Friday April 20th, 2007


AP
Sizing up the imports
The most captivating transfer period in MLS history has ended. The result? The league has never had a greater number of quality international players arrive at one time. Taking a cue from the guys at MLS Underground, here's how I'd rank the top 10 signings in terms of their expected impact in 2007.
1. LUCIANO EMILIO, D.C. United -- The Brazilian striker quickly has shown tremendous power and skill. Emilio will lead MLS in goals this season -- he already has two in league play and five overall -- and he may need to the way D.C. has played thus far.
2. JUAN PABLO ÁNGEL, Red Bulls -- He filled N.Y.'s gaping hole at striker. More important, he gives a franchise that has never won a significant trophy real hope for first time since the league's inception.
3. DAVID BECKHAM, Galaxy -- He'd certainly be higher if he arrived sooner. He's not here just to sell tickets and jerseys. But, yes, off the pitch, Becks' impact is immeasurable.
4. GUILLERMO BARROS SCHELOTTO, Crew -- Beloved in Argentina, the Boca Juniors legend is a winner. And he could turn the Crew into a playoff team this season.
5. CLAUDIO REYNA, Red Bulls -- Reyna's injury woes -- he's missed one game and is questionable for Saturday's match -- have the doubters crowing. But when he's on the pitch, his talent is undeniable. Prediction: 20 games played.

Rest of the pack: 6. Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Fire (above); 7. Roberto Brown, Rapids; 8. Carlos Marinelli, Wizards; 9. Ronald Waterreus, Red Bulls; 10. Fred, D.C. United.
The other newcomers
The international arrivals are getting the majority of the attention, but a number of rookies quietly are off to promising starts. Kansas City's Michael Harrington made MLS history by scoring three minutes into his debut -- the fastest-ever by a rookie -- against D.C. United. Meanwhile, Robbie Findley scored for the Galaxy (and probably could have had a hat trick). In New England, Adam Cristman was solid (recording an assist, drawing a PK) in the rout of Toronto FC. Dane Richards -- one of the fastest men in the league -- was instrumental in the Red Bulls' win over FC Dallas. And the league's No. 1 pick in 2007, Toronto's Maurice Edu, has yet to make his first appearance.
No D in D.C.
Two matches does not make a season. So what to make of D.C.'s troubling slow start? United is off to its first 0-2 start since 2000, thanks to a defense has been obliterated (allowing six goals). Expect D.C. to make some changes before facing Columbus on April 28. Will United go away from its standard 3-5-2 formation? With the way Facundo Erpen has struggled at right back, first-year coach Tom Soehn may have little choice. All in all, this team has too much attacking skill to struggle for long. But you can bet D.C. will pursue defensive help when the transfer window reopens this summer.
A Wynne for Toronto
Toronto's reported acquisition of 2006 No. 1 pick Marvell Wynne looks like a steal. After Wynne was benched in favor of Hunter Freeman in New York, it was clear Wynne was not a favorite of Bruce Arena. Now Wynne will be reunited with the coach who drafted him: Mo Johnston. Make no mistake, the 20-year-old defender still is very raw and his crossing needs a lot of work. But you can't teach speed, and Wynne may be the fastest player in MLS. He will help out a TFC backline that has been torched in the early going.
RankLW Team
11
Houston Dynamo (1-0-1)
Back-to-back unremarkable first halves for the champs.
23
Colorado Rapids (1-0-1)
Two games, two nice goals by Herculez Gomez at Dick's.
38
New York Red Bulls (1-0-1)
By adding Ángel, New York is a legit threat for East title.
44
Chicago Fire (1-0-1)
Fortunate to escape with road point vs. 10-man Rapids.
57
New England Revolution (1-1-0)
Simply ripped Toronto into shreds in the first 20 minutes.
610
Kansas City Wizards (1-0-0)
Who saw that coming? Curt Onalfo had K.C. flying in D.C.
711
FC Dallas (1-1-1)
Won't hold lackluster N.Y. effort against them too much.
86
Chivas USA (1-1-0)
Ante Razov still one goal shy of the exclusive 100 club.
92
D.C. United (0-2-0)
Off until April 28. Gives them time to lick their wounds.
105
Los Angeles Galaxy (0-1-1)
Took L.A. 176 minutes (plus injury time) to score in '07.
119
Columbus Crew (0-0-2)
But Columbus is still waiting for its first goal -- somehow.
1213
Real Salt Lake (0-0-2)
Winless ... yet undefeated after two games for first time.
1312
Toronto FC (0-2-0)
Have a lot of work to do, even with addition of Wynne.
Three things I'm eager to watch this weekend
1. -- Will E.J. and K.C. keep it up? The Wizards' season opener couldn't have gone any better -- a 4-2 demolition of D.C. sparked by a goal and two assists from Eddie Johnson. Then again, just remember last season: EJ scored in the debut and helped catapult Kansas City to a 2-0 start. The Wizards missed the playoffs, and Johnson scored only once the rest of the season. Let's see a couple more stellar performances, starting Saturday vs. Chicago, before everyone jumps on the bandwagon again.
2. -- Houston vs. New York A possible MLS Cup preview? Perhaps. Ángel won't be cleared to play for New York for another couple of weeks, and Reyna may miss another game due to injury. So can Jozy Altidore and Clint Mathis continue to shine against the league's most talented team? Brian Ching will be a handful for the Bulls' back four.
3. -- Can anyone on Columbus score? It should come as little surprise that the Crew have not found the back of the net yet. But despite back-to-back scoreless draws, this team has a great deal of potential: Ned Grabavoy has been brilliant and Barros Schelotto will provide flair in the midfield down the road. But Columbus desperately needs to find a consistent finisher if it will make the playoffs for the first time since '04: That means you, Jason Garey and Andy Herron.

1. Eddie Johnson
Kansas City Wizards

2. Clint Mathis
New York Red Bulls

3. Taylor Twellman
New England Revs
Thursday, April 19
Columbus 1, New England 1 (ESPN2) -- Crew finally find a way to score
Saturday, April 21
Houston 1, N.Y. 1 (FSC) -- Orange Bowl (Mathis' shoes vs. Dynamo's shirt) ends in draw
Chicago 2, Kansas City 1 (HDNet) -- Back to earth for time being for EJ and the Wizards
Chivas USA 3, Real Salt Lake 1 -- Goats earn their first win of the season in a big way
Sunday, April 22
FC Dallas 1, Colorado 0 (Telefutura) -- Brutal stretch over, the Hoops rebound at home

Last Week: 3-4; This season: 5-8
The U.S. Open Cup, the oldest cup competition in American soccer, deserves a mention. Qualifying begins Wednesday night for MLS sides, as Real Salt Lake takes on Kansas City.

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