The most stunning development in the first half of the MLS season has been the success of the Fusion. Just last winter, after losing for three years and having the league's worst attendance, the team was reportedly considering a move to Winston-Salem, N.C. Through Sunday, however, Miami had put together the best record in the league (10-1-2), and attendance was up 39.5%, to 10,403 per game, largely because of coach Ray Hudson.
The Fusion's TV color commentator last season, Hudson was asked to take over in May 2000 after the team won only one of its first eight games. After guiding the Fusion to a 12-15-5 finish, he went on an international talent search mat yielded five starters. The result? At week's end Miami led the league in goals, with 2.38 per game, and holdover Diego Serna (28 points) and newcomer Alex Pineda Chacon (21) were ranked one-two in scoring.
The Fusion also had MLS's top defense, with 22-year-old Nick Rimando leading all keepers with a goals-against average of 0.91. The 5'11" Rimando compensates for his lack of height by coming off his line to cut off shooting angles, an aggressive approach that reflects the philosophy of his coach. "Ray wants every player on the field to feel free to express himself," says midfielder Jim Rooney.
An Englishman who was among the NASL's most gifted—and fiery—midfielders, the 46-year-old Hudson knows how to reach the underachieving Serna. In a halftime tirade during a 3-1 win over Tampa Bay last month, Hudson says he attacked Serna with a "verbal flamethrower," accusing him of letting down his teammates. Serna responded with six goals over the next 4� games. "It's not all Kumbaya in the locker room; you need to be a bastard sometimes," says Hudson, who compares a player to a ballpoint pen: "If it doesn't work, you shake it; if it doesn't work, you shake it again and again; and if it still doesn't work, you get rid of it."
Following that logic, Kansas City traded Preki, the 1997 MLS MVP, to Miami before this season for a third-round draft choice. Through Sunday, the 38-year-old midfielder was fourth in the league in assists and had shown no hesitation in chewing out his teammates. "When I look at Preki, I see a lot of myself," Hudson says. "He demands way more of the players than they do because they don't expect as much of themselves as he does."