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Out West

Seems to be a stark difference between the East and West in terms of the changes that sweep through each conference each season. DC, New England, and Chicago seem to be in contention every year in the East. But in the West, there's one team at the top, and then there's everyone else beating each other up. This might be the season to change that.

1. Chivas USA
+: Chivas look to improve on their already second-best-in-league defense by adding defensive midfielder Raphael Wicky.
-: None. Chivas didn't give up one player who started more than 12 games for them last year.
(): Ante Razov will try to rob Jaime Moreno of his all time scoring title this year, but will probably lose some minutes to newcomer Alecko Eskandarian.
=: Chivas are like the New Orleans Hornets of the MLS. Very quietly occupying first place by emphasizing defense and the fundamentals. They seem to be the only team in the West that, like DC, built itself with enough depth to withstand the rigors of international tournaments in addition to league play.

2. Houston Dynamo
+: Former Defender of the Year Bobby Boswell hopes to keep Houston as the league leader in defense, but might not even make the starting XI with Patrick Ianni around.
-: Houston lost two of their top four scorers in Nate Jaqua and Joseph Ngwenya, both to Austria of all places.
(): Stuart Holden is coming off an impressive tournament with the U23 National Team, and will be looked upon to step up to fill Ngwenya's void.
=: A third straight MLS Cup certainly isn't out of the question for Houston, as their defense, along with goalkeeper Pat Onstad, will keep them in every game. But Houston hasn't done enough to fill the voids left on offense, instead turning to unproven reserve Chris Wondolowski at forward.

3. LA Galaxy
+: LA added to its group of internationally reknowned goal scorers this offseason with Carlos Ruiz.
-: Supposedly in order to get under the salary cap, LA was forced to cut a lot of part-time starters, but most notably, Kyle Martino.
(): Of course all eyes will once again be on David Beckham to rescue this struggling franchise.
=: Maybe I'm crazy, but I think LA has just enough firepower to find its way into the postseason in a conference with only two good teams. Hopefully the coaching will improve this year too.

4. Colorado Rapids
+: My feelings haven't changed on . He remains the best player in the league until proven otherwise.
-: Colorado cut their captain Brandon Prideaux for unknown reasons. Defense could be an issue for them this year, and I don't think Jose Burciaga is the answer.
(): Herculez Gomez and Nicolas Hernandez should see their statistics increase with the arrival of Gomito.
=: Unfortunately, as we all found out in the playoffs last year, Christian can't do it by himself. Colorado should be able to sneak its way into the playoffs, but won't get very far.

5. Real Salt Lake
+: RSL followed the DC model and brought in a whole slew of players from overseas, including Kenny Deuchar and Yank Abroad Nat Borchers.
-: The team lost their heart and soul Eddie Pope and their lead comedian Alecko Eskandarian. Makes you wonder if RSL will try to fill their void by acquiring other former United players Brad North and Kiki Willis.
(): Representing the Arundel Wildcats, Kyle Beckerman should benefit from having some more talent around him.
=: At least the appearance is that Garth Lagerway finally has the team on the right track. Their foreign acquisitions don't seem to be as targeted as United's, but hey, it's a start.

6. FC Dallas
+: Duilio Davino will try to help out a weak defensive group.
-: Dallas's only legitimate scoring option Carlos Ruiz is now in LA.
(): Kenny Cooper hopes to have a full year of scoring for once, but somehow I doubt it.
=: Not to say that Ruiz is very popular, or even very talented, but Dallas will surely miss him, and they will probably take a step back this year.

7. San Jose Earthquakes
+: The expansion team will look for Ronnie O'Brien to lead the attack. Hmm… Good luck with that.
-: San Jose was expecting Clarence Goodson to be a starter on defense, but he bolted for Europe. Smart move.
(): The Earthquakes were wise to bring in Ryan Cochrane from Houston to run the back line as center defenseman.
=: The Quakes actually have a decent midfield if you look at it, and Cochrane and Cannon should keep at least some teams from running up the score, but it's still hard to see them finishing anywhere outside of last place.

With all the infusion of international talent in the league this year, there are a lot of question marks. Who will be this year's surprise like Juan Toja? And who will be this year's disappointment like Denilson? Whatever the case, my predictions are sure to go up in flames by May.