Speed kills, as the cliché goes, and this year in particular, MLS coaches are looking for fleet-footed assassins to ice a few games for them. The 25-year-old Richards (right) is the inspiration for the swiftness craze. In last year's playoffs, the Jamaican international streaked past defenders like they were pylons and played a major part in the Red Bulls' surprising run to the final.
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Injuries restricted the Ghanaian striker's season to just nine games last year but, now healthy, the 23-year-old should be a major threat in 2009. Midfield mastermind Cuauhtémoc Blanco must be salivating at the prospect of unleashing a no-look through ball behind the defense to a streaking Nyarko.
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The 20-year-old Gambian announced himself in stunning fashion on his debut in the Revs' '08 opener. A stoppage-time rocket-fueled sprint with the ball from midfield culminated in an exclamation-point goal in a 3-0 victory over Houston. The right midfielder's loping runs keep opposing defenders on their back feet for the full 90 minutes.
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K.C. used its first two picks in last year's SuperDraft on defenders. The first was much ballyhooed No. 1 overall Chance Myers, who missed most of the season with mononucleosis. The second was Leathers, who established himself at right back down the stretch. The 24-year-old's pace is deceiving and his willingness to jump into the attack, if developed, could become a real weapon for a team that needs a few more of them.
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The three Z's in Khumalo's nickname, "Boyzzz," conjure up thoughts of sleeping. But the 28-year-old South African is no soporific. Signed at midseason last year, he made seven starts and nabbed one goal after zipping past L.A.'s defense. With the aging Jaime Moreno and the lumbering Luciano Emilio spearheading the team's attack, United will need Boyzzz's velocity if it wants to make the playoffs.
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There are times when it looks as if Rogers is in cruise control. These are frustrating episodes. Then, suddenly, he turns on some kind of afterburner and races into the attack, leaving defenders sprawling behind him like a trail of victims. This season could be the 21-year-old's last in MLS before a leap to Europe, where his speed will be his ticket to success.
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Wynne is often called the fastest player in MLS. True or not, the TFC right back's speed means he usually can recover from his occasional, if glaring, defensive lapses. There are few things as breathtaking as watching the 22-year-old Wynne chase down a hapless striker like a falcon swooping in for the kill.
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Galindo was a revelation two years ago, blazing past defenders and claiming a dozen goals. But then recurring injuries killed his season last year: just one goal in five games. If the Cuban defector can regain his form, he could lead the Goats to a conference championship like he did in '07.
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Six goals and four assists in '08 hinted at the damage Cummings is capable of. Stronger than his thin frame and blessed with a quick first step, the 26-year-old ruined defenders' evenings all season long and earned a call-up to the Jamaican national team. He scored his first international goal last November.
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Terrell Owens-style buffoonery long has smeared Cunningham's rep and made many observers disregard his gaudy numbers: 104 career goals in 289 games. Despite getting older -- he's 32 now -- the Jamaican native still can lay down some rubber. Plus, unlike T.O., he seems settled in the Big D.
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Used in '08 primarily as a substitute jolt of energy, Ashe's niche -- relentlessly wreaking havoc on the wing -- has become an effective second-half weapon. The 23-year-old Virginia Beach native (right) should see more time in '09 as the Dynamo midfield is beginning to show its age.
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Franklin, the '08 Rookie of the Year, was the lone bright spot in the black hole that was the Galaxy defense last season. Head coach Bruce Arena looks set to slide him from the center to the right side, allowing the graceful 24-year-old to range forward. Opposing left backs, consider yourselves warned.
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This should be the year Findley fulfills his promise and proves once and for all he belongs in the starting 11 every week. The only thoroughbred among RSL's strike force, the 23-year-old can stretch defenses and, after notching five goals and six assists last year, find the back of the net.
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After three peripatetic years -- including a cup of coffee in the pro indoor league -- Johnson finally found a home in NorCal. Fast and feisty, the 24-year-old Jamaican, who was raised outside of Boston, snagged five goals in '08 and looks set to be the epicenter of the Quakes attack.
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The No. 1 pick in this year's SuperDraft, Zakuani should contribute immediately. His pace will get him behind the defense, but the Sounders also need the 21-year-old former Arsenal youth player to score goals like he did at the University of Akron, where he led the nation in scoring last fall.
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