Over the next few days, I'm going to rank each MLS team's unit - goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and forwards. Basically, I looked at the different elements each team has as of mid-February and ranked them accordingly.
I start with the defense (I didn't take into account goalkeepers as that will be a separate category). Feel free to let me know if you agree or disagree.
1. Houston. Strong, hard-working defense. If Bobby Boswell can recapture pre-2007 form, defense could be better than last year’s.
2. Chivas USA. Strong on the inside, speedy on the outside. Shavar Thomas and Claudio Suarez formed stellar pairing a year ago, but Suarez needs to continue avoiding the affects of old age to replicate 2007.
3. Chicago. CJ Brown and Gonzalo Segares provide continuity. Wilman Conde’s situation and possible exit, though, could hurt the defense while his possibly sour mood could provide a distraction. A shaky three, right now.
4. New England. Michael Parkhurst may be league’s best defender right now while Chris Albright adds some toughness. If Gabriel Badilla joins, he’d vault New England up the standings.
5. Colorado. Good collection of talent. Jose Burciaga joins and will solidify the left back spot. Facundo Erpen, Mike Petke and Ugo Ihemelu provide options at central defense.
6. DC United. A bit of instability with Boswell gone, but newcomers Gonzalo Martinez and Gonzalo Peralta (potentially) should compensate the loss.
7. Toronto. Marvell Wynne and Todd Dunivant are strong on the outside. Tyrone Marshall and Andrew Boyens could form strong pairing in middle. Definitely more to build around at start of this year than last.
8. San Jose. The makings of a strong defense. Ramiro Corrales might seem weak because of his performance on Feb. 6 but his experience along with Nick Garcia will help build a strong base for the ‘Quakes.
9. New York. Not much to work with here. Will Juan Carlos Osorio find a more stable lineup than Bruce Arena a year ago? Bulls are a work-in-progress at best.
10. Kansas City. Two reliable players are gone as the Wizards have a new look. Chance Myers must come through immediately, which is a lot of pressure for a rookie.
11. FC Dallas. Losses offset additions as Clarence Goodson and Chris Gbandi are gone. Newcomer Duilio Davino’s ability only one of many questions on Hoops’ backline.
12. Real Salt Lake. Nat Borchers and Ian Joy must hit the ground running for RSL’s defense to have a chance of success. Matias Mantilla will be around for a full season, which is one of the few plusses from this squad.
13. Columbus. Frankie Hejduk and Ezra Hendrickson are in their mid-30s going on 50. What will Chad Marshall offer this year? Tim Ward has seemingly been a decent prospect forever – will he finally deliver?
14. Los Angeles. The turnover with the defense has been swift, as the continuity here is nonexistent. Greg Vanney and Celestine Babayaro combine with Abel Xavier to form perhaps the league’s oldest defense, not something to be proud of.