The final countdown is on: LAFC are just hours away from kicking off their inaugural season against the Seattle Sounders. Now that the season is finally close to starting, it’s time for projections and predictions of what is to come in Major League Soccer’s 23rd season.
Coming into the season, there are some fairly obvious expectations and predictions for certain teams: Toronto FC and Atlanta United are widely considered to be the favorites to win MLS Cup and/or Supporters’ Shield. When you say, “MVP,“ the expected names of Miguel Almiron, David Villa, Sebastian Giovinco, and Diego Valeri come up, as well as Josef Martinez.
But where does MLS’ newest expansion team land in all these predictions?
Goal.com did a survey of some MLS General Managers, Sporting Directors and Technical Directors. 14 clubs agreed to participate in the survey and were given 15 anonymous questions.
LAFC, rather surprisingly, is mentioned pretty early. One MLS team staffer polled cast their vote for the Black-and-Gold on the “Which Team will win MLS Cup“ question, which is a bold assertion given that an expansion team has not won the title in their first year since the Chicago Fire under a certain coach named Bob Bradley in 1998. LAFC also got some votes with the question, “which MLS newcomer will make the biggest impact,“ with three GMs voting for Carlos Vela. Joao Moutinho also got one look for who will be MLS Rookie of the Year.
FiveThirtyEight has a fascinating set of statistical projections for the 2018 season, with a “Soccer Power Index“ alongside projected wins, losses, draws, and chances of making the playoffs and onward. However, LAFC’s projections in these statistics are not as rosy as an anonymous GM saying they will win MLS Cup.
According to FiveThirtyEight, in an average simulated season, LAFC has a projected 12.3 wins, 8.2 draws, and 13.4 losses, with a -3 goal differential. Before you panic, though, the “end-of-season probabilities“ give LAFC a 50 percent chance of making it to the playoffs, and a 13 percent chance of getting a first-round bye. In the projections, LAFC land above Vancouver Whitecaps and Houston Dynamo, but seventh overall in the west, behind Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, Sporting Kansas City, Real Salt Lake, LA Galaxy, and FC Dallas. On the plus side(?), they are also given a 2 percent chance to win Supporters’ Shield and 2 percent for MLS Cup.
Lastly, Matt Doyle of MLSSoccer.com published his Armchair Analyst piece putting each MLS Team into tiers: for example, Toronto is on top, and Seattle Sounders, New York City FC and Atlanta United are “Top Contenders.”
Right away, notice that LAFC are not in the contender category for Doyle.
The third tier is “Playoff Race (and maybe more),“ tier four is “Dark Horses,“ the fifth tier is “Prove it Again,“ and the final tier is “Open Questions.“
LAFC, much to the chagrin of those wearing the team’s colors, lands in the final tier, alongside D.C. United, LA Galaxy, Montreal Impact, New England Revolution, Colorado Rapids, Philadelphia Union, and Minnesota United.
In his explanation, Doyle says that at the top of their roster, LAFC are reminiscent of Atlanta last year. He then explains that the rest of the roster feels more like Minnesota’s last year, and says he has little confidence in the midfield or the back line. There is also, according to Doyle, a major concern for depth — LAFC has a pretty shallow roster at the moment, and if someone goes down or is not performing, it’s going to be hard to replace him. One thing Doyle does concede is that LAFC will be “entertaining as hell“ in their inaugural season.
Those are just some projections and predictions as LAFC wrap up their final preparations for their first official game in MLS. Some are pretty good, and some are pretty grim, but that is the nature of MLS — in a league built on parity, anything can happen. We saw that happen with Atlanta and Minnesota in terms of expansion last year — two teams going in opposite directions. Now, it’s the Angels’ turn.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!