MLS 2016 Preview

Last season saw former Birmingham City defender Liam Ridgewell lifting the MLS Cup as his Portland Timbers beat Columbus Crew 2-1 at the Mapfre Stadium.

Portland Timbers are best priced 8/1 to defend their title. Caleb Porter has kept the spine of his team intact. They have added Jermaine Taylor from struggling Houston Dynamo and he could play a vital part of the defence with Ridgewell and Nat Borchers.

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Despite winning overall, one thing they did lack was actually goals. They only scored 41 in the regular season, which was joint-third lowest of the 20 teams. Fanendo Adi scored 16 of those goals remains at the club, as does the MLS Cup MVP Diego Valeri.

They have a balanced squad with good squad depth with strength in midfield with Valeri, Darlington Nagbe, Ned Grabavoy and Jack Jewsbury likely to line up as the four. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them reach the MLS Cup yet again.

La Galaxy and New York Red Bulls are both at the head of the market. Red Bulls topped the Eastern Conference by seven points. Jesse Marsch’s side scored plenty of goals – a league high of 62.

The Wright-Phillips brothers are the two known names to followers on our shores but they have had a bit of clearout in the off-season. For this campaign they have brought a lot of players through from their academy but one concern is that they may not have replaced Matt Miazga, who made a January switch to Chelsea. They’ll need to keep Mike Grella and Lloyd Sam fit for them to top their conference this season but for the overall trophy they look a little short.

It is fully understandable why Bruce Arena’s La Galaxy are prominent in the betting. Their roster is rammed full of quality all over the field and full of names we all know. Ashley Cole, Robbie Rogers, Nigel De Jong, Steven Gerrard, Giovani dos Santos and Robbie Keane.

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In the off-season they have recruited well and strengthened very well. They only finished fifth in the Western Conference and were knocked out by Seattle Sounders in the first Knockout Round. Galaxy have played a few competitive games of late in the CONCACAF Champions League but they fell to a 4-0 aggregate defeat to Mexican side Santos Laguna. They have match sharpness going into the season, so should make a bright start. If gelling with the quality they have then you’d expect them to go all the way.

FC Dallas topped the Western Conference in last year’s campaign and Oscar Pareja remains in the hot seat. The head coach has recruited wisely in the off-season and one that stands out is the signing of striker Maximillano Urruti from Portland Timbers. The Argentine lifted the MLS Cup last year and he is someone that can add firepower in the final third for his new club. Dallas scored 52 goals in 2015 before succumbing in the semi-finals to the eventual winners.

A name more familiar with British followers will be the former Wigan full-back Maynor Figueroa, who has joined from Colorado Rapids. If the Honduran can help tighten the defensive line and on top of his experience can see this side full of pace and flair go one step further.


The ‘Toros’ have kept hold of last season’s top scorer for the club Fabian Castillo, who plays as a winger/forward. One thing they did do well in 2015 was share around the goals and create chances. Again the addition of Urruti could see him towards the top end of the scoring charts come the end of the season.

My team Orlando City missed out on a play-off spot in their first season in Major League Soccer. Rookie Cyle Larin broke the record for goals scored by a first season professional when netting 17 times. Kaka captains the side and in the off-season have added former AC Milan player Antonio Nocerino. One concern for them is there looks to be a lack of defensive cover, something that was highlighted during last season. A positive for the Lions is that Kevin Molino is back after suffering a season ending injury in the first few weeks of the season – in the USL Pro he was their key player from midfield, so if he strikes up a partnership with Kaka and Larin they could be roaring into the play-offs.


Columbus Crew reached the final but were defeated by Portland Timbers. Kei Kamara scored their consolation in the MLS Cup and he’ll be crucial to the Crews chances. They scored 58 goals last season but when looking at the roster on paper it is hard to envisage where they are coming from this time around. The Black & Gold have strength in depth in the defence and midfield.

I was going to put Toronto up who relied upon Sebastian Giovinco’s prowess and firepower. The Italian international was joint top scorer having scored 22 goals from 33 appearances in his debut season, as well as being the top assister contributing to 16 further goals. With the fact he could be away at EURO2016 with Italy means their mid-season could be hampered.

The Reds under Greg Vanney have already got Michael Bradley and former Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore. The Canadian club brought in 22-year-old Japanese playmaker Tsubasa Endoh to help with the scoring and creation from wide areas. The acquisitions of Drew Moor and Steven Beitashour should help their defensive having conceded 58 goals last season – the same amount as they scored.

Toronto were knocked out by Montreal Impact in the Knockout Round and it is the Impact that I think look overpriced here. Maruo Biello was given the permanent role after the departure of Frank Klopas last season. The Canadian did well when in interim charge that the owners gave him the job full-time prior to the play-offs. Under his leadership they could be a force to be reckoned with.

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Igancio Piatti linking up with Didier Drogba is a partnership that has me licking my lips as it screams goals. The Impact landed a good deal by signing Harry Shipp from Chicago Fire, who seemed to be forced out the door by the Fire’s head coach Veljko Paunovic, who only took over last November with Fire already in their post season having finished bottom. He’s only 24-years-old but could be a vital addition to the midfield for Biello’s men. If he has settled in then he could have a really good season in this side, who will be looking to play on the front foot in matches.

Advice: FC Dallas (14/1 Each-Way)

            Montreal Impact (30/1 Each-Way)


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