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BASN’s MLS 2007 Preview: 10 Players Not Named David Beckham To Watch This Season
MIAMI — After one of the momentus offseasons in MLS history, play finally began this weekend. Ok, you know about David Beckham but check out 10 others whose progress you should follow.
#1 Freddy Adu, Real Salt Lake(mlsnet) Basically it’s put up or shut up time for the young man who once carried the unrealistic expectations of a soccer nation on his young shoulders. After 3 seasons with DC where his flashes of brilliance were surrounded by maddening inconsistency, Freddy Adu sought, and received, a trade to a team that would allow him to play in the middle of the park instead of out on the wing. Real Salt Lake coach John Ellinger, who once coached Adu on the youth level, will give him that chance. One of my Alpha brothers recently asked me if he was going to be next LeBron. We’ll both find out this year if he has the potential to reach those heights and enhance his chances of moving to a top European club.
#2 Eddie Johnson, KC Wizards (mlsnet) About this time two years ago Eddie Johnson was the toast of American soccer. He had a phenomenal start to his international career including a natural hat-trick in a World Cup qualifier and was scoring goals on the regular for FC Dallas. Since then injuries, a trade to Kansas City, the birth of a daughter, indifferent form and questions about his commitment have led to most of those who praised him in 2005 to absolutely turn on him (I see you, Big Soccer nation). When he’s at his best, he’s the most talented US forward not named Landon Donovan. He’ll need to find the net early and often to re-establish himself as the star forward for club and country that everyone knows he should be.
#3 Shalrie Joseph, NE Revolution (BBC) Feeling underpaid and underappreciated in Foxboro and possibly still salty about MLS not accepting a $2million transfer bid to legendary Scottish club Glasgow Celtic, Grenadian international Shalrie Joseph, a past MLS Best XI selection, turned down the captain’s armband last month and demanded to be traded. Coach Steve Nichol has said that the midfield stalwart isn’t going anywhere and Joseph has said that, despite his trade demand, he’s still going to give 100%. As hard as he plays, he’ll still be one of the most scrutinized players in the league with every missed pass or blown assignment raising an eyebrow. My prediction: the Revolution offer him a big pay raise.
#4 Jeff Cunningham, Real Salt Lake(daily utah chronicle) Last season’s scoring champion and MVP finalist will look to quiet his critics who label him a selfish and inconsistent player. One of the most talented players in the league with ridiculous speed and talent on the ball, his 16 goals and 11 assists were nonetheless not enough to lift Real Salt Lake into the playoffs. How he, Freddy Adu and Andy Williams work together will be key to Real Salt Lake’s success and a fast start could possibly lead to a National Team recall this summer.
#5 Luciano Emilio, DC United-(mlsnet) After establishing the league’s best record, DC United sputtered into the 2006 playoffs with leading scorer Jaime Moreno fading down the stretch. Needing another reliable scorer, new coach Tom Soehn and the DC United brass went out and got Brazillian Luciano Emilio who spent the last few seasons tearing up the Honduran league with Olimpia. His performance in the CONCACAF Champions Cup has shown he has the ability to find the back of the net as well as link up with Moreno and last season’s MVP Christian Gomez. Has a new incarnation of the Magic Triangle emerged at RFK? Watch this space…
#6 Ricardo Clark, Houston Dynamo(mlsnet) I’m still not sure why the outfit formerly known as the Metrostars gave up on this Furman graduate. Last season the defensive midfielder earned his first MLS Bext XI nod with the champion Houston Dynamo. A hard worker who can call on some good offensive skills when needed, it’s very possible that he’ll see time with the US National team as they play in both the Gold Cup and the Copa America this summer. Should be a busy summer for one of US Soccer’s up and coming stars.
#7 Jozmer Altidore, Red Bull New York(mlsnet) The teenage Haitian-American announced himself to American soccer audiences by absolutely abusing DC United’s Facundo Erpen in the 2nd leg of the opening round of the 2006 playoffs. The former U-17 star will look to make his mark on MLS as he partners with former US Internationals Clint Mathis and Claudio Reyna at Exit 16W. Excellent on the dribble, look for him to embarass some more defenders as the season progresses.
#8 Cobi Jones, LA Galaxy FC(mlsnet) One more year in the sunshine. The only MLS player to still be with his original team, Cobi Jones announced that this will be his last season as a player. Folks, this is one of American soccer’s icons, one of the players who helped put US soccer back on the map in the 90s. A two time MLS Champion with the Galaxy he’s often overshadowed by Landon Donovan and will be again with the mid-season arrival of David Beckham but make no mistake: for many people, Cobi Jones IS the Galaxy. If he comes to your town, go show him some love.
#9- Shaka Hislop, FC Dallas
(trinidad/tobago world cup blog) After his heroics with the Soca Warriors at the 2006 World Cup and several years in England, Shaka Hislop came to Dallas and put in some sollid performances…only to watch the Hoops’ brief playoff run from the bench. With starting keeper Dario Sala suspended for the first 6 matches, the Howard University graduate will have a chance to establish himself as FC Dallas’ #1 keeper. If he diplays the same form from the World Cup where he shut out Sweden and held England off the board for some 80 minutes, we’ll see a lot of him bewteen the pipes at Pizza Hut Park.
#10-Khano Smith, NE Revolution (mlsnet) With Shalrie Joseph apparently trying to get out of Dodge and Clint Dempsey sold to Fulham in the English Premiere League, the tall lanky Bermudan who beautifully assisted on Taylor Twellman’s goal in MLS Cup’06 could find himself a very important part of the equation for a team that so desperately seeks MLS Cup glory. His speed on the left flank could provide welcome offensive options for a team that puts a premium on defense and industry.
And while you’re watching, keep tabs on:
D Dasan Robinson-Chicago Fire (Up and coming American defender).
F Roberto Brown-Colorado Rapids (Panamanian hit man impressed during 2006 World Cup Qualifiers).
F Edson Buddle, Toronto FC (Former Columbus Crew star looking to put off field troubles behind him).
D Stephen deRoux, DC United (Quick left back from DC area looks to lock down starting spot at RFK).
D Chris Gbandi, FC Dallas (Houston born Liberian international was Hoops’ 2006 Defender of the Year).