Playoffs Scoreboard

Recap
Leg 1
11/23 FINAL
1LA
0SEA
RECAP
Recap
Leg 2
11/30 9:00pm
SEA
LA
ESPN
Western Conference Championship
Recap
Leg 1
11/23 FINAL
1NY
2NE
RECAP
Recap
Leg 2
11/29 3:00pm
NE
NY
NBCSN
Eastern Conference Championship

Sorting the latest reader mail

oh yeah -- Brian McBride in the same ballot, you know you're splitting hairs.

While I continue to ponder that question for the ages, let's move on to the top questions I've received since Opening Day of the 10th season of Major League Soccer.

From Jason in New Jersey: Marc, You live up in Revsland -- who is going to score more goals for New England: Clint Dempsey, Pat Noonan or Taylor Twellman?

Now we're talking. First off, I put down Taylor Twellman as my choice to lead the league in goals this year in the ESPN.com preview. Nothing has changed for me to change my mind that that's going to happen. Not only does he lead the Revs -- and MLS -- with six strikes thus far, he's probably hit the post or the crossbar on five occasions ...

(For those who need to know, I'm sure I'll have that exact answer by the end of Tuesday courtesy of Brad Feldman, the Revs play-by-play/Communications extraordinaire.)

If Bruce Arena doesn't end up calling up Twellman for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July, then he'll have an easy time distancing himself from his teammates on the stats sheet. But if he continues to keep scoring the type of goal scorer's goals he's been converting as of late, the U.S. manager will have no choice but to recall the workmanlike striker.

From Owen Kelly in Maine: MLS should develop a first division, second division system that utilizes the MLS franchises as a hub to work from. The European system essentially -- I recognize that MLS owners are not going to opt for relegation -- but the A-League and other assorted pro/semi and amateur leagues should be organized into divisions with relegation between lower divisions.

That's nearly in place already, Owen. Promotion/relegation isn't in play right now, but that's where this is all headed in another five years or so. It'll probably have to start in the second and third divisions first, which are classified as the United Soccer Leagues First Division (the old A-League) and the USL Second Division (the old D3 Pro League).

Good thing that is not in place right now or else the players on Chivas USA would have one more reason to lose sleep at night.

From Tyler in Easton, Pa.: Bruce Arena has used almost half the league by now. Besides Freddy Adu, is there anyone else out there he hasn't looked at that he should?

As of the moment, Arena has capped an even 100 players during his nearly seven years in charge of the U.S. national team. There are several players in MLS that I can see playing for the national team one day, but it's also just a year away from the World Cup. So the 10 players listed below might be best to bring in immediately following the 2006 World Cup:

  • Ricardo Clark, San Jose - Versatility is key for the recently-turned 22-year-old.
  • Josh Gros, D.C. United - The athleticism he provides along the flank is impressive.
  • Danny O'Rourke, San Jose - Not a good match on Sunday, but is usually quality.
  • Michael Parkhurst, New England - He'll be manning the back four someday.
  • Todd Dunivant, Los Angeles - Hard to find a talented left back.
  • Chad Barrett, Chicago - A young Eric Wynalda, according to a rival assistant coach.
  • Hunter Freeman, Colorado - Again, versatility is huge for this up-and-comer.
  • Brad Guzan, Chivas USA - Imagine him at 24 or 25?
  • Mike Magee, MetroStars - Still only 20 years old.
  • Matt Reis, New England - Just entering into his prime years for a GK.

    From Bryan Painter: I noticed this year that some of the teams have made a concerted effort to change the logos and team names. Will that be consistent moving forward?

    You mean you don't want to see the Rapids in Kappa or the Revs in Atletica or Umbro?

    I think that the changes made by several of the teams have been for the better. My favorite jersey in the league right now is the gray adidas jersey that FC Dallas wears on the road. Not to take sides in the logo wars, but I prefer the Earthquakes in adidas over their old Nike kits, as well.

    As far as the team names go, this was obviously a subject of much debate during the naming of the two expansion sides and the switchover from Dallas Burn to FC Dallas. To be honest, the first time I heard "Real Salt Lake" it sounded like something a person from Utah would name is fantasy team or over-30 side. But now that the league has started and it's the newness/weirdness has worn off, I don't mind it.

    It might be time to add another "United" or "City" to the league, since there are more than two in a number of leagues. The next city to get a franchise would be smart to throw something like that at the end of their city's name and run with it. "Seattle United" or "Birmingham City" works for me.

    Someday when I'm running the league, I'll make sure that Rushden & Diamonds FC has a sister franchise in MLS, but that's a different story for another day.

    From Paul in Boulder, Colorado: Who is Aaron Pitchkolan and what is he doing with a goal and an assist for FC Dallas?

    Paul, I think a lot of people were asking themselves the same question the other night when the rookie defender deflected a shot from teammate Ramon Nuñez into the back of the net just seconds into the first minute of a match that saw FC Dallas down Chivas USA 5-2.

    I don't think even Aaron Pitchkolan had heard of himself before scoring that goal.

    If you must know, "Pitch" hardly stood out at the MLS Player Combine last January. He showed strength as a central defender, but appeared too slow to keep up with professional strikers. I saw him play in college a few times when he was at West Virginia and he never really stood out or did anything to make you even jot down his name in your brain.

    Good to see a kid that was drafted out of the supplemental draft even make a roster, never mind get a start and score a goal.

    From Ryan Temple in Connecticut: I couldn't agree with you more in regards to the thought of not voting for either John Harkes, Marcelo Balboa, or Tab Ramos for induction into the Hall of Fame. They are such an integral part of the growth of soccer here in America. You would expect every single one of those voters to know that is case; however, it doesn't seem to be that way. What a shame, and, as you say, these voters should explain themselves.

    Ryan, I'm hoping that the National Soccer Hall of Fame does the right thing and starts posting the voting results by each voter. Ever since the voting got to be much closer with the addition of MLS players two years ago, there have been some curious results. I know of a few people who voted who do not even cover the sport, which would upset me a lot more if I was someone like Bruce Murray, Hugo Perez or Thomas Dooley, and had an outside chance of being inducted in the coming years.

    From Victor in Baltimore: Why is my team (D.C. United) trading Mike Petke when our backline is already so thin?

    Petke went to Colorado where he is reunited with Fernando Clavijo, who was an assistant coach with the MetroStars when Petke was there. This moves open up some cap room for the reigning MLS Cup champion and will ultimately allow them to move midfielder Chris Henderson to another team in exchange for an allocation, in which they'll use to sign a defender.

    Said CEO Kevin Payne: "We are working to fill a very specific need in our team and our hope is that by acquiring an allocation, we will be able to accomplish that."

    D.C. United needs a standout defender if they are going to make any noise this year. Steven Goff of the Washington Post reported on Monday that the side will sign an unnamed Argentine defender with the allocation.

    Looking at the state of that defense right now, he had better be a major impact player much like Ryan Nelsen was. If he's a Steve Howey or a Hong Myung-Bo, they'll never be able to hold off the likes of the strikers from Eastern Conference foes like the Revolution and Wizards.

    One would have to give technical director Dave Kasper and head coach Peter Nowak the benefit of the doubt, though, as they discovered a gem in attacking midfielder Christian Gomez that came on during the transfer window last year, as well as a classy left-sided player in Steve Guppy, who still has some gas in his tank after a long career in England.

    From Jay-bug in L.A.: Marc, I've read you in FourFourTwo over the years, so I'm guessing you saw Steve Nicol's perfect XI in the latest issue. He had Tim Howard in goal; Eddie Pope, Ryan Nelsen and Carlos Bocanegra in the back; Steve Ralston, John Harkes, Peter Nowak, Carlos Valderrama and Hristo Stoitchkov in the midfield; and Landon Donovan and Mo Johnston up top. How would yours differ?

    I did see this recently. My unit would differ slightly from Nicol's. I think you'd have to have Jeff Agoos -- and his five MLS Cup titles -- in the back, so I'd go with four defenders. In the midfield, I'd have Marco Etcheverry over Stoitchkov, and would take Harkes out, as well. Up front, I'd go with Jaime Moreno and Donovan. (I'd also think long and hard about Carlos Ruiz, as well.)

    Marc Connolly writes for ESPN.com and several other publications. This column runs each Wednesday on MLSnet.com and Marc can be reached at marc@oakwoodsoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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