first kick

Are we headed for the most unpredictable MLS season yet?

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First Kick is on Saturday, and I have no idea what’s going to happen during the 2013 campaign. I mean, sure, I have some ideas, some vague notions that I feel reasonably confident might come off, but it’s a lot of grasping around in the dark. And you know what? Anyone who tells you differently is lying.

Think about it: How many teams are dramatically different from the end of last season? The New York Red Bulls turned over basically its entire roster, save Thierry Henry who is already complaining about losing Kenny Cooper. (Oh, the irony.) Chivas USA went further, jettisoning pretty much anyone without Mexican heritage. (For the record, I love the idea — as Alexi Lalas says, a plan, even a bad one, is better than no plan at all — but it makes the club remarkably unpredictable.) Real Salt Lake, one of the perennial fixtures at the top of the Western Conference, is working through some issues. The Columbus Crew should be fun with Frederico Higuain and Jairo Arrieta, but who knows how the duo will hold up through the rigors of the long season. Caleb Porter showed up, went to town on the Timbers roster, and isn’t done. (Playoffs, yo. Mark it down.)

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The Vancouver Whitecaps will only go as far as Jay DeMerit takes them, and his injury concerns are, well, concerning. Toronto FC is playing Where in the World Is Our Coach, but could be surprising when Ryan Nelsen arrives. (Or, of course, they could be terrible.) The Seattle Sounders find themselves without Fredy Montero and needing a performance in the playoffs. That will certainly add pressure. The Los Angeles Galaxy, well, who the heck knows. We know the team will be good — definitely, maybe — but how good is up in the air and largely on Mr. Cambodia. And then there’s Freddy Adu, Chris Wondolowski, and Carlos Ruiz, all with things to prove or not prove or whatever have you.

And that paragraph above is what makes MLS great. Sure, the quality of play could be better, and the referees could improve, and you wonderful readers could think of one hundred and one things to improve in the next five minutes, but you gotta love the league for the fun of it. Anything could happen. That’s something worth celebrating, I think.