The Year of the Goat
While David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy got the ink last year, their Home Depot Center cotenants quietly turned into contenders. This year forward Maykel Galindo and an even stronger Chivas USA should clear the final hurdle, downing D.C. United in the MLS Cup final at the HDC on Nov. 23. Here's a team-by-team look at how MLS's 13th season will play out.
1. D.C. United: With a second DP slot (from Colorado), look for the four-time champs to renew their bid for Argentine star Juan Sebastián Verón.
2. New England Revolution: Gambian midfielder Kenny Mansally joins the nucleus of Taylor Twellman, Shalrie Joseph and Steve Ralston.
3. Chicago Fire: Well-traveled Polish international Tomasz Frankowski provides a threat up top and a huge draw. Cuauhtémoc Blanco must keep his cool.
4. Kansas City Wizards: Crafty Argentine veteran Claudio López fills Eddie Johnson's scoring shoes for last year's surprise semifinalists.
5. Columbus Crew: Can Venezuelan striker Alejandro Moreno and Argentine attacker Guillermo Barros Schelotto snap the playoff drought?
6. New York Red Bulls: New coach Juan Carlos Osorio will turn this hapless club into a winner -- just not this year. The D is among MLS's worst.
7. Toronto FC: The fans will again turn out, but this year's model is barely stronger than the '07 debutants, who scored a league-worst 25 goals.
1. Houston Dynamo: Dwayne De Rosario will pick up the scoring slack from his deep striker position; Brian Ching remains effective up top.
2. Chivas USA: With a heavy slate of summer games, the Goats brought in much-needed reinforcements. But will keeper Brad Guzan bolt for Europe?
3. FC Dallas: Hard-nosed Mexican newcomer Duilio Davino will shore up the defense, helping to unleash an attack with seven scoring threats.
4. Los Angeles Galaxy: The all-star trio of Beckham, Landon Donovan and Carlos Ruiz should be enough for a playoff berth -- but it'll be close.
5. Colorado Rapids: Christian Gómez, one of MLS's best-ever attackers, will find this supporting cast nowhere near as good as the one in D.C.
6. Real Salt Lake: With a collection of scrappy Argentines and young, hungry norteños, things are looking up in the Wasatch.
7. San Jose Earthquakes: The Quakes won't play like an expansion club: Their rock-solid veteran D is smart and savvy. Scoring is another matter.