Assessing Top Western and Eastern Conference Teams

A third of the way through the 2015 MLS season, check out the top teams to watch
by Katherine Rupp   |   Wednesday, May 13, 2015

US Soccer Federation (USSF)

The 20th MLS regular season is about one-third of the way finished (besides Montreal, mainly) – and yes, although it’s only May – it’s a good time to take a step back and assess the situation of where clubs stand. For many teams, this is as good of time during the season as any to take hold of their positioning in the standings as well as continuing on with any solid play that the team will want for what is almost always a formidable playoffs.

First of all for the Eastern Conference, it’s certainly no surprise to see the New England Revolution at the top. That statement, however, may have been a surprise a handful of years ago, yet now is a sentence that someone wouldn’t bat an eyelash at, shows that the Revs are a growing and strong team to not be taken lightly. With the likes of youngsters such as Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe alongside proven veterans – MLS or otherwise – in Jermaine Jones, Charlie Davies, and Jose Goncalves, the Revs are a revelation.

Beside the Revolution in the Eastern Conference standings are clubs such as DC United, New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew SC. Similar to New England, it’s refreshing to see Crew SC in the top of the table as many years went by when they were good but not great, and it never seemed like the team could get over the hump.

Last season was just the start of this year’s catalyst to a strong, solid team that takes a lot of its character from younger team members. Although Columbus doesn’t have ‘superstars’ in the sense that most fans would perceive them (think of David Villa, David Beckham, Robbie Keane, etc.), the team has made superstars of steady, loyal players. Like how US men’s national team member Michael Parkhurst is captain, the personalities of the younger players are very likable and their play on the pitch is equally very likable. If the core of the younger players on the team stick together, like homegrown player Wil Trapp, US U-20 player Romain Gall, and maybe-US, maybe-Canadian international Ethan Finlay, Columbus could certainly be a team to watch for years to come.

Now for the Western Conference, it has to be said that the Vancouver Whitecaps are one of the most exciting teams to watch this 2015 season. When Vancouver started playing in MLS in 2011 versus the Vancouver of 2015, let’s just say that this season’s Whitecaps are a far cry from a handful of years ago. With former MLS midfielder Carl Robinson at the helm, he’s formed the team with steadiness alongside quite the flair of feistiness. Game changers already this season look to be Kekuta Manneh, Octavio Rivero, Darren Mattocks, and Pedro Morales among the field players. David Ousted at goalkeeper has also been top-notch with 29 saves so far.

Although not completely different than Vancouver seeing as they are located in Cascadia, the Seattle Sounders are looking on fire so far this season. Led by the forward pairing of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins (can we just say how incredible that partnership is?), the Seattle Sounders continue to thrill their fans with a great tandem up at the top of the field as well as consistent possession through the defense and midfield. Although Seattle and Vancouver have shown what they’re capable of this season, there’s no reason to underestimate teams like FC Dallas or perennial MLS Cup contenders LA Galaxy.

With most teams having about a third of the MLS season under their belts, now’s the time to size up the competition and see what they’re made of, but also to reassess inwardly what a team can do better and sustain and grow with their strengths. There are many great MLS teams, besides the clubs mentioned, and this season – by the looks it – has an entire league to be exciting to watch throughout the whole season, regardless of how many teams make the playoffs. But if you wanted two cents, make sure to keep an eye on Columbus, New England, Seattle and Vancouver.

Katherine RUPP

Drake University
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Unabashed Minnesotan by birth. Tried reliving the glory days of collegiate intramural soccer championships but an ACL tear dashed future hopes of adult recreational greatness. Covering a city’s team that’s too big for one state: SKC.