2012 Club by Club
New England Revolution
New York Red Bulls
Real Salt Lake
San Jose Earthquakes
Sporting Kansas City
2012 was another expansion year for Major League Soccer as the league welcomed it’s 19th team, the Montreal Impact. The Impact became the third Canadian franchise and the 10th team in the Eastern Conference; the Western Conference held steady at nine.
The expansion club’s inagural season fell short of what many Montreal fans had hoped for, but the Montreal Impact proved to be an exciting squad. The loyal fan base cheered on their new team with stars like Marco Di Vaio, Alessandro Nesta and their “gem” Felipe Martins. One of the best moments for the team came on June 16th when Felipe scored the first-ever goal in the refurbished Stade Saputo to help the Impact secure a 4-1 win over the Seattle Sounders.
The second season for the Portland Timbers was another shaky year one from the start. They won just once in their first six games, fired their head coach John Spencer mid-season and finished in eighth place in the Western Conference. The only source of relief for the club was winning the Cascadia Cup. The Timbers beat the playoff-bound Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 at BC Place on Oct. 21 to win the hardware, resulting in them stealing the supporter-created trophy away from rivals Seattle. It also happened to be the Timber’s first and only win on the road of the season.
Needless to say, the Whitecaps had a better sophomore season than Portland. After finishing dead last in their maiden campaign, Vancouver made huge strides and qualified for a playoff bid after finishing fifth in the Western Conference. In doing so, they became the first Canadian franchise to qualify for the MLS playoffs.
The trend of tweaking the playoff format continued, however. After several awkward instances of teams playing MLS Cup representing the wrong conference – the New York Red Bulls as Western Conference Champions in 2008, Real Salt Lake and the Rapids as Eastern Conference Champions in 2009 and 2010, respectively – the league changed qualification rules to award postseason berths to the top-five finishers in each conference, regardless of their place in the overall league table.
The league also made a massive change to MLS Cup itself, playing the game at a non-neutral site – the home field of the higher-seeded participant – for the first time since MLS' inception.
Sporting Kansas City, clinched the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the second year in a row with a league beast 12-game unbeaten run, only to be knocked out of the playoffs by the wild card Houston Dynamo. Despite an early exit from the postseason, the #1 seed in the East ended a seven-year hardware drought with their US Open Cup win, denying the Seattle Sounders a fourth straight title. Sporting KC beat the Sounders 1-1 on penalty kicks in the final. They also landed four players on the Best XI for 2012 (including Goalkeeper and Defender of the Year), and qualified for the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League.
With a season that generated 72 goals and 66 points and a Supporters’ Shield to boot, it seems almost unbelievable that the San Jose Earthquakes didn’t make it to the Championship game. The Quakes started the year on a tear, opening 7-1-1, and after rising to the top in late June, head coach Frank Yallop’s club never fell out of first place. They ended the season in the same fashion as they started, with a nine-match unbeaten streak. Unfortunately, their golden season was ended early by the reigning champs as the LA Galaxy beat the Supporters’ Shield winners 3-2 on aggregate in the clubs’ Western Conference seminfinal.
Even though they didn’t end the season as champs, the Quakes broke records both on and off the field. MVP and Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski (pictured left) tied Roy Lassiter’s single-season record for most goals scored in a single season with 27. The team also wrote themselves into the Guiness Book of World Records when 6,256 people were on hand to help break ground on San Jose's new stadium, which is expected to open in 2014. It will be the 15th constructed or rebuilt specifically for an MLS club.
The Houston Dynamo moved into their own soccer-specific home on May 12, 2012, when the club opened BBVA Compass Stadium. Brad Davis christened the new ground in style, hitting a masterful strike from distance to take down D.C. United 1-0, notching first of 13 wins in an undefeated season in Houston. With their motivated and dynamic core, the Dynamo fought their way back to the MLS Cup for another championship match against the LA Galaxy, another team who scratched their way to the top.
When Major League Soccer took a break for World Cup Qualifiers, the LA Galaxy sat in last place in the Western Conference with a 3-8-2 mark, but that would soon change. With a rejuvenated Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and David Beckham setting the tone, Juninho and Mike Magee stepping up in midfield, and a killer backline since Omar Gonzalez returned from a torn ACL back in January, LA were MLS’ best club the second half of the season.
The Galaxy claimed 43 points from their final 21 league games to reach the postseason, romped into next year’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, ousted Vancouver, San Jose and Seattle to reach the MLS Cup final for the third time in four years, then knocked off Houston at home in the title game to become just the third club to win back-to-back championships in MLS’ 17-year history.
Even with the Galaxy’s incredible finish, perhaps the biggest story line of their season (and the leagues) was the departure of MLS’ first Designated Player, David Beckham. The MLS Cup was the international star’s final game in the league, ending his six-year career stateside as a player.
Most Valuable Player: Chris Wondolowski – San Jose Earthquakes
Goalkeeper of the Year: Jimmy Nielsen – Sporting Kansas City
Golden Boot: Chris Wondolowski – San Jose Earthquakes, 27 goals
Rookie of the Year: Austin Berry – Chicago Fire
Defender of the Year: Matt Besler – Sporting Kansas City
Goal of the Year: Patrick Ianni – Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City – June 20, 2012
Coach of the Year: Frank Yallop – San Jose Earthquakes