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MLS Crystal Ball Revisited

Crystal Ball

Back in March, for the third year, I wrote a post with the preseason predictions of some of the most widely read soccer pundits. Among the prognosticators were Ives, Steve Davis, Bruce McGuire of DuNord and others. In all, I collected the predictions of 19 posts. From those posts there were thirteen predictions of conference tables and nine single table predictions.


Now before anyone gets their pants in a wad, I am aware that things change during the season. Players get injured, others get signed, etc. So just keep in mind that this post is about what was known back in March and the pundits(and I) took our best shots with what was laid out before us.
Note I am also aware that some writers will say their single table lists are ‘power rankings’, not predictions. Fine, a rose by any other name, but when you say team X is #1, it’s fair to say that all things being equal in the writer’s mind, that team should finish with the most points, doncha think?


Observations Back Then



From the 9 full table power rankings:


  • All 9 had RSL, LA, RBNY, Colorado, Dallas, Seattle and San Jose making the playoffs.
  • No one had LA lower than 3rd.
  • 4 of the 9 picked Vancouver to finish 18th. Only 1 picked Portland to finish last.
  • New England( 8th to 17th) and Toronto(9th to 18th) had the biggest spreads.
  • 9 of 9 had Chicago, Chivas USA, Portland and Vancouver missing the playoffs.
  • LA, RBNY and RSL were the only clubs picked 1st by anyone.


    From the 13 conference ranking predictions:


  • All 13 rankings had RBNY 1st in the East.
  • 10 of 13 had Salt Lake 1st in the West.
  • L.E. Eisenmenger gave the highest ranking to newcomer Vancouver(3rd in West).


    So how’d we do??? Here’s a look at the average finish predicted by those who looked into their crystal ball and saw a 1-18 power ranking(9 pundits plus me). Also listed is my preseason table along with the actual final 2011 MLS table. Below that I did the same with the conference predictions(13 plus me).

    Predictions Actual
    Final
    Table
          Playoffs    Peter
        Avg In Out  
     1   RSL  1.6   9   0   RSL  LA
     2   LA  2.0   9   0   LA  SEA
     3   RBNY  3.1   9   0   RBNY  RSL
     4   COL  4.7   9   0   SEA  FCD
     5   FCD  4.7   9   0   FCD  KC
     6   SEA  5.0   9   0   HOU  HOU
     7   SJ  7.9   9   0   COL  COL
     8   KC  8.6   7   2   SJ  PHL
     9   HOU  9.8   7   2   KC  CLB
     10   PHL  11.1   3   6   PHL  RBNY
     11   DCU  11.6   3   6   CHV  CHI
     12   CLB  11.9   3   6   DCU  PTL
     13   NE  13.8   2   7   CLB  DCU
     14   CHI  14.6   0   9   CHI  SJ
     15   PTL  14.7   0   9   NE  CHV
     16   TFC  14.8   2   7   PTL  TFC
     17   CHV  14.9   0   9   TFC  NE
     18   VAN  16.3   0   9   VAN  VAN

    East West
    Pundits  Peter  Actual Pundits  Peter  Actual
     RBNY  1.00   RBNY  KC  RSL  1.38   RSL  LA
     KC  3.62   HOU  HOU  LA  2.15   LA  SEA
     HOU  3.92   KC  PHL  SEA  3.46   SEA  RSL
     DCU  4.69   PHL  CLB  FCD  3.77   FCD  FCD
     CLB  5.15   DCU  RBNY  COL  4.69   COL  COL
     PHL  5.23   CLB  CHI  SJ  6.54   SJ  PTL
     CHI  6.77   CHI  DCU  VAN  7.62   CHV  SJ
     NE  7.15   NE  TFC  CHV  7.62   PTL  CHV
     TFC  7.46   TFC  NE  PTL  7.69   VAN  VAN


    Below is a very simplistic differential table illustrating how we did in predicting this year’s final tables. It’s pretty basic. I just added the differences between the predictions and the final place in the table, with no regard to finishing higher or lower. The lower the number, the better the score. The names have been witheld to protect the innocent.

    Prediction vs Actual Differentials
    Single Table East West
     Pundit 44  Peter 14  Pundit 6
     Peter 46  Pundit 14  Pundit 7
     Pundit 48  Pundit 14  Peter 8
     Pundit 50  Pundit 18  Pundit 8
     Pundit 52  Pundit 18  Pundit 8
     Pundit 52  Pundit 18  Pundit 10
     Pundit 56  Pundit 20  Pundit 10
     Pundit 56  Pundit 20  Pundit 12
     Pundit 56  Pundit 22  Pundit 12
     Pundit 62  Pundit 22  Pundit 12
         Pundit 22  Pundit 12
         Pundit 24  Pundit 12
         Pundit 24  Pundit 14
         Pundit 26  Pundit 20


    Observations and Surprises


    Working down from the top of the final table …


    RSL and LA were picked at or near the top by everyone. Seattle came on strong, so it seems the loss of Zakuani was less impactful than RSL losing Morales and FCD losing Ferreira to injuries. Sporting KC were pegged as second in the East, but everyone’s #1, RBNY, had a mediocre season, which boosted SKC to the top. Houston surprised many by finishing 2nd in the East. Dom Kinnear did a fine job retooling a team that lost midfielders Dwayne DeRosario, Ricardo Clark and Stuart Holden in recent years. Colorado just plugged along, despite losing Casey early and missing Omar Cummings for portions of the season. In a weak East, Philadelphia did well even though there longest win streak was 2, which they did twice. What they did was only lose 2 in a row once and draw a lot of games. Columbus surprised by challenging in the East. No one expected that after they let many of their veterans go after last season. Then there’s the Red Bulls. What’s to be said that hasn’t been already?


    Chicago finished a bit higher than expected. Seb Grazzini seems a good late addition. Sean Johnson looks to be long time mainstay, despite the chatter of him having a training opportunity at Manchester United. Expansion Portland did OK, finishing 12th. Kenny Cooper started scoring late. DC United rebounded from its disaster in 2010, but just didn’t have enough to make the playoffs. San Jose was a disappointment, perhaps the 2nd biggest after RBNY. They surrendered a league high 16 goals in the final 15, up from 7 in 2010. No one expected much from Chivas USA and they weren’t wrong. With Robin Fraser and Greg Vanney at the helm, I expected their defense to improve greatly, but they gave up only one less goal than last year. Toronto also were pegged pretty well. For much of the season, folks were wondering if the Aron Winter regime was on the right track, but they lost only twice in their last eleven MLS matches and advanced to the knockout phase of the CONCACAF Champions League. New England underperformed slightly, but only slightly. They never overcame the loss of Taylor Twellman and now Steve Nicol is gone. Finally, Vancouver did wha’t expected of expansion teams, they finished last, but were exciting doing it. I was very surprised that #1 overall SuperDraft pick Omar Salgado played so few minutes, 2nd fewest of any #1 since 2000.


    DeRo had a great year. Rafa Marquez and Tim Ream didn’t. Wondolowski tied for most goals, small solice for missing the playoffs. The ‘big 3′ early season injuries, to Morales of RSL, Zakuani of Seattle and league MVP Ferreira of FC Dallas, put a damper on the season. Too many more little tidbits to add here. Perhaps over the winter.


    So now we start hot stoving over who will be exposed in the Montreal expansion draft. I did pretty well guessing who Philadelphia would select(4 of 10). Not so well last year for Portland/Vancouver. Here are some early thoughts rolling around in my head for next year and reflections on what I wrote last year…


    With absolutely no idea who will be protected in the upcoming expansion draft, here are some players that Jesse Marsch might select, if available. More on this as the draft approaches. Meanwhile, take some time and read Drew Epperly’s(WV Hooligan) series on the Montreal draft.


    Gabe Ferrari(CHI), Kwami Watson-Siriboe(CHI), Ross LaBauex(CHV), Anthony Wallace(COL), Andrew Jacobson(FCD), Steven King(DCU), Adam Moffat(HOU), Soony Saad(SKC), Bryan Jordon(LA), Darius Barnes(NE), Stephane Auvray(RBNY), John Rooney(RBNY), Keon Daniel(PHL), Eric Alexander(PTL), David Horst(PTL), Chris Shuler(RSL), Servando Carrasco(SEA), Tim Ward(SJ), Demitrius Omphroy(TFC), Nathan Sturgis(TFC), Jeb Brovsky(VAN).


    From last year’s post…


  • I thought Colorado would be stronger this year, but they were about the same. – They just keep plugging away.
  • From last year…. Look for Brek Shea to have a breakout year. – Got that one right.
  • My newcomer of the year is Joel Lindpere. – And he stayed good.
  • San Jose overcame their penchant for giving up late goals and they’re in the playoffs. With Convey returning to form, they could remain playoff contenders next year. – Ooops. Back to giving up a ton of late goals.
  • Philly played tough all year and with another year’s experience, I see them contending for the playoffs. – Oh yeah.
  • Along with many others, I think the Northwest is gonna be a fun place for footie fans. – And it was. But that was an easy one.
  • Seattle repeated as Cup champions and I suspect they’ll show better in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League. – Three-peat and in the knockout phase of CCL.


    And Next Year?


  • Do you expect Rafa Marquez to be with RBNY in 2012? I don’t.
  • DC United… their young players, Najar, Hamid, Kitchen and White logged a lot of minutes. With Pontius back from injury, expect them to be better next year.
  • Looking forward to a full season with Danny Koevermans, Robbie Keans and Seb Grazzini.
  • I’ll go out on a limb and say Toronto will make the playoffs for the first time in 2012.
  • My newcomer of the year is Mauro Rosales, with CJ Sapong not far behind. .
  • What will become of Bobby Convey after going from last years golden boy in San Jose to this year’s persona non grata?


    2011 is the last year of David Beckham’s contract. And he arguably had his best year. Will he be back? Who knows, but what he’s done for the league cannot be overestimated, despite the wailings from the Beckham haters.



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