Our MLS season preview continues for 2014 with a look at some of the awards predictions. After all, it would not be a complete prediction if we did not offer up some wild guesses about the award winners and inevitably look foolish once the season actually gets going. On the other hand this might be the season where we wind up looking like geniuses and get these predictions right!
So lets get things started with the team awards.
Duncan: Sporting Kansas City - Random guess as much as anything, but the East still looks the weaker conference and SKC still look to be right up there in the east so I'll go with them
James: Portland Timbers - Impossible to beat on the road, even tougher at home, should Diego Valeri stay fit and they manage to turn some of those draws into wins they could well romp to the Supporters' Shield, though the champions league looms large in the final third of the season.
Kristin: Sporting Kansas City
David: Portland Timbers - They have only gotten better this offseason with just a few players not returning while they made a few intriguing acquisitions to improve their team. They were already near the top of a very tough Western Conference last season and I expect them to be right back there this season. With no key absences coming their way during the World Cup I expect them to be solid from start to finish which is how they wind up ahead of the likes of Seattle and Kansas City for me. They will need to find goal scoring from somewhere to make this happen but I think they can score by committee like they did last season and still get the job done.
Season Preview: Story-lines to watch
Just what are the big stories that we will be following over the course of the 2014 MLS Season? Find out here
MLS Cup Winner
Duncan: New York Red Bulls - Another hunch, but given NYCFC's arrival, wouldn't this make Don Garber's pants explode?
James: LA Galaxy - LA did not enjoy last season, where they were even worse than Toronto at conceding late, resulting in wins turned to draws and draws turning to losses. Bruce Arena and company will not allow such absent-minded troubles to hinder them again, while the addition of a proper front-man in Rob Friend and Samuel will free Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane to attack from deep causing all sorts of trouble for defenders. Bold Prediction - do not be surprised if Keane looks more like an attacking midfielder than a striker at times this campaign.
Kristin: Portland Timbers
David: Seattle Sounders - They have to eventually win something more than the US Open Cup and I think this is as good a year as any for them to get over the hump in the playoffs. Once they get past the World Cup they should have very few distractions which I think should put them in good position come playoff time where all it would take is one player getting hot for this team to get the job done. Wouldn't MLS fans just love to see the Sounders win the Cup thanks to a hot Dempsey?
Voyageurs Cup Winner
Duncan: Toronto FC - It can't possibly be Vancouver, and I can't see Montreal beating them so TFC will have to take care of them, then the Impact in the final.
James: Toronto FC - Eager to avenge last season's slip up, Toronto, with their impressive depth will retake their title with aplomb this season; somehow Vancouver will once more feel hard done by come the end.
Kristin: Toronto FC
David: Toronto FC - I really wanted to put Ottawa Fury here just for the pure amusement that would bring me but I went with being realistic instead. I think Ryan Nelsen got the memo last year that this competition matters so if the club is not lighting up the league early on it could be a good way for him to show fans that they are serious. Plus, I really don't like seeing other teams enjoying the Voyageurs Cup and I missed CCL games last summer so this pick is not only logical but it is also selfish.
Duncan: Graham Zusi
James: Diego Valeri - Picking an award winner at this point of the season is a fool's errand, so why not a repeat. The rationale? With a World Cup splitting the season a lot of the top talent has a long schedule ahead, if Valeri - on a team who will not be overly affected by the international action - can stay fit, given the extra spotlight he will garner, a repeat is as likely as any possibility.
David: Robbie Keane - With a new contract all wrapped up and no World Cup for Ireland we could see a fully focused and committed Keane for a full season. Given the numbers he has managed in the past while missing a fair bit of time for a variety of reasons I would be surprised if he does not put up MVP calibre numbers given reduced national team duties. He will be asked to carry LA at times this season and I think he is up for that task and will finally put up numbers that MVP votes just cannot ignore.
Rookie of the Year
Duncan: who does and doesn't qualify for this one? I'll stick with the draftees and pull a random one out of my hat....D.C's Steve Birnbaum
James: Andre Blake - As with the MVP, forecasting award winners is nigh-impossible before the action has begun. The most-highly touted player in a position that the US excels in producing for some time - perhaps since Zac MacMath was drafted in 2011. Watch for MacMath and Blake to battle for the starting position in Philadelphia. Keep an eye on Chicago's Harrison Shipp, though he won't see much playing time this season - he has looked very useful in the preseason.
Kristin: Ben Sweat
David: Harrison Shipp - Players coming through the draft are so last year so I went with one of the more exciting home grown players that signed a deal this past offseason. I also believe that Shipp will get a chance to play decent minutes in Chicago and will get chances to score goals. He is a better finisher than anyone in the draft and awards voters love goals.
New Comer of the Year
Duncan: Jermain Defoe - Defoe's a newcomer right? He seems overqualified but I'll go with him.
James: Michael Bradley - The head office will want to reward TFC's massive off-season investment with at least one award - and Bradley will more than earn the plaudits as one of the top midfielders in the league.
Kristin: Jermain Defoe
David: Vincent Nogueira - Would have been easy to go with Defoe here or even Bradley (if returning players are New Comers) but I think Nogueria will be an exciting player this year for the Philadelphia Union. I am a sucker for a midfielder who can be a game changer and he is certainly one of them. Should be pulling the strings for the Union in a team that did a nice job rebuilding their midfield.
Duncan: I want to be wrong, but I'll go with Gilberto. Plenty of precedent for young and exciting South Americans failing.
James: San Jose's rebrand (Sorry)
Kristin: Clint Dempsey
David: Maurice Edu - I love Mo from his time in Toronto but he is in good position to go the way of Julian De Guzman. His role in the team will make him seem like he is doing nothing and people will question his DP price tag. Plus I don't think he is actually that good of a player and has hardly improved since TFC sold him.