The 2017 MLS season kicked off last night, as the Portland Timbers welcomed expansion team Minnesota United to the league by thrashing them 5-1. The MLS is one of the most unique leagues in the world, as not many others feature a playoff system to decide a champion rather than just having the season decide it. This has drawn criticism from many, but still, a lot of fans admire it. Last season, the Seattle Sounders emerged victorious of the MLS Cup after defeating Toronto FC in the final. Can they repeat as champions? Here are our picks for the MLS Cup Champions:
Kieran: Portland Timbers
I think The Portland Timbers will win the MLS cup at the end of the season. I make this statement for one reason and one reason only. Their attacking power.
Portland has the most lethal front 6 in the league, Diego Valeri and Fanedo Adi are both lethal up front, each scoring 2 goals as they thrashed Minnesota last night 5-1.
Sebastian Blanco could be in the running for most assists this season if the quality of Adi and Valeri keep getting on the end of his crosses. Darlington Nagbe is a fan favorite that offers pace down the wing, Liam Ridgewell and Vytautas Andriuškevičius can sure up the back line.
Valeri is Portland’s best player and his fitness is key. Scoring 14 and assisting 7 last season had most goals and assists combined, while Adi was leading goal scorer with 16 goals. Valeri already has 4 goals in 4 appearances this season. They key for Portland is the atmosphere at home. They create arguably the best atmosphere in the MLS and even have a lumberjack cut off part of a tree-trunk every time they score a goal. If every team were to react to goals and chant the way Portland do, the MLS would be way better. I think Portland will have the most points picked up at home this season.
Nik: Toronto FC
I think Toronto FC will win the MLS Cup. Last year they ended their season in heartbreak, as the lost the competition final in penalties to the Seattle Sounders.
In my opinion, they have the best player in the league in Sebastion Giovinco. Last season he scored 17 goals (3rd overall) and provided 15 assists (2nd). He is my pick to win MVP this season, and a player that can really carry this team far. He will also have support from two very experienced players, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley. These players have earned quite a few international caps between them, which could bring leadership to the side.
For all the attacking flair Giovinco brings, Toronto’s defense is able to match it with steady play. They had the best defense in the Eastern Conference last season, conceding just 39 goals in 34 games. For these reasons, I think Toronto will steamroll their way to the top of their conference, dominating opponents on the way. Once in the playoffs, I think the experience of Bradley especially will be such a boost for Toronto, and one that I think can propel them to becoming MLS Cup Champions.
Kevin: LA Galaxy
For me, LA Galaxy is a candidate to win the MLS Cup come the end of the season. Despite the exit of key players like Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and Steven Gerrard, I believe that Galaxy can still have a solid season and have what it takes to win it all in the MLS.
Yes, some might say that this is the least experienced Galaxy side that we have seen in a long time. With seasoned veterans mentioned above retiring and finding new roles at different clubs, Curt Onalfo had to find fresh new players to bolster the squad. A key signing for me this season that they made is winger and midfielder Romain Alessandrini from Marseille for their DP spot. In the prime of his career at 27 years of age, Alessandrini has scored many goals for the teams he played for in France, like Rennes and Marseille. Alongside perennial attacking threat Giovanni dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes, Galaxy will have a sharp attack going forward.
In the back line, Belgian defender Jelle van Damme creates a good basis for the rest of the Galaxy defense that includes ex Chelsea and Roma player Ashley Cole(currently out injured). Jermaine Jones and Joao Pedro both underperformed in their season debut at FC Dallas, but both have the potential to be top class midfielders in the MLS. There has been a little lack of chemistry, but as the season progresses I believe such issues can be addressed to create a better harmony.
Rising stars like Sebastian Lletget will also be a reason for fans to hope for a good season once again. I think it is only a matter of time before Galaxy find their groove, and the 5-time MLS Cup champions might be heading towards a sixth at the end of the season.
Vote above and let us know what you think in the comments below!
Authors: Kieran, Nik