Well, it’s that time of year again. Apparently. When I got asked to do this “again”, I didn’t remember doing this bit last year. But then I went back and looked and realized I had filed that memory away under “The one where everyone got mad at me.” Certainly everyone will relax on this one and take the not-so-serious suggestions in an even-keeled mannerrrrraannnddddd you’ve already skipped this part and gone straight to Twitter to complain about your team’s suggestion haven’t you?
Anyway, here’s what should be on each team’s “New Year, new me” list. Each of these are anywhere between “resolution” and “wish list item”. Why? Because I lost focus of the angle on this piece about halfway through and got too confused to correct to whatever the angle was actually supposed to be. Gonna be better about that next year. Promise.
Vancouver Whitecaps: Be true to yourself
Vancouver needs to take a long look at itself, decide to stop existing in-between identities, and really steer into being a chaos team that sits deep and steals goals on the break. Right now they’re the kid who has moved out of their parent’s house and is wondering if they should get the mohawk they’ve always wanted. Just do it Vancouver. You’re not under their control anymore. Dye it purple if you really want to.
The 2021 version of this for Vancouver is finding a couple more pieces to compliment Lucas Cavallini and Michael Baldisimo and committing to using them and a low block to bludgeon their way to the playoffs. As Matt Doyle points out, they were pretty good at the low-block and transition model for parts of the year. This team isn’t going to be a dominant, ball-controlling force anytime soon. Really lean into your strengths Caps.
Toronto FC: Get a cloning machine?
It’s going to take a lot to replicate Vanney’s success and the next coach will have to deal with a side that seems to be perma-injured and features pieces that are growing older in a “Roy Kent being the slowest player on the field” kind of way. They’re still obviously very, very good at soccer and they still have plenty of cash to put into this team. Toronto is going to be just fine long-term. But it sure would help if they could pull a manager like, oh, I don’t know, Patrick Vieira into their orbit.
Sporting KC: Get some bubble wrap
For Alan Pulido specifically. The consensus at the end of the season for SKC was they were simply a better team when Pulido played. It’s true that even without Pulido regularly available, this team still finished first in the West. But it’s also true they got boat raced by Minnesota in the playoffs without him.
Maybe a better illustration is this stat from Doyle:
In his 13 starts across all competitions, Sporting were 8-3-2 with a +10 goal differential. In the 12 games he didn't start Sporting were 4-5-3 with a -2 goal differential.
Hmm...seems like they might be better off when he’s healthy. If they can get Pulido steady, this team should have most of their core back save for Matt Besler and (potentially) Gianluca Busio. Pulido plus a couple of defensive upgrades could mean a whole lot more for KC than just a first-seed in the West.
Seattle Sounders: Get a bunch of giant TVs and a bunch of DVRs
For pretty much the entire year, Seattle had the best lineup in the league. At the end of the year, it seemed like they had the best lineup in the league AND the Sounders Playoff Voodoo Magic that had pushed lesser editions of the team to MLS Cup. It was horrifying.
Then they showed up in Columbus and absolutely none of that seemed apparent. They got mollywhopped. And no one in rave green is still entirely sure why.
That game should be playing in 4K on repeat in every corner of the Sounders’ training facility. They should be mad for the entire year. They’ll be more than good enough to get back to MLS Cup in 2021. If they get back, they’ll need to make sure that this time they finish what they started.