Thursday, November 26, 2015

Philadelphia Union picked to miss playoffs in North American Soccer Reporters' preseason MLS poll

The voters predicted that the Union will finish eighth in the Eastern Conference.

Philadelphia Union picked to miss playoffs in North American Soccer Reporters’ preseason MLS poll

Sporting Kansas City and the Union could be headed in different directions this year. (Shane Keyser/The Kansas City Star/MCT file photo)
Sporting Kansas City and the Union could be headed in different directions this year. (Shane Keyser/The Kansas City Star/MCT file photo)

If you haven't read this morning's print coverage yet, I wrote the Daily News' Union season preview. There's also the Inquirer's season preview from Tim McManus, and a Daily News column from John Smallwood on his expectations for the Union this year.

The North American Soccer Reporters’ preseason Major League Soccer poll was published Friday morning, and the voters predicted that the Union will finish eighth in the Eastern Conference.

You don't have to do much math to figure out that it means the Union aren't expected to make the playoffs.

I was one of 18 participants in the poll, which included writers and editors from across the United States and Canada.

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Each voter was asked to rank the teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences, and to pick a most important player for each team. The overall results were as follows:

Eastern Conference

1. Sporting Kansas City, 169 points (9 first place votes) (Graham Zusi 14 votes, Benny Feilhaber 2, Claudio Bieler 1)

2. Houston Dynamo, 146 points (4 first place votes) (Brad Davis 7, Óscar Boniek García 5, Will Bruin 4, Ricardo Clark 1)

3. D.C. United, 138 points (2 first place votes) (Dwayne De Rosario 9, Chris Pontius 4, Perry Kitchen 3, Nick DeLeon 1)

4. New York Red Bulls, 129 points (3 first place votes) (Thierry Henry 11, Tim Cahill 2, Jámison Olave 1, Fabián Espíndola 1, Ryan Meara 1, Juninho Pernambucano 1)

5. Chicago Fire, 109 points (Jeff Larentowicz 7, Chris Rolfe 4, Austin Berry 3, Sean Johnson 1, Joel Lindpere 1, Sherjill MacDonald 1)

6. Columbus Crew, 97 points (Federico Higuaín 11, Jairo Arrieta 3, Chad Marshall 2, Andy Gruenebaum 1)

7. Montréal Impact, 65 points (Marco Di Vaio 6, Patrice Bernier 5, Felipe Martins 2, Davy Arnaud 1, Alessandro Nesta 1, Troy Perkins 1, Andrew Wenger 1)

8. Philadelphia Union, 61 points (Sébastien Le Toux 9, Jeff Parke 2, Amobi Okugo, Brian Carroll 1, Keon Daniel 1, Michael Farfan, Bakary Soumaré 1, Carlos Valdés 1*)

* - I don’t know who voted for Valdés. Evidently someone didn’t know about his year-long loan to Colombia.

9. New England Revolution, 51 points (Jerry Bengtson 9, Lee Nguyen 3, Matt Reis 2, Diego Fagúndez 2, Kelyn Rowe 1)

10. Toronto FC, 25 points (Luis Silva 5, Stefan Frei 4, Danny Califf 3, Danny Koevermans 2, Gale Agbossoumonde 1, Rob Earnshaw 1, Darren O’Dea 1)

Western Conference

1. Seattle Sounders, 161 points (9 first-place votes) (Osvaldo Alonso 6, Mauro Rosales 5, Eddie Johnson 4, Brad Evans 1, Mario Martínez 1, Obafemi Martins 1*)

* - Obafemi Martins is reportedly coming to Seattle, but hasn't actually made the move yet.

2. Los Angeles Galaxy, 155 points (6 first-place votes) (Robbie Keane 11, Omar Gonzalez 3, Landon Donovan 2, Juninho 2)

3. San Jose Earthquakes, 148 points (3 first-place votes) (Chris Wondolowski 16, Victor Bernárdez 1, Marvin Chávez 1)

4. Real Salt Lake, 121 points (Javier Morales 7, Kyle Beckerman 4, Álvaro Saborío 4, Robbie Findley 1, Joao Plata 1, Nick Rimando 1)

5. Vancouver Whitecaps, 102 points (Jay DeMerit 6, Darren Mattocks 5, Nigel Reo-Coker 3, Lee Young-Pyo 1, Alain Rochat 1, Brad Rusin 1, Camilo Sanvezzo 1)

6. FC Dallas, 93 points (David Ferreira 10, Kenny Cooper 4, Blas Pérez 2, Fabián Castillo 1, Raúl Fernández 1)

7. Portland Timbers, 9 points (Diego Valeri 9, Ryan Johnson 4, Mikaël Silvestre 2, Diego Chará 1, Darlington Nagbe, Donovan Ricketts 1)

8. Colorado Rapids, 59 (Martin Rivero 4, Matt Pickens 3, Edson Buddle 3, Drew Moor 2, Andre Akpan 1, Conor Casey 1*, Kevin Harbottle 1, Nick LaBrocca 1, Pablo Mastroeni 1, Hendry Thomas 1, Marvell Wynne 1)

* - Yes, someone voted for Casey even though he's not on the team anymore, and hasn't been for for a while now.

9. Chivas USA, 43 points (Dan Kennedy 12, Juan Agudelo 4, Oswaldo Minda, Miller Bolaños)

The NASR did not publish each individual voter's ballot, but it did publish the names of the voters at the bottom of its release. In addition, there was this matrix graphic indicating the tally of votes by place that each team received:


I have seen ballots on these individual reporters' websites:

- Gerald Barnhart, Inland Northwest Soccer News
- Drew Epperley, (in two parts)
- Orrin Schwarz, Chicago Daily Herald (in two parts)

Here's the ballot I submitted:

Eastern Conference

1. Sporting Kansas City (Graham Zusi)
2. Houston Dynamo (Óscar Boniek García)
3. Chicago Fire (Jeff Larentowicz)
4. New York Red Bulls (Thierry Henry)
5. Columbus Crew (Federico Higuaín)
6. D.C. United (Dwayne De Rosario)
7. Montréal Impact (Patrice Bernier)
8. Philadelphia Union (Amobi Okugo)
9. New England Revolution (Jerry Bengtson)
10. Toronto FC (Stefan Frei)

Western Conference

1. Los Angeles Galaxy (Landon Donovan, whether by his absence or his presence)
2. San Jose Earthquakes (Chris Wondolowski)
3. Real Salt Lake (Javier Morales)
4. Portland Timbers (Diego Valeri)
5. Seattle Sounders (Mario Martínez)
6. Vancouver Whitecaps (Alain Rochat)
7. FC Dallas (David Ferreira)
8. Chivas USA (Dan Kennedy)
9. Colorado Rapids (Nick LaBrocca)

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I’ve been saying for a while now that I don’t think the Union will make the playoffs this year. I’ve taken a bit of criticism over that from fans who like the moves that the Union made in the offseason.

If the Union make the playoffs, believe me, I’ll be the first person to step up and say I was wrong. But as we get ready for the season to start tomorrow, I’d ask you to consider this.

When you look at the moves that the Union have made, and the moves that so many other teams in the East have made – in particular the seven ranked above Philadelphia in the NASR poll – what do you see?

If you want to conclude that the Union are good enough to make the playoffs, go right ahead. But as I wrote in this morning’s Daily News, I think that Chicago, New York, Columbus, D.C. and Montréal have all made their squads stronger than the Union right now.

There’s a lot of soccer to be played between now and late October, and there are still plenty of transfer moves to be made across MLS.

So give it some thought, and let me know where you think the Union will finish this year.
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The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, the National Women's Soccer League, the U.S. men's and women's national teams, and the rest of the world's most popular sport. It's also a place for fans to gather and celebrate the culture of soccer and its unique place on the sports landscape.

Jonathan Tannenwald
Lauren Green Inquirer Staff Writer
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