The 2007 season for MLS was its most visible on both the American sports scene and on the international football scene. For first time since the early days of the league, MLS was scouting Latin America for talent and playing in the international transfer market. But it seems the never ending conflict within MLS to either be a player on the international football scene or make a dent in the American sports market is still beating with no end in site. My opinion, being a long time fan of American sports is that MLS has a much better chance of being a major league worldwide and niche league in the US, then tweaking its product to satisfy some soccer hating media elites here in the US.
MLS 2007 saw the purchase of international players with pedigree unlike any MLS purchases since the early days of the league. It also saw the start of Superliga, a compition designed to win more fans for MLS from the Mexican American community and more respect from the Mexican media. But despite all this internationalization it is the leagues two most North American oriented teams: Houston and New England who met for the 2nd consecutive year in the MLS Cup Finals.
Against that backdrop let’s move through the honor roll for MLS 2007.
Best Player: Eddie Robinson, Houston
What? Are you nuts? Yes I am nuts, but I am less into star power than hard nosed defense and winning championships. Eddie Robinson is a winner, and he’s proven it over and over again. Winning is the ultimate test of who is a star and who is not in my book. Robinson anchors a back line that has been like a stone wall the past two seasons.
Worst Player: Freddy Adu, Real Salt Lake
Sure we know how successful Freddy was with Benfica (more tomorrow on this subject) but his time in Salt Lake was a washout where his poor attitude prevented the club from improving in any manner.
Best International Signing: Juan Toja, FC Dallas
Sure all the sexy DP signings were nice but everyone of them was at least 29 years of age. Toja joined MLS at 21 from River Plate, a club that usually sells its young stars to European clubs. For me that makes Toja the best international signing and most impressive move by MLS in the transfer market this season.
Worst International Signing: Denilson, FC Dallas
Need I explain?
Best Fans: Toronto FC
Worst Fans: Red Bull NY
Best Executive: Kevin Payne, DC United
Add Emilio and Fred to Ryan Nelson, Raul Diaz Arce, Marco Etcheverry, Christian Gomez and Jaime Moreno. ALl quality below the radar international signings for the signature franchise of the league. Add to that DC’s deep runs in the Champions Cup, Superliga, an unfortunate loss in the Copa Sudamericana, and another Supporters Shield.
Worst Executive: Alexi Lalas, LA Galaxy
Sure Lalas is a clever marketing man but is inept at player personnel decisions. Nate Jaqua, Robbie Findley, Nathan Sturgis, Tyrone Marshall, Herculez Gomez, Paulo Nagamura, Shavar Thomas, need I continue?
Best New Stadium: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, outside Denver
I visited DSGP for the second Rapids match of the season and found it much more impressive and soccer specific in a true sense than the Home Depot Center or Toyota Park. The Stadium had a European feel to it and lots of surrounding land with training facilities and practice fields.
Best New Logo: LA Galaxy
I love the new Galaxy logo although I will miss the Green/Teal look which had become a staple of the Galaxy franchise when they were actually winning trophies.
Best Network Coverage: FSC’s MLS Saturday
Adding a pre game and post game show with Todd Grisham at the match site was a mini coup for FSC, adding a big event atmosphere and ambiance that ESPN and HDNet’s telecasts lack.