Relive the Armchair Analyst's final video Q&A before the start of the MLS regular season!Posted by Major League Soccer (MLS) on Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Welcome to the Wednesday Q&A series, where we focus on one particular topic – today's being the countdown to this Sunday's slate of regular-season openers – and ask you to react, share, and discuss in the comments section. However, feel free to ask about anything game-related (MLS, USL, NASL, USMNT, CanMNT, etc.) over the next several hours.
Yesterday – Tuesday – was our "5 Days Out" on the countdown, but I spent most of the day in transit, then in meetings, then sort of morosely watching CONCACAF Champions League action, so I never was able to sit down and bang out a column.
Thus, today's Q&A will include both the "5 Days Out" tweet and the "4 Days out" tweet, and my apologies for leaving you all hanging.
Without further ado, here's yesterday's bit of info:
At some point Wondo has to start aging, right? He just turned 33 and for all intents and purposes he looks very much like he did when he took the league by storm in 2010, winning his first Golden Boot and leading the then recently reborn Quakes to their first playoff appearance.
He'll score another 15 goals this year, and – as always – has an outside shot at 20. If he hits that mark he'll become the first person in MLS history to have two 20+ goal seasons (seriously, the fact that no one has done that shocks me), and he'll probably drive his Quakes back into the playoffs. A lot rests on his shoulders.
The key, though, is that for an entire season he'll have someone to help share that burden. Quincy Amarikwa had six goals, four assists and three drawn PKs in 17 starts after joining the Quakes in midseason, and He. Takes. A. Beating. Amarikwa is strong and tough and relentless – and not afraid to dive, which doesn't endear him to opposing fans or coaches – and absolutely determined to occupy opposing central defenders at every opportunity. When he does that, it opens up space underneath for Wondo to poach.
This is what San Jose want, because when Wondo is a poacher rather than the focal point of the attack, he bangs home goals at a startling rate.
Soccer is about partnerships. It's about finding players who make each other's strengths resonate and act as force multipliers on each side of the ball. Amarikwa is never going to be a star, but he's the exact type of partner a forward like Wondo needs, and a full season of that partnership is probably the biggest reason why I think the Quakes will return to the playoffs in 2016.
Another team that will be returning to the playoffs is Portland, last year's MLS Cup champions. They assuredly have their sights set upon entry into this exclusive group:
I don't think they're quite deep enough – especially in central defense and on the wings – to compete for the Supporters' Shield, which is a grind. Both FC Dallas and Vancouver, and arguably New England and Columbus as well have more answers from 1-through-22 or so, and you generally need 20+ contributors to be a legitimate Shield contender.
The playoffs are, however, a different story. Go down that roster and, 1-through-15 or so, Portland are as good as/better than anybody in the league. The compressed, tournament format suits them.
So I won't be picking them to win the Shield this year, but I won't be at all surprised if they string together another late-season run and claim a spot in the history books. You shouldn't be, either.
This is the 15th in a daily series counting down to to the MLS regular season first kick on March 6. I'm using Paul Carr's tweets (with his blessing) to examine some of the bigger storylines to follow in the upcoming season.
- 18 days outExamining David Villa's role for NYCFC
- 17 days outCan Larin replicate his rookie year heroics?
- 16 days outA new spot and new concerns for Giovinco
- 15 days outNew start begins at the back for Chicago
- 14 days out Sporting can create, but who'll finish?
- 13 days outYoung-at-the-back Union flipping the script
- 12 days outJaviMo squares off against Father Time
- 11 days outDrogba's magic, but Impact need a Plan B
- 10 days outRevs need to find Fagundez at the back post
- 9 days outFundamental things still apply for No. 9s
- 8 days outNew role is an old spot for Seattle's Deuce
- 7 days outThe Wall of the Wasatch guards Rio Tinto
- 6 days outFor FC Dallas, consistency is the key (again)
Ok folks, thanks for keeping me company! See you back here next week.