MLS midseason best
By Ridge Mahoney, Soccer America
Our midterm honor roll has lots of surprises. Who would have figured the MVP award would be a Miami multiple-choice question and San Jose would be in line for four of the six MLS awards?
Many players must prove they can perform down the stretch as the playoffs draw near. Here are Soccer America's choices for MLS's six major honors -- as well as our look at the top new faces -- at the All-Star break.
MVPDIEGO SERNA (Miami)
Picking any member of the Fusion over the others is a most difficult task. The scoring of Diego Serna and Alex Pineda Chacon, the midfield work of Preki, Ian Bishop and Jim Rooney, the defense of Carlos Llamosa and Pablo Mastroeni, and the keeping of Nick Rimando are all vital elements of the incredible trans-Fusion.
San Jose's Jeff Agoos deserves a lot of consideration. Peter Nowak is a constant driving force for the Fire. John Spencer has done far more than anyone could have asked in Colorado. The Mutiny players will have Mamadou Diallo to thank if they somehow resurrect their season.
GOALKEEPERJOE CANNON (San Jose)
Joe Cannon and Nick Rimando (Miami) are the new kids on the block challenging veterans like Zach Thornton (Chicago).
Cannon is an imposing presence and solid in all departments. Rimando is amazingly quick, fearless and wears white shoes.
Thornton has been the strong foundation of a Fire House that is constantly being remodeled. With a decent defense in front of him, Scott Garlick (Colorado) should be very tough in the second half of the season.
Tom Presthus (Columbus) has taken over the starting job for the Crew with a string of solid games.
DEFENDERJEFF AGOOS (San Jose)
The Quakes rely on the toughness, savvy and leadership of Jeff Agoos. The Robin Fraser-less Galaxy is depending a lot more on Greg Vanney.
Miami wouldn't be on top of the East without Carlos Llamosa and Pablo Mastroeni. Both have been outstanding and will be severely tested as teams try to solve the Fusion.
D.C. needs a strong showing from Eddie Pope if it is to be a factor in the playoffs. Ditto Mike Petke and the MetroStars.
ROOKIERYAN SUAREZ (Dallas)
Ryan Suarez is blossoming in Dallas. Great touch and vision sometimes pump him full of overconfidence, and he needs to be harder in the tackle, but he can be a real good one.
Mark Lisi reads the game well, has good feet and has played every game for D.C. this season. If teammate Santino Quaranta plays enough minutes in the second half of the season, he could take the prize.
Chris Carrieri, the No. 1 pick in the SuperDraft, is much happier in Colorado than he was in San Jose. The sleeper is defender Jim Curtin of Chicago, a 6-foot-4 Villanova product who's shown some promise.
(Landon Donovan and Joselito Vaca are not eligible because they were members of professional teams before they came to MLS.)
NEWCOMERJOHN SPENCER (Colorado)
John Spencer has been a godsend to the Rapids. He's a dynamic, fearless, zealous attacker blessed with remarkable vision, delicate touch and a ruthless shot.
Pineda Chacon and Bishop are stellar and Pineda Chacon would rate on top if not for Spencer. Cate has brought a breath of magic to New England. Kansas City's Onandi Lowe is a force unto himself.
COMEBACK PLAYERTROY DAYAK (San Jose)
Quakes defender Troy Dayak was bedridden for two months after spinal fusion surgery and then had to rehabilitate a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Billy Walsh was all but cast off by the Metros while rehabilitating a stress fracture in his foot. Eric Wynalda had played only 17 league games and scored three goals in the last two MLS seasons before arriving in Chicago.
COACHFRANK YALLOP (San Jose)
The most dramatic turnaround has come in San Jose, where rookie head coach Frank Yallop has transformed a 7-17-8 embarrassment into an attractive, winning team.
He only had to give up one player -- Abdul Thompson Conteh -- to nab starters Agoos, Zak Ibsen and Manny Lagos. He shrewdly used allocations for Dwayne DeRosario and Donovan.
Ray Hudson has worked miracles in Miami. The Fusion was 11-12-1 under him last year but is roaring along in 2001 with the additions of Pineda Chacon, Preki and Bishop. Whatever Hudson has been selling, his players are buying.
Bob Bradley has patched up the Fire, which keeps winning despite injuries and national team call-ups.
He has extracted production from Wynalda and Jamar Beasley, who had hit roadblocks in New England, and still has an allocation remaining.
Ridge Mahoney is a senior editor at Soccer America magazine.