something for mid-March. For now, all I can do is pass on what I’m reading on Covering the Crew…and a smarter fella would just go there. But until March and the regular season, I will post on the Crew at least once a week. A weekly wrap is better than nothing, after all, and it will help keep me current.

The Penultimate Off-Season Progress Report: Best…Off-Season…Ever…

The latest report on all off-season player moves among Major League Soccer’s (MLS) clubs appears below…well, at least the ones that interest me. I’ll work with the same categories as last week’s edition, though, with the March 3rd roster reckoning coming down the pike, I’m going to have to start tracking the players who get axed…if only half-heartedly. By that I mean, I’m going to ignore waivers of say, Chris Loftus for New England. But any move that strikes me as “big enough” will get record in this and, to a greater extent, future editions.

All that said, I want to throw one bold thought out there: for my money, this has been the BEST OFF-SEASON in MLS history. More exciting/intriguing player moves, more movement in general, teams coming into the season with enough question marks over their heads that you almost have to watch the games to form a serious opinion of what it all means – or maybe it’s just that we finally have sufficient coverage. There’s a potential downside getting some airing, especially where all “them furriners” are concerned: e.g. with so many exports coming in, what will happen to the development of the American player? Marcelo Balboa treated the subject a couple times through a Q & A with USSoccerplayers.com – and it’s an interesting subject, even if a wait-and-see approach strikes me as the right one.

All I know is I’m in drunken piggy heaven herding all these cats. Wonnerful, wonnerful.

Enough about my joy. All the movement I saw (or cared about) appears after the jump. Contrary to past practice, I’m ditching links to the current rosters; all y’all know where to find ’em if you want ’em. As always, if I missed anything big, feel free to correct the record, by flagging omissions in the comments field or emailing me (jeffbull71[at]yahoo.com). I will make the change and give due credit. Here goes… Continue reading

Pre-Season Match Reports: Too Many for One Clever Title

I just drank some African liquor…that came in a cellophane bag…so don’t expect much…

Truth to tell, I feel like I’m posting early – e.g. before the weight of the commentary and direct observations provides something for us to think about besides what team beat another and by how many. So…I’ll update what comes below as I see them over the course of tomorrow….which is today…assuming you live on the East Coast.

Here’s how this is going to work. MLSnet.com had their unpaid interns turn in the usual one-stop round-up, which caught the majority of this weekend’s games. So, if you see an item below that bears only a headline, that’s all I’ve got on it…and that means you should stop by the “one-stop” link earlier in this paragraph for all the information available at time of typing. Well, at least where all the sites I visit are concerned. As for the rest, if I have links and commentary therefrom to pass on, I will do so. And, as noted above, I’ll add to those stripped-down score-lines where future postings/commentary allows for it.

Here goes, in the order MLSnet.com’s piece listed the games. The ones they didn’t list will follow. Continue reading