Orlando City and New York City FC are joining MLS and the Eastern Conference this year which is pushing the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City to the West. Last season, the Western Conference was viewed as the tougher conference. The two conference have different playing styles that the team will have to navigate this season. Here is a quick look at each team.
With Colorado now under the control of Pablo Mastroeni the Rapids will look to push the pace and use their home stadium as an advantage. However the lack of talent on the Rapids will in my opinion hurt them when it comes to the talent-rich teams located in the Western Conference.
After having so much success last season the Dallas front office has opted to make few moves this off-season. The hope it that small roster moves will give them the consistency they were missing last season. I expect to see a lot of good games from FC Dallas however, their lack of moves in an offseason rich with talent might come back to haunt them, but only time will tell. With the Dynamo back in the West it does mean that the I-45 rivalry will now have multiple matches each season.
After winning MLS Cup last season they are most likely the team to beat in the Western Conference. However, they will be without Landon Donovan who retired at the end of last season. They have signed Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard this offseason but will be without him for the first part of the season. They will have to make sure not to drop too many points early on this season as catching up will be a challenge in the stacked West.
After a very mixed season the Timbers will look to find consistency this season. The Timbers have failed to bring any real success to the team besides a playoff berth, however their fans are in my opinion some of the best in the league and will always make it hard to play in the stadium.
With continued success it seems that anyone can coach this team. Like FC Dallas they haven't made any major moves this offseason and will look to have continued success with the same guys from last year. Will this work or not I am not sure but I do see them having more success than FC Dallas.
I’d like to point out that the biggest two talking points for San Jose this offseason has been the acquisition of new head coach Dominic Kinnear and a new stadium, while the player acquisitions have been lacking. I see San Jose and Colorado battling for the last in the league.
The Sounders have not made any major moves but in my opinion will still look to be a powerful team. They will once again bring a consistent attack to the field. However some of the problems I see is their field and how torn up it has been in recent years and their drop of success away from home as well as their lack of ability in big games. But never bet against the Sounders and their fans who will always bring the noise.
Like the Dynamo, SKC will be moving from the Eastern Conference to the West. They have lost Aurelien Collin who is now on the roster for Orlando City which may leave their defense vulnerable. Sporting KC might be the one team who will surprise everyone, not by winning but by losing with the lack of attack they might have compared to other West clubs and their trouble defending.
Sometimes I forget the Whitecaps are still around. They always seem to field a team that will battle, but give the game up in the final 30 minutes when fatigue sets in. They have made no splashes in the off season and lack talent like FC Dallas.
Overall, I do not think the Western Conference will be an easy cake walk. The West doesn't have an expansion team joining the conference unlike the East adding two expansion teams. Points will be at a premium. One little fact that caught my eye was that since 2005, 9 out of the 10 MLS Cup champions are in the Western Conference now. Will the next one be from the West as well, we will soon find out.