MLS Preseason Power Rankings

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 08: Atlanta United captain Michael Parkhurst (3) kisses the Major League Soccer Philip F. Anschutz trophy after the MLS Cup Finals match between Atlanta United and Portland Timbers on December 8, 2018 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA.(Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 08: Atlanta United captain Michael Parkhurst (3) kisses the Major League Soccer Philip F. Anschutz trophy after the MLS Cup Finals match between Atlanta United and Portland Timbers on December 8, 2018 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA.(Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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Real Salt Lake, Mike Petke
COMMERCE CITY, CO – AUGUST 25: Real Salt Lake head coach Mike Petke applauds fans after defeating the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on August 25, 2018 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Timothy Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

14. Real Salt Lake

Last Season: 14-13-7 — 49 points — 6th Western Conference

Incoming: F – Julian Vazquez, GK – David Ochoa, M – Luis Arriaga, D – Donny Toia, F – Tate Schmitt, D – Erik Holt, M – Everton Luiz, F – Sam Johnson

Departing: GK – Connor Sparrow, D – Shawn Barry, D – David Horst, D – Taylor Peay, D – Demar Phillips, M – Jose Hernandez, M – Luke Mulholland, M – Sunny, F – Ricky Lopez-Espin, F – Luis Silva, D – Danilo Acosta

Mike Petke is running a good shop up in Salt Lake. The team plays for the fans and the academy investment has shown a real commitment to the region. Real Salt Lake is producing national team talents like Corey Baird, who will be expected to be a leader going forward. The Rookie of the Year winner now has the seasoning to lead a team through all phases of a campaign’s turmoil. He will be helped by new Designated Player signing, Sam Johnson.

Veterans Tony Beltran and Nick Rimando will anchor the defense. Real Salt Lake got better as the season went on and Petke will be hoping his new preseason training approach leads to a quick start for his team. Kyle Beckerman and Nick Belser will fortifiy the rest of the spine.

The versatility of Real Salt Lake in possession and attack might rival even the most high priced squads on the coast. The team building and roster fluidity sets up Real Salt Lake to contend for a top spot on the MLS table.

Season Expectations: Host a playoff game, make the U.S. Open Cup semifinals.

Toronto FC
ZAPOPAN, MEXICO – APRIL 25: Jozy Altidore of Toronto FC reacts during the second leg match of the final between Chivas and Toronto FC as part of CONCACAF Champions League 2018 at Akron Stadium on April 25, 2018 in Zapopan, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /

13. Toronto FC

Last Season: 10-18-6 — 36 points — 9th Eastern Conference

Incoming: M – Nick DeLeon, D – Laurent Ciman, M – Griffin Dorsey, M – Tsubasa Endoh, M – Noble Okello, F – Terrence Boyd

Departing: F – Tosaint Ricketts, D – Jason Hernandez, F – Lucas Janson, GK – Clint Irwin, M – Victor Vazquez, D – Nick Hagglund, F – Sebastian Giovinco

Toronto FC are using this season to start turning toward a new maple leaf in BMO. Giovinco is gone and there is no direct replacement coming. Instead, Jozy Altidore will now be paired with Terrence Boyd. Both are still in the USMNT picture and need to make an impression to ensure their inclusion. Micheal Bradley is wanting to move on for club and country, insisting the team is looking to move past the failures of last year. 

Toronto FC has a roster still under construction. With two weeks left before MLS opening kick, they are still chasing after several players of Europa League quality. Ali Curtis needs to find some quality soon, because the Toronto FC academy players have received little praise this offseason from Greg Vanney. Toronto FC 2 attacker Jacob Shaffelburg showed the most promise but is still too raw to provide consistent minutes for a Supporters’ Shield contender.

Altidore is chronically injured or suspended. Toronto FC’s depth behind Boyd is as untested a group in the league. Finding goals will be more difficult this season, even with a couple more additions to the rosters. Adding Laurent Ciman will help stem the flood of goals Toronto FC let in last season. Alex Bono will need a bounce-back year, or he will start hearing grumblings that he was overpaid based on one good playoff run.

Season Expectations: Most fans would be happy with a fourth-place finish and winning a playoff game. Bradley only has one season left, so some summer signings would be welcomed. Winning the Canadian Championship and earning the CONCACAF Champions League place is the most important competition.

FC Dallas, Paxton Pomykal
HARRISON, NJ – JUNE 23: FC Dallas midfielder Paxton Pomykal (19) during warm ups prior to the Major League Soccer game between the New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas on June 23, 2018, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

12. FC Dallas

Last Season: 16-9-9 — 57 points — 4th Western Conference

Incoming: F – Zdenek Ondrasek, D – Bressan, D – John Nelson

Departing: M – Abel Aguilar, D – Jordan Cano, D – Maynor Figueroa, M – Roland Lamah, D – Kris Reaves, F – Adonijah Reid, F – Tesho Akindele, F – Maxi Urruti, M – Victor Ulloa, D – Chris Richard

After years of high hopes and results just good enough to elicit loathing when the team fell short of winning trophies, FC Dallas are making changes. The Supporters’ Shield and U.S. Open Cup double was the high mark, but the years after saw the team crumble in the late stages of all competitions. Almost all of the most recognizable and well-paid faces are gone. FC Dallas has a full reboot of the first team while keeping one of the best academy structure in the country in support.

Luchi Gonzalez is now running the show. Gonzalez has roots in Dallas and MLS playing experience. He should have a long leash and room to experiment with a churned roster. The new guys should know each other, since eight are all homegrown players. The DPs and high-dollar allocation players on the roster aren’t much older: Bryan Acosta (25), Cristian Colman (24), and Carlos Gruezo (23), Santiago Mosquera (24). The young legs and deep roster raised up together should prevent a late-season fatigue problem. Experience will be another matter.

Gonzalez will need a learning curve as much as the homegrown players. Jesse Gonzalez is still manning the gloves but the rest of the team will be a work in progress. Gonzalez may have a preferred style, but being flexible and able to secure points is the priority now. The development stages are all but over. Productions and results are needed, or FC Dallas will need a new first-team approach.

Season Expectations: If anything, FC Dallas fans can go into this season with a sense of curiosity instead of impending contempt. A playoff appearance and the rest is house money.

Philadelphia Union, Marco Fabian
ORLANDO, UNITED STATES – JANUARY 12: Marco Fabian of Eintracht Frankfurt during the match between Flamengo v Eintracht Frankfurt at the Orlando City Stadum on January 12, 2019 in Orlando United States (Photo by Laurens Lindhout/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

11. Philadelphia Union

Last Season: 15-14-5 — 50 points — 6th Eastern Conference

Incoming: M – Brenden Aaronson, F – Sergio Santos, GK – Matt Freese, D – Aurelien Collin, GK – Carlos Miguel Coronel, D – Kai Wagner, M – Marco Fabian

Departing: GK – Jake McGuire, D – Richie Marquez, D – Josh Yaro, M – Marcus Epps, M – Adam Najem, F – Jay Simpson, GK – John McCarthy, M – Borek Dockal, M – Fabian Herbers, D – Keegan Rosenberry

Ring the Freedom Bell, the Philadelphia Union are free! Free of what you ask? That monkey off their back, and the looming snark that may have come from any future It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episodes.

The Union followed that club milestone with another, splurging club record splash to bring in Marco Fabian. His arrival lessens the pain of Borek Dockal leaving the club. Cory Burke and Fafa Picault both remain on exercised club options. Picault, in particular, had a wonderful second half of last season.

Philadelphia discovered the Southern hemisphere this offseason, signing Brazilian striker Sergio Santos. The days of CJ Sapong sitters becoming row Z souvenirs may be over. The Union needed more consistency in front of goal and believe they’ve found a solution. To keep teams from abusing their baby-faced backline, Jim Curtin brought in Aurelien Collin and Kai Wagner for some defensive experience and guidance. The playoff seasoning is there, just needs a little longer in the over.

In the engine room, Alejandro Bedoya and Vincent Nogueira will have to find the right combinations to move the ball upfield. Losing the ball near an unorganized and young defense caused trouble for the Union last year, and no amount of wisdom can make up for careless out of position mistakes. Homegrown midfielder Derrick Jones will try to find time behind stalwart Haris Medunjanin.

Season Expectations: Another playoff season would really help fill that wonderful stadium in Chester. Even if the fans notice late this year, it’s only year two of the Union process. Year three is when to expect trophies.

LA Galaxy, Zlatan Ibrahimovic
CARSON, CA – OCTOBER 28: Zlatan Ibrahimovic #9 of Los Angeles Galaxy sits alone on the bench after their 3-2 loss to the Houston Dynamo in their MLS match at StubHub Center on October 28, 2018 in Carson, California. The Galaxy loss leaves them out of this year’s playoffs. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images) /

10. LA Galaxy

Last Season: 13-12-9 — 48 points — 7th Western Conference

Incoming: M – Juninho, GK – Matt Lampson, M – Uriel Antuna, D – Diego Polenta

Departing: D – Michael Ciani, GK – Brian Sylvestre, F – Ariel Lassiter, D – Sheanon Williams, D – Ashley Cole, M – Baggio Husidic, M – Emmanuel Boateng

The most expensive backline in MLS history was the stat of the year for every LA Galaxy broadcast in 2018, even after Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived. The mentions were hardly ever positive, and in the few instances of a compliment, the Galaxy would immediately concede a goal. No playoff team gave up as many goals as the Galaxy’s 64.

To counter the sieve of a defense, Zlatan had to bag 22 goals in 27 matches just to secure seventh place in the West. Ibrahimovic only has so many useful seasons left, so the Galaxy had to clean house. Ashley Cole and Michael Ciani are gone, but the dos Santos problems in midfield remain. Juninho and Romain Alessandrini should be the catalyst for linking play and sending the forwards in on goal. Ola Kamara has had an offseason to gain understanding with Ibrahimovic. Opposing defenses will not be able to cheat from either forward, so both should have plenty of chances. A full season of Zlatan and a better defensive record should see the Galaxy back into the top four in the West.

Season Expectations: This is still a season of transition. Some of the aging roster from the Arena years is gone, but some bad signings remain. The Galaxy will likely have a better 2019 than 2018 but still may not win a playoff series or finish above LAFC in the final standings. Successful seasons require more than just good runs. The Galaxy need to dominate the LA soccer scene to feel any level of success.