2010 MLS season in review
By Pat Martin, Soccer Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
With 2010 nearing an end, it's a good time to look back at the season that was in Major League Soccer.
From big-name signings like former French international star Thierry Henry at Red Bull New York, to under-the-radar moves like Alvaro Saborio to Real Salt Lake, the league saw an influx of talent it hasn't seen in its 15 years.
The Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas came together in a surprising, but deserved, MLS Cup final, with the Rapids earning their first league championship.
Below are brief team-by-team capsules of each MLS team's season that was, as well as what is to come in 2011:
Chicago Fire (9-12-9)
The Fire had a very disappointing season under first-year MLS coach Carlos de los Cobos, missing the playoffs while never really finding their rhythm.
The team lost U.S. Soccer legend Brian McBride to retirement at the conclusion of the season and is trying to sign designated player Freddie Ljungberg, who it acquired in a mid-season trade with Seattle.
It also brought in DP Nery Castillo, and got next to nothing in return from the Mexican forward, which needs to change if the team has any chance to rebound in 2011.
Chivas USA (8-18-4)
The Goats are another team that struggled under a new head coach in Martin Vasquez. Vasquez didn't survive the axe, however, after a last-placed finish in the Western table, and the team is still searching for his replacement.
The loss of midfielder Sacha Kljestan to Anderlecht in the Belgian First Division at mid-season was a huge loss and the team never recovered. On top of that, all-star defender Jonathan Bornstein transferred to the Mexican First Division at the conclusion of the season, so there are some major holes to fill if the team hopes to be successful again in 2011.
Colorado Rapids used the attacking prowess of Omar Cummings (pictured) and Conor Casey, among others, to jump out to leads.
Colorado Rapids (12-8-10)
The Rapids are coming off a successful campaign under Gary Smith, winning the MLS Cup.
The team was very underrated defensively, and used the attacking prowess of Omar Cummings and Conor Casey, among others, to jump out to leads.
The midfield tandem of Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni was also very influential in the club's success in 2010.
Columbus Crew (14-8-8)
The Crew finished second in the East during the regular season, but for the second-straight season lost their opening round playoff series after winning the MLS Cup at the end of the 2008 season.
As a result the team is in transition. Gone is veteran fullback Frankie Hejduk, lost in the re-entry draft. The club also looks like it is parting ways with former league MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
D.C. United (6-20-4)
United is coming off one of its worst seasons in franchise history, finishing last in the entire league.
Former United midfielder Ben Olsen is taking over the club as a head coach for 2011 after taking the reigns from Curt Onalfo at mid-season on an interim basis.
The team has brought in Dax McCarty, Joseph Ngwenya and Josh Wolff this offseason, while signing rookie of the year Andy Najar to a contract extension, so maybe there are brighter days ahead for what was once one of the league's proudest franchises.
FC Dallas (12-4-14)
FC Dallas had one of the most consistent seasons in 2010, losing just four games while advancing all the way to the MLS Cup championship.
Midfielder David Ferreira entered the season as a relative unknown, but ended the season as the league's MVP.
Goalkeeper Kevin Hartman was a knee injury away from goalkeeper of the year and coach Schellas Hyndman, after a couple challenging seasons at the helm, won coach of the year.
Suffice to say, big things are expected in 2011.
Houston Dynamo (9-15-6)
The Dynamo, usually one of the league's most steady franchises, had a rare down year after years of defections finally caught up with them.
Don't expect Dominic Kinnear's side to be down long, however, because as one of the top coaches in the league, he knows how to turn things around.
Los Angeles Galaxy (18-7-5)
For the second straight season the Galaxy dominated the MLS regular season but were unable to get it done in the postseason. They even took a step back this year, being knocked out before reaching the final.
Head coach Bruce Arena isn't panicking, however, and why should he? He has one of the deepest, most talented rosters in MLS. Look for the Galaxy to be a factor again in 2011.
New England Revolution (9-16-5)
Like Houston, the Revolution had a rare down year.
Injuries, age and defections decimated a once strong roster that will need to do a lot of growing if it is going to be successful in 2011.
If any coach in MLS can find the players needed to get the Revs back into the playoff picture, it is New England's Steve Nicol.
New York Red Bulls (15-9-6)
The Red Bulls completed an amazing turnaround in 2010, going from a last- placed finish in 2009, to first in the conference this season.
On top of that, the club finally opened its soccer-specific stadium, Red Bull Arena, and brought in Henry and Mexican captain Rafa Marquez.
The team underachieved slightly in the playoffs, but look for big things in 2011 as New York enters year two of the Hans Backe era.
Philadelphia Union (8-15-7)
The Union achieved moderate success on the field in their first season in MLS.
Off the field, the team was a hit, averaging over 19,000 fans per game at its new soccer-specific stadium, PPL Park.
Sebastien Le Toux had an MVP caliber season, with 14 goals and 11 assists, but unfortunately for him, his team finished too low in the standings to get any serious consideration for the award.
Real Salt Lake (15-4-11)
RSL brought in the aforementioned Saborio, and all he did was lead the defending MLS Cup champs in goals with 12.
With Saborio, midfield maestro Javier Morales, and a host of other players leading the way, RSL challenged the Galaxy for the Supporters' Shield in 2010, but like L.A., were unable to take that success to the playoffs.
But with the core locked up, look for RSL to be a factor again in 2011.
San Jose Earthquakes (13-10-7)
The 'Quakes had a strong season under coach Frank Yallop, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since returning to the league.
Chris Wondolowski won the league's Golden Boot with 18 goals, the club's first DP Geovanni made an impact in just eight MLS starts, and midfielder/defender Bobby Convey finally showed the talent that made Yallop offer him a six-figure contract prior to last season.
Look for San Jose to try and build on this season's success in 2011.
Seattle Sounders FC (14-10-6)
Fredy Montero earned a big contract by leading the team to the playoffs for the second straight season in its second season in MLS.
Designated Player Blaise Nkufo also integrated well into the team after the World Cup break.
The Sounders continued to be the class of the league when it comes to attendance, averaging over 36,000 fans per game in what could become MLS's model franchise if the success continues.
Sporting Kansas City (11-13-6)
The artist formerly known as the Kansas City Wizards are preparing to enter a new era in 2011.
They signed a Designated Player in Omar Bravo, are opening a new soccer- specific stadium, and relaunched the team's brand, which they hope translates into success on the field as well as at the gate.
This past season, head coach Peter Vermes failed to do what former coach Curt Onalfo did when in K.C., which is make the playoffs, but there could be big things on the horizon.
Toronto FC (9-13-8)
In their fourth season in MLS, the Reds failed to qualify for the playoffs ... again.
As a result the franchise fired general manager Mo Johnston and head coach Preki, who was in just his first season with the club.
If the team is going to get turned around in 2011, it needs to do better with its DP signings than the ineffective Julian de Guzman.
Former German international star striker and coach Jurgen Klinsmann was brought in as a consultant in the offseason, so he has the unenviable task of turning the struggling franchise around.
What to look forward to in 2011
With the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps entering the league, there should be an intense Pacific Northwest rivalry between the two teams as well as Seattle.
If the success of the Sounders is any indication, the region could turn out to be what the league has been striving for since it launched in 1996.