2012 MLS Predictions

With the 2012 season around the corner, the New England Soccer Today staff submitted our picks for the upcoming year. Click here to see how we fared last season.

Which team will win the MLS Cup and why?

Brian O’Connell: It’s hard to argue against an L.A. Galaxy encore come Dec. 1. Although they lost Omar Gonzalez to injury, they’ll start the season with the following players: Robbie Keane, Edson Buddle, Landon Donovan, Juninho, David Beckham and A.J. DeLaGarza. That’s like seven legit opening round picks in an MLS fantasy draft. Yeah, I don’t think another team even comes close, except maybe New York – and there’s no way the wheels won’t fall off that wagon before the All-Star game.

Sean Donahue: The Galaxy is undoubtedly the favorite and it’s hard to see past them, yet I’m still going with Real Salt Lake. I went with Real Salt Lake last season and was wrong after the devastating loss in the CONCACAF Champions League Final and an injury to Javier Morales derailed their season. They won’t have the CCL knockout rounds to worry about this season – just the group stages at the end of the year. Galaxy may have the stars, but for me RSL is the most enjoyable team to watch and if they’re at the top of their game, no one is beating them. With Los Angeles missing Gonzalez, Salt Lake has the top defense in the league.

Ryan Lanigan: The Houston Dynamo will win the MLS Cup in 2012. They were close this past season and that will just leave them hungry to return and win the title. This team has seemed to improve by adding key pieces in the offseason, including keeping/getting back Brian Ching, increasing their chances at the title. Don’t be surprised if they have a slow start, but they will return to the MLS Cup in a rematch with the Galaxy and take the crown.

Which teams will make the playoffs?

Brian O’Connell:
East: Sporting K.C., Houston, D.C. United, New York and Toronto
West: Los Angeles, Real Salt Lake, Portland, Seattle, FC Dallas

Sean Donahue:
East: Sporting Kansas City, Philadelphia Union, D.C. United, New York Red Bulls, Houston Dynamo
West: Los Angeles Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders, FC Dallas, San Jose Earthquakes

Ryan Lanigan:
East: New York Red Bulls, Houston Dynamo, Sporting KC, Philadelphia Union, New England Revolution
West: Los Angeles Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders, Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas

Who will be the MVP?

Brian O’Connell: I’m tempted to say Landon Donovan, but that would be too safe a pick for my liking. Instead, I’ll go with Sebastien Le Toux. The Union castoff is back in a position where he can finally play forward and not have to worry about Peter Nowak constantly shifting him between positions. He’ll score 10+ goals and add 10+ assists. You heard it here first: Le Toux for Le MVP.

Sean Donahue: My MVP pick comes from my MLS Cup pick. If Javier Morales stays healthy this season to pull the strings for a talent RSL squad, he could have his best year yet. The Argentine should break double-digits for assists this season.

Ryan Lanigan:  Landon Donovan won’t win another championship this year, but he will pick up his second MVP award in his career. He has the other players around him that will make him succeed.

Who will be Rookie Of The Year?

Brian O’Connell: Enzo Martinez. The former Tar Hell comes into a perfect situation in his first year as a pro – a smart coach and loads of talent around him. That, combined with Martinez’s playmaking propensity and excellent vision, the rookie midfielder may be lapping the competition by Labor Day.

Sean Donahue: I may be biased from having seen a lot more of him than the other rookies, but I have trouble looking past Kelyn Rowe. Darren Mattocks may provide some competition, but Rowe looks set to play a key role in the Revolution attack and with the creative talent in the midfield beside him should open up plenty of space for the rookie.

Ryan Lanigan: Darren Mattocks will do wonders for Vancouver and lead rookies in scoring. His speed is what made the Whitecaps take him at number two, and he is going to use that to impress a lot of people. It won’t be enough to put the Whitecaps in the playoffs, but it will be enough for him to be named Rookie of the Year.

Who will be the Golden Boot winner?

Brian O’Connell: Edson Buddle. With the cast around him better than what it was before he left MLS in 2010, Buddle’s an overwhelming favorite to score 18-20 goals in my book. Not that my book is ever right. But still, Buddle’s about to go off like he never left. And that’s bad news for center backs.

Sean Donahue: Despite a slow start in 2011, Fredy Montero came on strong to end the year and finished 5th with 12 goals. His impressive preseason form tells me he’s ready to take that success into 2012 and really tear up the scoring charts this season.

Ryan Lanigan: Chris Wondolowski will continue his impressive streak of finishing and regain his crown that he won in 2010. He was close to winning it last year and there is no reason to believe he won’t continue to bury the ball into the back of the net, constantly giving opponents fits.

Who will be Defender of the Year?

Brian O’Connell: If George John stays with Dallas, he’ll earn it, but I don’t think that’s a likely scenario. That said, I think Jamison Olave collects his second DOY in three years.

Sean Donahue: I said RSL would have the best defense, so picking Jamison Olave is an easy choice here.

Ryan Lanigan: I’m going to say Jamison Olave will win the MLS Defender of the Year. With Omar Gonzalez out with an injury, this award is up for grabs. He is a big body that uses his size to his advantage. It’s a contract year for Olave so expect him to step up big time.

Who will be your MLS Cup dark horse?

Brian O’Connell: I’m going to say the Revolution for a number of reasons. One – new coach. Two – a terrible 2011. Three – their midfield is deeper than ever. Four – an improved defense. Five – they have uber-talented rookie Kelyn Rowe, Six – the lone striker formation is buh-bye. Seven – they play in the East. Eight – they play in the East (twice for emphasis).

Sean Donahue: A team with Dwayne De Rosario can never be counted out, but D.C. United has also brought in some improved talent at striker and added a great veteran in Robbie Russell to help guide a young defense. If D.C. gets off to a fast start in a weak Eastern Conference, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make at the Cup. Then again, I also won’t be shocked if they miss the playoffs.

Ryan Lanigan: Seattle might surprise a lot of people. We know they are a good team, but this might be the year they put on a run towards the end of the season, catch fire, and head to the MLS Cup representing the Western Conference.

Who will be the next big-name MLS star to leave for Europe?

Brian O’Connell: Brek Shea. After becoming the apple of Jurgen Klinsmann’s eye, the 22-year-old winger received a training sniff with Arsenal and was rumored to be moving abroad after the 2011 season. All indications point to the golden locked left winger packing his bags and waving MLS goodbye– especially if his Olympic form this summer turns out to be legen – wait for it – dary.

Sean Donahue:  It’s hard for me to look past Brek Shea for this one, even though Dallas has indicated they wish to keep him. The youngster has made quite the impact on the national team and it clearly hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Ryan Lanigan: Brek Shea

What is your MLS Best XI?

Brian O’Connell:
GK: Nick Rimando
D: Jair Benitez
D: Jamison Olave
D. Sean Franklin
M: Landon Donovan
M: Juninho
M: Jack Jewsbury
M: Dwayne DeRosario
M: Brek Shea
F: Chris Wondolowski
F: Edson Buddle

Sean Donahue:
GK: Nick Rimando
D: Jamison Olave
D: Adam Johansson
D: AJ DeLaGarza
M: Landon Donovan
M: Javier Morales
M: Brad Davis
M: Dwayne De Rosario
M: Alvaro Fernandez
F: Fredy Montero
F: Thierry Henry

Ryan Lanigan:
GK: Nick Rimando
D: AJ Soares
D: Rafa Marquez
D: Jamison Olave
M: Brek Shea
M: Benny Feilhaber
M: Landon Donavan
M: Brad Davis
M: Dwayne De Rosario
F: Chris Wondolowski
F: Thierry Henry

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About Sean Donahue

Sean Donahue has been covering the New England Revolution since 2002 for various publications. He has covered four MLS Cups, in addition to covering various international matches, including World Cup Qualifying and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He has done freelance work for the AP and ESPN Boston. Sean hosted Revolution Recap, a weekly radio program covering the New England Revolution and U.S. Men's National Team from 2005-2008. He is a member of the North American Soccer Reporters. Sean can be reached at nesoccertoday@gmail.com or followed on twitter @SeanLDonahue