April 17, 2007

Heard Around the League: The USL-D1 preview edition

I figured I'd at least take a stab at this. Predicting the USL is a little difficult because of the unstable nature of rosters and franchises (adios Virginia Beach!). Also, you never know what new, local signing might make a mark in the league. There are still guys, unheard of, who can step out of local leagues and be stars.

Here goes nothing...

. Rochester Rhinos: Bulls on Parade by Rage Against the Machine
These Rhinos used to always be raging, and they will once again in '07. They were young, but tough to deal with last season. The experience they gained last year will put them over the top. Matthew Delicate and Johnny Menyongar were the two players who really stood out to me last year, and John Ball adds a veteran presence in the midfield.

2. Vancouver Whitecaps: Anything Is Possible by Too Short
The defending champions return the majority of their team from last year. Steve Kindel and Steve Klein hold down the defense, Martin Nash (NBA MVP Steve's bro) and former Construction Worker David Testo control the midfield. The Whitecaps are spoiled for choices up front, with the last two league MVP's in Jason Jordan and Joey Gjertsen. Add in Eduarado Sebrango and 2006 USL D1 All-Star Jason McLaughlin, and goals shouldn't be a problem for the 'Caps.

3. Puerto Rico Islanders: Island in the Sun by Weezer
The Islanders are looking to feed off their results in the MLS-USL Challenge they hosted this spring, with a win over FC Dallas and a close match with the Galaxy. They've upgraded in goal with Josh Saunders, formerly of the Portland Timbers and LA Galaxy. Puerto Rico also signed some untested (at least in the USL) talent from Panama that could pay major dividends. Alberto Delgado, Petter Villegas (remember him, Metro fans?), and Alen Marcina are the danger men in attack. The Islanders also signed Jay Needham, a high draft pick of DC United this year, to contribute in the defense.

4. Montreal Impact: Disappear by R.E.M.
Montreal felt the arrival of Toronto FC the most, losing keeper Greg Sutton and defender Adam Braz. They've added former MLS-ers Matt Jordan in goal and Seth Trembly in the back to replace them. They also acquired Jamaican international Fabian Dawkins from Atlanta in the offseason. Stalwarts Mauro Biello and Ze Roberto are back, but it won't be enough to keep up with the top three.

5. Seattle Sounders: Outshined by Soundgarden
The Sounders biggest problem will be losing last year's stud forward Cam Weaver, who's now in Norway. They do return 2 vets with MLS expeience in Leighton O'Brien and Jake Besagno. They also added Josh Gardner, someone I never thought really got a true shake in Los Angeles with the Galaxy. Along with other signings from all over the globe, the pieces are in place for a successful year in Seattle. I don't know if they'll mesh well enough to get into the top 4, but they will make the playoffs.

6. Portland Timbers: Portland, Oregon by Loretta Lynn
The Timbers have lost Hugo Alvarez-Cuellar to rivals Seattle, but return the core of last year's squad. Lee Morrison, Andrew Gregor, Luke Kreamalmeyer, Chris Bagley, and Leonard Griffin are the main guys to watch. Kiki Lara also joined the squad from Minnesota. They're rather untested up front, so it might be an adventure to see who will score the goals. I'm not expecting a lot of high scoring games in Portland this year, but that doesn't mean they won't get into the playoffs.

7. Minnesota Thunder: The Thunder Rolls by Garth Brooks
Ansu Toure almost made the New York Red Bulls this preseason, but just came up short. Of course, the Red Bulls then went out and tried to sign every forward in the free world, but anyway. He did impress and showed he could play at the MLS level. However, he's back in Minnesota to lead the Thunder in a race for the playoffs. Sasha Gotsmanov, Keisuke Ota (a 6'4" Japanese forward), Godfrey Tenoff, and Leo Gibson will be the main guys helping Toure on this goal.

8. Atlanta Silverbacks: Too Close for Comfort by Frank Sinatra
Lots of new faces in the Red & Black this season, we'll see how well they work out. Already, Mauricio Salles and Andy Metcalf have come and gone. The ones sticking around include Justin Moore (local guy returning from FC Dallas), Ryan McIntosh (DC United reserve keeper), Dayton O'Brien (Columbus Crew reserves), and Daniel Antoniuk (Montreal Impact). It will be very interesting to see how the new faces fit into the lineup. Unfortunately, it might take a little longer than most people would like for that to happen. There's too much talent there for the 'Backs not to get into the playoffs, but it might be close.

9. Charleston Battery: On the Outside by Oingo Boingo
The Battery lost their top scorer last season in Gavin Glinton to the LA Galaxy. Byron Alvarez from Portland will try to replace him. Lazo Alavanja is still around to hold down the midfield, but the rest of the roster is rather unspectacular. I just don't think there's enough there for the Battery to make a run into the postseason.

10. Carolina Railhawks: Oh Carolina by Shaggy
You never know how to pick expansion teams. This one does have some nice talent, but they've never played together. Chris Carrieri (Colorado & Chicago) and David Stokes (DCU) bring their MLS experience to the squad. Frank Sanfillipo (Rochester), Caleb Norkus (Puerto Rico), McColm Cephas (Virginia Beach), Kevin Jeffrey (Toronto), Kupano Low (Virginia Beach), and Chad Dombrowski (Minnesota) provide USL-D1 experience. Dario Brose has also come out of retirement to join the team, he's been coaching since he left the San Jose Earthquakes in 2001. They'll pull some surprises, but not enough of them.

11. Miami FC: Shorty, Swing My Way by k.p. & envy
No Baixinho in Miami this season, Shorty is still in Brazil trying to score goals. Zinho and Luchi Gonzalez are the main threats going forward, with Sean Fraser, JP Rodrigues, and Chris Williams holding things down in the back. They do have some hopes for young Nacho Calcagno from Argentina, who played on opening weekend.

12. California Victory: Victory by Diddy
The roster isn't even completely settled, which doesn't bode well for a successful inaugural season. The team is backed by the owners of Alaves in Spain, and it will more than likely take them some time to fully sort out how the USL works. Unfortunately, they probably won't figure it out in 2007.

1 comment:

Bob said...

Good effort! After watching Rochester play their first two matches I don't think they will win the league. I think Montreal, Puerto Rico and Vancouver are the three teams to beat. Cheers for picking the Timbers so high. I think we will be the essence of mediocre and will be fighting until the end for a playoff spot.