A poll of North American Soccer Reporters (well, minus me, as I kinda missed the voting deadline) picks Sounders FC as the likely winner of this season MLS Western Conference.
Here’s the release from the NASR:
The North American Soccer Reporters unveiled Friday the NASR 2013 Major League Soccer Preseason Poll, projecting the order of finish for the teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences during the 2013 season. As a part of the NASR poll, each of the voters also selected for each team a Most Important Player – the player that will have the greatest impact on the field or be the club’s biggest loss if unavailable to play (international call-ups, injury, suspension, transfer etc).
Finishing atop their respective conferences are the reigning Sporting Kansas City and Seattle Sounders, the two US Open Cup finalists from a year ago. Sporting also was at the top of first-ever edition of the poll a year ago and went on to win the Eastern Conference. Last year the Los Angeles Galaxy were the top club with a sweep of first-place votes, but finished fourth in the Western Conference.
Voting for the top sides in each conference this year was more open than a year ago with four teams receiving first-place votes in the Eastern Conference compared to two and the west expanding from just one to three. The top four teams by points in the poll for the Eastern Conference were Sporting KC (9 first-place votes), Houston Dynamo (4), DC United (2) and New York Red Bulls (3). The Western Conference list was topped by Seattle (9), Los Angeles (6) and the San Jose Earthquakes (3).
The bottom echelon of each conference was rather distinct with the Montreal Impact, Philadelphia Union, New England Revolution and Toronto FC receiving the fewest points in the Eastern Conference and the Colorado Rapids and Chivas USA bringing up the rear in the Western Conference.
Leading the way among the Most Important Players was, to no surprise, the Chris Wondolowski of the San Jose Earthquakes, the reigning MLS MVP. The striker had 16 votes. Kansas City’s Graham Zusi, one of the top two a year ago, was second with 14 votes and Chivas USA netminder Dan Kennedy was third with 12. Foreign stars Thierry Henry (New York), Federico Higuain (Columbus Crew) and Robbie Keane (LA) all received 11 votes with David Ferreira (FC Dallas) rounding out the players who were in double digits at 10.
Last year, the eventual three MLS MVP Finalists were among the top six choices in the NASR poll.
The most indecision regarding the most critical player for a team this year came is with the Colorado Rapids who had 11 different players listed with Martin Rivero leading with four votes. The other clubs even close to that total were the bottom four of the Eastern Conference with either seven or eight each.
The top Seattle vote getter as Most Important Player, by the way, was Osvaldo Alonso.