Juan Carlos Toja is the bomb
The big new signings are yet to have an impact on MLS. David Beckham and Cuauhtemoc Blanco won't suit up until July, and Juan Pablo Angel got his first minutes last night for New York. But in the opening six weeks of the season, a slew of new faces have had a marked impact on the league. My five favorites:
4. Michael Harrington: It took the rookie from North Carolina all of three minutes to score his first MLS goal. He's since proven to be the 2007 version of Jonathan Bornstein. Harrington's got chutzpah to burn and is comfortable lining up pretty much anywhere on the field. He gets the nod over Dane Richards as early frontrunner for rookie of the year.
3. Steve Morrow and Curt Onalfo: The pair of first year coaches have put together two of the league's more intriguing squads. Morrow boldly threw overboard a bunch of veterans (Ronnie O'Brien, Greg Vanney,
Aaron Pitchkolan Simo Valikari) in favor of young, untested talent. Not surprisingly, the results for Dallas have been uneven. Ramon Nunez has displayed moments of brilliance and Kenny Cooper continues to manipulate his huge, hunchbacked frame in ways that amaze. I still think Dallas' green defense (Alex Yi? Clarence "Own Goal" Goodson?) will ultimately leave them near the foot of the table, but they're awful fun to watch. By contrast Onalfo hardly touched a K.C. squad that was second worst in the East last year and has somehow transformed it into the most consistent team in MLS. Eddie Johnson's playing with renewed vigor. Sasha Victorine is displaying heretofore unknown skill. And the addition of Kevin Hartman has cemented K.C.'s defense as the best in the league. Now if they can just get some fans to show up for their games. (I'll be doing my part by traveling south for this Saturday's clash with Dallas.)
2. Claudio Reyna: There's no disputing the positive impact that Reyna's had on a team that has been the laughingstock of MLS since its inception. Just look at New York's gutty 1-0 win over Houston last month despite playing a man down for the final 54 minutes. Reyna slowed the game down, controlled the middle of the field, and frustrated the Dynamo into playing poorly.