First XI: MLS 2005 pre-test

not to mention the trade of Cornell Glen and the decision not to bring back Fabian Taylor -- but fact is, I do not. If the Metros do not bring back Tenywa Bonseu -- still unknown -- that leaves them with a couple of senior international slots to fill. The team also dealt for some youth international slots on draft day. All we know about the Metros today is that they're going to be looking at a lot of players this spring.

7. How many ex-MetroStars does it take? If the season were to start today, looks like John Ellinger's starting Real Salt Lake lineup will feature seven ex-Metros. From the back, goalkeeper D.J. Countess, defenders Eddie Pope, Brian Kamler and Nelson Akwari, midfielders Andy Williams and Pablo Brenes and forward Clint Mathis. There's also a rumor floating out there that Roy "How many times a Metro?" Myers is about to be signed. That was a joke. Oh, and by the way, those seven ex-Metros will begin their MLS careers in Giants Stadium, when RSL takes to the FieldTurf to play the Metros.

6. Rules? What rules? In case some of you missed it, there's a new twist on the allocation rules this season. Basically, allocations (which are worth a specified amount of money) can now be sub-divided. We saw an example of this on SuperDraft day when the MetroStars traded Ricardo Clark to San Jose for a portion of an allocation. In the past, this was not allowed. It was all or nothing. As some of you know, the MLS rule book has always been an obsession of mine and I'm sure if I've got this wrong, it'll be fixed pronto. Right boys?

5. Caribbean vacation? I'll be heading down to Trinidad next week and, as always, it'll be fun to see what players Bruce Arena uses to start this next phase of qualifying. From what I've heard -- and from watching the ESPN travel agents struggle to find me a hotel room -- it's Carnival time in Port-of-Spain. And don't kid yourself if you're thinking the U.S. won't be thrilled to take one point from this game. They'll be on the plane high-fiving before the crowd has filed out of the stadium. That's just the way it is in qualifying. You go on the road at this stage of the event and you take the point. Might not make for a thrilling contest, but we've reached the stage where it's all about getting to Germany.

4. Don't just blow off that Supplemental Draft on Friday. Remember we've got a reserve league this year. And while everyone is talking about the reserves will gain in terms of development, we should not forget that it also means that each coach will have 4-6 more players available each and every week. These players will not only be getting weekly games, but as they get games, they will also begin competing for playing time in the regular league games (just because a player is signed as "developmental" and plays in the "reserve league" doesn't mean he's not eligible for "regular season" games). A nifty consequence of the reserve system could also be an increased urgency each and every week for bubble players to perform at a peak level -- because those players now have to look over their shoulders to keep their places more than ever before.

3. "Freddy I" was fun, wasn't it? But I'm guessing "Freddy II" is going to be a whole lot more meaningful. In the sequel, we'll get to see a boy try to become a man. Is Freddy going to start? And if he doesn't, will he go off? Is Peter Nowak ready to alter what worked so well for D.C. United down the stretch last year? Let's not forget, most of the year, United was just a pretty average team. But down the stretch, they were rolling, and Freddy was pretty much the late-game injection. Definitely worth watching.

2. What's going on in Colorado with new coach Fernando Clavijo? Talk about a team that's going to be fun to watch through the preseason as they build a new identity. I can guarantee one thing about a Clavijo team: No one's going to enjoy playing against them. Remember his New England teams? Never afraid to give the hard foul, right? Heck, remember Clavijo the player? Now, you add that element to the altitude and you can bet MLS teams aren't going to be enjoying their trips to Denver a whole lot this season.

1. April 2 cannot get here soon enough. I'm TiVo'ed up and ready for action. I'm already wondering who will be the stars this year? In the last year, we've lost Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Bobby Convey, Andreas Herzog and John Spencer. Have any of those guys been replaced yet? Yet, having said that, someone will come from somewhere. Will a player like Francisco Palencia and/or Ramon Ramirez pull Mexican fans -- Chivas fans? -- in from coast to coast? Will there be another unheralded foreign signing who will take the league by storm (see: Ruiz, Carlos, 2002)? Or will a young American buck come out of almost nowhere (see: Twellman, Taylor, 2002).

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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