2011 Season Recap

2011 was a season of change. Expansion to include the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps FC as MLS’ 17th and 18th teams forced the Houston Dynamo to the Eastern Conference, while the Kansas City Wizards were rebranded as Sporting Kansas City. The playoffs were also expanded to 10 teams, the top three teams in each conference earning automatic berths with four wild card teams who had the next four best records.

It was the expansion clubs that caused the most buzz entering the season, however. 2011 marked the first time since 1982 that the North American top flight would see the Timbers, Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders FC battle for the Cascadia Cup, a regular-season tournament whose roots dated back to 1975.

But the MLS debutants’ lofty hopes for glory would be dashed in their inaugural seasons. Vancouver’s early-season struggles persisted throughout the year, dooming the team to a tie for the worst point total in the league, while the Timbers’ hugely inconsistent play saw them just miss out on a playoff berth.

For the second season in a row, it would be the LA Galaxy that set the pace for the league. LA suffered two losses from March to May before stampeding through the summer with an 8-0-6 record. The Galaxy suffered their third loss in their first game of August – a 3-0 loss to the Timbers in the chaos of JELD-WEN Field – but the damage had been done. Though Real Salt Lake and Seattle had hung around in the hunt for the Supporters’ Shield for the second consecutive year, the Galaxy never relinquished their sizeable lead, and ultimately cruised to a comfortable defense of the regular season honors.

Despite the continuity at the top, the cream of the league would be infused with several new faces. After missing out on the playoffs in 2010, the Philadelphia Union, Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City took the top three spots in the Eastern Conference. The San Jose Earthquakes dropped out of the postseason picture despite another stellar season from Chris Wondolowski. The 2010 Golden Boot winner’s 16 goals again led the league, but Wondo's bid to repeat as Boot-winner was done in by Dwayne De Rosario, who took the honors on the strength of a superior assists total.

De Rosario finished off the season with D.C. United after spending stints earlier in the year with Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls. The four-time MLS champion would miss out on the playoffs yet again but did pick up the MVP award. Goalkeeper of the Year would fall to the Sounders' Kasey Keller, who had declared that the 2011 season would be his last. Despite a regular season sendoff in which his team dramatically came back to win 2-1 in front of 64,140 fans, Seattle couldn't provide the veteran 'keeper with a storybook ending to his career. Though the Sounders won a third-straight US Open Cup, they once again fell in the first round of the playoffs, this time at the hands of Real Salt Lake by a 3-2 aggregate scoreline.

The LA Galaxy, on the other hand, would ride their regular season success into the postseason. After defeating the New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake in the playoffs, LA earned a berth to their second MLS Cup in three seasons. This time they wouldn't come away empty-handed. Assisted by fellow Designated Players David Beckham and Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan beat Houston Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall in the 72nd minute to put the Galaxy ahead, and playing in front of a home crowd at The Home Depot Center, they wouldn't relinquish the lead. It was LA's third title in their history, but just the first time a club with a DP had won MLS Cup.

2011 MLS standings


Most Valuable Player: Dwayne De Rosario – D.C. United
Goalkeeper of the Year: Kasey Keller – Seattle Sounders
Golden Boot: Dwayne De Rosario – D.C. United, 16 goals
Rookie of the Year: C.J. Sapong – Sporting Kansas City
Defender of the Year: Omar Gonzalez – LA Galaxy
Goal of the Year: Darlington Nagbe – Portland Timbers vs. Sporting KC – July 2, 2011
Coach of the Year: Bruce Arena – LA Galaxy

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