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Coffee with the Caps, Friday February 25

FC Dallas v Vancouver Whitecaps FC Photo by Christopher Morris - Corbis/Getty Images

Good Friday morning Caps fans. Well, the moment we’ve been waiting for is here. No more friendlies, no CONCACAF Champions League teasing — the regular season is finally here.

We will get our first look at whether the 2021 Whitecaps were the start of big things to come or whether it was a bridge too far, too soon. We might get our first look at Pedro Vite (!) and will see what Thomas Hasal looks like as the undisputed number 1.

86 Forever will have our own season preview coming shortly but in the meantime, we might as well take a look at what the rest of the league has in store. Recall that last season I got half of my projected MLS Cup right, while the other team (Columbus Crew) missed the playoff. Sounds about right for MLS, honestly, with predictions ultimately a foolhardy game.

But its so much fun so here goes.

Eastern Conference

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

Surely, none of these predictions will flop as hard as last year, when I said FC Cincinnati would push for a playoff spot (yikes). So many Eastern Conference teams I can see either finishing fourth of tenth (Montreal, Chicago and Toronto all come to mind) so ultimately I favored teams that seem a bit safer.

Still, I really like the upgrades the Fire made; beyond just Xherdan Shaqiri, I think Jairo Torres could become one of the shrewdest pickups of the offseason. Having an MLS savvy head coach will be a big boost as well. Montreal is one that I think could finish closer to their ceiling than their floor; their 3-0 smacking of Santos Laguna showed that Djordje Mihailovic has arrived and Alistair Johnstone will be a major pickup.

Ultimately, however, I think the cream will rise to the top. My only worry about NYCFC is the potential departure of Taty Castellanos over the summer; beyond that, this is a team that can push for the Supporters’ Shield. Philadelphia lost some key pieces and while I like what they have waiting in the wings, I just didn’t quite feel comfy picking them to win the conference. And I feel like this is a “regress to the mean” kind of year for the Revs, despite how dominant they were last year.

Western Conference

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

The west was the tougher conference to pick for me; beyond the top couple of teams, I think there is a pretty clear upper crust of 4 teams and then 5-10 are pretty comparable (I could be swayed to include Real Salt Lake in that bunch but I have a lot of questions with their new DPs). Probably the boldest pick is Colorado nearly tumbling out of the playoff picture and while this could ultimately make me look foolish, I don’t think they have enough guys who are good at actually scoring goals (important!) and will miss Kellyn Acosta dearly. I see Minnesota United starting slow, canning Adrian Heath and not being able to recover enough to earn a playoff spot.

The top four is pretty set in my mind. Seattle could be dominant, Nashville have the steady demeanor and playing style that should serve them well in the west and LAFC has too many pieces to struggle like they did last year. Sporting KC could fall off given their age but until proven otherwise I will continue to see them as a member of the elite.

MLS Cup: Atlanta United over LAFC

In predicting who will win MLS Cup, everyone always overcomplicates things. It is rarely about the two best teams but rather the teams that are playing the best late in the season, who also have the talent base and the know-how to get to the finals. There is a reason that we see the same teams crop up deep in the playoffs this year.

Josef Martinez might not be healthy all year but if he’s purring come playoff time, Atlanta will be in business. I think by then Thiago Almada will be clicking as an Ezequiel Barco replacement and will have the attack humming a bit more than Barco did. And I think Gonzalo Pineda is a capable manager who will thrive after having more time with some of his pieces.

LAFC, meanwhile, simply have too much talent to be as poor as they were last year. Their biggest weakness was addressed (your welcome guys) with Maxime Crepeau arriving. They surely can’t have as many injuries as last year (right?) and I think Steve Cherundolo can be a decent replacement for Bob Bradley. Would this title game be insufferable? Yeah. Can I see it happening? Yeah.

Golden Boot: Josef Martinez, Atlanta United

MVP: Joao Pedro, Seattle Sounders

OK, y’all. What did I get wrong? Hit me.

Best of the Rest

If you want actual experts previewing things (and I don’t know why you would), here you go

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How a club is trying to get more British Columbia representation on the Canadian National Team

Houston Dynamo are pushing hard for El Tri midfielder Hector Herrera