These Two Clubs May Be MLS Darkhorses in 2016

MLS CCL teams have games against strong opponents now but TFC and OCSC could be revelations at season-end
by Katherine Rupp   |   Thursday, March 03, 2016

It’s nearly here! The Major League Soccer season for 2016 kicks off on Sunday, March 6th in what seems, especially these days, to have been one of the quickest and shortest off-seasons. And now in the next week leading up to the start of the season, there’s lots of media chatter and SnapChat stories, Twitter accounts, and Facebook pages abuzz with posts, videos, jokes, pictures and the like all looking toward the season.

Although there is now some playing experience for MLS newbies like Jordan Morris and Nigel de Jong and Ashley Cole, among others for example, as Seattle and LA Galaxy played Club America and Santos Laguna, respectively, in the Concacaf Champions League. Even with CCL games in hand before the MLS season starts doesn’t necessarily mean that the four teams in CCL will be up to the task at hand on Sunday, March 6th.

So which teams have the best shot at taking the MLS Cup in December? That’s a tough question as many of the mid-table teams for both the Eastern and Western Conferences have buttoned up their squads and could go for a great season depending on injuries (although, to be fair, that’s every team in MLS) and international call-ups. However, from last year’s winner in the Portland Timbers and their opponent in the MLS Cup Final in Columbus Crew SC, you’ll find both teams at the top of the list to have strong seasons yet again.

One team that looks to be primed and ready to go for this season is Toronto FC. With MLS MVP from 2015 Sebastian Giovinco back, along with a near-healthy Jozy Altidore (he’s had some hamstring issues), and a captain in Michael Bradley ready to bring the team forward to the forefront of the best teams in MLS, the Reds could surprise many – especially with the often disappointing seasons Toronto’s had in the past.

Additionally, teams that were strong last year – like the NY Red Bulls, Sporting Kansas City, FC Dallas, and the Vancouver Whitecaps – are looking formidable again this year. There’s another team, though, that could surprise, similar to how Toronto FC may be fun to watch.

Not only does Orlando City SC have their Brazilian captain, Kaka, coming back, but Kevin Molino – who was out for a hefty portion of last year’s campaign – is healthy and should be a spark in the offense for the Lions this year. Cyle Larin also looks to expand upon his stellar season from 2015 and help OCSC to a playoff-placing spot in 2016, which the team narrowly missed last season.

Even though teams like LA, Seattle, DC, or Salt Lake, who have had extra ‘training’ because of CCL games during the MLS pre-season, could come out strong at first kick and over the next couple of weeks at the beginning of the MLS season, make sure to keep in mind teams like Toronto FC and Orlando City SC, teams that either barely made it into the post-season or just was edged out of the playoffs, to make a difference and show what they’re really made of this year. Though many other teams like the New England Revolution or the San Jose Earthquakes may also make a run in spring and summer, look to the teams that have depth, but also some young blood and something to prove – like the Reds and the Lions have – to showcase the immense talent and skill that their teams have. It may or may not go without saying, but this season looks to be a fun one.

Katherine RUPP

Nationality:
USA
College:
Drake University
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Unabashed Minnesotan by birth. Tried reliving the glory days of collegiate intramural soccer championships but an ACL tear dashed future hopes of adult recreational greatness. Covering a city’s team that’s too big for one state: SKC.
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