Major League Soccer's 18th season starts Saturday, and this year I decided to have some fun with my season preview piece. Little did I know that I would learn more about the league -- the good and the bad -- in a few days than I had in a long time.
The premise was simple. In private interviews with 18 players from around the league, I gave them anonymity (in return for their honesty) and asked them 25 rapid-fire questions about the league. Who's the most underrated player in MLS? Which stadium has the best atmosphere? Which has the worst? Who's the dirtiest player in the league? Which MLS player would you pick if you were starting a team from scratch? Those sorts of things.
The more players I talked to, the more a critical mass started to develop. I'll address half of the questions in Part I of the survey today and the other half tomorrow. Before we dive in, a bit about the ground rules: Players were not allowed to vote for their own team or anyone from it, and I'm only including choices that received more than one vote (the better to prevent someone with an outlier axe to grind from publicizing it).
Ready? Let's go:
If you were starting a team from scratch and could pick one MLS player to start with, who would it be?
1. Thierry Henry, New York (six votes) 2. Osvaldo Alonso, Seattle; Kyle Beckerman, Salt Lake; Landon Donovan, Los Angeles; Robbie Keane, Los Angeles (two votes)
If you could play for one coach in MLS other than your current one, who would it be?
1. Bruce Arena, Los Angeles (six votes) 2. Dominic Kinnear, Houston; Ben Olsen, D.C. United (four votes) 4. Frank Yallop, San Jose (two votes)
If there was one coach you would not want to play for, who would it be?
1. Schellas Hyndman, Dallas; José Luis Sánchez Solá, Chivas USA (three votes) 3. Robert Warzycha, Columbus (two votes)
If you could play for one MLS team other than yours, what would it be?
1. New York (five votes) 2. Los Angeles, Portland (three votes) 4. Salt Lake (two votes)
If there was one MLS team you would not want to play for, what would it be?
1. Columbus (five votes) 2. Chivas USA, Toronto (three votes) 4. Dallas (two votes)
Who is the most underrated player in MLS?
1. Mike Magee, Los Angeles; Dax McCarty, New York (three votes) 3. Chris Wondolowski, San Jose (two votes)
Who is the most overrated player in MLS?
(No critical mass.)
If you could ban artificial turf fields in MLS would you?
Yes (15 votes) No (three votes)
Which team has the best MLS stadium atmosphere?
1. Seattle (nine votes) 2. Portland (eight votes)
Which team has the worst MLS stadium atmosphere?
1. Dallas (six votes) 2. New England (four votes) 3. Chivas USA, Columbus, D.C. United (two votes)
Come back for Part II tomorrow, featuring questions about MLS Disciplinary Committee retro-suspensions, gambling/match-fixing and the issues most important to players that need to be addressed by the league.