Goal's MLS power rankings: Toronto FC tops the field

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Tom Szczerbowski
Heading into the new MLS season, it's no surprise to see last year's MLS Cup champions sitting atop the pile

The race for dominance in Major League Soccer is being led by one team, with 22 other teams try to figure out how to keep up with the Toronto FC juggernaut.

The reigning MLS Cup champions finished 2017 as a team widely regarded as the best in league history, but enter the 2018 season with an even stronger and deeper team than last year. Coach Greg Vanney and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko made full use of the league's increased allocation money resources to make improvements to an already stacked squad.

TFC wasn't alone in revamping. New York City FC made some good moves as well, while Atlanta United put together some of the biggest deals of the winter. There were considerable reconstruction projects as well, with Orlando City and the LA Galaxy looking like serious contenders after massive overhauls.

The Portland Timbers will be a top team to watch in the West, with new coach Giovanni Savarese inheriting a strong team as he looks to build on the foundation laid by Caleb Porter.

Then there is league newcomer LAFC, which is poised to challenge the league's best in year one. Bob Bradley's team is set to make a big splash in its debut season, led by Mexican star Carlos Vela.

Which of these teams, if any, will be able to dethrone Toronto FC? Here is a look at how Goal sees the league's 23 teams stacking up at the start of the 2018 season.

  1. Tim Heitman

    #23 Colorado Rapids

    The Anthony Hudson era has begun in Colorado, and it’s tough to know for sure what the former New Zealand boss will bring to the table given his lack of top-level club experience. The Rapids were busy retooling their roster in the offseason, and while the team should be better than in 2018, it’s tough to get too excited about the group the Rapids have put together

     

  2. Jean-Yves Ahern/USA Today

    #22 Montreal Impact

    French coach Remi Garde could be in for a rough ride as he takes over a Montreal team that saw some key players leave from a team that didn't have much talent to spare. Gone are Blerim Dzemaili and Laurent Ciman, with Saphir Taider brought in to try and offset Dzemaili's departure. Replacing Ciman is a tougher proposition, especially with newly acquired Zakaria Diallo already lost for the season due to injury.
  3. Winslow Townson

    #21 New England Revolution

    Brad Friedel has a tough task in his first job as a head coach, taking over a New England side with plenty of issues. Kei Kamara's departure leaves a void at striker that newly acquired Cristian Penilla will need to fill. The defense was overhauled after another disappointing season, but it's not a sure bet the changes will translate into upgrades. Throw in a disgruntled Lee Nguyen having to stick around after a failed attempt to force a trade and you have the recipe for what could be an ugly season in New England.
  4. Brad Rempel

    #20 Minnesota United

    The Loons weren't very busy in the offseason, which should have their fans worried about just how much better the second-year team will be in 2018. We shouldn't overlook the improvements shown down the stretch last season, but a lack of impact newcomers will make it tough for the Loons to escape the lower end of the West standings.
  5. Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

    #19 Philadelphia Union

    The Union continue to struggle keeping up with the league's top teams due to a lack of spending, but the acquisitions of David Accam and Borek Dockal should offer some reason for optimism. At the very least, the Union attack should be more entertaining, but the defense still looks suspect and depth continues to be a major issue.
  6. Anne-Marie Sorvin

    #18 San Jose Earthquakes

    New coach Mikael Stahre inherited a team that needed a roster revamp, and general manager Jesse Fioranelli helped deliver that with a handful of additions from the international market. Chief among them is winger Magnus Erikkson, who will be called on to help boost an inconsistent attack. The defense needed retooling as well, and Yeferson Quintana and Joel Qwiberg should help. A lack of top-end talent could handcuff Stahre, and a return to the playoffs seems unlikely.
  7. Brad Mills

    #17 D.C. United

    It has been a rough few years for D.C. United, but 2018 has long been seen as a chance to do something special given the arrival of the team's highly anticipated new home, Audi Field. Having already made a flurry of roster moves last winter in preparation for a big 2018, D.C. made some smart pickups this winter with Yamil Asad and David Ousted stepping in. Will it be enough to make D.C. a contender in the East? That is probably still too tall an order.
  8. Toy Taormina

    #16 Houston Dynamo

    Another team that turned their fortunes around last season, the Dynamo didn't do a ton in the offseason to make their squad stronger. Losing Erick "Cubo" Torres, Alex and Ricardo Clark set the team back, and the team's additions were modest ones. Veteran goalkeeper Chris Seitz should help offer some stability in net, while Venezuelan defender Alejandro Fuenmayor should challenge for a starting role. The Dynamo should be competitive, but it will be difficult to match last year's success without some more moves.
  9. Winslow Townson

    #15 Vancouver Whitecaps

    The Whitecaps had what can be called the best season in their MLS history in 2017, but has this winter yielded moves to improve on that new standard? The arrival of Kei Kamara to replace Fredy Montero should offer somewhat of an upgrade at striker, but the team's other acquisitions are far from sure things. Doneil Henry and Efrain Juarez could be good additions, but if they succeed in trading away Tim Parker, it will be tough to see Vancouver's defense being good enough to duplicate the team's success of last season.
  10. Kamil Krzaczynski

    #14 Chicago Fire

    The Fire enjoyed one of the biggest turnarounds in MLS in 2017, but this offseason hasn't felt like one that will see them build on that impressive campaign. Trading away David Accam while still failing to secure a much-needed playmaker has the attack looking a bit shorthanded. A healthy Bastian Schweinsteiger partnering with Dax McCarty in central midfield will help keep the Fire competitive, but starting the unproven Christian Dean in central defense also raises questions about the defense.
  11. Denny Medley

    #13 Sporting Kansas CIty

    Having the league's stingiest defense wasn't enough to make Sporting KC a serious contender last season, largely because of an attack clearly lacking punch after trading away Dom Dwyer. The wait for a replacement forward is still ongoing, which should temper expectations in 2018, even with the arrival of Chilean midfielder Felipe Gutierrez. Until a top striker arrives, it's tough to see SKC escaping the middle of the pack.
  12. Greg Bartram

    #12 Columbus Crew

    After finishing the 2017 on such an impressive run you would think the Crew would have been poised to be a title threat in 2018. A roster shakeup coupled with the looming threat of a move to Austin, Texas has instead left the Crew looking like a team more likely to take a step back. The Crew traded away Ola Kamara and Justin Meram, landing Gyasi Zardes in the process. Unless Zardes has a big year, it's tough to see Columbus staying with the pack at the top of the East, but with Berhalter pulling the strings, you can't completely rule it out.
  13. Tim Heitman

    #11 FC Dallas

    A year ago, FC Dallas went into the 2017 season as a title favorite and a club some thought could win multiple pieces of silverware. Nobody could have foreseen the collapse that ensued, as FC Dallas missed the playoffs after a strong start to the season. The recent CONCACAF Champions League loss to Tauro FC has added even more doubts around Oscar Pareja's side. The good news is Colombian forward Santiago Mosquera should offer a real boost to the attack, while veteran defender Reto Ziegler has the task of replacing Walker Zimmerman.
  14. Jeff Swinger

    #10 Real Salt Lake

    Mike Petke did an impressive job turning things around with a young RSL side last season, and while the run to a playoff berth fell short, the experience gained by his team was invaluable. How far RSL goes will depend largely on how well Spanish forward Alfredo Ortuno handles carrying the goal-scoring load.
  15. #9 Los Angeles FC

    The league's newest team should hit the ground running, with Carlos Vela as the focal point of the attack, and an impressive center back tandem of Walker ZImmerman and Laurent Ciman anchoring the defense. Uruguayan forward Diego Rossi should be a first-year sensation, while Egyptian Omar Gaber gives LAFC quality on the other flank. Goalkeeper Tyler Miller has a big task as he embarks on his first starting role. The playoffs are well within LAFC's reach, and a deep playoff run wouldn't really be that surprising.
  16. Bill Streitcher

    #8 Orlando City

    The quest to finally reach the playoffs continues for the Lions, and while Kaka's retirement figured to signal a step back for the club, the reality is Orlando City heads into 2018 looking strong. The additions of Sacha Kljestan, Justin Meram, Uri Rosell and Lamine Sane has Orlando City looking as balanced as ever, but Dom Dwyer will need to carry the goal-scoring load with a big season if the Lions are going to end their postseason drought.
  17. Troy Wayrynen

    #7 Portland Timbers

    Caleb Porter's departure came as a shock to everyone in Timbers land, but landing a respective replacement in Giovanni Savarese should keep Portland right in the conversation of best teams in the West. Replacing Darlington Nagbe won't be easy, but Peruvian winger Andy Polo should provide a good attacking threat to help complement reigning MLS MVP Diego Valeri. A healthy Fanendo Adi will be key to Portland's chances, while newly acquired Swedish forward Samuel Armenteros could be one of signings of the season.
  18. Troy Wayrynen

    #6 LA Galaxy

    Things couldn't have gone much worse for the Galaxy in 2017, but the good thing about MLS is that reconstruction projects can turn things around quickly. The arrivals of Perry Kitchen, Ola Kamara, David Bingham, Rolf Feltscher and Jorgen Skjelvik should address the positional needs that plagued the Galaxy for most of last season.
  19. Adam Hunger

    #5 New York Red Bulls

    The arrival of highly regarded playmaker Alejandro Romero Gamarra has the New York Red Bulls feeling good about their chances of being a stronger team in 2018, but it could be the continued evolution of highly regarded young standout Tyler Adams that really determines how far they can go in the stacked Eastern Conference. Bradley Wright-Phillips will need to adapt to life without Sacha Kljestan, but a healthy Danny Royer, along with Gamarra, should keep him stocked with chances.
  20. #4 Seattle Sounders

    A third straight trip to the MLS Cup isn't going to be easy to pull off, especially after losing Jordan Morris to a torn ACL, but general manager Garth Lagerwey has the resources to make some key additions to a strong team. If he can add a top forward, as well as at least one other attacking piece, the Sounders can be right back in the thick of things, especially in the wide-open West.
  21. Brett Davis

    #3 Atlanta United

    The record-setting acquisitions of Ezequiel Barco and Darlington Nagbe should help Atlanta United improve on an impressive 2017, even though the departures of Yamil Asad and Carlos Carmona will put dents into the defensive quality of Tata Martino's overall setup. Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez should be even better in their second seasons in MLS, while Brad Guzan settles in for a full year in net for a team that should feature the best attack in the league.
  22. Brad Penner

    #2 New York City FC

    The arrivals of Jesus Medina and Anton Tinnerholm should provide a pair of improvements in the NYCFC starting lineup, while Yangel Herrera should see considerable growth in his second season with the team. The defense could be a real asset with a healthy Ronald Matarrita and a second year of the Alexander Callens-Maxime Chanot center back tandem. Add MVP candidate David Villa, and you have a team that could wind up knocking off TFC.
  23. Tom Szczerbowski

    #1 Toronto FC

    The reigning MLS Cup champions bring back almost all of the key pieces to their title-winning squad, with upgrades helping fill out the roster. Gregory van der Wiel should improve the right back spot, while Sebastian Giovinco should be poised for another run at MLS MVP honors.