2011 MLS Predictions

Monday, March 14, 2011 | View Comments
- Keith Hickey

As tomorrow is the beginning of the 2011 Major League Soccer season, I figured that it would be prudent to get the obligatory awards predictions down on paper before the season begins. I’ll come back and re-examine them at various points throughout the season, just so you guys and gals can laugh at how terribly wrong I was.

2011 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Winners
The Open Cup is a tricky thing to predict. Not every club takes it seriously, and of those that traditionally do, I don’t see Chicago or D.C. having the depth to make a serious run. I think it will be difficult for the Sounders to win it a third time on the trot, so I’m going for Real Salt Lake.

2011 Supporters Shield Winners
The Supporters Shield is a marathon. You have to have a balance of skill and depth while staying under the salary cap. Los Angeles beat out RSL by a hair last year, but the Galaxy are an old team and have lost Edson Buddle, while RSL are just getting better. I’m backing the Royals to do the double.

2011 MLS Cup Champions
Unlike the Shield, the Cup is all about who gets hot at the right time. Over the last decade, the Supporters Shield winner has won the MLS Cup on only two occasions, the 2002 Galaxy and the 2008 Columbus Crew. That makes it difficult to predict at times, but I’m quietly confident about the Seattle Sounders. It’s something of a hunch, but they’re a skilled bunch without any glaring weaknesses on the pitch and a front office that has a knack for getting decisions right.

2011 MLS MVP
The Easy choice here would just be to say “Landon Donovan” and call it a day. But that’s lazy. There are plenty of talented players in MLS who will stake a claim for the top individual award. One of those is my prediction, Javier Morales. One of the best creative players in the league, Morales has turned into a goalscorer as well; he found the back of the net seven times last season to complement his nine assists. If my predictions are correct and the Royals go on a real barnstorming run, Morales could reap the rewards with the MVP trophy.

2011 MLS Golden Boot
Seba Le Toux. Call me crazy, call me a homer, but Sebastien Le Toux is the real deal. Last year, he managed to score 14 goals and produce 11 assists despite being in an expansion side. This year, he’s got an improved team behind him, and plenty of familiarity with his free floating role just behind the strikers. I expect an even better season from Seba in 2011.

2011 MLS Rookie of The Year
The Rookie award can be tricky to predict. Some of the most promising young players don’t get playing time as they’re still developing (Teal Bunbury started just 13 games last year, compared to Andy Najar’s 22 or Tim Ream’s 30). Other times, rookies can blossom out of relative obscurity (Jonathan Bornstein was a fourth round pick in 2006). That said, of the last five winners, three were early first-rounders. I’m going with Darlington Nagbe of the Timbers. The former Akron man was widely considered the best striker in the draft, and at Portland, he’ll not only get chances to play, he’ll have the power of Kenny Cooper as a foil.

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