Toronto looks to repeat as champs

MLS preview

2018 Major League Soccer

Photo: courtesy of Katie Cahalin / NYCFC
New York City FC, No. 1 in Week 1 MLS Soccer Power Rankings, are led by David Villa (left), who scored 22 goals last year, shown here in season opener against Sporting KC.

Michael Kleiner
The Norwegian American

The Major League Soccer (MLS) season started on March 3.

The top six teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences of Major League Soccer make the playoffs. Based on the Power Rankings following the opening weekend March 3-4, here are the top nine.

1. New York City FC Blues
2017: 16-9-9. 57 pts, 2nd in East
Key returnees: Fs David Villa 22G, 9A, Maximiliano Moralez 5G, 9A; Alexander Callens team’s 2017 Defensive Player of the Year; FB Ben Sweat 6A; K Sean Johnson 7SHOs.
Key additions: Norwegian F Jo Inge Berget,’s “most underrated offseason signing.” Can play multiple positions; D Anton Tinnerholm, Swedish League Defender of the Year; MF Jesus Medina
Outlook: With scorer like Villa getting support from Berget, NYC could pose threat.

2. Toronto FC Reds
2017: Won MLS Championship, 2-0, over Seattle. 20-5-9, 1st in East; most goals (74), highest scoring differential (37).
Key returnees: Fs Jozy Altidore 15 goals, 6A; Sebastian Giovinco (16G); Tosaint Ricketts (7G); MFs Michael Bradley (top American player in world); Victor Vazques (8G, 16A); K Alex Bono 10 SHOs, 1.14 GAA; Ds Chris Mavinga, 14-year veteran Drew Moor, Justin Morrow (8G).
Key additions: MF-D Nicolas Hasler; D Gregory van der Wiel
Outlook: All key players back from championship team.

3. Columbus Crew
2017: 16-12-6, 54 pts, 5th in East
Key returnees: MF Federico Higuain 9G, 14A; MF Wil Trapp (5A); K Zack Steffen 9SHOs; Ds Harrison Afful; Jonathan Mensah.
Key additions: F Gyasi Zardes, 34G in five seasons with Galaxy; MFs Ricardo Clark, Mike Grella. In 12 years, Clark has 35G, 27A.
Outlook: The Crew lost 31 goals with the departure of Ola Kamara and Justin Meram, but opened the 2018 season blanking Toronto 2-0. Zardes should help.

4. Seattle Sounders
2017: Lost to Toronto in MLS Final. 14-9-11, 53 pts, tied Portland for 1st in West
Key returnees: K Stefan Frei 13SHOs, 1.09GAA; Fs Clint Dempsey 12G, Will Bruin (11G); MFs Nicolás Lodeiro (7G, 12A); Cristian Roldan (6G); Gustav Svensson (4A); D Joevin Jones (11A).
Key additions: Norwegian MF Magnus Wolff Eikrem,’s “the second most underrated signing.”
Outlook: Too much experience not to be a threat when playoffs come around.

2018 Major League Soccer

Photo: Kevin Sousa / USAToday
Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco kisses the 2017 MLS Championship trophy.

5. New York Red Bulls
2017: 14-12-8, 50 pts, 6th in East
Key returnees: F Bradley Wright-Phillips 17G; MFs Daniel Royer 12G: Alex Muyl (3G, 4A); Tyler Adams (2G, 4A), Sean Davis (2G, 4A); K Luis Robles, MLS record 174 straight games. 49SHOs, 10 last year; Ds Connor Lade, Kemar Lawrence (5A), Aaron Long
Key additions: MF Ben Mines; Ds Kyle Duncan, Tim Parker; F Carlos Rivas (5G, 5A Orlando)
Outlook: Has talent but may not be enough to topple teams ahead of them.

6. Real Salt Lake Monarchs
2017: 13-15-6, 45 pts, 8th in West
Key returnees: MF Albert Rusnák (7G, 14A), Fs Joao Plata (7G, 5A), Luis Silva (7G, 3A); MF 18-year vet Kyle Beckerman (4G); MF Luke Mulholland (3G, 4A); K Nick Rimando all-time MLS leader in career wins (196), games played (453), minutes (40,891) , shutouts (137),
Key additions: None
Outlook: Can’t see them competing with Sounders.

7. Atlanta United FC Five Stripes
2017: 15-9-10, 55 pts, 4th in East
Key returnees: Fs Josef Martinez (19G), Hector Villalba (13G, 11A), Yasmi Asad (7G, 13A); MFs Miguel Almirón (9G, 14A), Julian Gressel (5G, 9A); Ds Greg Garza (2G, 5A), 13-year vet Jeff Larentowicz, All-Star Michael Parkhurst; K Brad Guzan (8SHOs)
Key additions: D Franco Escobar; MF Darlington Nagbe
Outlook: Atlanta’s potent offense will keep them in the running.

8. Los Angeles Galaxy
2017: 8-18-8, 32 pts, 11th in West
Key returnees: MFs Romain Allessandrini (13G, 12A); Emmanuel Boeteng (4G, 2A); F Giovani dos Santos (6G, 3A); Ds Ashley Cole, Daniel Steres (3G)
Key additions: Norwegians Ola Kamara, who scored 18 goals with Columbus last year, and D Jørgen Skjelvik, from Rosenborg; K David Bingham (7SHO with San Jose)
Outlook: The Galaxy had their worst season ever, averaging 0.94 goals a game. Kamara will help.

9. Houston Dynamo
2017: 13-10-11, 50 pts, 4th in West
Key returnees: Fs Erick Torres (14G, 3A), Mauro Manotas (10G, 5A), Alberth Elis (10G, 4A), Romell Quioto (7G, 3A); MF Alex (11A); Ds DeMarcus Beasley; A.J. DeLaGarza, Philipe Senderos
Key additions: 12-year veteran K Chris Seitz, who got the opening day start.
Outlook: Opened with strong 4-0 win over Atlanta. Strong offense and back defenders.

This article originally appeared in the March 23, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of NorCham Philadelphia. Visit;