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Predictions 2009: Goal.com Calls The MLS Season

Goal.com writers and editors weigh in on the upcoming Major League Soccer season. Predictions are made on seven of the most important league awards.

Supporters Shield


The Supporters Shield is the trophy awarded to the regular season winner. There was a clear favorite in this category - the Chicago Fire.

As DC contributor Steven Streff wrote,  Chicago just might have the best team in the league, and another year under coach Denis Hamlett might be enough to see them pull off the double. If they can get solid contributes from their forwards (McBride, Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko), and another solid year from their back four, expect  Chicago to challenge for the most points in the league.

Contributor Seth Vertelney also pointed out Chicago's depth as a key asset. The league's best team is also the deepest.  If and when injuries strike, no team will be better equipped to handle them than Denis Hamlett's side.  It could be a banner year in the Windy City.

The Crew drew a couple of supporters who thought they would repeat, while a few people took flyers on unusual choices.

Associate editor Zac Lee Rigg gave the nod to Real Salt Lake. This is a project that just came together at the tail end of last season, but looks to continue doing so. A young, mobile squad, RSL have what it takes to win the league in the regular season as Chicago struggle to keep aging stars fit, Columbus falter under new management, and Houston can't find the offensive spark to bury games.

Seattle contributor John Zielonka tipped New York. The Red Bulls show everyone they are winners.  They blow the competition away in the regular season and breeze into the playoffs.

MLS Golden Boot

The MLS scoring title had another overwhelming favorite, as the smart money is on Juan Pablo Angel to clinch the title - if he stays healthy.

Streff: Landon Donovan would be a great choice to repeat his feat of the Golden Boot winner from last year.  But he might not be playing in the MLS come summer time, which gives JPA a great opportunity to win the Golden Boot for the first time. He came close in 2007, finishing just one goal behind DC United’s Luciano Emilio. With the weapons around him this year though, Angel will be scoring at will.

As editor Allen Ramsey put it, Honestly, Angel has to score goals for New York to even be decent, but they have guys who can help set the table for him.

Coach of the Year

This pick was all over the MLS map. Randy Davis chose TFC's John Carver, Greg Lalas opted for Jason Kries, John Mantia supported Bruce Arena, and Frank Yallop drew votes from Rigg and Streff.

Others had other ideas.

Mexico editor Luis Bueno went with a proven winner. Sigi Schmid, Seattle. Schmid will guide Seattle to respectability; for taking an expansion team anywhere near the playoffs, Schmid at least deserves consideration for the award.

Ramsey chose a recent arrival to the league. Schellas Hyndman. F.C. Dallas should be much improved and if the team finishes anywhere near the top of the West, Hyndman will win this award.

Newcomer of the Year

As might be expected with anything new and therefore unknown, these predictions varied widely, though Fredy Montero emerged with the most support.

Zielonka had high hopes for Montero. The Columbian striker will score 10+ goals for the Seattle Sounders FC in his inaugural MLS season and bolt for Europe in 2010.

Ramsey had his eye on another Sounder, though. Sebastian Le Toux. Watch out, this guy can play. He scored 24 goals in 54 USL league matches over two years. Not something so easily scoffed at after the USL’s results in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Toronto FC contributor Talha Zaheer went with yet another Sounder pick - Freddie Ljunberg. While he may not longer possess the ability to outsmart European defenses, he will light up the MLS.

Non-Sounders Pablo Vitti of TFC, Santiago Hirsig of the Kansas City Wizards and FC Dallas David Ferriera also garnered votes.

Rookie of the Year

Many on the Goal.com team see tremendous potential in New York's Jeremy Hall.

Mantia: Converting to defender will pay big for Hall and the Red Bulls.  He has all the pace and talent to be an enigmatic player for a New York team designed to exploit the flanks.

Bueno believed Omar Gonzalez would win the honor. The Galaxy were able to produce last year's Rookie of the Year with the league's most pathetic defense. This year's defense will also feature a rookie, but will improve to lousy status; logic suggests yet another award.

Goalkeeper Stefen Frei also garnered attention and a few votes. Streff pointed out, Frei might not be starting for Toronto FC come the first game of the season, but at some point, he will have a positive impact on the team. Frei was selected 13th overall from the University of California, but many predicated him to go higher than that, especially after a terrific performance at the MLS Player Combine. If the opportunity arises, expect Frei to take his chance, and contribute enough to become Rookie of the Year.

Most Valuable Player

Cuautemoc Blanco edged out a host of others to claim Goal.com's prediction in this category. Juan Pablo Angel, Javier Morales and Landon Donovan also received multiple nods, but Blanco topped the list most often.

As Ramsey put it, Blanco's been in the running the last two years, finishing third in the voting both times. Now he has a full season with a great finisher to get on the end of all his cheeky little balls and make him look even better.

Some cast their eyes elsewhere, though.

Bueno went with San Jose's Darren Huckerby. The other California-based Englishman will garner top individual honors by leading San Jose to a conference title.

Zaheer picked Guillermo Barros Schelotto to defend his 2008 trophy. Hard to look past him, playing on a stable side.  He will be looking to take the Columbus Crew to back-to-back MLS cup triumphs.

Major League Soccer Champions

Zielonka: New York Red Bulls. Red Bulls  move into their new home and bring back the MLS Cup as a housewarming gift.

Streff: Chicago Fire. This team was close to getting to the final last year, only losing out to Columbus 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Final. Chicago will have Brian McBride for the entire season this go around, and their back four is one of the best in the league as well. And of course, with Cuauhtémoc Blanco pulling the strings, this team is very dangerous.

Rigg: MLS Champion will be the luckiest team on the night of the MLS Cup. Knockout stages and finals are crapshoots. The best team rarely wins them, and last year's victory for Columbus shouldn't make us think the world is a just place.

Davis: Chicago Fire

Zaheer: It's a toss up between Columbus Crew and TFC. I expect TFC to resolve their defensive issues by the end of the season to take the Cup.

Mantia: Chicago.  They are the deepest team in the league, and will need that to battle a super-strong Eastern Conference.  Besides, minding their veteran-heavy stalwarts, this team has no other choice but the present.

Bueno: Chicago Fire. With both McBride and Blanco advancing in age, Chicago's window is closing. But that window will stay open long enough for an MLS Cup title.

Ramsey: Toronto F.C. What? Did I really say TFC for the title? Yep. It’s a bit of a long shot, but they’ve done so much to improve their depth with the additions of Dwayne De Rosario, Pablo Vitti, Adrian Serioux, and Sam Cronin. All the movement should give the team a serious chance to make a run at the Eastern Conference title and MLS Cup if they can come together in time.

Lalas: Chicago Fire

Vertelney: Chicago Fire: This is the proverbial embarrassment of riches.  2008 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Jon Busch is where it all begins for the Fire.  Moving forward, there is the fantastic central defensive partnership of Wilman Conde and Bakary Soumare.  The midfield is deep, led of course by Cuauhtemoc Blanco, and the forward line will include a full season of Brian McBride, last year's top goalscorer Chris Rolfe and second-year prospect Patrick Nyarko, who will be first choice off the bench and could have a breakout season.  The Fire are the best team in the MLS on paper, and since these predictions are on that very medium, they are the favorites going into 2009.

Andrea Canales, Goal.com