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Vancouver Whitecaps FC

May 2, 2011

The Vancouver Whitecaps Football Club is the league’s new addition to its Canadian contingent. Opening their first season in a temporary stadium before settling in at B.C. Place, the Whitecaps smoked their Canadian rival, Toronto FC. The team retained a group of players from their lower-division days, but signings such as Eric Hassli and USA defender Jay DeMerit have rounded out an exciting expansion squad for 2011.

KEY PLAYER:
Eric Hassli is a big, physical forward who has made waves for several reasons since joining MLS. As Vancouver’s first designated player, Hassli scored the Whitecaps’ first ever goal, a left-footed strike in the club’s opener against Toronto. Hassli was later red-carded in the match. Hassli would be red-carded again in a match against the Revolution after taking his jersey off, revealing another jersey underneath. Hassli already had a yellow card and was sent off. Hassli was suspended for a third time after accumulating five yellows in just five matches.

STADIUM SITUATION:
Vancouver entered MLS play at Empire Field (capacity: 27,528), the team’s temporary field. The club will move permanently to B.C. Place Stadium later in 2011.

MAJOR TROPHIES WON:
None.

Toronto FC

May 2, 2011

Toronto FC was the first in a new era of MLS expansion teams to come into the league with a large, passionate fanbase. The club played at BMO Field from Day 1 (albeit on turf) and filled a void of top-flight soccer in Canada. However, Toronto hasn’t been able to match its off-the-field sucess with wins on the pitch. High ticket prices despite mediocre results have turned off some fans. The club has yet to make the MLS playoffs.

KEY PLAYER:
Julian De Guzman arrived in Toronto to much fanfare. Toronto was bringing home a Canadian national teamer; one expected to make an impact as a designated player. Things haven’t worked out so well for the former Deportivo La Coruna man. De Guzman has struggled with injuries since joining MLS in late 2009, and he also had trouble meshing with former manager Preki’s system. Perhaps things will be different under new head coach Aron Winter.

STADIUM SITUATION:
“The Reds” have defended BMO Field (capacity: 23,000) since joining MLS. After multiple seasons on turf, the organization replaced the field with natural grass. The stadium presents tremendous views of the Toronto skyline and features a maple leaf design painted into the stands.

MAJOR TROPHIES WON:
None.

Sporting Kansas City

May 2, 2011

Sporting Kansas City came into the league at the beginning, then known as the Kansas City Wiz. After rebranding as the Wizards, the team has changed their name once more for 2011. Kansas City won the MLS Cup in 2000 as goalkeeper Tony Meola recorded the longest shutout streak in MLS history, not allowing a goal in 681 minutes. Kansas City found success throughout its first eight years in existence, but since moving to the Eastern Conference in 2005, has struggled for consistency.

KEY PLAYER:
Teal Bunbury is the first second-generation player in MLS history. His father, Alex, played for the Wizards in the league’s early years. Now, Teal is making his own mark, having appeared for the U.S. national team and showcasing his strong, agile play with Sporting K.C. Bunbury was a potential #1 overall pick, but slipped to the 4th spot after a stellar college career at Akron.

STADIUM SITUATION:
Kansas City resided in Arrowhead Stadium, home of the NFL’S Kansas City Chiefs from 1996 to 2007. Like most of its MLS counterparts, K.C. sought a more intimate venue, where the club would be the primary tenant. Beginning in 2008, Kansas City moved into CommunityAmerica Ballpark, a minor league baseball stadium that seated around 10,000. In early 2010, the Kansas City government approved funding for a new soccer-specific stadium. Sporting will move into Livestrong Sporting Park in 2011, after starting the season with 10 consecutive away matches.

MAJOR TROPHIES WON: (3)
MLS Cup (1): 2000
Supporters’ Shield (1): 2000
U.S. Open Cup (1): 2004

Seattle Sounders FC

May 2, 2011

The Seattle Sounders Football Club is the owner of the league’s best attendance, averaging more than 36,000 fans per game at Qwest Field. MLS’ 15th team, Seattle entered the league in 2009 and won the US Open Cup and made the playoffs in its first season. The Sounders followed that up with a second US Open Cup win the following year. The Sounders have quickly become one of the go-to showcases for the league when the opportunity presents itself.

KEY PLAYER:
Fredy Montero arrived in Seattle with high expectations as hype built around the young Colombian forward. Montero moved to MLS on loan despite interest from several European clubs and made an instant impact. MLS bought all of Montero’s rights prior to the 2011 season, making him the club’s third designated player. Montero scored the first goal in Sounders MLS history. Now 23 years old, Montero was named the MLS Newcomer of the Year in 2009.

STADIUM SITUATION:
The Sounders share Qwest Field (capacity: 67,000) with the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. However, for soccer events, only the lower bowl is made available to fans, as the top tier is tarped off. The soccer capacity is 35,700, which has consistently sold out.

MAJOR TROPHIES WON: (2)
U.S. Open Cup (2): 2009, 2010

San Jose Earthquakes

May 2, 2011

The San Jose Earthquakes are one of MLS’ oldest and newest franchises at the same time. San Jose was a founding member, then known as the “Clash.” In 2005, the club was moved to Houston and San Jose was left without a team. Owner Lew Wolff came onboard in 2006, and San Jose was granted an expansion team. The Quakes won two MLS Cups, one in 2001 and another in 2003.

KEY PLAYERS:
Chris Wondolowski spent years lighting up the MLS reserve league with Houston before he was traded to San Jose in 2009. The next season, Wondolowski had a storybook year, as he not only established himself, but led MLS in goals scored with 18, despite lacking the physical and athletic makeup of other MLS forwards. This earned Wondolowski a cup of coffee with the U.S. national team.

Though short in stature, Jon Busch has settled in nicely with San Jose after usurping the shot-stopper spot from Joe Cannon. Busch was named the MLS goalkeeper of the year in 2008 with Chicago, but was a salary-cap casualty in 2010. That brought him to the Earthquakes.

CLUB ICON:
Ronald Cerritos was instrumental in San Jose’s first MLS Cup win in 2001. He is the Earthquakes’ all-time leader in goals and assists and is one of only two members inducted into the Earthquakes Hall of Fame. Cerritos made 66 appearances for El Salvador’s national team.

STADIUM SITUATION:
Until their move to Houston, the Earthquakes played every match at Spartan Stadium on the San Jose State campus. When San Jose rejoined MLS, they called Santa Clara University’s Buck Shaw Stadium (capacity: 10,300) home. Due to the stadium’s small capacity (currently the smallest in MLS), the Earthquakes would move matches with large expected attendances to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

MAJOR TROPHIES WON: (3)
MLS Cup (2): 2001, 2003
Supporters’ Shield (1): 2005

Real Salt Lake

May 2, 2011

Real Salt Lake joined the league alongside Chivas USA in 2005. After an adjustment period, RSL’s fortunes took off, spurred by a steal of a trade where RSL shipped Mehdi Ballouchy to Colorado for the dreadlocked Kyle Beckerman. Key foreign signings such as defender Jamison Olave, attacking midfielder Javier Morales, and striker Alvaro Saborio, make up the most impressive list of MLS imports in recent years. The club won the 2009 MLS Cup and finished runner-up in the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League.

KEY PLAYERS:
Jamison Olave joined RSL on loan from Colombia’s Deportivo Cali and instantly became one of MLS’ most feared defenders. The big center back scored the first ever Salt Lake goal at Rio Tinto Stadium, and was named the MLS Defender of the Year in 2010. Olave has teamed with Nat Borchers to form one of MLS’ best defensive lines.

Kyle Beckerman is Salt Lake’s captain and dreadlocked midfield maestro. Beckerman led Salt Lake to the 2009 MLS Cup, but missed the final of the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League due to yellow card accumulation. His absence has been cited as a possible reason for the loss. Beckerman has made appearances for the U.S. National Team, usually when the regulars aren’t available.

STADIUM SITUATION:
RSL opened play in Rice-Eccles Stadium, home to the University of Utah’s football program. After three seasons, a soccer-specific stadium was hard to come by, and rumors of a move persisted. Eventually, a deal was struck with nearby Sandy, Utah, and Rio Tinto Stadium (capacity: 20,008) was born. The club has maintained a great deal of success at Rio Tinto, calling it a “fortress.”

MAJOR TROPHIES WON: (1)
MLS Cup (1): 2009

Portland Timbers

May 1, 2011

The Portland Timbers are new to the league in 2011, but they have already made a sizable impression. Their first home match, which aired nationally, featured thousands of Portland’s supporters, known as the Timbers Army, singing the national anthem in unison. Despite a slow start, their first matches at home revived their fortunes, making them competitive again in the standings. Previously, Portland had played in the second division of American soccer, the USL.

KEY PLAYER:
Kenny Cooper has been a prolific MLS scorer in his stateside career. Cooper notched 40 goals in only 90 appearances with FC Dallas, before transferring to 1860 Munich in Germany. Expansion Portland was at the top of the league’s allocation order in 2011, when Cooper looked to return home following an injury-plagued European excursion. Despite his size, Cooper is known more for his feet and how he goes at players, rather than his aerial ability or heading prowess.

STADIUM SITUATION:
Formerly known as PGE Park, Jeld-Wen Field (capacity: 18,627) is the 2011 home of the Portland Timbers. One of three turf fields in MLS, the stadium was primarily a baseball stadium for the Portland Beavers (AAA-affiliate of the San Diego Padres) before the Timbers’ ascendency to MLS. The field was renovated for soccer, a new baseball stadium was never built, and the Beavers had to leave for Tucson.

MAJOR TROPHIES WON:
None.

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