Waking the Red has decided to take the optimistic outlook and assume there will be Major League Soccer awards given out in 2015. We still hold out hope that this year's MLS season will open with "Chicago vs. LA Galaxy" instead of something more in line with "Fraser vs. MLS". We are also working under the assumption that if the season doesn't take place all of our predictions are correct.
Lev Yashin: Columbus Crew- The west will be even harder this year with Kansas and Houston added. Teams will be beating up on each other and therefore fewer points will be the norm. The East will be so much easier with the added games within the conference so extra points.
Mitchell Tierney: LA Galaxy- Nothing risky or insightful about this pick. In the second half of the season the LA Galaxy were unstoppable. Don't expect them to stall at the start of the season this year, they will continue to be the cream of the league's crop.
David Rowaan: Seattle Sounders- Yedlin may be gone but the only way this team is not near the top of the West again this year is a major injury to Obafemi Martins or Clint Dempsey. The West is only going to be tougher this year but I think the Sounders are still the class of that field.
Spencer Snell: Seattle Sounders - Almost a no-brainer... the 2014 Supporter's Shield winners were one of the clubs with the least turnover this off-season. Sure, they lost dynamic right back DeAndre Yedlin, but their pickup of veteran Tyrone Mears should help fill that hole. Other teams may have improved over the off-season, but Seattle will prove the oft-referenced philosophy that stability and familiarity breed success.
Stouffvillain: DC - DC builds on last season. DC is no a flashy squad but are solid through and through with competitions for playing time at every position except keeper. There is just too much on this squad for them not to take advantage of a weakened Eastern Conference.
James Grossi: New England: Coming out of a weaker conference, with a chip on their shoulder from last December's Cup loss, and rolling with a cohesive squad made better by the addition of Juan Agudelo, New England is primed for a strong season. The health of veterans Jermaine Jones and Jose Goncalves will be of concern, as will the loss of AJ Soares on the back-line, but Jay Heaps should be able to guide his side through an Eastern Conference with several teams still searching for identities.
Waking The Red Consensus: Seattle Sounders
MLS Cup Champions
Lev Yashin: Seattle Sounders- The one trophy that Sigi Schmid wants for Seattle.Once you're in the play-offs it is a crap shoot. The final could be Toronto v Seattle!
Mitchell Tierney: Seattle Sounders- The Sounders came incredibly close last season, and will now have the drive to go a step further. They are still a quality team which now have plenty of playoff experience.
David Rowaan: New England Revolution- They will benefit from being in the slightly easier East and not losing too many players in international duty leaving them fresher than most come playoff time. Still have to figure out their backline but they can certainly score goals.
Spencer Snell: New England Revolution- I'm tempted to appease Sounders fans and predict that they finally break through and win one, but they'll manage to screw it up somehow. And Steve Gerrard will undoubtedly slip at some point, causing an upset defeat for the Galaxy as well. That leaves... well, a lot of teams, but New England has only discarded ONE player who started in the MLS Cup (Soares), and only one other who made the matchday 18 (Mullins), and it's easy to argue they upgraded at striker by bringing back Juan Agudelo. Plus, they'll be angry.
Stouffvillain: Portland - No Valeri or Johnson to start the year but upon their return Portland makes ground on everyone else in the west, go into the post-season as the hottest team and ride that to the finish.
James Grossi: LA Galaxy: winners of three of the last four, one cannot overlook LA when it comes to the end of season hardware. Granted the retirement of Landon Donovan leaves a massive hole to be filled in Bruce Arena's side and Steven Gerrard will not be arriving until midseason, but the Galaxy have a tendency to start slow before finding themselves come the summer and rolling to the end of the year.
Waking The Red Consensus: Tie (Seattle Sounders, New England Revolution)
Lev Yashin: Toronto FC- Just because.
Mitchell Tierney: Vancouver Whitecaps- The Whitecaps have yet to win this competition and will probably be the team most engaged to win it this season. Last year they proved they had the deepest roster of the Canadian teams and that team has only gotten better.
David Rowaan: Toronto FC- It can't be the Whitecaps. It is written.
Spencer Snell: Vancouver Whitecaps. In the semi-final round, the Whitecaps will likely take this tournament about as seriously as they did last season - but that will still be enough to eke out a win against their NASL opponent. The temptation to field a stronger side will be too great for them to resist in the final round (which I'm betting will be against TFC) - and their more energetic squad, along with Robbie Earnshaw's ability to convert against his former side, will see them break the jinx and lift the Voyageurs Cup for the first time in club history.
Stouffvillain: TFC - Last year was a blip. TFC have a long stretch on the road to start the year that could put them out of it before they play a home game. The V Cup will once again be a chance to sell success to the fans.
James Grossi: Montreal- sacrilege, je sais. But Vancouver is cursed - which is fun - and Toronto will have their hands full with the playoffs, all they truly care about - both months with Voyageurs Cup matches are impossibly difficult, so expect squad players to get run outs for TFC. Montreal cherishes the continental competition, have a fair amount of depth, especially in the middle of the park, and will be riding the goodwill of overturning Pachuca into this season's edition.
Waking The Red Consensus: Toronto FC
Most Valuable Player
Lev Yashin: Clint Dempsey- I feel that this will be his last (best before date)and will win the cup for Seattle.
Star Spangled Dempsey Flag draped around him carrying the cup to the home fans. One million votes!
Mitchell Tierney: Kaka- Everyone is calling it a bold prediction, yet it is the consensus pick. This is the first time that Major League Soccer can claim they have had a player who was at one time the best on the planet. He still has some of that caliber left in his game.
David Rowaan: Federico Higuain- With so many stars set to miss a nice chunk of time for international duties the door is open for Higuain to prove himself the MVP. He really is going to be the one who decides just how good the Crew are this season and the east should be concerned.
Spencer Snell: Kaka- As much as I didn't want to buy into the hype that Kaka will still be dominant- after all, he's 8 years removed from his world player of the year award, I have to say- adjustment period be damned, he's been looking pretty impressive in Orlando's pre-season thus far. With Keane potentially slowing down a bit (although... who knows) and not having LD to support him, and others in the hunt taking time off for the Gold Cup (Deuce, MVLee, etc)... the only thing that could stop Kaka from nabbing this award would be subpar performances from his supporting cast. But if Orlando makes the playoffs, it'll largely be on the 32 year-old's shoulders.
Stouffvillain: Obafemi Martins - He leads the league in goals this year on a team that ends as the #1 seed in the West.
James Grossi: Kaka: Going on a limb with this one a bit, but as he goes, so goes Orlando, and they will require some leadership from the superstar to make any hay in their expansion year. Robbie Keane, who will have to step up without his sidekick Donovan, seems a more obvious choice, but predictions are not to be made conservatively.
Waking The Red Consensus: Kaka
Rookie of the Year
Lev Yashin: Jay Chapman- Surprise, Surprise a Toronto player in the awards. From what has been revealed so far Jay Chapman just might make the grade this year.
Mitchell Tierney: Cyle Larin- For the most part, first overall picks have been incredibly disappointing in Major League Soccer. Only Maurice Edu, when he played for Toronto FC in 2007, won the Rookie of the Year award as a first overall pick. However, at every level I have seen Larin at he has impressed. One of the most talented strikers can has produced in a long time.
David Rowaan: Khiry Shelton- Of the top talents in the draft I expect Shelton to get the most minutes on the field and often times that is all it takes to win rookie of the year in a season where most rookies will be logging more USL minutes than MLS ones.
Spencer Snell: Khiry Shelton- This is a tough category - it's nearly impossible to predict who will get a good amount of minutes and have an opportunity to contribute. Shelton has already found the back of the net in pre-season, and while he may not have been the most MLS-ready of draftees (Leo Stolz could give him a run for his money if his current injury isn't too serious), Shelton will get a chance to shine on expansion NYCFC. The argument could also be made that it's easier for forwards to be noticed (statistically) than rookies in other positions- so Shelton's got that going for him as well.
Stouffvillain: Cyle Larin- Was touted as MLS ready coming out of the draft and has shown that he isn't out of place in pre-season. On an expansion team he will have the opportunity to play if he shows capable. Oh yeah and he has my Newcomer of the Year playing with him.
James Grossi: Leo Stoltz- Forecasting which rookie will get the time to turn heads is always fraught with difficulty. Stoltz, who was rumoured to be headed over seas before declaring his availability to Red Bull, should get ample opportunity, and is purported to be the pick of the crop. He will need to be to help New York overcome the losses of Tim Cahill, Eric Alexander, and Thierry Henry - to name a few.
Waking The Red Consensus: Tie (Khiry Shelton and Cyle Larin)
Newcomer of the year
Lev Yashin: I look at Chicago here. IF they are healthy for most of the year they will get into the play-offs.The reason for this will be the play of Maloney signed from Wigan. After watching him play for Scotland last year he is definitely a game changer.
Mitchell Tierney: Kaka- I suppose if I go with Kaka above I must do it down here as well. He will win the big double in his first MLS season, adjustment period won't be nearly as big.
David Rowaan: Sacha Kljestan- He has some big shoes to fill for the New York Red Bulls with Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill gone but I think the American and his moustache will do very well in New Jersey. Should be the key cog in a midfield built around Felipe, McCarty, and himself.
Spencer Snell: Kaka. I basically have to remain consistent with my MVP pick at this point, and boldly predict that for the first time since 2007, both the MVP and Newcomer award will be handed to the same man. Because I find that terribly boring, however, I'm going to cheat and throw out a second pick- the Whitecaps could take the award home for the second year in a row with an impressive campaign from Octavio Rivero. Or one of Chicago's new toys up front. There- now I can't possibly be wrong.
Stouffvillain: Kaka - Orlando has been preparing for MLS for some time and was very particular in their choice for their first DP. I believe that Kaka still has plenty of talent and has been staying sharp playing in Brazil. He'll hit the ground running.
James Grossi: Sebastian Giovinco- Had to get at least one homer pick in there. Giovinco's signing has been hailed as a new day for MLS, signing a genuine talent squarely in the midst of his prime, shirking that label of 'retirement' league. Once he gets his feet under him and accustomed to his teammates, he will be fun to watch.
Waking The Red Consensus: Kaka
Lev Yashin: Frank Lampard- JUST BECAUSE.
Mitchell Tierney: Steven Gerrard- Will likely look a little something like David Beckham in his first season, which was an absolute disaster. He probably isn't expecting the league to be at its current level.
David Rowaan: Steven Gerrard- By the time he gets to LA he will likely have nothing left to give them and will need to be given a rest. May be better in future seasons but I expect him to really look like an old man this summer.
Spencer Snell: Shaun Maloney- The Chicago Fire made a couple intriguing designated player acquisitions in David Accam and Kennedy Igboanaike, aged 24 and 26 (respectively), over the off-season. They then wasted their last DP spot,picking up a 32 year-old Scottish international playing in the Championship. That's right, the Championship- although to be fair, when Maloney joined Wigan they were, in fact, competing in the EPL. Regardless, this transfer just reeks of "semi-washed up European" when they appeared to be heading in a whole other direction... and while I sincerely hope, for Chicago's sake, that they don't have a Barry Robson-type situation on their hands, I just can't see Maloney contributing at the level expected of an MLS DP midfielder.
Stouffvillain: Erick Torres- Had a fantastic season last year but now has his big deal and will have to get used to new surroundings. With Garcia and Davies I could be very wrong with this pick though.
James Grossi: Frank Lampard- Not so much for what he will contribute when he arrives - he will be good, very good - but solely for the debacle that was his transfer and the decision to have him spend the remainder of the season with Manchester City. Of course, it makes perfect sense from a playing perspective - at least in the eyes of the City organization - but that sort of horrible PR, announcing a player will be the face of the expansion team, only to shift that promise when convenient, is not a graceful start for a franchise that already has some questions swirling around their commitment.
Waking The Red Consensus: Tie (Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard)