Monday Breakdown: Busy Off-Season (Part II)

In the second of a two-part series,’s Kyle McCarthy breaks down the MLS offseason for the teams in the Western Conference.
By Kyle McCarthy

Last week, I discussed how although 2008 may be over, the teams’ preparations for 2009 season have already started.

With that in mind, this season-in-review package – starting with the Eastern Conference last week and ending with the Western Conference today – places the events of 2008 in context with the key issues heading into 2009.

1. Houston Dynamo

MVP: Brian Ching
Glue Guy: Bobby Boswell
The One No One Will/Would Miss: Guy-Roland Kpene
Possible Off-season Departure: Dwayne De Rosario
Pressing Off-season Need: Striker
Pressing Off-season Question: Is this the end of an era?
Outlook: Shipping De Rosario looked inevitable once TFC entered the league. The Dynamo didn't get much of a return for the veteran midfielder with his trade value likely hampered by his somewhat indifferent 2008 and his palpable desire to return home. Stuart Holden looks like a ready-made replacement and Julius James could step in for Boswell if he departs. Ditching DeRo means the Dynamo has to add something at the sharp end to provide some assistance to Ching in the wake of Nate Jaqua's departure.

2. Chivas USA

MVP: Sacha Kljestan
Glue Guy: Francisco Mendoza
The One No One Will/Would Miss: Roberto Nurse
Possible Off-season Departure: Kljestan
Pressing Off-season Need: Central defender
Pressing Off-season Question: How can we replace a living legend?
Outlook: A soft underbelly will lampoon Chivas USA's chances to topple Houston next season. At the highest levels of the league, a defensive pairing of Shavar Thomas plus one of a myriad of unappetizing options won't cut it. That includes the aging Suarez, who can't be relied upon as a consistent starter any longer. A pacy complement to Thomas would go a long way to solving those issues. Finding a way to keep Maykel Galindo on the field wouldn't be a bad idea either.

3. Real Salt Lake

MVP: Javier Morales
Glue Guy: Kyle Beckerman
The One No One Will/Would Miss: Kenny Deuchar
Possible Off-season Departure: Dema Kovalenko
Pressing Off-season Need: Striker
Pressing Off-season Question: Did we progress too quickly?
Outlook: 2009 was supposed to be RSL's year after a year of consolidation and adjustment. That timetable progressed in 2008 with a berth in the Western Conference finals. With the success achieved last season, the expectations will grow for 2009. In order to meet those goals, RSL will need to score more consistently, presumably by signing a reliable partner for Yura Movsisyan. Kreis may also want to invest in some wide options to give his team the tactical flexibility it will need as it aspires to rise up the table.

4. Colorado Rapids

MVP: Conor Casey
Glue Guy: Nick LaBrocca
The One No One Will/Would Miss: Jacob Peterson
Possible Off-season Departure: Christian Gomez
Pressing Off-season Need: Attacking midfield
Pressing Off-season Question: What should we do with Christian Gomez?
Outlook: Gomez remains an albatross on the Rapids' salary budget after not contributing much of anything in 2008. With a bloated, guaranteed contract, Gomez won't be easy to move this off-season. New coach Gary Smith will have to make the hard choice: eat some of the salary and move Gomez or try to integrate him back into the side. Look for the former to occur and Smith to try to find a more suitable fit. Aside from dealing with the Gomez quandary, the Rapids should try to find an upgrade at fullback.

5. FC Dallas

MVP: Kenny Cooper
Glue Guy: Pablo Ricchetti
The One No One Will/Would Miss: Victor Sikora
Possible Off-season Departure: Cooper
Pressing Off-season Need: Central defense
Pressing Off-season Question: What is our identity?
Outlook: Schellas Hyndman took the helm at mid-season and changed things significantly. The changes and the resulting performances suggested FCD never figured out how it wanted to play. Hyndman and FCD will have to figure that out during the off-season. Finding a dominating centerback to replace the somewhat forgettable Duilio Davino may just help push that process along. Losing Kenny Cooper – the team's only consistent scoring threat – would not.

6. Los Angeles Galaxy

MVP: Landon Donovan
Glue Guy: Sean Franklin
The One No One Will/Would Miss: Alvaro Pires
Possible Off-season Departure: Donovan
Pressing Off-season Need: Defenders
Pressing Off-season Question: How do we make this work if Beckham and Donovan stay?
Outlook: Los Angeles has struggled with the salary budget for the past couple of seasons. The Galaxy can't afford to lose Donovan or Beckham for their quality, but their cap space might lead to a more balanced team. Assuming both return, Bruce Arena will have to dip into the bargain bin to find someone to provide a more effective shield in front of a retooled back four and new goalkeeper. That might not prove enough to get back into the postseason if the last two seasons are any indication.

7. San Jose Earthquakes

MVP: Darren Huckerby
Glue Guy: Jason Hernandez
The One No One Will/Would Miss: John Cunliffe
Possible Off-season Departure: Francisco Lima
Pressing Off-season Need: Striker
Pressing Off-season Question: What can we do to help our dynamic wingers and resolute defense?
Outlook: San Jose will likely have to replace Lima and Scott Sealy after the duo made noises about heading to Europe. Joe Cannon might leave too if contract talks continue to stall. With Huckerby and Ronnie O'Brien hanging around, there will be impetus moving forward from the wide areas but there doesn't look to be a finisher to get on the end of things. Yallop will have to fix the dynamic in central midfield – perhaps by adding a more attacking player –  with Lima out and Ramiro Corrales back after missing most of the second half through injury.

Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and blogs frequently during the week for Contact him with your questions or comments at