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Eastern Conference Championship

The First XI : New accounts

Opening Days are great in all sports, if for no other reason than the
statistical paces that are set. For example, in MLS today, we've got Jaime
Moreno and Carlos Ruiz on pace for 90 points apiece, Mark Lisi on pace
for 60 assists. Remember Tuffy Rhodes hitting three home runs for the
Cubs on Opening Day in 1994? That put him on pace to hit 486 home runs
in a single season. You get the idea. One game under a bright spotlight
can make you think crazy things, draw ridiculous conclusions. First XI
is going to try to avoid anything so ludicrous while running down Week
1's superlatives.

11. Best debuts came from The Home Depot Center where Andreas
Herzog and Jovan Kirovski (right) "opened their MLS accounts," as Sean
Wheelock might say. These were two well-taken goals that were as opposite
as they could be. Herzog's goal was pure placement, a left-footed roller
from the top of the 18 that rolled just inside the post. Kirovski's goal
was a blast that nearly ripped the net off the goal. I really do love
The Home Depot Center's Nou Camp-sized field. It's hard for the game to
be anything but wide open. I'm sure head coach Steve Nicol would've liked
for his Revs to slow things down after twice equalizing in the second
half. But that's easier said than done on that field. I expect the Galaxy
to play with a real edge this season as last season's exit has still got
to taste bad.

10. A brief statistical interlude. Ruiz scored the Galaxy's first goal of the season, which is not a surprise. But did you know that, last season, of Ruiz's 15 goals, seven were penalties? I know, I know, a goal's, a goal's, a goal, but here's a list of last season's leading MLS scorers, minus PKs: Taylor Twellman 15; Landon Donovan 11; Mark Chung 11; Damani Ralph 10; Brian McBride 10; Edson Buddle 10; Pat Noonan 10; John Spencer 10; Ante Razov 9; Clint Mathis 8; Ruiz 8; DaMarcus Beasley 7, Mike Magee 7; Preki 7; Igor Simutenkov 7.

9. Magee’s goal for the MetroStars was a thing of beauty,
a glancing, looping header from 10 yards out that nestled just inside
the far post. It got back to me that some of the folks in the press box
at Crew Stadium were calling the goal "lucky", which is a hoot.
On the replay you can see Magee glance the ball and follow it with his
eyes into the net. He clearly wanted to flick it far post. And, as I say
on the golf course, there’s two kinds of luck, good and bad, and
you have to accept both. If Magee’s goal was lucky, then every re-direction
goal in soccer history was lucky. It also occurred to me that Magee has
amazingly become one of the most unsung players in the league. He’s
now got eight goals (no penalties, see above stat) in 30 career games
before reaching the age of 20. That’s one more regular-season goal
than Donovan had at the same age, in roughly the same number of minutes.
I'm not saying Magee is in Donovan’s class as an overall player,
but for a teen forward in MLS, he’s been pretty good.

8. I've now seen enough of Noonan to say he's a future national team player. I'm just not sure what position he'll ultimately settle into. Playing on the left side of midfield on Saturday for New England, Noonan scored a beautiful goal from an acute angle. He's very athletic and seems to be totally fearless. I have a feeling, before long, we're going to see Noonan and Twellman joining forces up front for the Revs, with Joe-Max Moore sliding back. Noonan's instincts around the net seem too good to waste on the left flank.

7. Good to see that beautiful Cotton Bowl field again, but what's up with that paltry crowd of 7,000 and change? Please, Burn fans (and Tino the Impostor), spare me the e-mails. After all the moaning and groaning about Southlake, would've been nice to see a little more rallying around the team and it's return to the CB. If that's what you draw on Opening Night, I hate to think what it's going to look like there in mid-July.

6. Early leader for Quote of the Year, from Ives Galarcep's Saturday
story on the MetroStars' Eddie Gaven in the North Jersey Herald News.
Gaven, talking about his rookie year in MLS and how hard it was to fit
in with the boys, said, "It was pretty funny and kinda weird. All these
guys driving up in their nice cars and my mom's pulling up in the big
green minivan, dropping me off and giving me a kiss."

5. My take on the elimination of overtime in MLS regular season games is this: I think when you're watching a game with no rooting interest, for the most part, you want extra time for the sake of pure entertainment. When you're watching a game with a rooting interest, you're usually content to take the point and walk away after 90 minutes (unless it's late in the year and ties aren't getting your team anywhere). I'm always in favor of doing what's in the best interest of the real MLS fans, that is, the guys who have a rooting interest. And I think the majority of those folks would rather have no OT.

4. On a related note, I'm not a big fan of the scoreless draw. But what can you do? The only suggestion that's really made me think a bit came from an old colleague of mine at Sports Illustrated. He suggested that when teams tie 0-0, both teams get zero points. I know what you're going to say, that teams would then conspire to give each other a goal early to rule out the possibility of getting nothing out of a tie. Of course, anyone with that attitude thinks game-fixing is within the realm of possibility. I'd like to think teams could play it straight. Give it some thought. To get a point, you need to score a goal.

3. It's the old "chicken and egg" argument. Who's responsible for the Freddy Adu hype? Is it Camp Freddy? Or is it the media? You know, it's probably a little of both. The kid's a compelling story and people want to read about him and hear about him. The kid's also got a chance to bring MLS more into the mainstream of American sports, so the league has to try and seize on that opportunity. However, there exists the potential for this Freddymania to reach an uncomfortable level. I began to feel it on Saturday. So many people seemed to feel it was necessary to make a call on whether Freddy's debut was a success or a failure. Obviously, it was a business success. The stands were full. But on the field? There wasn't much to say other than, "He didn't do much and didn't have the chance to do much. That's soccer sometimes." D.C. United was trying to protect a one-goal lead. Trying to win a game. They weren't trying to see if Freddy could dazzle the crowd or put on some type of show. And they didn't have any obligation to (despite what the guys on PTI might think). Certainly Freddy understood this. So why can't we? Analyzing every touch gets tedious after the first one. Anyway, the debut is out of the way. I hope Freddy now gets a chance to breathe a little. He's got a bunch of teammates who are rightfully more concerned about winning games than about The Freddy Adu Show. The last thing Freddy needs is the outside world alienating him from his teammates.

2. It is truly hard for me to believe that there was no place in MLS for Chris Carrieri. It is understood that sometimes talented players become bad fits for certain coaches and certain teams. Obviously, Chris had worn out his welcome with Tim Hankinson and the Rapids. Still, here is a 23-year-old American forward who scored 11 goals just two seasons ago. Clint Mathis only had one season in MLS with more than 11 goals. Yeah, Carrieri has too much to say sometimes, but on the field, he's a hustler. You have to believe some coach in the league would've been able to reach him and get him to channel his energy in a more positive way. Carrieri now gets his chance with the A-League's Rochester Rhinos. Here's hoping it's a good place for him and it doesn't take long for an MLS team to give him a shot.

1. Time for my Lock of the Week (Tino Palace remains the scorekeeper). Last week, I picked Dallas (to the delight of Burn fans, I'm sure) and ended up with a draw. This week, I'm going with Los Angeles over D.C United.

Send your comments and complaints (200 words or less, please) to 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 MLSnet.com.


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