Portland Timbers midfielder Will Johnson (4) holds up a log slab after the 1-1 tie with the Vancouver Whitecaps at Providence Park. (Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports)

Beginner's Guide to MLS, Part Three: A Summary of Every MLS Team

Today, we continue our recent series, “A Beginner’s Guide to MLS”, by taking a quick look at each of the 19 teams that play in MLS. 

MLS is full of great teams, players, rivalries, narratives, and more. There’s so much happening on a regular basis that it’s hard for a new fan, or even a veteran fan, to keep up with. Here’s a quick summary of what every club looks like entering 2014. As a side note: don’t refer to these in 3 or 4 months, as I’m sure the entire league will look totally different.

D.C. United – 16 pts, (3-24-7) – 22 Goals For, 59 Goals Allowed
Eastern Conference, Part of Original 10

The worst team of 2013 was the worst team in MLS history, but before you go and label the United as a down-and-out team, just remember that they are currently tied for the most MLS Cup championships with four. It’s almost a classic tale: a king temporarily loses his power and learns what it means to live without wealth. The United fandom though can see glimpses of regal life as the club strives to regain control, ousting ineffective veterans and acquiring new talent, like polarizing striker Eddie Johnson and veteran midfielder Davy Arnaud. D.C. wants the big turnaround, but it’s unlikely they patched all the holes. The king won’t be on his throne just yet.

Chivas USA – 26 pts, (6-20-8) – 30 GF, 67 GA
Western Conference, Joined 2004

Let’s just say that life hasn’t been too good for Chivas fans over the past few years. They’ve consistently finished at the bottom of the Western Conference and haven’t been to the playoffs since ’09. The management of the club has been about abysmal as possible, with players and coaches coming and going at a moment’s notice. However, the fog that hung over the franchise was disrupted by a sunny beam of intense hope as the league — yes, the league — purchased the rights to Chivas. The club currently floats through existence without a real owner, but they’re in a better place then they were before. They won’t be Chivas USA much longer either. The reports speak of a rebrand for 2015.

Toronto FC – 29 pts, (6-17-11) – 30 GF, 47 GA
Eastern Conference, Joined 2007

It was the biggest signing in league history since David Beckham. No one knew it was coming. U.S. star Michael Bradley and English veteran Jermain Defoe were part of MLS. And it all happened in less than a week. It was crazy. Hysteria has died down, and we’re all ready to see what Toronto can actually bring to the table. Will the two super-studs, along with a few other good additions, bring this rebuilding team into the playoffs? It’ll be one of the main story lines of the season.

Columbus Crew – 41 pts, (12-17-5) – 42 GF, 46 GA

Columbus Crew players Frederico Higuain (10) and Michael Parkhurst (4) model the new Crew jersey at Bar Louis. (Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports)


Eastern Conference, Part of Original 10

The Crew are yet another team in rebuild mode, but in more of a organizational sense. New ownership has taken over and they’re looking to revamp the Crew for the future. The club added new defensive players, including the defender Michael Parkhurst, who slipped in with little fanfare while the Toronto storm was raging. They’re a hard team to predict. Columbus could be last or in the playoffs. It just depends on.. stuff..?

FC Dallas – 44 pts, (11-12-11) – 48 GF, 52 GA
Western Conference, Part of Original 10

Big D had a middling season in 2013. It all started well, plenty of scoring and good defense, but the summer months made them just forget what they were doing. In the offseason, they snatched head coach Oscar Pareja from the Colorado Rapids. Now the team must reconfigure for Pareja’s tenure, which could take a few years, or start right away. Just like Columbus, this team could go either way.

Philadelphia Union – 46 pts, (12-12-10) – 42 GF, 44 GA
Eastern Conference, Joined 2010

Philly is looking to make a big splash this year. They’ve done some deals to improve their defense, which was a problem last year, and also added midfielder Maurice Edu, a former U.S. national-teamer. The Union attack is led by the talented young Jack McInerney, who started off 2013 on fire, before going through a long summer scoring drought. Some people may call them a sleeper team, but I won’t — they are about to be trending league wide.

Vancouver Whitecaps – 48 pts, (13-12-9) – 53 GF, 45 GA
Western Conference, Joined 2011

The Caps had a strange offseason. They hired a new head coach in Carl Robinson, but immediately lost the league’s leading scorer of 2013, Camilo Sanvezzo, who just up and left the team for Mexico. (It doesn’t make much sense in one sentence. Here, read this.) They’re a younger franchise who are still looking for success, at least playoff success, they were able to win the Cascadia Cup in 2013 (contested trophy between the Vancouver-Seattle-Portland teams). New additions will try to replace Camilo, but I see it as another building year. (Can’t really say rebuilding since they only barely got into the playoffs once.) (There’s a lot of parentheses in this paragraph.)

Chicago Fire – 49 pts, (14-13-7) – 47 GF, 52 GA
Eastern Conference, Joined 1998

There were two different Chicago Fire’s last season, and it all pivoted on the arrival of forward Mike Magee. The pre-Magee Fire went 2-7-2. The post-Magee Fire went 12-6-5. Chicago missed the playoffs because of Goal Differential — Montreal had -10, Chicago -13. In one game, the pre-Magee Fire lost to the LA Galaxy, where one player earned a hat trick. That player? Mike Magee. Irony. The 2014 Fire will be trying to find out if the last year’s success can continue. Although Magee will be the center focus on attack, they lost a lot of defense in the offseason, so they may be giving up too many goals to make a difference.

Montreal Impact – 49 pts, (14-13-7) – 50 GF, 49 GA
Eastern Conference, Joined 2012

A truly quizzical team, the Impact were top dogs for awhile before plummeting from on-high, but luckily the season ended before they faltered anymore. They finished with the fewest points of any playoff team, but on the bright side, it was their first ever playoff appearance. Now they try to correct last season’s mistakes with new head coach Frank Klopas, formerly with Chicago in 2013. The defense has several holes to fill, but Impact fans feel confident with striker Marco Di Vaio, a finalist for the MVP award last season.

San Jose Earthquakes – 51 pts, (14-11-9) – 35 GF, 42 GA
Western Conference, Part of Original 10

The Quakes are looking for something new.  Things were pretty good in 2012, but fell back to average in 2013 and narrowly missing the playoffs. But the club still seems to revolve around one player, Chris Wondolowski. Does anyone truly know what this team would be like without him? For years, their entire record lives or dies by the foot of Wondo, which reported played through a broken toe in 2013. Now that Wondo’s healthy, we wait to see if any body else can begin to claim just a small share of the spotlight.

Houston Dynamo – 51 pts, (14-11-9) – 41 GF, 41 GA
Eastern Conference, Joined 2006

There is consistence, and then there’s the Dynamo. They’ve qualified for the playoffs in 7 of their 8 years in the league. Head coach Dom Kinnear turned into a minor legend over the past few years, and continues to approach Bill Belichick-levels. Houston didn’t make many changes to the team this offseason, so they have a viable chance to find success once again, but the East is starting to fill up with potential and talent; there may not be enough room for the Dynamo.

Colorado Rapids – 51 pts, (14-11-9) – 45 GF, 38 GA
Western Conference, Part of Original 10

The Rapids were sneaky good last year. They drafted two future starts in midfielder Dillon Powers and forward Deshorn Brown to become a surprisingly good team. They slipped into the playoffs before losing to Seattle, but there biggest loss didn’t come on the pitch. No, what hurts the most was when head coach Oscar Pareja up and left for slightly less-green pastures in Dallas. Now the Colorado club still has no real coach — Pablo Mastroeni will be your tour guide for now. Other than the coach situation though, this team could be pretty good.

New England Revolution – 51 pts, (14-11-9) – 49 GF, 38 GA
Eastern Conference, Part of Original 10

The one word definition of the 2014 Revs if Merriam-Webster defined sports teams is potential. They’re stuffed to the touchlines with the makings of an offensive explosion that would take over the league. I could just name you all the soccer savvy players who you should watch, but seriously just take my word for it: You should be watching this team.

Seattle Sounders FC defender Deindre Yedlin (17) controls the ball during the first half against the D.C. United at Blackbaud Stadium. Seattle Sounders FC and D.C. United tied 2-2. (Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports)

Seattle Sounders FC – 52 pts, (15-12-7) – 42 GF, 42 GA
Western Conference, Joined 2009

Only the Sounders feature an average MLS attendance of 40,000 plus; you can be sure they’ll have one of the strongest home field advantages. Seattle was a shaky ground personnel-wise by the end of the season last year. They got rid of several key players, but also brought in some good replacements. There’s enough on this team to make another run into the postseason, although they’ve yet to win the big one. Also keep an eye on Clint Dempsey, who hasn’t been in great form recently and will be scrutinized until the World Cup.

LA Galaxy – 53 pts, (15-11-8) – 53 GF, 38 GA
Western Conference, Part of Original 10

The Galaxy are loaded, and I mean loaded, with talent. Young talent. Old talent. It doesn’t matter. They’ve got the money and they’re not afraid to use it. American hero Landon Donovan will be trying to break the all-time MLS scoring record. He’s currently tied for first place, so it won’t take him long to become the new Babe Ruth/Hank Aaron/Barry Bonds. They have the capability to score faster than anyone, so it won’t take long before the Galaxy are at the top of the standings.

Real Salt Lake – 56 pts, (16-10-8) – 57 GF, 41 GA
Western Conference, Joined 2005

The loser in the dramatic MLS Cup Final, RSL was a beautifully designed team. However, their head coach Jason Kreis left for the upcoming NYCFC, and folks just aren’t sure if we’ll get to see the good ol’ RSL. Most of the players are back, but the sweet-on-the-eyes, possession based attack has yet to prove that it can stay intact. This is one of the best teams in the league, but only if they attrition is terrible.

Portland Timbers – 57 pts, (14-5-15) – 54 GF, 33 GA
Western Conference, Joined 2011

Although this club hasn’t been in MLS very long, they’ve built up one of the most passionate supporter’s group in the country. And with the help of head coach Caleb Porter, they went from bottom of the league to nearly the top in 2013. The Timbers are one of the funnest teams to watch; they’ve got experience and skill and brains and a rollicking atmosphere that rivals most American sporting events. If they weren’t playing in the stacked Western Conference, I would wager they’d win the Supporter’s Shield easily, but even then, they still have a good chance.

Sporting Kansas City – 58 pts, (17-10-7) – 47 GF, 30 GA
Eastern Conference, Part of Original 10

The Champions of MLS will have a trying 2014. Not only are they marked as the team to take down but they also are really trying to win the CONCACAF Champions League and the U.S. Open Cup. They didn’t change much during the offseason except for their age-old goalie, Jimmy Nielsen, retiring and trading forward Teal Bunbury for future SuperDraft picks. They are the best defensive team in the league. The fewest goals scored against and the fewest shots allowed. SKC also have a high adrenaline attack, so while teams aren’t making shots, they’re also being crammed back into their own third. Kansas City is a tough team to beat.

New York Red Bulls – 59 pts, (17-9-8) – 58 GF, 41 GA
Eastern Conference, Part of Original 10

The Red Bulls have been around as long as any one else, but they’d never won a piece of silverware until 2013. New York was the best team during the regular season, and aptly awarded the Supporter’s Shield. Now it’s 2014 and people are already wondering if they can repeat the feat or better. They have the players, they just need to stay healthy for the entire season plus postseason, which may be effected by the raising age of some of their biggest stars.

 

I am Aaron Rench. Follow me on Twitter: @arench89

Tags: Chicago Fire Chivas USA Colorado Rapids Columbus Crew D.C. United Fc Dallas Houston Dynamo LA Galaxy MLS Montreal Impact New England Revolution New York Red Bulls Philadelphia Union Portland Timbers Real Salt Lake San Jose Earthquakes Seattle Sounders Sporting Kansas City Toronto Fc Vancouver Whitecaps

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