-by Chris Ballard
You might remember that way back in March, Keith, Jason and myself all put forth some predictions regarding the 2011 MLS season. Usually when these things happen it becomes convenient to later forget to revisit them; because it invariably proves that we - as much as anybody else - know pretty much nothing. However, it makes sense to at least crow about the ones we did get right. Even if there aren't very many.
So let's begin.
U.S. Open Cup Winners: Seattle Sounders
Jason: Seattle Sounders
Keith: Real Salt Lake
Chris: F.C. Dallas
The Founder gets off to a flying start; Seattle recorded their third successive Open Cup victory, helped no doubt by the bid system that meant they played at home in all 4 of their games. Regardless, it's still an impressive feat for the club, and their CONCACAF Champions League qualification shows that taking the competition seriously can bring it's own rewards. Yes, New York, I'm looking at you.
Seattle beat Dallas in the semi-final final game, who had themselves knocked out Real Salt Lake in the previous round.
Supporter's Shield: L.A. Galaxy
Jason: Real Salt Lake
Keith: Real Salt Lake
Chris: New York Red Bulls
I was so confident about this, too. Henry, Marquez, a good core of seasoned MLS players - what could possibly go wrong? Well, a whole lot as it turned out; too many draws in the middle of the season meant that New York were touch and go to even make the playoffs until very late, and the less said about Rafa Marquez this season the better. Real Salt Lake hit a real dodgy patch just after their defeat in the CCL final, and by the time they were back in stride, LA got the Supporters' Shield liquored up and into the taxi.
MLS Cup: L.A. Galaxy or Houston Dynamo
Jason: New York Red Bulls
Keith: Seattle Sounders
Chris: L.A. Galaxy
If you were wondering why I'm putting this up before the MLS Cup Final, here's your reason. I still confident, of course, but I did want to make sure that this prediction was recorded once again. Of my two colleagues, Keith can feel most hard-done by; a shocking performance in the first game against Real Salt Lake pretty much sank Seattle hopes, and despite a revival of sorts in the return game, the damage had already been done. See above re: New York.
Most Valuable Player: Dwayne De Rosario
Jason: Alvaro Saborio
Keith: Javier Morales
Chris: David Beckham
I do feel at least slightly vindicated here. Despite Beckham not making the shortlist for MVP (instead getting the ridiculous "Comeback" award, which to me essentially says "Hey, you sucked for the first 4 years of your contract; have a trophy") I genuinely felt that he should have finished second in the final tally, behind Brad Davies of Houston. That De Rosario was awarded the prize despite not playing for any team with a winning average of over 0.500, suggests that voters didn't quite understand that "Most Valuable" doesn't necessarily mean "Best". Keith's selection went down pretty early thanks to a horrible Mondaini tackle that saw him miss 4 1/2 months, and Saborio didn't figure in MVP talk either, despite a very respectable 11 goals. That being said, Jason did say that the Golden Boot winner would also win MVP, so he got that part dead on.
Golden Boot: Dwayne De Rosario (16 goals)
Jason: Alvaro Saborio (11)
Keith: Sebastian Le Toux(11)
Chris: Charlie Davies (11)
Amazingly, all 3 of us picked players that scored the same number of goals. Charlie Davies started the season with a huge amount of goodwill, but that dissipated at about the same time he flopped to the ground to win a dubious penalty against RSL on June 18th. Le Toux was unlikely to reach the heights of 2010, and his slow beginning made it an even more difficult task, and Saborio didn't really play enough games (23) to give him a fair shout of scoring the most.
Rookie of the Year: CJ Sapong
Jason: Perry Kitchen
Keith: Darlington Nagbe
Chris: Zarek Valentin
Last season's Rookie of the Year was a defender, and in hindsight it was always going to be an attacking player that won this time around. Nagbe had a pretty good season - even picking up the Goal of the Season award - and finished third in the voting. Kitchen and Valentin were both thrown in at the deep end at teams (DC United and Chivas) who had defensive issues last season.
CJ Sapong was a worthy winner, though - his power and pace created many chances in a very good Sporting KC team, although it will be interesting to see next season whether he can avoid the 'difficult sophomore season' that plagued Tim Ream for most of 2011.
18 predictions. With 1, possibly 2 proving to be accurate, this demonstrates that predicting what happens in soccer is always going to be difficult. That being said, with the benefit of hindsight, you could have made a very good case for at least 5 of the winners, and even the 6th was feasible - C.J. Sapong was drafted 10th, after all.
I just hope next season is as much fun.