As the days tick closer to the start of the 2018 MLS season, even more excitement surrounds Banc of California Stadium for the inaugural season of Los Angeles Football Club.
What started as a dream for Southern Californians will come to fruition this Sunday when LAFC travels to take on Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field.
With that in mind, Angels on Parade takes a look at the 2018 MLS Western Conference:
Last season: 9-16-6 (10th in the conference – missed playoffs)
What they did in the offseason: Colorado went out and got a stronger defense with signings like Edgar Castillo, Tommy Smith and Danny Wilson. A team that struggled to score last year did bring in former Cardiff City FC forward Joe Mason in to help with the attack. Their SuperDraft selection, Niki Jackson, had 16 goals last year for Grand Canyon University.
Their 2018 prospects: This is a team that will still struggle to put goals on the board. Defensively, they are very sound which will keep them in games, but little offense won’t help them get a playoff berth this season.
When do they play LAFC: Colorado will come to “the Banc” on Saturday, Aug. 18 and LAFC makes the return trek on Saturday, Oct. 6.
Last season: 11-10-13 (7th in the conference – missed playoffs)
What they did in the offseason: Well, we know they lost Walker Zimmerman (thanks guys!) since LAFC signed the USMNT starter. To help their defense, Dallas signed Anton Nedyalkov of CSKA Sofia and bringing some Homegrown talent to bear.
Their 2018 prospects: In addition to trying to bolster their offense, FC Dallas added midfielder Ema Twumasi and forward Francis Atuahene in the SuperDraft. Coupling that with Christian Colman’s expected improvement this season and Dallas could see themselves in the playoffs after missing last season.
When do they play LAFC: FC Dallas will be just the second home game at Banc of California Stadium on Saturday, May 5. LAFC heads to Toyota Stadium on Saturday, June 2 for the second leg.
Last season: 13-10-11 (4th in the conference – made the playoffs; lost to Seattle in Conference Championship)
What they did in the offseason: Houston had a strong finish to last season, but they lost Erick Torres and his goal production. The problem here is they didn’t reload in the offseason, instead relying heavily on Tomas Martinez, who struggled last season in his first with the Dynamo.
Their 2018 prospects: Wilmer Cabrera was a virtual miracle worker last season, but that shine is likely to wear off, especially since the team failed to invest in more attacking options. Making the playoffs could be a struggle for Houston this season.
When do they play LAFC: LAFC travel to BBVA Compass Stadium on Tuesday, July 3 for the first meeting. The return leg will be Thursday, Oct. 18.
Last season: 8-18-8 (11th in the conference – missed playoffs)
What they did in the offseason: The Galaxy went all “AC Milan” on everyone in the offseason and dropped coin on David Bingham, Ola Kamara, Perry Kitchen and Chris Pontius to upgrade all over the place. Oh, they also drafted Tomas Hilliard-Arce in the SuperDraft – arguably the best defender in the draft.
Their 2018 prospects: You can’t argue with the talent the Galaxy have brought to the table. Adding in Giovani dos Santos and it is hard to not see the Carson Galaxy in the playoffs this year.
When do they play LAFC: The MLS scheduling overlords thought it best for the 405 rivalry needed three matches. LAFC takes on the Galaxy at StubHub on Saturday, March 31 and again on Friday, Aug. 24. In between, the Galaxy actually travels to Los Angeles on Thursday, July 26.
Last season: 10-18-6 (9th in the conference – missed playoffs)
What they did in the offseason: Three little old ladies with walkers could score on Minnesota last season and this year doesn’t see a lot of improvement. They added Tyrone Mears, but that is about it … really. But, having Mason Toye and Abu Danladi up front can help.
Their 2018 prospects: Refer to the note about the defense. Toye and Danladi will be interesting, but any team getting into the back third has a better than 50/50 chance of scoring and that isn’t good. Just as a side note, the Loons’ opening campaign is one LAFC is hoping not to repeat.
When do they play LAFC: The Loons come to “the Banc” on Wednesday, May 9 with LAFC making the return trip to TCF Bank Stadium on July 22.
Last season: 15-11-8 (1st in the conference – qualified for playoffs; lost to Houston in Conference Semifinals)
What they did in the offseason: Despite losing Darlington Nagbe, the Timbers seemingly reloaded for a run at the Supporters’ Shield. Pickups like Samuel Armenteros, Crishian Paredes and Andy Polo don’t hurt. One of their biggest signings … Giovanni Savarese as the new manager, did great with the New York Cosmos and should do well with this roster in Portland.
Their 2018 prospects: It’s really hard to not envision Portland as the conference favorites or, at least, one of the top two teams in the conference. They will definitely be playing with a chip after going out of the conference playoffs as soon as they did.
When do they play LAFC: LAFC travels to Providence Park on Saturday, May 19, then welcome the Timbers to “the Banc” on Sunday, July 15.
Real Salt Lake
Last season: 13-15-6 (8th in the conference – missed playoffs)
What they did in the offseason: Keeping Jefferson Savarino and Kyle Beckerman will do wonders for RSL. The team picked up Pablo Ruiz and got Brooks Lennon on a full transfer, which could also do wonders.
Their 2018 prospects: This is a team that was a point out of the playoffs. With their offseason moves, there is little reason to think they won’t make it this year.
When do they play LAFC: Rio Tinto Stadium is the second destination for LAFC this season, on March 10. After that, we won’t see RSL until they come to LA on Wednesday, Aug. 15.
San Jose Earthquakes
Last season: 13-14-7 (6th in the conference – qualified for playoffs; lost to Vancouver in the knockout round)
What they did in the offseason: To help Chris Wondolowski on offense, the Quakes went out and got Eric Calvillo and Swedish Designated Player Magnus Ericksson. Oh, they also picked up Yeferson Quintana and Joel Qwiberg to shore up the team’s defense.
Their 2018 prospects: Their additions in the offseason suggest San Jose is ready to take their game to the next level. It’s hard to not see them in the playoff hunt this season.
When do they play LAFC: LAFC heads up the 101 on Saturday, June 9 while the Quakes visit “the Banc” on Saturday, Sept. 22.
Seattle Sounders FC
Last season: 14-9-11 (2nd in the conference – qualified for playoffs; lost 2-0 to Toronto FC in MLS Cup final)
What they did in the offseason: They didn’t really do much, however forward Jordan Morris is out for the season with an ACL tear. That hurts in more ways that one. It means the Sounders will rely on Will Bruin for its offense, which may not be all bad after his 11 goals last season.
Their 2018 prospects: You can’t dismiss the two-time MLS Cup finalists out of hand just because of Morris’ injury. They may be a little more vulnerable this season, but don’t look for them to just roll over.
When do they play LAFC: LAFC opens its inaugural campaign at CenturyLink Field Sunday. Seattle will open “the Banc” officially with a return trip on April 29
Sporting Kansas City
Last season: 12-9-13 (5th in the conference – qualified for playoffs; lost to Houston in the knockout round)
What they did in the offseason: Kansas City did a couple of good things this offseason. They provided LAFC with Latif Blessing and Benny Feilhaber (zing!). They added French midfielder Yohan Croizet and Johnny Russell from Derby County in England.
Their 2018 prospects: Peter Vermes is working with virtually a new squad that lost more than it gained. Don’t bet the farm on SKC making the playoffs this year.
When do they play LAFC: Sporting Kansas City comes to LA on Saturday, Aug. 11, then the two teams close out the regular season in Kansas City on Sunday, Oct. 28.
Last season: 15-12-7 (3rd in the conference – qualified for playoffs; lost 2-0 to Seattle in the Conference Semifinals)
What they did in the offseason: In are Anthony Blondell, Kei Kamara and Brian Rowe. Out are Christian Bolanos, Fredy Montero and Tony Tchani. So, it might be safe to say the losses outweigh the gains only because Kamara has been inconsistent up front.
What is their 2018 prospects: He may be inconsistent, but Kamara is still one of the better goal scorers in the league, so that will count for a lot, especially against teams that failed to upgrade their defenses.
When do they play LAFC: LA heads to Canada for a Friday, April 13 clash (part of a Canadian double with Montreal the following week). It won’t be until Sunday, Oct. 21 that Vancouver makes the return trip to “the Banc.”
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