We may still have to wait until April 17 for the first ball of the 2021 MLS season to be kicked, but already some teams look to be separating themselves from the pack — at least on paper. On Monday, the Extratime crew tackled a listener question asking them to identify the top five teams in the league as things stand. It is subject to change as teams continue roster-building, but Matt Doyle picked out his top five as things stand.
1. Columbus Crew
The Crew made an impressive run to MLS Cup last season, winning the prize with a depleted squad. Doyle believes there is no doubt that the Crew are a top-five team in the league, and their offseason acquisitions make it seem like they'll only get better in 2021. The most notable addition is midfielder Kevin Molino, who joined the team as a free agent last month.
"Molino, we know, if he's feeling it, he can just singlehandedly manufacture not just chances but goals," Doyle said. "They didn't really have one of those guys who could do that on the wing last year."
Doyle feels LAFC's strength is in their roster, full of players returning from last year. The team also boasts plenty of young talent, including defender Jesus David Murillo, who LAFC signed on a permanent basis last month. The team may have struggled during the 2020 MLS season, but a run to the Concacaf Champions League final should provide the foundation for a successful 2021.
"I think the version of LAFC that we saw in the Champions League, that is the real version of LAFC," Doyle said.
3. Portland Timbers
The impressive winners of the MLS is Back Tournament should be a force once again, despite a disappointing loss in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs to FC Dallas.
"First of all, they dominant on set pieces," Doyle said. "Second of all, they were, as always, devastating on the counter attack, but the third aspect of it was that they were manufacturing goals from possession, which we have not seen much of from any Portland team since 2013."
4. Minnesota United
Here's one that sparked some debate. Minnesota may qualify an unconventional pick because the team still needs certain pieces, especially at center forward. However, Doyle noted that the team is "more solid and deeper" than it has been in the past, while Emanuel Reynoso made a huge impact when he arrived in the league last summer.
However, not everyone agreed, given the holes still to fill on Adrian Heath's roster.
5. New England Revolution
The reason Doyle felt the Revolution were worthy of a shoutout is because of their offseason acquisitions. As a result, he feels the team might not be in so much peril if Carles Gil is missing for significant periods of time with injury, as he was in 2020.
"The Revs have improved this offseason," Doyle said. "They have a question if Carles Gil gets hurt, but I also think they have an answer in a 4-4-2, you put Buksa and Bou up top together and you play something a little bit regressive, or maybe even go with a 3-5-2."