OneForFive.com’s 2012 MLS Predictions:
Supporter’s Shield: Sporting KC
I might be alone in this pick, but with the new unbalanced schedule, Sporting KC has a chance to jump out to a huge lead in points this season and never look back. By the time Cinco de Mayo rolls around, SKC will have already played Montreal, Vancouver, Chivas USA, Portland, and New England. They will have to compete against FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy in that time, too, but all three of those matches are at home. There is a very real chance that Sporting can go into the middle of May without a loss.
Western Conference Champions: LA Galaxy
It pains me to say it, but LA has the deepest roster in the league. MLS is a long season, and though it would be wise to expect each of LA’s stars to miss a set of games here and there to injury or fatigue, they have a quality player to step in at every position. Their question mark will be at center back, where Omar Gonzalez’s injury leaves them weak (and Toronto FC exploited that well in the 2-2 CONCACAF draw last Weds.), but if that’s their greatest weakness, it’s going to be very difficult for Seattle Sounders or Real Salt Lake (the other two contenders for this title) to overtake the Galaxy this year.
MLS Cup Winners: Real Salt Lake
In their short history, the Seattle Sounders have proven that no team takes the quest for hardware as seriously as the 3-time US Open Cup champions, but their quest for the elusive MLS Cup will likely come up short again in 2012. LA Galaxy may have the deepest roster, Seattle has the most firepower up top, but from I-XI, Real Salt Lake might have the most complete squad on the field at any given time. And, when we get into the playoffs, roster depth won’t be the difference maker. Firepower won’t be the difference maker. What will make the difference is the whole package on the pitch, and RSL might have the right package this year.
Most Valuable Player: Fredy Montero, Seattle
Coming into this season, Seattle’s first (and best) Designated Player stated that his goal is to raise eyebrows and make the leap up to Columbia’s international squad. If his preseason form is any indication, this could be his year. The knock on Montero in the past has always been that he has the poacher’s mentality, and that his work rate suffers when he loses concentration. In preseason, and in the 1st Leg of the CONCACAF Quarterfinals, nothing could have been farther from the reality. He played with determination and focus unlike we may have ever seen, and right now he looks like he may be the best forward in MLS. If Eddie Johnson plays up to potential, the Sounders may have 2 of the top 5 point scorers in the league and that will certainly raise some eyebrows.
US Open Cup: Seattle Sounders
Until proven otherwise, I’m going to believe that this tournament is the Sounders’ to lose. LA Galaxy and their tremendous depth could give the Sounders a run for their money, though.
Golden Boot: Thierry Henry, New York
I thought a lot about this pick. I almost went with Kris Boyd of Portland, or Danny Koevermans of Toronto FC. I think Chris Wondolowski, Teal Bunburry or Sebastian Le Toux could end up with the Boot, too. I don’t think it’s going to be Montero, I don’t think it’s going to be Robbie Keane or Landon Donovan of LA, as each of these guys play for teams where the goals will end up being spread around to many players. Ultimately, after a couple of years to learn the league now, and after the fine form he displayed at Arsenal on loan this winter, I think Thierry Henry will finally have the big year NYRB have been waiting for when they brought him across the pond in 2010.