I know I’m a bit late to this particular party, what with both Jason and Keith having already made their predictions known, but I figure that since I’m going to be following an MLS team for the first time this season, I should make an effort to show everybody that I’m really just as clueless as the next person. As if you didn’t already know. We’ll see if we can throw together a page showing everybody’s predictions for 2011 – just to make it easier for you to heap ridicule upon us later on.

2011 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Winners
Seattle have won this for the past two seasons, and it’s been very good way for the new club to make an impact in the domestic scene. I don’t see either of the two new teams having much of an impact in the Open Cup in 2011 (Portland has a tricky play-in mini-tournament to negotiate, and Vancouver…well, they’re Canadian, and therefore can’t enter). I think it’s fair to say it’s unlikely that a non-MLS team with emerge with the trophy. Naturally, choosing one of the ten MLS teams who need to ‘pre-qualify’ is a stretch, so I’m picking F.C. Dallas, a team which is probably not going to be challenging for the Supporter’s Shield or MLS Cup this season, but which should still have enough about them to go quite far.

2011 Supporters Shield Winner
Last year’s winners LA Galaxy and the impressive Real Salt Lake are deservedly mentioned as possible winners of this title, but I have been really impressed by New York Red Bulls coach Han Backe, and his assertions that the Supporters Shield will be their main target for 2011. This may not mean much (becoming the sexiest man on the planet has been my main aim for years, but it has never transpired thus) but it at least can speak to how likely the team are to push for the Shield towards the end of the season – when other sides might be resting players for the play-offs.

2011 MLS Cup Champions
For this, it’s important to find a team that is capable of winning against anybody. As history (and Jason) suggests, winning the Supporter’s Shield is not usually a precursor to MLS glory. Once we get to play-offs, you really might as well just shuffle them up and pick one, (especially with 10 teams) but I’m going to go for LA Galaxy. They’re unlikely to be outside of the top 3 in the West, and they’re also a team that can win on the road if necessary (such as in Seattle last season.). Assuming their big name players are fit come the end of the season – and granted, this is a big assumption – I think they’ll be the team to beat in October.

2011 MLS MVP
Okay. Before I tell you who I think will get the MVP this season, I want everybody to make sure they are sitting down. Maybe do some breathing exercises as well. Traditionally, the players nominated for MVP are those who score goals. A lot of goals. Last season, however, the award went to David Ferriera, a midfield who was playing for an MLS Cup Finalist. Hmm. A midfielder called David, who is known for creating goals, and who I think will play for an MLS Cup Finalist. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. Yes, I’m sorry. I think David Beckham will be MVP. He’s fit – so maybe the Galaxy will somewhere approaching a full season out of him. He has an excellent outlet for his trademark crosses in Juan-Pablo Angel, and the cynical side of me (which can be quite large, I’ll admit) can’t help but think that an MVP award might go some way to persuading Beckham to either pony up the cash for Franchise #20, or continue playing in 2012. I’m also pretty certain that a professional like Beckham (and his playing side has always been professional even though his antics have at times been questionable)will want to do well in what could be his final season, and if he plays anywhere near his top level, he’s MVP. Simple.

2011 MLS Golden Boot
Fear not, that Galaxy midfielder will not score more goals than anybody else. As already said elsewhere, Angel, Donovan, Wondo etc will score goals; although I doubt very much that Chris Wondolowski can have a season as good as last one. But there’s a USMNT forward playing with a USMNT midfielder who was very impressive in his last performance. Step forward Charlie Davies. Lots of ‘ifs’ around this one but DCU cant be as bad as last season, and with Dax McCarty providing him with clever passes to get on the end of, I think CD9 will do well in 2011.

2011 MLS Rookie of the Year
This is probably the trickiest award of all to pick ahead of time. Who can tell which of the first-year professionals will do the best in the forthcoming season? So, based on really little more than a very basic understanding of the college game and an optimistic hope the SuperDraft is the place to find rookies, I have my selection. It’s Zarek Valentin, of Chivas USA, who comes out of the well known soccer stud farm, the University of Akron. It also struck me that it is unlikely for rookie forwards to be thrown in at the deep end, so I consciously picked a defender (a la Tim Ream). Valentin was selected 4th in the 2011 SuperDraft, and despite Titanic being one of his favorite films (thank you, Wikipedia) I’m hoping he has a big year. Mainly because it’ll make me look good.

Author’s note: I’d like to point out that despite this appearing after First Kick, I had this all ready to go before the game. I thought it had been erased, though, so imagine my joy when I recovered it. Actually, it wasn’t really joy, because I’d half written it again. Let’s face it, based on last night’s performance, I should have picked Juninho for MVP, anyway.