Friday May 4th, 2007

Thomas Shea/MLS/
Top five stories of the first month
With the first month of the MLS season behind us, let's review the league's biggest stories.
1. New York has emerged as a team to beat -- The Red Bulls are undefeated, on top of the Eastern Conference, have yet to concede a goal ... and Designated Player Juan Pablo Ángel has yet to kick a ball in MLS. To put New York's 3-0-1 start in perspective, the team didn't record its 10th point until June 10 last season.

2. D.C. off to its worst start since 1996 -- It's stunning to look at the East standings and see United already 10 points behind New York and Chicago. Yet D.C. is 0-3 for a reason: Defensive lapses in the first two games killed it, and the attack was missing in last Saturday's 1-0 loss at Columbus. But remember, D.C. started off 0-4 in '96 and still rebounded to win the inaugural MLS Cup. With five of its next seven games at home -- and a trip to Toronto sandwiched in the middle -- look for Tom Soehn's side to right the ship in May.

3. E.J. putting his nightmare of '06 behind him -- Eddie Johnson could have used a couple of games against Toronto FC during last season's forgettable two-goal effort. Thanks in large part to the struggling expansion side, the enigmatic striker looks like he's regaining his confidence in front of goal: He already has three tallies this season to earn MLS Player of the Month honors. The scary part is, he easily could (and maybe should) have put at least two or three more in the net in April.

4. Defending champ Houston can't find the net -- The Dynamo have scored just one goal in four games, and their scoreless streak is now at a perplexing 206 minutes. Brian Ching (above) has the lone goal -- a header in the 1-0 Week 2 win against Chivas USA -- while Dwayne De Rosario's contract issues and slow start have been well-documented. But here are two reasons why Houston's start shouldn't be too disconserting: The defense has only conceded twice in four games, and this team wasn't exactly an offensive juggernaut in '06: it scored one goal or fewer in 20 of its 32 regular-season matches.

5. The Amado Guevara trade was a disaster for Chivas USA -- The Goats gave away their DP slot for this? Guevara was invisible on the pitch -- and all too visible off of it; he was red carded against Los Angeles after being removed from the match in the 56th minute. Then on Thursday, Chivas USA tried to trade the former league MVP to Toronto FC. But Guevara rejected the deal, according to L.A. Soccer News, and might not return to Major League Soccer. Yikes.
The best of April
And now for the first-month awards ...

Top Player: Taylor Twellman, New England -- E.J. has been great, but it's hard to overlook what the Revs star did in April. T.T. leads MLS with four goals, including a beautiful volley at FC Dallas on Sunday. Is a second Golden Boot in his future?
Top Coach: Bruce Arena, New York -- The Red Bulls put on a defensive clinic in April. Arena has definitely put his stamp on this team: Only two players who were in the First XI in the '06 opener are still starters.
Top Rookie: Michael Harrington, Kansas City -- Harrington made an immediate impact; his goal in the third minute of the opener vs. D.C. was the fastest in an MLS debut. One goal and two assists in four games is just enough to edge out New York's Dane Richards.
Best newcomer: Roberto Brown, Colorado -- In the shadow of all of the DP signings, it has been the unsung Panamanian who has made the most noise: Brown's two game-winning goals have helped push Colorado to the top of the West.
Biggest surprise: Hunter Freeman, New York -- Acquired for the MLS equivalent of a bag of balls in the offseason, Freeman stunningly made former No. 1 pick Marvell Wynne expendable. He's been flawless defensively and dangerous in attack on the right flank. The move looks like another Arena masterstroke.
Biggest disappointment: Real Salt Lake -- Another awful start is a leading to a shakeup in Salt Lake. General manager Steve Pastorino and head coach John Ellinger are out, and MLS' all-time leading scorer Jason Kreis is retiring to take over the coaching reigns. The good news is, things can't get much worse.
RankLW Team
New York Red Bulls (3-0-1)
Opponents are having a difficult time just getting shots.
Chicago Fire (3-0-1)
Like N.Y., Chicago is off to the best start in team history.
New England Revolution (2-1-1)
Two important matches this week against Eastern rivals.
Colorado Rapids (2-1-1)
Rapids seem to take extra joy in sticking it to RSL fans.
Kansas City Wizards (3-1-0)
Not quite sold yet, but are winning games they should.
Houston Dynamo (1-2-1)
De Rosario's haircut was the weekend's biggest stunner.
Los Angeles Galaxy (1-1-1)
Donovan: Youngest in MLS with 50 career goals, assists.
Columbus Crew (1-0-3)
Undefeated ... but still sit in fifth place in red-hot East.
FC Dallas (2-3-1)
Back-to-back home losses takes luster off solid start.
Chivas USA (2-2-0)
Sacha Kljestan's absence against Galaxy was noticeable.
D.C. United (0-3-0)
This time, it wasn't the defense that did 'em in vs. Crew.
Real Salt Lake (0-2-2)
Four brutal minutes undid an improved defensive effort.
Toronto FC (0-4-0)
Giant striker Daniele Dichio plays just like a bowling ball

1. Landon Donovan
Los Angeles Galaxy

2. Taylor Twellman
New England Revs

3. The Back Four
New York Red Bulls
Thursday, May 3
New England 2, D.C. 2 (ESPN2) -- Twellman has 12 goals in 17 meetings with United
Saturday, May 5
Columbus 0, Kansas City 0 -- Two sides looking to prove they belong in East race
New York 2, Real Salt Lake 0 (HDNet) -- And the shutout streak rolls on to 450 minutes
Colorado 1, Houston 1 (FSC) -- Another Brown goal will keep the Rapids on top of West
Sunday, May 6
D.C. 2, Chivas USA 0 (TeleFutura) -- United's puzzling winless streak finally ends here
Chicago 1, New England 1 -- Expect another hard-fought defensive war like in the opener

Last Week: An ugly 2-6; This season: 11-15
They might have the worst team in the league, but it was hard not to be impressed by the atmosphere in Toronto during its opener. Top-notch fans. But check out some of the choices on the gameday menu at BMO Field. Risotto balls? French-fry sandwich? Toronto looks like a road trip every MLS fan should try to make at least once.

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