MLS Western Conference Season Preview Capsules

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Associated Press

Posted on February 28, 2013 at 6:04 AM

A look at the Major League Soccer's Western Conference teams for 2013, in order of finish last season:

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES

LAST YEAR: 19-6-9 (1st overall, 1st in the Western Conference).

WHO'S BACK: F-MF Chris Wondolowski, F Steven Lenhart, F Alan Gordon, MF Marvin Chavez, D Victor Bernardez, D Justin Morrow, D Steven Beitashour, MF Sam Cronin, M Rafael Baca, G Jon Busch, D Jason Hernandez, D Ramiro Corrales, MF Shea Salinas, MF Sam Garza.

WHO'S GONE: MF Simon Dawkins, D Ike Opara, MF Joey Gjertsen, MF Khari Stephenson, D Tim Ward, D Jed Zayner, MF-F Sercan Guvenisik.

WHO'S NEW: D Nana Attakora, F Mike Fucito, D Dan Gargan, D Ty Harden, D Tommy Muller, D Peter McGlynn.

WHAT'S AHEAD: After posting the best record in the regular season last year, the Earthquakes were bounced out of the playoffs in the Western Conference semifinals by Los Angeles 3-2 on aggregate. Wondolowski is back with a new contract as the team's designated player after tying an MLS record with 27 goals last season. But the team must overcome injuries early in the season with Gordon, Lenhart, Chavez and Beitashour out with injuries. The Earthquakes also must figure out how to replace Dawkins in the midfield after his move to Aston Villa. That will put added pressure on Chavez, Cronin, Baca and Salinas to pick up the slack.

REAL SALT LAKE

LAST YEAR: 17-11-6 (5th overall, 2nd in the Western Conference).

WHO'S BACK: MF Kyle Beckerman, MF Javier Morales, MF Luis Gil, MF Ned Grabavoy, D Chris Schuler, D Tony Beltran, D Kwame Watson-Siriboe, D Chris Wingert, F Alvaro Saborio, G Nick Rimando.

WHO'S GONE: F Fabian Espindola, D Jamison Olave, MF Will Johnson, MF Jonny Steele, F Paulo Jr., F Justin Braun.

WHO'S NEW: F Robbie Findley, F Joao Plata, MF Aaron Maund, MF Cole Grossman, F Devon Sandoval.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Real Salt Lake had a busy offseason after its trip to the Western Conference semis, shedding salary as it went through its biggest roster shift in years. While three mainstays are gone, the team still has captain Beckerman to set the tone, Saborio to lead the attack and one of the best goalkeepers around in Rimando. The question is whether head coach Jason Kreis can groom some younger players to fill in the gaps. Gil is being counted on for a breakout year, and Findley is back with a team he scored a dozen goals for when it last reached the MLS Cup in 2009. If the team can keep players healthy, and build that chemistry, it could surprise.

SEATTLE SOUNDERS

LAST YEAR: 15-8-11 (7th place overall, 3rd in the Western Conference).

WHO'S BACK: GK Michael Gspurning, D Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, MF Osvaldo Alonso, MF Mauro Rosales, MF Steve Zakuani, MF Mario Martinez, MF Brad Evans, F Eddie Johnson, F David Estrada.

WHO'S GONE: F Fredy Montero, D Jeff Parke,

WHO'S NEW: MF Shalrie Joseph, D Djimi Traore, D Eriq Zavaleta.

WHAT'S AHEAD: MLS Cup or bust? That would seem to be the approach Seattle is taking to the 2013 season. General manager Adrian Hanauer said as much recently when noting the roster changes the Sounders made during preseason training and how that could leave them a step behind when they face Mexico's Tigres in the CONCACAF Champions League in early March, but could pay bigger dividends later in the MLS season. Eddie Johnson returns after a season that reignited his career with 14 goals and a U.S. national team call-up. But gone is forward Fredy Montero and Seattle's scoring concern has led them to Spain where they are trying to lure Obafemi Martins from Levante. Seattle could have the most talented midfield in the league led by Joseph, Alonso and Rosales. Gspurning was outstanding in his first season, but defensive backline remains a concern with Parke now in Philadelphia. Seattle hopes former Liverpool defender Traore has something left.

LA GALAXY

LAST YEAR: 16-12-6 (8th place overall, 4th in Western Conference; won MLS Cup title).

WHO'S BACK: F Robbie Keane, F/MF Landon Donovan, D Omar Gonzalez, MF/F Mike Magee, MF Juninho, MF Marcelo Sarvas, D Todd Dunivant, D A.J. DeLaGarza, D Sean Franklin, D Tommy Meyer, MF Michael Stephens, MF Hector Jimenez, D Leonardo, F Jose Villarreal, D Bryan Gaul.

WHO'S GONE: MF David Beckham, F Edson Buddle, GK Josh Saunders, D David Junior Lopes, D Andrew Boyens, MF Christian Wilhelmsson, F Chad Barrett, MF/F Pat Noonan, D/MF Bryan Jordan.

WHO'S NEW: GK Carlo Cudicini, MF Colin Clark, F Gyasi Zardes.

WHAT'S AHEAD: The Galaxy seek to become the first MLS club to "three-peat," but they do so without Beckham, who has left for Paris Saint-Germain. The English superstar's departure hurts more than in marketing. They'll also miss his ability to precisely deliver balls from any distance. That's what made L.A. dangerous from nearly any spot on the field. Brazilians Juninho and Sarvas will team up in the middle, pacing a build-up game that will require greater movement, interchange and passing. Donovan's continued absence, because he was "burned out," doesn't help the transition. He'll be back in camp at the end of March and ought to be back on the field by late April, missing as many as seven league games plus the quarterfinals and possibly semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. It appeared Irishman Keane will take over as captain. He was a fiery, veteran goal scorer last season, with 23 in all competitions, and is revered for his ability to finish. The backline returns intact, with a healthy Omar Gonzalez this time, and the Galaxy has improved in the nets, bringing in 39-year-old Italian Carlo Cudicini on a free transfer from Tottenham to replace inconsistent Josh Saunders.

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

LAST YEAR: 11-13-10 (11th place overall, 5th in the Western Conference).

WHO'S BACK: F Kenny Miller, F Camilo Sanvezzo, F Darron Mattocks, GK Brad Knighton, D Alain Rochat.

WHO'S GONE: F Etienne Barbara, D Martín Bonjour, M/F Atiba Harris, MF Michael Nanchoff, MF Barry Robson, GK Brian Sylvestre, MF John Thorrington, MF Tiago Ulisses.

WHO'S NEW: F Tommy Heinemann, F Corey Hertzog, F/M Erik Hurtado, D Brad Rusin, MF Daigo Kobayashi, D Johnny Leveron, F Kekuta Manneh, M/D Nigel Reo-Coker.

WHAT'S AHEAD: The Whitecaps won just three of its last 17 regular-season matches last season but still made it into the playoffs, where they fell 2-1 to Los Angeles. Vancouver was the first Canadian MLS team to reach the postseason in just the franchise's second MLS season. The team is known mostly for its defense, but the Whitecaps have a dynamic playmaker in Jamaican attacker Mattocks, acquired with the second pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft out of the University of Akron. Mattocks had seven goals in 15 matches. He was sidelined for two months after being severely burned in a cooking accident. The Whitecaps added Japanese midfielder Kobayahsi to bring some additional offense. The Whitecaps signed Scotsman Miller as a designated player in the midst of last season, but he only appeared in 13 matches with two goals. A late addition for the Whitecaps in the preseason was Reo-Coker, who has experience within the English Premier League with West Ham United FC, Aston Villa, and the Bolton Wanderers.

FC DALLAS

LAST YEAR: 9-13-12 (13th place overall, sixth in Western Conference).

WHO'S BACK: F Fabian Castillo, MF David Ferreira, D Matt Hedges, MF Jackson, MF Andrew Jacobson, D George John, D Zach Loyd, F Blas Perez

WHO'S GONE: MF Julian de Guzman, GK Kevin Hartman, MF Daniel Hernandez, MF James Marcelin, D Hernan Pertuz, MF Carlos Rodriguez, MF Brek Shea

WHO'S NEW: F Kenny Cooper, GK Raul Fernandez, F Eric Hassli, D Stephen Keel, MF Peter Luccin, MF Michel, MF Je-Vaughn Watson

WHAT'S AHEAD: FC Dallas shook up its roster a bit following a steady two-year slide from the franchise's first MLS Cup appearance in 2010. FC Dallas was eliminated early in the playoffs in 2011 and missed the postseason last year. Two-time All-Star Shea is gone to Stoke City in the English Premier League, and the club decided not to re-sign 38-year-old keeper Hartman, who was in net for the long playoff run two years ago. Cooper, a Dallas-area high school star whose father was a Premier League keeper, is back after spending four seasons with Dallas earlier in his career. He had 18 goals for New York last year, matching the career high he had with Dallas in 2008. Cooper and Perez, who led Dallas with nine goals last season, could form a potent scoring combo and might get help from a healthy Ferreira after he missed most of the past two seasons with injuries. Peruvian national team keeper Fernandez figured to be Hartman's replacement, but last year's backup, Chris Seitz, has played well in the preseason and could get a shot to be the starter.

COLORADO RAPIDS

LAST YEAR: 11-19-4 (14th overall, 7th place in the Western Conference).

WHO'S BACK: M Tony Cascio, M Jaime Castrillon, F Kamani Hill, M Pablo Mastroeni, D Drew Moor, M Brian Mullan, GK Matt Pickens, M Martin Rivero, D Marvell Wynne.

WHO'S GONE: F Conor Casey, F Omar Cummings, M Jeff Larentowicz.

WHO'S NEW: F Deshorn Brown, F Edson Buddle, D Diego Calderon, F Kevin Harbottle, D Kory Kindle, M Nick LaBrocca, M Dillon Powers, M Dillon Serna, M Nathan Sturgis.

WHAT'S AHEAD: In his second season in charge, Rapids coach Oscar Pareja has a new-look squad that's certainly a lot younger. The team parted ways with longtime forwards Conor Casey and Omar Cummings, two dynamic scorers who helped Colorado win the 2010 MLS Cup. Casey, the franchise's all-time leading scorer, now plays for Philadelphia, while Cummings was traded to Houston two months ago in a deal that brought midfielder Nathan Sturgis to town. The Rapids also acquired forward Edson Buddle from the Galaxy to provide some offensive punch. They also will depend quite heavily on first-round pick Deshorn Brown, a dynamic scorer who had 13 goals in 16 games in his only season at the University of Central Florida last year. To mentor and mold the youthful squad, the Rapids will rely on Pablo Mastroeni, who missed most of last season with post-concussion symptoms. Mastroeni has been a member of Colorado since 2002. Back in net for the Rapids will be Matt Pickens. He came up big, time after time, last season. He stopped 107 shots — many of the highlight variety — and was named team MVP.

PORTLAND TIMBERS

LAST YEAR: 8-16-10 (17th overall, eighth in the Western Conference).

WHO'S BACK: MF Jack Jewsbury, MF Andrew Jean Baptiste, MF Diego Chara, GK Donovan Ricketts, F Darlington Nagbe, F Kalif Alhassan.

WHO'S GONE: M Eric Alexander, F Kris Boyd, M Freddie Braun, D Kosuke Kimura, D Eric Brunner, M Lovel Palmer, D Steve Purdy, D Steve Smith, GK Joe Bendik, F Robbie Findley, F Mike Fucito.

WHO'S NEW: D Michael Harrington, M Will Johnson, F Ryan Johnson, GK Milos Kocic, M Steven Evans, D Ryan Miller, D Dylan Tucker-Gangnes, M Diego Valeri, M Ben Zemanski, MF Michael Nanchoff, D Mikael Silvestre.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Coach Caleb Porter finally takes the helm of the Timbers this season. He was hired last August but finished out his seventh season as coach at the University of Akron before moving West. Porter guided the Zips to an 18-1-3 record, the Mid-America Conference championship and into the third round of the NCAA tournament. He joins former Zips midfielder Nagbe, heading into his third season with the Timbers. Porter also brought in former Akron players Zemanski and Nanchoff. The acquisitions were part of a house-cleaning as Porter looks to build his own team. One of the key additions is Valeri from Argentina's first division Club Atletico Lanus. The 26-year-old has been with Lanus nine seasons, scoring 25 goals in 158 matches. It is hoped that Valeri will help scoring for a team that was second-to-last in goals scored last season. The Timbers let go of Scottish striker Boyd, who led the team with seven goals but did not live up to expectations.

CHIVAS USA

LAST YEAR: 7-18-9 (18th overall, 9th in Western Conference).

WHO'S BACK: GK Dan Kennedy, MF Oswaldo Minda, MF Miller Bolaños, F Jose Erick Correa, F Juan Agudelo, MF Laurent Courtois, D Bobby Burling, F Tristan Bowen.

WHO'S GONE: F Juan Pablo Angel, D Danny Califf, MF Nick LaBrocca, MF/D Shalrie Joseph, F Alejandro Moreno, MF Ben Zemanski, D Ante Jazic, D James Riley, MF Ryan Smith, D John Valencia, F Casey Townsend, F Cesar Romero.

WHO'S NEW: D Walter Vilchez, D Joaquin Velazquez, MF/D Eric Avila, F Giovani Casillas, D Mario de Luna, MF Edgar Mejia, D Steve Purdy, MF Carlos Alvarez, D Carlos Borja, MF Josue Soto, MF Emilio Orozco.

WHAT'S AHEAD: The lowly Goats have made a philosophical shift after three horrid years, with a roster overhaul and a new coach. Fiery Mexican coach Jose Luis "El Chelis" Sanchez Sola takes over for Robin Fraser, who went 15-32-21 in two seasons and last year finished at the bottom of Western Conference. Sanchez Sola has implemented a speedy, aggressive style of play and brought on Latin American talent while excising nearly a dozen players. The newcomers include top-flight Mexican veterans Vilchez, a Peruvian national team defender who arrives from Sporting Cristal, and Velazquez, who hasn't played since 2010. Chelis coached both at Puebla. Velazquez officially arrives on loan from Guadalajara, as do de Luna, Mejia and 19-year-old Casillas, who was part of Mexico's U-17 World Cup champions two years ago. The captain is Kennedy, one of MLS's best goalkeepers. Minda is among the premier defensive midfielders in the league, and attacking midfielder Bolaños and forward Agudelo have superstar potential.

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