Smartest Louisiana Purchase since the Louisiana Purchase: Stern John. Plucked by the Crew from the A-League's New Orleans Riverboat Gamblers, John, a 21-year-old Trinidadian, led MLS with 26 goals. His base salary: $38,000.
Boris Yeltsin Award for Worst Foreign Investment: Marcelo Vega. Highly touted by MLS, Vega, a Chilean midfielder, displayed more paunch than punch (one goal, six assists in 17 games) for the MetroStars.
Robert Downey Jr. Bender of the Year Award: Dami�n. In the Dallas Burn's June 4 game against LA, the mononymous Mexican scored MLS's first—and only-goal directly on a corner kick.
Roberto Alomar Spittin' Image Award: Tab Ramos. In an encore to the cloudless shower that he rained on D.C.'s John Harkes in '96, the MetroStars' Ramos salivened up another game in July when he loogied on the Crew's Andrew Gregor.
P.T. Barnum Award: Commissioner Doug Logan. "This league, after only three years, has the fifth-highest attendance in the world," Logan bragged on several occasions this year. One problem: It's not true. According to soccerstats.com, MLS (average attendance: 14,312) is No. 7, behind not only the four European giants ( Italy, England, Spain and Germany) but also Mexico (26,428) and France (19,219). Word to the commish: A soccer sucker isn't born every minute.
The U.S. Lineup in 2002
Youth Will Be Served
The names of Clint Mathis, John O'Brien and Ben Olsen may not yet mean much to U.S. soccer fans, but they will in four years if MLS coaches are right. In a poll conducted last week, SI asked each coach to name the hypothetical starters for an American 2002 World Cup team. Of the 11 top vote getters, only Mathis, O'Brien and Olsen weren't on the national team in World Cup '98.
Defense: Incumbent goalkeeper Kasey Keller, 28, received votes from nine of the 11 coaches. The three defenders are World Cup 1998 veterans Eddie Pope, 24 (the only unanimous choice on the team); Frankie Hejduk, 24 (who would move from midfielder to defender); and David Regis, 29.
Midfielders: Regulars Cobi Jones, 28; Brian Maisonneuve, 25; and Claudio Reyna, 25, are joined by two newcomers. Math-is, a 21-year-old who played from South Carolina, had five goals and 10 assists as a Galaxy rookie this year. Meanwhile, O'Brien, 21, from Playa del Rey, Calif., has been developing since 1994 in the youth program of powerhouse Ajax Amsterdam. At week's end he had scored two goals in six games for the Dutch club FC Utrecht, which got him on loan from Ajax.
Forwards: Eight of the coaches chose national-team vet Brian McBride, 26, for one of the two spots. The other went to D.C.'s Olsen, 21, who earned five votes. That was two more than Josh Wolff, 21, who scored eight goals in 14 games as a Fire rookie.