Five things we learned about MLS (cont.)
Some guys need a little more time than others to achieve maximum career velocity. Here are the top 10 in Major League Soccer this year who have taken things to the next level. (Note: rookies not included.)
1. Dominic Oduro, Chicago Fire -- The guy always had blazing speed, but his choices near goal and inability to convert all that athleticism into productivity is the reason he moved from Dallas first, then from Houston. But he's putting it together this year and, with 10 goals, could even challenge for the Golden Boot.
2. Jack Jewsbury, Portland -- Where was all this as the American midfielder spent eight undistinguished seasons in Kansas City? Whatever the reason, he's a big part of a great story in the Rose City, where Jewsbury's industry and set piece service have the Timbers positioned for a playoff run.
3. Graham Zusi, Sporting Kansas City -- The issue with Kansas City's smooth-passing midfielder has always been this: Where, exactly, to play him? He was always something of a 'tweener. Now Peter Vermes is using Zusi as a two-way central midfielder, leaning slightly forward. It's working.
4. Nick LaBrocca, Chivas USA -- He always seemed to make things happen at previous addresses, in Colorado and Toronto. So why didn't he play a little more? Great question. Ask some of those coaches -- if you can find them. Either way, Robin Fraser is happy to have this hardworking attacking midfielder around. LaBrocca's goals and assists come from industry and instinct more than from brilliant technical work.
5. Juninho, Los Angeles Galaxy -- Don't let all the Home Depot Center luminaries fool you. The young Brazilian midfielder is having a terrific season for Bruce Arena, a two-way central midfielder who works hard, covers ground and does his part in L.A.'s killer transition game.
6. Chris Pontius, D.C. United -- He started fast as a 2009 rookie but lost most of 2010 to injury. Now he's back and better than ever with seven goals and five assists. Or, he "was" back. Pontius' recent injury is a big setback for United considering his 2011 contributions around RFK.
7. Corey Ashe, Houston -- Ashe had entered the part of a career where players are what they are, and he was pretty much stuck as a complementary part, an occasional midfield starter at Houston. Then Dominic Kinnear experimented with Ashe at left back, and now he's a lineup mainstay who continues to grow into the position. Ashe is already among the top attacking left backs in MLS.
8. George John, Dallas -- FC Dallas' center back was more or less "discovered" by the national media late last year. But he's kicked it up a notch this year, and his good season came close to a Premiership reward. A transfer to Blackburn fell through at the last minute, but it won't be the last time Europe beckons.
9. Tally Hall, Houston -- It's not the best season around Robertson Stadium, but it might be worse if not for a couple of big nights from their youngish goalkeeper. At 26, Hall may not be the American up-and-comer in goal that Chicago's Sean Johnson or D.C. United's Bill Hamid might be, but he's having a breakout season just the same.
10. Andrew Jacobson, FC Dallas -- He never found a settled spot in the D.C. United (2009) or Philadelphia (2010) lineups over the last two years. But FC Dallas is a much better team when he does the central running for Daniel Hernandez, who can then hold and link.
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