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Recap
Sun. Dec 7th at 3:00pm EST · ESPN · UniMas · UDN · TSN1 · RDS2
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Final

It's that time of the year

if we're talking about the kids -- is not in school. They're on vacation. And you can ask any general manager in this league about trying to compete with the numerous other options these kids and their parents have. It makes the GM's life a living hell. But in the fall, when these kids' lives get more structured and they don't have all of the time in the world, a soccer game on a Saturday night suddenly becomes a treat, and the attendance at games will get bigger in upcoming weeks ... at least, it should.

Don't get me wrong. I am a huge football fan, and I love watching it as much as your average 300-pound face-painted "Joe" blowing a horn and pounding down beers at a Raider game does (not that I'm a Raiders fan). But I think soccer -- especially at this time of the season -- serves its purpose for the youth soccer market. Yeah, I wish it was on TV more, but when I look at the bright side, I'll have my first opportunity to take my kids to a game. And that's pretty cool.

You see, I want to go to a soccer game. I don't want to go to a football game, for all of the obvious reasons. It's two different worlds. And somewhere in Kansas City, a Chiefs fan is complaining about the soccer lines at Arrowhead Stadium.

Since I'm not covering a game, I think it's time to make some predictions.

The New England Revolution will end up in last place. The Colorado Rapids will not end up in first place. It's anybody's guess as to who will not make the playoffs in the West, but regardless, this year's playoff schedule and this year's pairings in the West will be maybe the best we've ever seen in MLS.

The East is another story. The MetroStars, mainly through the play of Amado Guevara -- who probably should be this year's MVP -- are looking better and better. The Columbus Crew may have peaked too early, and the Chicago Fire are too good of a team -- even though they lost Justin Mapp -- to end up in last place. Still, I don't see them in the final this year. D.C. United is the dark horse. They're the one team that everybody should be afraid of because if these guys ever figure it out, they could very well be this year's champion.

I mentioned the MVP, and when I say it probably should be Guevara, that's because though I'm not a goalkeeper, I can't see how any coach or any player in this league wouldn't vote for Rapids 'keeper Joe Cannon. If you've played against him, you know how good he is. If you've played with him, you know how good he is. And even though he's getting the job done once again, some people are still surprised. I'm not.

The Rookie of the Year cannot go to a player whose team is in last place, so I guess that rules out the Revs' Clint Dempsey, although his performance this year is truly worth talking about. He's a battler. He's a fighter. He's just an all-around great soccer player. I just wish someone would tell me what position he plays.

As far as defenders go, you can't overlook Robin Fraser, who has a great young talent next to him in Chad Marshall (probably the Rookie of the Year winner). Fraser's leadership, organizing talents, willingness to tackle and -- guess what -- speed, make him this year's best defender. So that's it. Since I am now a spectator without a microphone, I intend to enjoy the games ... all of them, whether it's live or on my VCR.

Former U.S. international forward Eric Wynalda scored the first goal in MLS history, and is currently the analyst on RadioShack's Soccer Saturday on ESPN2. He can be reached at takingshots@hotmail.com. He will be inducted in the National Soccer Hall of Fame during the Oct. 9-11 weekend. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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