The 2019 Western Conference landscape is far from clear after just the first week of play in Major League Soccer. An inch of snow fell in Colorado as they hosted Portland Timbers, LA Galaxy were missing Sebastian Lletget, Vancouver and Minnesota both made a number of additions in the offseason, Seattle opened their campaign against expansion club FC Cincinnati. While it seems foolish to predict the final standings after just one week, there does seem to be an upper class of clubs who are leading the discussion for the time being: Los Angeles FC, Sporting Kansas City, and Seattle Sounders.
Those three clubs finished atop the West last season and looked poised to do so again after making limited changes this offseason, if anything improving their sides.
LAFC lost an aging Benny Feilhaber but added Christian Ramirez from Minnesota United and have one of the most exciting attacking lineup on paper with Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela, and Ramirez starting in a 4-3-3 and Adama Diomande coming off the bench in their first match. Without Ramirez, LA lead the West in scoring with 68 goals and are primed to fight for that lead again.
Sporting teams lead by head coach Peter Vermes are consistently well organized and competitive regardless of the roster because of the system they implement. The formation constantly adapts to the situation presented by their opponents, defenders becoming midfielders in attack, midfielders dropping back in defense. With a roster filled with talented players – Graham Zusi, Johnny Russell, Ilie Sanchez, and Krisztian Nemeth to name a few – in a proven system, it’s hard to bet against KC even if they lack the star power of LAFC.
Somewhere between the styles of LAFC and Sporting KC exist Seattle Sounders. They have players who are household names across the Americas – Nico Lodeiro, Raul Ruidiaz, and Jordan Morris especially – and coach Brian Schmetzer’s 4-2-3-1 system is highly adaptable to whatever opponents throw at them. Most importantly for Seattle this year is that they’re healthier than last season when they missed an impressive amount of starters to injury.
Morris bagged a brace in his first MLS match back after tearing his ACL last year, Kelvin Leerdam admitted he was injured the majority of last year and is at full health now. Brad Smith was barely able to play after joining the club in the Summer transfer window. And if Cristian Roldan and Gustav Svensson can replace the void created by Osvaldo Alonso’s departure, expect Sounders to be a difficult team to beat.
LAFC and Sporting KC already gave us a thrilling 2-1 matchup in Los Angeles to open the season with Diomande scoring the winner for the home team in stoppage time and Seattle looked dominant in a 4-1 home win against Cincy in the first week of play. Don’t be surprised if those three clubs continue to be exciting and dynamic sides this year while battling for the Supporters’ Shield come fall.