This one's pretty simple: I am bad at making predictions, and should never do it. But to serve you, my dear and loyal readers, I go once, twice, thrice more unto the breach. I am a giver.
Back in March, the ExtraTime Radio gang got together and gave you our predictions. Some were pretty good (I'm liking my Toronto FC to win the Supporters' Shield call) and some were very not good in any sense of that word (Wiebe picked Jonathan Mensah as Defender of the Year). It is a mishmash – or a modgepodge, if you will – of stuff that we should all be ridiculed for.
I will be brave and turn the spotlight on myself here:
March Prediction for MLS Cup: Columbus Crew SC
Nostradamus Rating: Pretty, pretty bad
Like Wiebe and, I guess, Gregg Berhalter, I thought the offseason defensive reinforcements would do the trick after a lackluster 2016 for Columbus. It clearly hasn't been the case. Mensah has struggled mightily in his four months of MLS action, left back Jukka Raitala has been just ok, and defensive midfielder Mohammed Abu has been a defensive spectator. Two of the three guys who were supposed to solve Crew SC's issues have actively made them worse:
There is, however, a silver lining. Homegrown rookie center back Alex Crognale has looked like a guy who should start every game (and that means he should probably start every game), unheralded Brazilian d-mid Artur has added steel and ball security, and rookie center back Lalas Abubakar, a first-round SuperDraft pick, finally got on the field in the last game before the Gold Cup break and put in a solid 90-minute shift.
So there's talent here, and maybe some answers. But they're not even close to being one of the MLS Cup favorites even if Crognale turns into the next Chad Marshall and Artur morphs into an Ohio version of Ozzie Alonso.
I should have picked... Toronto FC. There are other teams arguably playing better ball than the Reds right now, but they're deep and talented and have been there before.
March Prediction for the Supporters' Shield: Toronto FC
Nostradamus Rating: 9/10, would predict again
The Reds are tied atop the standings with Chicago on 2 ppg, but sit second thanks to goal differential. I still think that TFC are probably favorites to win the Shield, though, because A) their depth is a weapon the Fire just can't match, and B) their schedule is easier from here on out.
I should have picked... TFC, for real. Even if I get this one wrong because the Fire keep going bonkers, I got this one right.
March Prediction for the US Open Cup: New York Red Bulls
Nostradamus Rating: Better than I imagined!
Their regular season has been underwhelming, but they're into the semis of the Open Cup for the first time since the rebrand more than a decade ago, and their next game will be on the road at a second-tier opponent. It's winnable, which would mean just the third appearance in a Cup final for Metro.
I should have picked... Sporting KC, probably. They take the USOC seriously every single year and deserve their success.
That said, I'm not apologizing for my RBNY pick. They've got a puncher's chance.
March Prediction for the Canadian Championship: Toronto FC
Nostradamus Rating: Tralfamadorian
I should have picked... Once again the Reds were the right call, but man did the Impact make 'em sweat.
March Prediction for the Golden Boot: Sebastian Giovinco
Nostradamus Rating: Shooting on sight
It seemed like an easy one, right? Giovinco would be healthy and pissed after his MLS Cup showing, and they added Victor Vazquez, etc. etc. etc. And in a normal year Giovinco's nine goals in 19 games would have him in a good spot for a second-half run (and hell, this is Sebastian Giovinco we're talking about so he still might end up with 25 goals).
But barring injury, nobody's gonna catch Nemanja Nikolic.
I should have picked... One of the newcomers, just because.
March Prediction for MVP: Nicolas Lodeiro
Nostradamus Rating: Math-averse
Lodeiro and the Sounders overperformed their expected goals in the second half of last season, but I was blinded by their title (and the slew of memorable moments Lodeiro in particular produced along the way).
For what it's worth, Lodeiro has been better in the first half of the year than his still-pretty-good 3g/6a boxscore numbers suggest, and given Seattle's cushiony second-half schedule, there is a chance he and they go on an almighty late-summer/early-autumn tear. But even so, it's hard to see him climbing into the MVP discussion.
I should have picked...Patrick Mullins for the culture.
March Prediction for Defender of the Year: Román Torres
Nostradamus Rating: Oops
Torres has alternated between absent due to injury and ineffective due to.... I don't know, the general post-MLS Cup malaise surrounding Seattle all season? There've even been rumors that he could be headed back to Colombia this summer, though I'm not sure how much stock I put into them.
Regardless, he has zero chance at this award.
I should have picked...Ike Opara has been the best defender in MLS this year, and if he stays healthy will win the award (let's hope he recovers fully from that scary concussion suffered against FC Dallas in the USOC quarterfinals). It would have been a risk to pick notoriously injury prone Opara – with 1620 minutes played in 2017, he's already set a personal best for regular season game time – but the talent to be Defender of the Year and more is obviously there:
March Prediction for Goalkeeper of the Year: Bill Hamid
Nostradamus Rating: Meh
Hamid had a particularly tough stretch in May as shots from distance kept slipping through his fingers. He's rebounded since then, but those springtime gaffes and D.C.'s place in the table mean he shouldn't be in the discussion here.
I should have picked...Tim Melia, in his second year as a starter last year, was really good. In his a third year as a starter he's eclipsed "really good" and has been the best 'keeper in MLS by a fairly comfortable distance. It would've been unorthodox to go with Melia instead of Hamid or Tim Howard, which would have made it that much more fun to pick him. But I wimped out.
March Prediction for Rookie of the Year: Nick Lima
Nostradamus Rating: Bronze
I should have picked...Jesus Ferreira is averaging 4.74 goals per 90 minutes! The stats don't lie!
March Prediction for Comeback Player of the Year: Clint Dempsey
Nostradamus Rating: Deuce'd
So far he's got 7g/2a in 1300 minutes, including one of the more memorable tallies of the year late on in Portland. Here's to haters & heart issues:
I should have picked... There's no other pick here. Thank science he's healthy and able to keep doing what he does.
March Prediction for Coach of the Year: Greg Vanney
Nostradamus Rating: Overshadowed
Vanney does everything fans seem to want from a coach. His star players love him; he develops talent from within the system (remember, his background was as an academy director); the team often plays pretty, attacking soccer; he discovers and polishes hidden gems; he wins. Dude should be mentioned in the same breath as guys like Oscar Pareja and Jesse Marsch when it comes to these discussions.
But if the Fire keep winning, he's got no chance here. TFC were expected to be this good (or close to it), while what Veljko Paunovic's done in Bridgeview has come – relatively speaking – out of the blue. Pauno will almost certainly win the award, and will certainly deserve it.
I should have picked... Vanney was the right pick at the time, but I shouldn't have sold all my Patrick Vieira stock after last season's NYCFC playoff meltdown. Vieira's come back as a better manager in 2017, and has a better team, and has handled some stuff (like benching a high-paid legend) other MLS managers have struggled with.
I hope he stays in MLS for a long time.
March Prediction for Newcomer of the Year: Miguel Almiron
Nostradamus Rating: Coming to a boil
When Josef Martinez was out, Almiron got goals to help fill the Venezuelan's shoes. Now that Martinez is back filling the net, Almiron has picked up four assists in his last four games. So in attack he's proved to be multi-faceted and adept at filling whatever need his team has, while in defense there's no better, more destructive player at his position. Almiron is a fully weaponized two-way player who is going to lead his expansion team to the playoffs.
But he might not even be the best newcomer on that team! Martinez has nine goals in 595 minutes, and Yamil Asad has 2g/9a, and Hector Villalba has 8g/4a despite spending a ton of time out of position. All those guys have arguments.
And then you look at the top of the Golden Boot race, with Nikolic standing on 16g/3a through 19 games, and it all becomes kinda moot.
I should have picked...Bastian Schweinsteiger, actually. Yes, I know he didn't arrive until April and these predictions were made in March, but I still should've known Basti had gas in the tank. (and same for the MVP pick).
March Prediction for 24 Under 24 Winner: Cyle Larin
Nostradamus Rating: Disappointing
Through eight weeks this looked like a genius call. Not so much since then.
I should have picked... Almiron, like everybody else.
March Prediction for D-Mid of the Year: Michael Bradley
Nostradamus Rating: Kreskin
Toronto FC's record across all competitions when Bradley plays: 12-2-6, +21 GD
Toronto FC's record across all competitions when Bradley sits: 1-2-0, -2 GD
He makes crucial plays in big moments:
To an old head like me, there's nothing more beautiful than shovels hitting the dirt on a new soccer cathedral. Congrats to the D.C. front office, coaching staff, players, academy kids and – most especially – the fans. You guys have deserved this for 20 years, and for a long time I was very, very skeptical it would ever happen.
I should have picked... I stand by my D.C. pick for sentimental reasons. But Atlanta United:
- Are going to dethrone the Sounders as MLS attendance leaders (my guess is they finish around 47,000 per game)
- Nailed most of their big imports
- Were stealthy smart about adding MLS experience via the expansion draft and waiver wire
- Crushed the SuperDraft
- Are going to become the first expansion team since the Sounders to make the playoffs
- Have been signing Homegrowns left and right
- Hired a coach who makes soccer fun
- Nearly blowtorched their best player
They've raised the bar for everybody in the league.