Studying the MLS Western Conference; LA Galaxy to repeat?

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For a soccer geek like me, picking out the three top stories in Major League Soccer this year is like trying to pick out the most delightful Bohemian coed at SXSW, or trying to pinpoint Tracy Jordan’s best line yet. In other words, there are too many choices, and it’s just too darn hard!

But since they’re paying me to answer the tough questions, I’ll give it a shot – with just a little bit of cheating.  I’ll give you three to watch in the West and then (later) three more in the East.  Just days before first kick, here are the three unfolding stories I’m watching closely this year in the (tougher) Western Conference.

  • The Los Angeles Galaxy is clear favorite to repeat as MLS champs. It’s no fait accompli, of course; they just enjoy the best early odds. But well before the 17th MLS Cup, Bruce Arena and his boys will have a chance to make history as the first MLS outfit to conquer CONCACAF Champions League. They get to kickin’ in the quarterfinals against Toronto on Wednesday. If they advance, tougher Mexican teams await in the semis and final. If they get through those, a spot in the FIFA Club World Cup awaits. And wouldn’t that be just spectacular for MLS?
  • Vancouver did a lot to improve over the short off-season. To be fair, the Whitecaps had plenty of room for improvement. Either way, I can’t help but be intrigued. There’s a new coach (Martin Rennie). There are new attackers to go with some pretty good ones already there. I do wonder if the defense can hold up.
  • Steve Zakuani and David Ferreira return for Seattle and Dallas, respectively. Real difference-makers, both, they crumbled beneath bad tackles in 2011 – one quite a bit worse than the other. Their ability to return (not just physically, but mentally in a league that likes the rough and tumble) will say a lot about how the seasons look in 2012 at CenturyLink Field and at FC Dallas Stadium.

For more on the MLS West, here’s the whole shebang, the Western conference preview from SI.com. (Although I’m not 100 percent certain we can trust the writer on this piece.  Just look at that picture! I’m telling you, somebody needs to give that dude a delicious Thin Mint or something, because he looks seriously hacked off.)