The MLS Season is just days away! There will be 14 teams in the western conference in 2023, the newest being expansion side St. Louis City. Will we see MLS Cup champions LAFC reign supreme or will another team knock them off?
MLS’s Western Conference has some good teams and some not-so-good teams
The west in MLS is wild, to say the least. There are some very good team’s in this conference and some sides that are not-so-good. The cluster of Austin, LAFC, and Dallas at the top of the conference could stay the same while the 12 teams fight to make the playoffs.
2023 will be another crazy year for the teams out west, let’s look at each team and see where they could finish after all is said and done!
LA Galaxy is the most decorated MLS club with five MLS Cup wins, but over the past few seasons, LA has fallen from the top of MLS and the top of LA. Newer noisy neighbors LAFC have stolen the spotlight a bit, and Galaxy coach Greg Vanney is tasked with getting them back to the promised land in 2023. The problem for this club lies in their defense. The attack is solid, but the defense let in 51 goals last season which was seventh-best in the west. This year, the Galaxy will need to sure that side up if they want to challenge for an MLS Cup.
Key addition: Chris Mavinga | Key departure: Kevin Cabral | Predicted 2023 finish: 51 pts.
LAFC was the top team in MLS last year. They inched out the Supporters Shield (the trophy given to the team with the best regular season) on a wins tie-breaker over Philly, and then beat that same team on penalties to hoist their first-ever MLS Cup. This team is very talented, but their attack will look different this year. Gone is striker Chicho Arango and super-sub Gareth Bale; LAFC did sure up their defense with the signing of Aaron Long in free agency, but will this side be able to defend their double-winning form from 2022, or will they drop off the top spot in the west?
Key addition: Aaron Long | Key departure: Chicho Arango | Predicted 2023 finish: 61 pts.
San Jose Earthquakes
San Jose was at the bottom of the western conference standings in 2022, they were a team that was without a real head coach for most of the season, and their form severely struggled. They conceded 69 goals last year the second-worst goals-against total in all of MLS. In 2023, this side will be looking to put last year behind them; this is what the new head coach Luchi Gonzalez will be tasked with. The attack on this team is good and should improve this season, but the defense is still shakey at best and will be the determining factor for San Jose’s hopes this year.
Key addition: Carlos Gruezo | Key departure: Eric Remedi | Predicted 2023 finish: 38 pts.
Austin FC rose from the bottom of the western conference to finish second in the west. This team is poised to be a contender again this year because of its structure and style of play. Head coach Josh Wolff has shown he can set up his team for success in this wild west that can be so close at times. We know their attack will be potent, they scored 65 goals last year and are set to score that many again. The problem for this team lies in their central defense. They let in 49 goals last year which is ninth-best in MLS. If their defense can be better in 2023, then we could see this team jump to the top of MLS west this year.
Key addition: Gyasi Zardes | Key departure: Moussa Djitte | Predicted 2023 finish: 64 pts.
Dallas was a faltering team in MLS two years ago, but last year saw a huge year-over-year improvement for the red team from Texas. Nico Estevez had his team flying high to a third-place finish in the Wes, and in 2023 they will be looking to do even better. The makeup of this team has been developing and selling young players, but Estavez’s steady hand helped Dallas to be the second-best best defensive team in MLS. Will this team be able to push up to contend for the top of the west in 2023? If they want to be elite then they will need to create more chances and find ways to put them home.
Key addition: Sebastien Ibeagha | Key departure: Matt Hedges | Predicted 2023 finish: 57 pts.
Houston Dynamo FC
Houston has been the forgotten Texas team in MLS. They have not qualified for the MLS Cup playoffs in the past five seasons, and they finished second to last in 2022. In 2023 they put their faith in new head coach Ben Olsen whose long history as the DC United coach has some ups but more downs. He will be tasked with providing stability and direction for this club that is trying so hard to get out of the basement. This team doesn’t seem like they have enough talent to make a 12-point jump from last season to this season to make the playoffs. I could foresee them gaining around 10 more points thanks to the direction and structure the club wants, but falling short of the playoffs.
Key addition: Ivan Franco | Key departure: Tim Parker | Predicted 2023 finish: 45 pts.
Portland is a team that has been very consistent for almost a decade in MLS. They are a perennial playoff team but surprisingly fell just short of the playoffs in 2022. This year they are looking to get back up the western conference standings and much of that goal is placed on the shoulders of new attacking midfielder Evander. This attacking player will fill the void left by Diego Valeri, and head coach Giovanni Savaresse will be tasked with bringing the club together not tearing them apart in 2023. Can Portland get back to the playoffs this year, or will they fall short of their expectations?
Key addition: Evander | Key departure: Josecarlos Van Rankin | Predicted 2023 finish: 50 pts.
Seattle Sounders FC
The Seattle Sounders are the 2022 Concacaf Champions League champions, the first MLS side to win the tournament. However, they missed the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in their storied history last season. The juxtaposition between the highs and lows is an interesting mix, but it’s something the 2023 version of Seattle will hope to put behind them. They crashed out of the FIFA Club World Cup in their first match and now focus on their 2023 MLS ambitions. Head Coach Brian Scmetzer will be ramping this team up for a return to MLS glory, and this could see the biggest jump up the standings from last year to this year.
Key addition: Heber | Key departure: Jimmy Medranda | Predicted 2023 finish: 57 pts.
Vancouver had a storybook run to the playoffs in 2021, but could not follow that up in 2022. They started off so slow that they only won one game in their first eight games. They fell short of the playoffs because of a decision-day loss, and this year head coach Vanni Sartini will hope to propel his team forward back to the playoffs. To do so Vancouver will need to both sure up that defense and score more; this is why the club made two big moves to get Mathias Laborda to help the defense and Sergio Cordova to help the attack. Can it be enough to get Vancouver back to the playoffs in 2023? Maybe, but I’m not sold on them just yet.
Key addition: Sergio Cordova | Key departure: Lucas Cavallini | Predicted 2023 finish: 42 pts.
The Rest in the West
Colorado was at the top of the west in 2021, but last year they fell to 10th. This was largely due to the fact that the team leaked goals, conceding 57 in an MLS season. The defense was abysmal; their 2023 MLS destiny will lie in head coach Robin Fraser’s ability to get his team’s defense organized. This team is hard to judge ahead of the season. The west is so close together that a few points won or dropped could be the difference between a playoff spot and finishing in the bottom five. Colorado will have to find goals from players other than Diego Rubio, while also being more structured defensively.
Key addition: Andreas Maxso | Key departure: Gyasi Zardes | Predicted 2023 finish: 39 pts.
The Loons of Minnesota United have made the playoffs for four straight years, but that has not translated to successful postseason runs. Head coach Adrian Heath has spoken about how this makes the team inconsistent, and they are hoping to find winning form throughout all of 2023. This might be hard to come by with star player Emanuel Reynoso, he’s not in preseason camp and is currently fined/suspended for his absence. If Reynoso isn’t in Minnesota pulling the strings it’s hard to say that this team will be a playoff side. The Loons could be amongst the biggest fallers down the table in 2023.
Key addition: Joseph Rosales | Key departure: Tyler Miller | Predicted 2023 finish: 40 pts.
Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake sold out every single home game of their 2022 season, the RioT was rocking and helped RSL make the playoffs last year. They almost pulled off a playoff miracle against Austin FC but blew a two-goal lead leading to the end of their season. This year, RSL will hope that some new star power will power them up the table. This combined with their will to find ways to win should propel Pablo Mastroeni’s side toward the playoffs in 2023, but will it be enough to get them past the other teams in the west who have retooled well also?
Key addition: Carlos Andres Gomez | Key departure: Aaron Herrera | Predicted 2023 finish: 46 pts.
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City has fallen from being a top team in MLS western conference to being a bottom dweller. They finished 12th last year, and their once-great defense was nowhere to be found. This is what head coach Peter Vermes will look to the right as the team prepares for the 2023 season. The SKC attack was sured up last summer and now is ready to hit the ground running in 2023, this offseason has been quiet, but this seems to be a team poised and pissed off enough to get back to being in contention for the playoffs. I would not be surprised at all to see SKC back above the red line in 2023
Key addition: Tim Leibold | Key departure: Uri Rosell | Predicted 2023 finish: 49 pts.
St. Louis City
St. Louis City is the 29th MLS club, and 2023 will be their first season in Major League Soccer. St. Louis is a city that has developed many USA soccer stars on the men’s and women’s sides are from St. Louis and have real soccer DNA. Bradley Carnell is being tasked with leading this new team in MLS, and he is looking to implement a Red Bull-style system of counter-pressing to this team. The key will be if the style takes to the team and the city. If St. Louis plays this way and is competitive in their first season it will be a success; if it isn’t successful, then we may see some tension between the coaches and the players.
Key addition: Roman Burki | Key departure: N.A. | Predicted 2023 finish: 34 pts.
Predicted West 2023 final standings
- Austin FC – 64 pts
- LAFC – 61 pts
- FC Dallas – 57 pts
- Seattle Sounders – 57 pts
- LA Galaxy – 51 pts
- Portland Timbers – 50 pts
- Sporting Kansas City – 49 pts
- Real Salt Lake – 46 pts
- Houston Dynamo FC – 45 pts
- Vancouver Whitecaps – 42 pts
- Minnesota United – 40 pts
- Colorado Rapids – 39 pts
- San Jose Earthquakes – 38 pts
- St. Louis City – 34 pts
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