First XI: Did you know?

Seems we've been seeing a lot of strange occurrences lately on the MLS fields. Is it just me, or am I on to something? Bouncing around the league website, First XI throws a list of Did You Knows? at you as we reach the quarter-point of MLS Season 10.

11. Did you know that Real Salt has a better record through seven games than any expansion team in MLS history? Yes, it's true. In 1998, the Chicago Fire were 2-5 through seven games, while the Miami Fusion were 1-4-2. Of course, the Fire went on to win 11 in a row (including one shootout win) from that point. Both the Fire and the Fusion went on to make the playoffs in their inaugural seasons.

10. Speaking of RSL again. Did you know that Clint Mathis, with three assists, has already tripled his assist total from his last MLS season of 2003? Passes like the one Mathis hit to Jason Kreis for the game-winner last Saturday make you scratch your head and wonder how he could have only had one assist in a season. More assist oddities. Did you know Josh Wolff, with four assists, is now just one shy of his career-best single-season assist total? Along the same lines, Brad Davis, the league-leader with six assists, has already put a career-best number. Mathis, by the way, is still looking for his first MLS goal since June 6, 2003.

9. Did you know that the MetroStars, who allowed a league-worst 49 goals last season, are currently tied with New England with a league-best five goals allowed? New England has played one more game, but still, when you consider that three of the five goals the Metros have allowed have come off unlucky deflections, it certainly appears that the boys from the Swamp have gotten their defensive act together in front of young goalkeeper Zach Wells.

8. Did you know that a year ago, only 10 MLS players scored 10 or more goals, and that this year, we've got two players (Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey) already halfway to 10, and seven more players already sitting on four.

7. Did you know that only the Kansas City Wizards and Los Angeles Galaxy have lost games (one apiece) this season after scoring the first goal? Along those same lines, only the Galaxy have lost a game they led at half. That happened against RSL last week.

6. Did you know that only Amado Guevara and Josh Wolff have missed penalties this year? That's right. The rest of the league is a perfect 14-for-14. Having watched the way Landon Donovan calmly read Joe Cannon twice in making two PKs to beat the Rapids two weeks ago, I wonder if he now steps up to take the next penalty for the U.S. If you haven't seen Donovan's pre-shot routine yet, let's just say it's the most elaborate ritual I've seen from any player not named Nomar Garciaparra.

5. I think it was back in 2001 I wrote that Clint Mathis could become the USA's first one-name soccer player (sorry, I just cannot count the Yugoslavian-born Preki). My point was, I couldn't imagine another soccer player coming along named "Clint." I'm just going to put that one up there with my other fantastic predictions. One more thing about Dempsey. He's halfway to 10 goals from open play. Last season, only four MLS players hit double-digits without a PK.

4. Did you know the Columbus Crew last lost a home game by a 4-0 score on June 30, 1996? They lost that game at the old Horseshoe to the MetroStars. As bad a day as that was for Doctor Khumalo and Co., it was a memorable day for the original Metros, who got a double-dipping 35-yard goal from Nicola Caricola and a late tap-in from Chris Unger, who left his desk job in the Metro office to play in that game (and a few others).

3. Did you know that FieldTurf is a playing surface officially-sanctioned by FIFA? Wonder if anyone from that organization has been out to the Meadowlands or Salt Lake City recently. If they do, they'll see that there's a difference between FieldTurf that's manicured for soccer and FieldTurf that's hardened for American football. Also, in case you did not know, the cauldron known as Saprissa Stadium, in San Jose, Costa Rica, now has a FieldTurf surface. That will be fun day for the U.S.

2. Did you know that the New England Revolution are on pace to become the first 60-plus point team in MLS since the 1998 L.A. Galaxy put up 68? The '98 Galaxy also had 22 non-shootout wins. No team has had more than 17 since. Of course, the Revs are also on pace to go something like 26-0-6 ... so I'll calm down. Who knows, though, they could be the MLS version of '03-04 Arsenal.

1. Did you know the Fire have now lost three 3-0 games at Soldier Field in the past two seasons? From '98-2003, the Fire never lost a home game (at Soldier Field or Cardinal Stadium in Naperville) by more than two goals. And that happened only twice.

Jeff Bradley is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Send your comments and complaints (200 words or less, please) to Jeff at jbradleyespn2003@yahoo.com and he promises to read (but not respond to) all of them. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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