FourFourTwo's MLS 2015 season preview: Western Conference team by team

Who's the best (and worst) in the West? Jason Davis assesses the contenders...

Colorado Rapids


  • Nickname Rapids
  • MLS since 1996
  • Stadium Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (19,680)
  • Coach Pablo Mastroeni
  • 2014 West: 8th, Overall: 17th

So, what's the story? 
Young and exciting, the Rapids boast a number of players who may have many US caps ahead of them. Nevertheless, the club also have a reputation for cheapness, a trait that keeps them from competing with the league’s elite.
What happened last season? 
The Rapids showed flashes of good play, but ultimately finished ninth in the Western Conference under first-year head coach Pablo Mastroeni – after a disastrous end included 12 losses in their last 14 matches.
Expectations this time
Hard to say, if only because so much relies on the consistent play of youngsters and the learning curve of Mastroeni. A play-off berth would represent success, not to mention surprise everyone.

Western table, 2014

  • 1 Seattle Sounders 64 
  • 2 LA Galaxy 61 
  • 3 Real Salt Lake 56 
  • 4 FC Dallas 54 
  • 5 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 50 
  • 6 Portland Timbers 49 
  • 7 Chivas USA 33 
  • 8 Colorado Rapids 32
  • 9 San Jose Earthquakes 30

Star man
The Rapids lack an established 'big-name' player, though third-year midfielder Dillon Powers deserves attention for his influence in the centre of the park. Strong, smart, and an excellent passer, Powers will be key in 2015.

New kid on the block
The notoriously skinflint Rapids opened up the chequebook this winter to add talented Argentine youngster Juan Ramirez. Just 21, Ramirez is the club’s second-ever DP signing – the first, Panamanian striker Gabriel Torres, struggled to three goals in 23 games last season – and most recently played at Argentinos Juniors. 
Did you know?
The Rapids are owned by Arsenal shareholder Stan Kroenke and his questionable moustache. 

FC Dallas


  • Nickname Hoops
  • MLS since 1996
  • Stadium Toyota Stadium (20,295)
  • Coach Oscar Pareja
  • 2014 West: 4th, Overall: 6th, Play-offs: Conference semis

So, what's the story?
FC Dallas are fast and fun, thick with exciting young speedsters and bolstered by anchor players at both ends of the field. They occasionally compete for honours and look to be on the up under head coach Oscar Pareja.
What happened last season? 
Thanks to the steady hand of Pareja, FC Dallas navigated a series of difficult injuries to fourth place and a play-off spot in the West. After beating Vancouver to reach the conference semi-finals, Dallas gave the Sounders all they could handle before losing on the away goals tiebreaker.
Expectations this time
Hopes haven’t been this high in North Texas in a long, long time. With a healthy squad, Dallas are one the most exciting teams in the league. The competition in the Western Conference is fierce, but the Hoops are targeting a top seed and an MLS Cup.

Star man
Colombian winger Fabian Castillo. FC Dallas also have a fantastic playmaker in Mauro Diaz, but it’s Castillo who has the most mouthwatering talent in the team. He finally started to figure it out last year with a 10-goal, four-assist campaign.

New kid on the block
Goalkeeper Dan Kennedy (formerly of the now-defunct Chivas USA) sticks out among the newcomers, though it’s tough to know how much he’ll play with Raul Fernandez established as the team’s No.1.
Did you know? 
FC Dallas were originally named 'Dallas Burn' and featured a robot-like horse on their logo for what are probably unknowable reasons.

Houston Dynamo


  • Nickname Orange Crush
  • MLS since 2006
  • Stadium BBVA Compass Stadium
  • Manager Owen Coyle
  • 2014 East: 8th, Overall: 14th

So, what's the story? 
Since moving to Houston from San Jose back in 2006, the Dynamo have been one of the league’s most consistent teams, including back-to-back championships in 2006 and 2007. They have a reputation for squeaking into the play-offs before grinding out victories once they get there.
What happened last season? 
They finished in eighth and missed the play-offs, something that’s happened just one other time in Houston history. International absences and an injury to Ricardo Clark stilled a campaign that had never really gained much momentum.
Expectations this time
When head coach Dom Kinnear parted ways with the club after the season, all expectations went out the window. Kinnear was a master of just getting by in the regular season only to survive and advance round-by-round in the post-season. A new manager, plus a move to the deeper Western Conference, makes it tough to know what to expect.

Star man
Giles Barnes is the pick here, even though Brad Davis remains the team’s most visible player and up-and-coming Mexican striker Erick 'Cubo' Torres will arrive mid-season. Barnes is just 26 and delivered double-digit goals in 2014 for the first time.

New kid on the block
The new boss, Scottish manager Owen Coyle. Foreign coaches haven’t typically fared well in the North American league, in part because of the byzantine labyrinth of rules and regulations that dictate player movement. But if anyone has the right attitude to learn the league and understand the American player, it’s probably Coyle.
Did you know? 
Houston and FC Dallas play annually for El Capitan, a replica of an 18th-century cannon that goes to the winner of the regular-season series.