A Western Conference League Preview with a little fun mixed into things.
The Vancouver Whitecaps are the current holders of the Cascadia Cup. Let that craziness wash over you for a minute. That is some serious cray cray fit for a state like ours which has legalized the sticky icky. After three years of borderline irrelevance, the Whitecaps finally got one over on us (Eric Hassli's thunderstrike/throwing matches to Portland notwithstanding). But in the offseason, that all became undone in moments. Things got so bad that their best scoring threat skipped town to go to a club which couldn't even PAY HIM. OR ANYONE. And this collapse happened just in time for all the rats fleeing the C.P.S. Canucks to find out that their soccer team sucks now too. They've made some moves in the meantime that make one think they could swing themselves into the playoffs again, but for now, they've undone all the good they'd built. Bold prediction: The Cascadia Cup won't be staying in Vancouver much longer.
Me: I hate this role reversal stuff. For years we wore the pants in this Cascadia relationship (and we even got to have TWO rivals! Can you say jackpot?). But now the pants are on the other hips, and we liked our pants. When we weren't busy losing our pants in joy, we tended to use them to make fun of how Portland had no pants (no, Utility Kilts don't count). Now we need to take our pants back, but it's going to be really hard, because Portland has been wearing our pants every day, and worn them ragged. They're stretched, and kind of stink now. Maybe though, if we can get our pants back, we can restore them to respectability, and somehow forget that Will Johnson was in our pants.
Therapist: Let's be honest here. You're not actually talking about pants, are you?
Me: No, sir no I am not.
It is a year of change for Real Salt Lake. Everything has changed now that Jason Kreis skipped town to join a team that doesn't technically exist yet. It's tough to see how Salt Lake will cope with such a momentous turnover. Did you know that they are only returning eleven starters from 2013? That's right. Only Nick Rimando, Luis Gil, Ned Grabavoy, Chris Schuler, Kyle Beckerman, Alvaro Saborio, Javier Morales, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Tony Beltran, and Robbie Findley. And they brought in NO ONE to replace the empty holes. I'm not sure what new head coach Jeff Cassar is thinking. The dynasty is over.
The Rapids rode a wave of young talent to the MLS playoffs last year, where they immediately bowed out in the face of a more experienced Sounders team. Now, the team has no coach, up a river without a paddle. Pablo Mastroeni may be able to ride the current and send a young, promising team to the playoffs again. However, there's a certain lack of firepower on the USS Colorado. Edson Buddle is manning the cannons with Deshorn Brown, and they can score if pressed. The defense is young and strong, like a fine-tuned rowing team, Nathan Sturgis has developed into a fine player in the midfield. Where Colorado is lacking is in the depth department, unable to take on water. (yeah, that last line was pushing it) If they are missing key contributors for any length of time, they will find a leak in their canoe.
New coach, new colors, new stadium. Well, scratch that last one for now. Interim coach Mark Watson became the full coach after nearly turning a disastrous first half of the season into a playoff spot. They'll continue to lean on Golden Booter Chris Wondolowski (2 "w"s) and Steven Lenhart (shudder), as Lenhart continues to lean on everyone else. Black and Blue, and Red. This joke has already been made (by me) but I don't know if any jersey set has ever so perfectly encapsulated the mindset and play style of a club in the history of sports. 1 star, wouldn't play again.
I really don't want to write this part. It's like when a guy with a very serious deformity goes into a comedy club and asks to get roasted. No one is going to laugh, and everyone is going to think you're a big(ger) dick. At least this "serious deformity" is getting the laser removal it sore sorely deserves next season. Who knows, maybe in 2015 Chivas will show up in a suit and tie, have its chauffeur open the car door, and will have lost 75 pounds with nary a sign of the huge lump of black skin that used to hang from its left earlobe. Chances are it'll still be Chivas, just with a neckerchief.
Robbie Keane is locked up for a few more years, and Landon Donovan supposedly isn't retiring on the eve of breaking every MLS record in sight. As has been the question the last few years though; has age finally caught up to the LA Galaxy? There are only a handful of starters who aren't ready to start watching reruns of M.A.S.H. Sure, they've still got Juninho and Omar Gonzalez, but right now Galaxy leadership is trusting in old, grizzled experience. The kind of experience that woke up at 2:00 every morning and walked five miles up hill both ways in the snow. I'm not saying they're old, but at least half of them were present at at least two of The Great Gatsby's parties. And that guy wasn't even real!
Oscar Pareja seemed to have a good thing going in Colorado. His club had two potential rookies of the year and were coming off the most points in the history of the franchise. Then, Pareja decided to give the Rapids the finger. Unlike Rocky Rival Jason Kreis, Pareja lingered for a while, denying rumors of his exodus. Then, at perhaps the worst possible time, he rode a funny offshoot of the Colorado River right into Frisco, Texas. He could have at least bought Colorado dinner first before he "Cartman'd" every soccer fan in the state. And he did all that to go to a team that... I mean, they're like the Dallas Cowboys of soccer.