Although it’s definitely too early to make any long-term bets, the first month of Major League Soccer has seen a few surprises.

— In the West.

Defending MLS Cup Champion and 2012 Western Conference favorite Los Angeles Galaxy have stuttered out of the gate, losing two of three at home. Exactly two more than all of last season. This has locked LA Galaxy to the bottom of the western table. Top players Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and David Beckham should be enough to keep them from continuing the current form, although to be elite something needs to change on the back-line.

Standing side by side with the LA Galaxy on the field and in the league table the past four or so years is Real Salt Lake. A franchise who has had great success since the young Jason Kreis has taken over the coaching. 2009 saw RSL win the MLS Cup and last year they advanced all the way to the CONCACAF Champions League Final. RSL has talent up and down it’s roster and is a real fun team to watch. Olave is a stud centerback.

Surprise of this young season has to be the San Jose Earthquakes. A team that had some success in years past, back when Landon Donovan played for the club, but nothing recently.  Big physical forwards lead the way. Two time Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski headlines the forward pairing with handyman Steven Lenhart playing beside.

The mighty Portland Timbers have not started off on the right foot here in 2012 after a fairly nice 2011 season, the club’s first in MLS after eleven seasons in the USL (2nd division of US soccer). 28 year-old, former Rangers striker, Kris Boyd is the big club signing. Boyd so far has two goals while still settling in with his new teammates. The young Darlington Nagbe is shown to be a real talent. The back-line is the big issue, having yet to show any improvement over last season’s form.

Colorado Rapids Good at home. Average on the road.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC look very much improved on the back-line anchored by Jay DeMerit. Vancouver also has forward quality in Eric Hassli and Sébastien Le Toux.

The three time defending US Open Cup Champions, Seattle Sounders FC are expected to take the next step this season and challenge for the MLS Cup. Seattle has gotten off to a slower start (2-1-1) than expected, losing one at home already.

FC Dallas If David Ferreira gets back to full strength after a year out to injury, this team will be very good. If not they still will be good and should improve as the season moves on. More pressure and eyes will be on the young Brek Shea to see if he can lead this team.

CD Chivas USA When not playing negative bunker ball Chivas USA can be a pretty good short, quick, passing team. They are starting to become a difficult team to beat. For some reason, better away than at home.

—- In the East.

Sporting Kansas City have picked up on last season’s momentum and have secured maximum points five matches in. In the current run Sporting KC have played three home and two away, conceded only one goal. SKC looks to be the class of the Eastern Conference this season and are very tough at home. The players to watch are Kei Kamara, C.J. Sapong, Graham Zusi and MLS veteran Bobby Convey.

Still struggling in the MLS. Toronto FC. Four matches, four times defeated. Good fans. Bad team. TFC could use more help for Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans.

Is this finally the year of the Red Bull? New York Red Bulls, a club who has never won anything but spends big money on players. Thierry Henry already has seven goals and his sidekick (Timbers reject) Kenny Cooper is not far off, with six goals of his own. The backline is anchored by Rafa Marquez. NYRB looks refreshed after a troubling 2011 campaign.

Impact de Montreal are new to the league and are struggling.

Every new season the Houston Dynamo are a  team people write off but every year they are still near the top and giving teams fits in the MLS Cup playoffs. Very well coached by Dominic Kinnear.

Columbus Crew Average, nothing special.

New England Revolution have earned six points in five matches, a better start than anyone predicted.

DC United has struggled in the recent past but are starting to make strides with the fresh spirit of former DCU player, now manager Ben Olsen. Although it will take awhile to get back to the glory days when DCU was winning trophies [10 major trophies] things are looking up. The midfield is led by a master player, Canadian international Dwayne De Rosario.

Chicago Fire Soccer Club have had some success in the past but lately it’s been a struggle.

The Philadelphia Union are a team is disarray.

– WEEK 6

Sat. April 14 Home
Philadelphia v Columbus
New England v D.C. United
Seattle v Colorado
Toronto FC v Chivas USA
New York v San Jose
FC Dallas v Montreal
Sporting KC v Real Salt Lake
Los Angeles v Portland
Sun. April 15 Home
Chicago v Houston

By Steven D. Lenhart
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