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Coffee with the Caps, Friday February 28

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Let’s leap into the season opener baby

MLS: Preseason-Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Minnesota United USA TODAY Sports

Good Friday morning Caps fans. I hear there are some games starting tomorrow?

After a long offseason (and I do mean LONG offseason if you’re a fan of a club which didn’t make the playoffs last year), we are back on the cusp of a new season. The opening weekend is filled with promise in the weird and wonky world of MLS, with each team credibly being able to make a claim that maybe, just maybe they can sneak into the playoffs and do some damage.

Now of course, some teams will be dreaming bigger than others. Some even can dream of doing a CCL-MLS Cup double (four MLS teams advanced in that competition in recent days). Others, like the Caps, will probably only plausibly be able to dream about grabbing that last playoff spot. But, hey, we can all be optimistic, if only just for a few more hours.

Here on 86F we had no shortage of predictions about where the Caps might be headed this season and if you haven’t read those roundtables, you should. But I figured I’d take some liberties and prognosticate the rest of the league. Will these predictions be shot to all hell by May? You betcha. But that’s just the fun of MLS!

Eastern Conference

Standings:

  1. NYCFC
  2. Atlanta United
  3. Columbus Crew
  4. DC United
  5. New England Revolution
  6. Toronto FC
  7. Philadelphia Union
  8. Inter Miami
  9. Orlando City SC
  10. Chicago Fire
  11. New York Red Bulls
  12. FC Cincinnati
  13. Montreal Impact

Western Conference

  1. LAFC
  2. Seattle Sounders
  3. LA Galaxy
  4. Portland Timbers
  5. Sporting KC
  6. FC Dallas
  7. Minnesota United
  8. San Jose Earthquakes
  9. Real Salt Lake
  10. Colorado Rapids
  11. Vancouver Whitecaps
  12. Houston Dynamo
  13. Nashville SC

So this year especially seems to be really tough to predict out of, say, the top three teams in each conference. I think the elite teams in each conference will duke it our for the Supporters Shield and I could see any of them winning it—my money is on NYCFC, just because the East is a bit softer of a conference from top to bottom.

My dark horse is New England, who have quietly risen from the dregs of the league to a team that can certainly expect a playoff spot and maybe even a deep run once they get there. Carles Gil, Gustavo Bou and newcomer Adam Buksa are as rock solid a DP bunch as you’re going to find this side of, say, LAFC, and Bruce Arena was a real talisman for this club in the second half of last season. This year is going to have a Philadelphia Union-type team that comes out of nowhere to put a charge in the Supporters Shield race and I think this year is the Revolution.

Conversely, I see the Red Bulls as a team poised to disappoint. I almost picked them to finish even lower than I did but I think you have to hedge on the ability this organization has to plug gaps with homegrown talent like Chris Lema and Jared Stroud. But the team just sold their two starting fullbacks to Anderlecht, which does not seem a recipe for success given that they looked fair to middling at best for much of last season. Gonna be a tough year in Harrison.

As far as the expansion sides, I really do not rate Nashville and am kind of surprised at the number of people who are predicting them to finish about Houston, Vancouver and, sometimes, even Colorado in the West. The arrival of Walker Zimmerman is a big boost but I don’t think this team has the ceiling to do any damage in the west. Inter Miami, meanwhile, will have their moments and a lot hinges on if the side brings in another DP in the summer. But at the moment, I don’t think it has the depth to grab a playoff spot—something I say with trepidation because who bets against David Beckham.

Award Winners

MVP-Carlos Vela

Golden Boot-Josef Martinez

Best Newcomer-Alan Pulido

Biggest Flop-Thierry Henry

Even on an off night, Carlos Vela still runs the show in the Banc of California Stadium, as he proved last night against Leon. I think Josef will feast on a slightly easier Eastern Conference slate to win the golden boot, however. Pulido is exactly what the doctor ordered for SKC and will lead them to a playoff spot. And Henry will either lift Montreal to the cusp of the playoffs or it’ll all blow up in his face—either way it’ll be pretty entertaining.

Oh yeah and I forgot one thing...

MLS Cup Champions—LAFC

Not the sexy, bold pick. But I think LAFC have a chip on their shoulder after last season and while this roster is not as stocked as last year, it is still enough to win them a cup. While they will almost certainly lose Diego Rossi to Europe this summer, the team’s ability to restock with young talent is not in doubt at this point—look for them to grab a talented youngster that provides a spark in their playoff run. And the backline may look suspect but I think Triston Blackmon is going to surprise some people. All this adds up to silverware for Bob Bradley at Co.

Alright, y’all what are your predictions? Tell us in the comments so you look as silly as I will come November.

Shameless Self Promotion

Its the first match of the year and it is time to get those lineup and score predictions in. And our fearless leader AtlantisB joins other SB Nation sites in previewing the Caps here

Best of the Rest

A nice story on Russell Teibert—who has become a real inkblot test for what you think of the state of the franchise

The Caps inked Tosaint Ricketts to an extension earlier this week. I don’t really agree with the move but it is hard to argue Toss hasn’t earned it—fair play to him

DC United made a move just 48 hours before their opener against Colorado, adding Federico Higuain as a player-coach

ESPN writers have their own (sometimes half baked) predictions

News flash: Alphonso Davies is really good at soccer

Happy season opener folks and we will see you at BC Place in 36 hours time!