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The coach speaketh

Arena says three teams are candidates for dominance

Posted: Tuesday May 3, 2005 3:24PM; Updated: Wednesday May 4, 2005 12:39PM
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Few people watch more MLS games than U.S. national team coach Bruce Arena, and nobody knows more about defying the league's parity-seeking rules than the coach who led D.C. United to two MLS Cups and a third title-game appearance between 1996 and '98. That may explain why Arena is as cautiously optimistic as I am about the way this MLS season may be shaping up.

"A dominant team in sports is exciting, and it gives everybody something to shoot for," Arena says. "This year maybe there's a chance somebody could do that [in MLS]."

That certainly would make for a more compelling regular season than last year's snoozefest, in which no MLS team won more than 14 games (Kansas City) or fewer than eight (Chicago and New England). So which teams does Arena think could be candidates for dominance? "New England, Los Angeles and an outside chance of Dallas," he says. "That would be my guess, but I don't want to make a living handicapping MLS."

It's still early, of course, but three teams appear to be separating themselves from the rest of the league after a month of play:

MLS Power Rankings
Rank LW Team
1 2
New England Revolution (4-0-1)
"There was no reason not to expect New England to come out and look like a good team early," Arena says. "I think [the Revs] have five of the best players in the league when you put together [Clint] Dempsey, [Steve] Ralston, [Taylor] Twellman, [Pat] Noonan and [Shalrie] Joseph, and they've got a solid goalkeeper [Matt Reis]. They need to get their back line more consistent, but they're a team that could have a pretty good season."
2 3
Los Angeles Galaxy (3-1-0)
I crossed the country to see the Galaxy-FC Dallas showdown on Saturday, and L.A. made it look easy with a 2-0 win. On Sunday Landon Donovan laid out his goals to me: win MLS Cup for the third time and another trophy for the first. "I want to be the MVP," he says, and with three goals in as many games, he may be on his way.
3 1
FC Dallas (3-1-1)
After a frustrating night against L.A., Eddie Johnson told me Monday he needs to play as a true striker instead of coming back to midfield so much. "I didn't eat against L.A., so I've got to eat this week," he said, and he wasn't talking about our lunch together. If Johnson (three goals in five games) can devour the K.C. defense on Saturday, it would give FCD a big boost in a brutal stretch with seven out of eight games on the road.
4 4
Chicago Fire (3-2-1)
What to make of these guys? First they squander a golden chance to win new fans with an abysmal 3-0 loss to the Revs at home on Wednesday before 50,000-plus (there for the Poland-Mexico friendly). Then they come back with a 2-0 win at Columbus over the weekend. Will newly arrived Slovakian Lubos Reiter be the scoring savior many are making him out to be?
5 8
San Jose Earthquakes (1-1-3)
The teams in spots 5 thru 9 all have been equally mediocre, but at least the 'Quakes are scoring goals. With all the points they've given away so far, it wouldn't be surprising to see them move up this list in the coming weeks.
6 5
Kansas City Wizards (1-1-2)
Way to sell the sport on national TV with that brutal 0-0 against D.C. on Saturday. Just as Congress is cracking down on steroids in sports, we wouldn't be opposed to a Congressional ban on lineups with a lone forward. Time to get on this, John McCain.
7 7
D.C. United (1-2-2)
The malaise in D.C. is deepening. It's time for the champs to show us something, and a home game against flagging Columbus will give them a perfect opportunity.
8 11
MetroStars (1-1-2)
Forget what we said about Amado Guevara last week. His hat trick against the Rapids was a thing of beauty, especially the impossibly angled, perfectly struck bomb El Lobo hit for No. 3.
9 6
Columbus Crew (2-3-0)
Efforts like the one the Crew had against Chicago make us wonder how on earth Columbus thumped L.A. 3-0 in Week 1. There's too much talent on this team to be playing such bad soccer over the past two weeks.
10 10
Real Salt Lake (1-2-2)
Is Jason Kreis this year's Jaime Moreno? The league's all-time leading scorer hit net twice (including a spot kick) in RSL's tie against San Jose, making us think our preseason playoff prediction might not be so crazy after all.
11 9
Colorado Rapids (1-3-1)
Fernando Clavijo's outfit could be heading into a buzzsaw with a trip to play the Galaxy on Sunday. If L.A. can keep its customary early intensity for 90 minutes, a 5-0 scoreline wouldn't be out of the question.
12 12
Chivas USA (0-4-1)
This policy of allowing first names and nicknames on jerseys is getting out of hand, and the winless Goats are the worst offenders. We understand the space-saving "Ezra" instead of "Hendrickson," but what's up with "Thiba" (Thiago Martins) and the bewildering "Douglas" (for defender Douglas Sequeira)? Our proposal: If Chivas can't beat fellow expansion team RSL at home this week, Sequeira's new jersey should read "Él Me Odia" (He Hate Me).