Power Rankings: Who's the top team at First Kick?

We're finally there – almost. With just days left until First Kick presented by Dick's Sporting Goods and all the preseason contests wrapped up, we have a pretty good idea of where everyone stands.

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Only MLS regular-season games reflected on schedule. All times are Eastern.

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1

1

Bruce Arena says not to worry about preseason results, and it would be presumptuous of us mere mortals to argue with Bruce Almighty. But the Galaxy sure looked vulnerable on set pieces and crosses this preseason, while Robbie Keane and Edson Buddle will have to learn how to play with each other on the fly. Still ... LA are loaded.

  • Key Additions: Edson Buddle (F), Marcelo Sarvas (M)
  • Key Losses: Omar Gonzalez (D, injury), Donovan Ricketts (GK)
  • 2012 Depth Chart
  • This Week: Saturday vs. RSL (10:30 pm, MLS LIVE)
2

2

There's been precious little this preseason to dissuade us from the notion that Seattle are one of the best teams in the league. And if Eddie Johnson gets hooked up to the rejuvenation machine, there's a chance this group can go down as one of the best of all time. First, though, they've got to make history against Santos Laguna.

  • Key Additions: Michael Gspurning (GK), Adam Johansson (D), Christian Sivebaek (M), Eddie Johnson (F)
  • Key Losses: Kasey Keller (GK), James Riley (D), Erik Friberg (M), Lamar Neagle (M)
  • 2012 Depth Chart
  • This Week: Bye

3

3

You've got to hand it to Garth Lagerwey and Jason Kreis. RSL lost three key midfield backups and still come into 2012 looking deeper than last year. The best news, though, is that Javier Morales is finally healthy (we think) and Chris Schuler has made the leap, which means Nat Borchers and Jámison Olave can feel free to rest nagging injuries when they pick them up this season.

  • Key Additions: Enzo Martinez (M)
  • Key Losses: Robbie Russell (D), Andy Williams (M)
  • 2012 Depth Chart
  • This Week: Saturday at LA (10:30 pm, MLS LIVE)

4

4

The offense never clicked in the preseason, which is of some concern. But if there's anything this group knows how to do, it's recover from a slow start. The real test, though, will be whether or not they can control – and not just push – the tempo this year. When Houston slowed them down in the MLS Cup Playoffs, they were meat. That needs to change.

  • Key Additions: Bobby Convey (M), Paulo Nagamura (M), Dom Dwyer (F)
  • Key Losses: Omar Bravo (F), Davy Arnaud (M)
  • 2012 Depth Chart
  • This Week: Saturday at D.C. United (7:30 pm, MLS LIVE)

5

6

The Dynamo didn't look threatening too often in the preseason, and it's a good bet that they'll be playing for a lot of 1-0s and 0-0s over the next two months on their season-opening, seven-game road trip. They have the defense to post those zeros with regularity, but the offense could be MIA unless Will Bruin shows that he can be the man.

  • Key Additions: Nathan Sturgis (M), Colin Rolfe (F), Macoumba Kandji (F)
  • Key Losses: Danny Cruz (M), Carlo Costly (F)
  • 2012 Depth Chart
  • This Week: Sunday at Chivas USA (7 pm, Galavisión)

6

12

We're ignoring Arena's advice when it comes to the Whitecaps, who blew everybody away in the preseason. This is a team that not only has skill, speed, toughness and flair in the attacking third; they're a group that's goal-hungry. They go hard after half-chances, and don't particularly care who gets the last touch.

  • Key Additions: Sébastien Le Toux (F), Lee Young-Pyo (D), Darren Mattocks (F/M), Martín Bonjour (D)
  • Key Losses: Jeb Brovsky (D), Shea Salinas (M)
  • 2012 Depth Chart
  • This Week: Saturday vs. Montreal (6 pm ET, TSN)

7

14

The Quakes, like Vancouver, had a wildly impressive preseason. Frank Yallop now has a ton of flexibility in how he lines his group up, a stud central defender in Ike Opara and tons of speed on the flanks. It's a brand new look for San Jose, and the key may very well be to just keep it as simple as possible – i.e., cross it to Wondo or Big Bird.

  • Key Additions: Marvin Chávez (M), Víctor Bernárdez (D), Tressor Moreno (M/F), Sam Garza (M)
  • Key Losses: Bobby Burling (D), Bobby Convey (M)
  • 2012 Depth Chart
  • This Week: Saturday vs. New England (10:30 pm, MLS LIVE)

8

8

Sometimes you can boil a team's improvement down to one moment. With the Timbers, that moment came in the sixth minute of their win over AIK on Sunday when Kris Boyd glanced a header to the back post for the 1-0 lead, which turned into a 1-0 win. That's a goal the Timbers didn't score last year – and Boyd should get them by the bucketful.

  • Key Additions: Kris Boyd (F), Hanyer Mosquera (D), Franck Songo'o (M)
  • Key Loss: Kenny Cooper (F)
  • 2012 Depth Chart
  • This Week: Monday vs. Philadelphia (9:30 pm, ESPN2)

9

7

With Luke Rodgers still in limbo, there are legitimate concerns about spacing and speed up top. But Kenny Cooper got his share of goals in the preseason, and, more importantly, Thierry Henry is healthy and engaged. As long as that's the case, then the Red Bulls have a shot in any game. But they'd sure be a lot happier if Rodgers was around.

  • Key Additions: Kenny Cooper (F), Wilman Conde (D), Ryan Meara (GK)
  • Key Losses: Frank Rost (GK), Tim Ream (D)
  • 2012 Depth Chart
  • This Week: Sunday at FC Dallas (3 pm, NBC Sports)

10

5

The Fire struggled mightily to combine and score in preseason, and never quite looked like they were clicking. Frank Klopas will be happy to have the bye week for extra training, with the hope being that Dominic Oduro, Patrick Nyarko and Sebastián Grazzini, in particular, can sharpen up in that time.

  • Key Additions: Rafael Robayo (M), Federico Puppo (F)
  • Key Loss: Diego Chaves (F)
  • 2012 Depth Chart
  • This Week: Bye

11

11

Dallas are still undergoing a transformation, and there are still a ton of questions to be answered. Who's going to play right midfield? Will David Ferreira be fit and healthy enough to make an impact right away? How many miles are left on Daniel Hernandez's legs? At least, with George John's return, the defense is back and deeper than last season.

  • Key Additions: Blas Pérez (F), Hernán Pertúz (D), Carlos Rodríguez (D)
  • Key Losses: Marvin Chávez (M), Jackson (M)
  • 2012 Depth Chart
  • First Game: Sunday vs New York (3 pm, NBC Sports)

12

9

The Power Rankings Politburo has been a fan of Oscar Pareja since his pre-MLS days, but a style revamp the magnitude of what he's attempting in Commerce City doesn't happen in one offseason. The Rapids still have an airtight defense, but the offense will take a while to click – especially with Conor Casey not due back til April.

  • Key Additions: Hunter Freeman (D), Jaime Castrillón (M), Martín Rivero (M)
  • Key Losses: Sanna Nyassi (M), Macoumba Kandji (F)
  • 2012 Depth Chart
  • This Week: Saturday vs. Columbus (6 pm, MLS LIVE)

13

13

 

Much of the Union's preseason has been done incognito, so it's hard to say what to expect of the newcomers and which of the youngsters has stepped up. What we do know, however, is that Sébastien Le Toux and Faryd Mondragón will be missed. How quickly Philly fills those gaps will be the story of their year, most likely.

  • Key Additions: Gabriel Gómez (M), Josué Martínez (F), Chandler Hoffman (F)
  • Key Losses: Sébastien Le Toux (F), Faryd Mondragón (GK), Justin Mapp (M)
  • 2012 Depth Chart
  • This Week: Monday at Portland (9:30 pm, ESPN2)

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16

 

 

There's no question that this is the most hopeful Toronto fans have been heading into an MLS season, and with good reason – they have a midfield and forward line that should produce chances at a staggering rate. But even after a pair of offseason acquisitions, there are still real questions about the central defense.

  • Key Additions: Reggie Lambe (M), Luis Silva (M), Miguel Aceval (D), Geovanny Caicedo (D)
  • Key Loss: Nathan Sturgis (M)
  • 2012 Depth Chart
  • This Week: Bye

15

10

The Crew underwhelmed in preseason, largely because of injury and fitness issues. If Milovan Mirosevic can click with Eddie Gaven, Dilly Duka and Emilio Rentería, however, they could be very fun to watch moving forward. But the million dollar question is "What happens at d-mid?" Columbus need Rich Balchan to get healthy, but his status is still up in the air.

  • Key Additions: Carlos Mendes (D), Milovan Mirosevic (M), Olman Vargas (F), Ethan Finlay (F)
  • Key Losses: Andrés Mendoza (F), Robbie Rogers (M), Emmanuel Ekpo (M)
  • 2012 Depth Chart
  • This Week: Saturday at Colorado (6 pm, MLS LIVE)

16

15

D.C. handed Perry Kitchen a lot of responsibility in the middle of the park, and while he's got the talent for it, it remains to be seen if he's a MLS-level defensive midfielder. The good news is that Hamdi Salihi comes as advertised – a true No. 9 who's a scoring machine – but he got precious little time to adjust to United's other scoring machine, a certain Mr. De Rosario.

  • Key Additions: Hamdi Salihi (F), Robbie Russell (D), Maicon Santos (F), Emiliano Dudar (D)
  • Key Losses: Charlie Davies (F), Clyde Simms (M), Santino Quaranta (M)
  • 2012 Depth Chart
  • This Week: Saturday vs. Sporting KC (7:30 pm, MLS LIVE)

17

 

 

19

Getting Clyde Simms to play as a true d-mid behind Shalrie Joseph in what looks to be a 4-1-3-2 is one of the offseason's most underrated moves. Joseph isn't a d-mid anymore, and needed the help covering gaps in front of the defense. The offense is no worry with Benny Feilhaber and Kelyn Rowe pulling the strings.

  • Key Additions: John Lozano (D), Clyde Simms (M), Kelyn Rowe (M), José Moreno (F)
  • Key Losses: Milton Caraglio (F), Rajko Lekic (F), Pat Phelan (M)
  • 2012 Depth Chart
  • First Game: Saturday at San Jose (10:30 pm, MLS LIVE)

18

17

The 5-0 hammering Chivas took at the hands of San Jose must have sounded warning bells for Robin Fraser & Co. The Goats were disjointed, didn't defend as a team and rarely threatened Jon Busch. Even worse: Dan Kennedy looked porous. He saved Chivas time and again in 2011. If he's not at the same level in 2012, it'll be a very long year.

  • Key Additions: Ryan Smith (M), Oswaldo Minda (M), Miller Bolaños (M), James Riley (D)
  • Key Losses: Justin Brain (F), Zarek Valentin (D), Marcos Mondaini (M)
  • 2012 Depth Chart
  • First Game: Sunday vs. Houston (7 pm, Galavisión)

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18

Montreal may be a team without a star for the moment, but they certainly are a team with an identity: tough, defensive and not afraid to get stuck in. They won't be very adventurous going forward – at least not yet – but they probably won't give up too many opportunities at the back. Not a bad recipe for an expansion side, truth be told.

  • Key Additions: Nelson Rivas (D), Justin Braun (F), Matteo Ferrari (D), Andrew Wenger (M), Lamar Neagle (M)
  • Key Losses: N/A
  • 2012 Depth Chart
  • First Game: Saturday at Vancouver (6 pm ET, TSN)