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Rolfe and Kljestan Preview the 2007 MLS Season

The MLS season is upon us. What does that mean for us? Well, that’s obvious, do a unique, creative MLS prediction article! I mean, no one does that.

OK, so like you, we’ve seen about 712 in the past couple weeks.

Hmmm…what to do?

Well, it’s not a mind-blowing idea, but we figured we’d pick the brains of two younger players in the league that are trying to make an impact with the full Men’s National Team this summer. That’s right, we convinced the Chicago Fire’s Chris Rolfe and Chivas USA’s Sacha Kljestan to provide us with their prognostications for MLS 2007.

Only one problem. By asking a player to provide you with their predictions about a league they play in, inevitably they feel obligated to put their team at the top of the conference. I mean, c’mon, how could Rolfe actually show his face in the Fire locker room if he predicted Chicago to finish second in the East? Or if Sacha said Chivas USA would end up behind their bitter rival L.A.? Just not going to happen.

So, in the hopes of providing unbiased calculations Sacha and Chris will predict the conference they don’t play in. So, for those struggling to follow along, Sacha gives his rankings in the Eastern Conference, while Chris does the same for the West.

We’ve got it down on paper for all to see, which means at the end of the season we’ll either praise their predictions or rip ‘em if warranted.

(One thing to take note of while reading: While Chris gives Chivas USA some love with a second place finish, Sacha was not so kind in return.)

Sacha Kljestan’s Eastern Conference Picks

1. New England Revolution
I’m going with New England to sneak by D.C. United. Why? Well, I think they’ve been by far the most consistent team in the East over the last five years. Yes, D.C. is up there, but I think the Revs re-gain the conference top spot. You can’t go wrong when they’ve got Michael Parkhurst and Taylor Twellman, two of the best in their positions in the MLS.

2. D.C. United
Should be very similar to last season, good all around. They lost a few people, but also added some players that could be interesting to watch, and then you still have Christian Gomez, who is the best attacking mid in MLS. Gomez could be MVP again, as long as I don’t lock it up this season (I’m joking people…not that I’m against winning it).

3. Kansas City Wizards
New coach, new style, means new outlook. And that outlook is a bright one which is why I’m putting them in third place, quite a jump from them barely missing the playoffs last year. The key for them is just two letters – E.J. I think they can do really well if E.J. turns it on again. And for those brainiacs out there, that obviously means I think he will since I got K.C. so high.

4. Columbus Crew
The Crew had a tough year in 2006, but when I look at their roster I really see some decent attacking players and some good young guys. Sigi is a good coach (had him for U-20s) and I think he can turn them around and have a better season. Also, I think their new signing Robbie Rogers (from Huntington Beach…holla!), should show some flare and really help them in the attack.

5. New York Red Bulls
The one thing that is going to be noticeable about this year’s Red Bull squad is that they will be very organized and hard working. Bruce Arena will no doubt make sure of that. A big reason you can’t count them out of the playoff hunt is Claudio Reyna. He is amazing with the ball, and he will no doubt help them out a lot in the middle of the field.

6. Chicago Fire
Having the Fire so low might surprise people, but, hey, somebody has to slip-up a bit this year, right? Their recent signing of Blanco will be a benefit as he is a great player. They also have a lot of young, exciting players, and if two specifically, Justin Mapp and Chris Rolfe can be effective like we all know they can be, they could move their way up the standings and end up making me look like an…well, let’s just say, wrong.

7. Toronto F.C.
Last place is not a fun place to be, but the reason I’m putting the expansion squad here is simply because I don’t know much about them. Yes, maybe I should have done a bunch of research for this feature, but I’ve got other stuff going on like getting ready to play them this weekend on opening day. Wait, maybe I should know more than. Ahh…gotta get your team ready and not worry too much about your opponent. Plus, I guess I will find out when they come to our house.

Chris Rolfe’s Western Conference Picks

1. Los Angeles Galaxy
The Galaxy definitely picked up some good players in the off-season, including my old-teammate Nate Jaqua, goalkeeper Joe Cannon and then one other…I forget his name? Ummm…Bes…Ben…Beckham, that’s it. Seriously though, while the whole Beckham situation will be a bit of a circus, I really don’t see how he will hurt them on the field in any way. Link him up with Landon and Nate, and there’s definitely going to be some goal scoring happening at The Home Depot Center.

2. Chivas USA
I really like the way Chivas plays; their style on the field. When you look at their entire roster, it’s pretty solid. They’ve got Ante Razov up front to score goals, and then in the back they’ve got the wisdom of Suarez combined with youth and excitement of Bornstein. Even in the middle of the park they’ve got a great mix with Jesse Marsh, who is the veteran of veterans in the MLS, and Sacha, another impressive young guy. Last year was just the start of the uprising of Chivas.

3. Houston Dynamo
While I know a lot of people are picking Houston maybe to finish one or two, I think with their long preseason they might peak a bit too soon. They’re still going to be one of the best teams in the league, but playing those games in the Confederations’ Cup just might come back to haunt them, at least in the regular season. By the playoffs, I wouldn’t be betting against them to be back in the MLS Cup. Look for Ching, De Rosario and the rest to have a bit of an up-and-down season early, but then turn it on when it matters most.

4. Colorado Rapids
I was going to put FC Dallas here, but you know what, I have faith in the Rapids this year. Why? Well, the Rapids are always pretty good at home and now with the new stadium, I think they’re going to be extremely tough to beat. They also have Zach Thorton now, who I’ve taken a few hundred shots on when he was with the Fire, so I know first-hand that he’s tough to beat from distance or on the dribble. There’s more experience in the back as well with Greg Vanney, who I think is one of the best defenders in the league. I haven’t even mentioned Pablo, Beckerman, Kirovski…they’ve got some good players and it will show this year.

5. FC Dallas
They have a great attack with Carlos Ruiz and Kenny Cooper. I really like Kenny; he was a blast to play with when I was with the national team earlier this year. They’re definitely a mysterious team. They are always one of the better squads, but just can’t seem to get over the hump, and I’m not sure if it will be too different this year. Their new coach will shake things up a bit though and maybe that will be just what they need. Also, playing in Dallas in the summer is treacherous and they can definitely take advantage of that.

6. Real Salt Lake
I know, I know. Poor Salt Lake going last once again. And I hate doing it, too, especially when I think they’ll be better than the year before. The key for them is to start playing well early on and not get in a hole they’re fighting to get out of the rest of the year. They’ve got some tremendous leadership and experience with Kreis, Pope and Klein, plus the mix of youth with Freddy and Ballouchy, but I think they just need to figure out their style of play. If they do that, then they could surprise a lot of people. I actually hope they do well, as I think Salt Lake is a great place and it would be great for the league for them to make an impact.