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MLS Western Conference Capsules

March 1, 2018

A team-by-team look at Major League Soccer for the 2018 season:

SEATTLE SOUNDERS

Coach: Brian Schmetzer.

2017 Record: 14-9-11, lost to Toronto FC in the MLS Cup title match.

Key Players: F Clint Dempsey, D Roman Torres, GK Stefan Frei.

Lowdown: The Sounders suffered a blow when forward Jordan Morris tore a ligament in his right knee earlier this month in the CONCACAF Champions League game against El Salvador’s Santa Tecla. He will miss the season. Brad Evans moved on to Sporting Kansas City. But Seattle remains formidable . Dempsey led the team with 12 goals last season, while Will Bruin had 11. Nicolas Lodeiro had 12 assists.

PORTLAND TIMBERS

Coach: Giovanni Savarese.

2017 Record: 15-11-8, lost to Houston in the conference semifinals.

Key Players: MF Diego Valeri, MF Diego Chara, F Fanendo Adi.

Lowdown: It was a big surprise when coach Caleb Porter stepped down after a five-year tenure with the Timbers. Savarese, who comes from the New York Cosmos, is already getting high marks from players. Valeri is the league’s reigning MVP . The team acquired Peruvian forward Andy Polo, while Fanendo Adi is expected to be back in form after struggling with injury last season. The notable absence is midfielder Darlington Nagbe, who went to Atlanta in the offseason.

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES

Coach: Mikael Stahre.

2017 Record: 13-14-7, lost in the knockout round to the Whitecaps.

Key Players: F Chris Wondolowski, F Magnus Eriksson, MF Anibal Godoy.

Lowdown: Stahre replaces Chris Leitch, who moves back to his role as technical director. The team added defender Jacob Akanyirige, who was 15 when he was signed as a Homegrown Player, becoming the franchise’s youngest-ever player. Wondolowski led the team with 13 goals and eight assists. He became the first player to score 10-plus goals in eight straight seasons. He’s also just 12 goals away from breaking Landon Donovan’s record for most goals in MLS history.

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

Coach: Carl Robinson.

2017 Record: 15-12-7, lost to Seattle in the conference semifinals.

Key Players: F Kei Kamara, MF Alphonso Davies, MF Cristian Techera.

Lowdown: Leading scorer Fredy Montero has gone to Sporting CP, but the Whitecaps acquired Kamara in a trade with New England. Kamara had 12 goals last season, and since 2006 he’s got 90 goals and 36 assists. Vancouver also picked up Canadian national team defender Doneil Henry. They’ll join Davies, a promising midfielder who is still just 17 and could start this season.

LA GALAXY

Coach: Sigi Schmid.

2017 Record: 8-18-8, did not make the playoffs.

Key Players: F Giovani dos Santos, MF Jonathan dos Santos, F Ola Kamara.

Lowdown: The Galaxy finished last in the league last season, a victim of both injuries and upheaval. The team dismissed coach Curt Onalfo and brought in former Sounders coach Sigi Schmid. Jermaine Jones’ option was declined at the end of the season, while Gyasi Zardes was traded to Columbus. In return the Galaxy got Ola Kamara, who had 18 goals last season for the Crew. And there are still persistent rumors about a certain Manchester United forward.

LAFC

Coach: Bob Bradley.

2017 Record: First season.

Key Players: F Carlos Vela, MF Benny Feilhaber, D Laurent Ciman.

Lowdown: LAFC starts the 23rd year of MLS as the 23rd franchise. Bradley has had success with an expansion team before: He helped launch the Chicago Fire, leading the team to victory in the 1998 MLS Cup. The team’s $350 million Banc of California Stadium should be ready for the home opener on April 29. Season tickets have already sold out. The buzz is around Vela, who was the first player signed by the team, but LAFC seems to have built a solid base for its inaugural season.

REAL SALT LAKE

Coach: Mike Petke

2017 Record: 13-15-6, did not make the playoffs.

Key Players: MF Kyle Beckerman, GK Nick Rimando, MF Albert Rusnak.

Lowdown: Petke was appointed last season after RSL got off to a poor start under Jeff Cassar. The team won eight of its final 15 games and just missed out on the playoffs. Many of the core players from that team remain, notably veterans Rimando and Beckerman. But one new face is defender Adam Henley, who could start. Overall the team is young, with eight players under 21.

COLORADO RAPIDS

Coach: Anthony Hudson

2017 Record: 9-19-6, did not make the playoffs.

Key Players: D Edgar Castillo, F Jack McBean, GK Tim Howard.

Lowdown: Hudson, formally coach of New Zealand, takes over for Pablo Mastroeni, who was let go. Hudson is just one of many changes for a team that barely resembles the 2017 edition — except for Howard. The Rapids also signed former U.S. national team defender Edgar Castillo from Monterrey, got McBean from the LA Galaxy and also added midfielder Johan Blomberg.

SPORTING KANSAS CITY

Coach: Peter Vermes .

2017 Record: 12-9-13, lost in the knockout round.

Key Players: MF Graham Zusi, D Matt Besler, GK Tim Melia.

Lowdown: Melia is the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. Besler needs to play in 15 more matches to surpass Davy Arnaud (24) for most games in franchise history. Besler, along with Zusi and Roger Espinoza become free agents in the coming offseason, so this may be the last season that core of the team is together. A key acquisition in the offseason was Chilean midfielder Felipe Gutierrez.

HOUSTON DYNAMO

Coach: Wilmer Cabrera.

2017 Record: 13-10-11, lost to Seattle in the conference finals.

Key Players: GK Chris Seitz, F Romell Quioto, F Alberth Ellis.

Lowdown: The Dynamo look much the same as they did in coach Cabrera’s first season, except Erick “Cubo” Torres was sold to Mexico’s Pumas. The team also brought in Seitz, who played last year for FC Dallas, and midfielder Arturo Alvarez from the Chicago Fire. Goalkeeper Tyler Deric remains suspended by MLS after his arrest on a domestic violence charge. The league continues to investigate the matter.

FC DALLAS

Coach: Oscar Pareja.

2017 Record: 11-10-13, did not make the playoffs.

Key Players: MF Kellyn Acosta, MF Mauro Diaz, F Maxi Urruti.

Lowdown: Last season was a disappointment for FC Dallas after winning the Supporters Shied the year before. The team picked up Colombian winger Santiago Mosquera and goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, formerly of the New York Cosmos. Dallas remains loaded with talent, including Urruti, who led the team with 12 goals last season, and Michael Barrios, who had 14 assists.

MINNESOTA UNITED

Coach: Adrian Heath.

2017 Record: 10-18-6, did not make the playoffs.

Key Players: F Christian Ramirez, MF Kevin Molino, MF Ethan Finlay.

Lowdown: Minnesota did not make many big changes in the offseason, instead focusing on improvement . One key area will be defense: The Loons conceded a league-high 70 goals last season. Ramirez led the team last season with 14 goals, while Molino had nine assists. The most significant departure was forward Johan Venegas, who is on loan to Deportivo Saprissa.

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