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Before the season began, I put together a column called “Eight extreme predictions for the 2021 MLS season.” Now the season has begun. As has an international break. I’m bored. You’re bored. We’re all waiting for MLS to return in full force this coming weekend. Let’s try and spice things up by bringing those predictions back around and judging how well I’m doing through ¼ of the season. Remember, these were rated from most likely to least likely, so we’ll go in the same order here.

Prediction: We’ll have a new team in the “Big Five”
Early Verdict: I don’t hate it

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The Big Five being the only five teams to make MLS Cup since 2015. Seattle four times, Toronto thrice, Portland twice, Columbus twice and Atlanta once. 

I’m not feeling great about what’s happening in the Western Conference here. Seattle look relatively unstoppable. In the East though … whoo boy am I feeling more than a little OK there. Toronto don’t look great on the field and are struggling off it. Columbus still have plenty of talent, but they’ve started slowly and may be lacking the urgency of other teams who didn’t win MLS Cup a few months ago. And Atlanta simply aren’t there yet. They’d need a phenomenal Secondary Transfer Window to get there and I just don’t see it happening right now. Talk to me next year though. 

For now, none of those three teams are even close to the best teams in the East. If a team is going to break the MLS Cup mold, my bet is it comes there.

Prediction: The summer will bring the most DPs in history
Early Verdict: Would feel better about it if I hadn’t used the word “summer”

It would have felt like hedging a bit if I’d said “season” instead of summer, but it also would have made me feel better about the prediction as a whole. There’s always that little issue though that transfer windows are a little more fluid than they appear on paper. A few teams have already brought in new DPs and Young DPs and the percentage of open DP spots in the league feels a little smaller. We could still see a record-breaking amount this summer though. And it would take a lot of work to go back and tally every DP signing and when it happened so no one is really going to be able to prove me wrong here. I’m going to hold fast though that we’ll still see a lot of movement this summer. Whether it will be an unprecedented amount or not, who knows.

Prediction: Austin will win you over
Early Verdict: Coming along nicely

The team is fun! Or at least interesting to watch. They also have a DP spot to add as well, which helps me out with two predictions. 

A lot of this prediction hinged on the fanbase showing out. They’ve done well with a couple of road trips so far, but we’ll really get to experience what this team has to offer this weekend when they play their first home game. Fortunately, that will happen in front of a capacity crowd. I’m feeling pretty good about everyone coming away from that one impressed.

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Prediction: Portland win CCL
Verdict: Stupid, stupid man. Smooth-brained and stupid

If they had gotten past Club America this would have been looking great. 

They did not get past Club America.

Prediction: Atlanta will score at a rate we haven’t seen before (over a full season)
Verdict: I’m actually a genius

This prediction focused on Atlanta struggling to find the back of the net. Struggling so much in fact that they would score at a worse rate than in Frank de Boer’s first season in 2019. For this one to come true they’d need to be scoring at less than 1.7 goals per game. 

Through seven games they’ve scored nine goals. That’s 1.28 goals per game. The attack has largely looked toothless and Josef Martinez hasn’t found his stride. I’m more confident in this one than almost any other. And to think I doubted myself by putting this near the bottom of the plausibility rankings.

Prediction: An MLS team will release a delightfully terrible “Team Anthem”
Early Verdict: We’re close, I can feel it

OK, this hasn’t happened yet, but we still have a long way to go and we haven’t even reached the summer. Everyone knows summer is the optimal time for someone to begin believing in the power of music. Stay patient here. Keep your head on a swivel. Believe in your dreams.

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Prediction: Pozuelo will attempt that penalty kick again
Early Verdict: There’s still time

True, Alejandro Pozuelo hasn’t even started a game yet. But do you know what you do when you can’t play? You get bored. And what do you do when you get bored? You think. And you think some more. And eventually, you convince yourself that if you had just done something a little bit different, you would have stuck the landing. I’d describe the odds on Pozuelo reattempting his famous lay-off penalty from last season again as “bankable.”

Prediction: No manager gets fired
Early Verdict: Looking a little more precarious than I’d like

Sorry to end on such a dark moment here, but I’m not sure we’re gonna make it through the wall on this one. It’s been reinforced by poor starts from Chicago, Minnesota, Toronto and Vancouver. I expected Chicago to improve, Minnesota to be a contender, Toronto to be competitive while adapting to a new coach’s philosophy and Vancouver to at least be a little more adept at scoring goals from open play. There’s no indication any coach is under immediate pressure, though. Let’s hope it stays that way. 

While things need to change for all of these teams for the sake of keeping my boldest prediction alive, there’s still time for all to do so.

Bonus prediction: MLS beats Liga MX in the All-Star game
Verdict: A much happier end to the story

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See. Isn’t this better? More positive. Warmer. Do I actually think it will happen? Does it matter? Who knows. What matters is that you’re reminded to watch the All-Star Game presented by Target between the MLS and Liga MX All-Stars. Doing so will make everyone happy. And at the end of the day, that’s all I want.

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