I love soccer. I love the US. I love US soccer.
I would be telling a fib if I thought MLS was the top league in the world. There's constant debate as to where MLS ranks in the greater scheme of the game. I don't care. I tweak a few feeling now and then on the subject, but I do not care.
MLS is like College Basketball. You don't watch it because it has the best players in the world or the US. You watch it because you get to see the emergence of players. It is fun to know that I was there cheering Marcus Hahnemann on and thinking he was good when people were claiming he was not all that good, because he was not in Europe. Now people think he has improved at a tremendous rate while in England. In fact he was always good, we knew it when he played for the Rapids. Nat Borchers is similar.
Few players get much recognition for playing with a mid-tier MLS team with a history of playing boring negative soccer. Journeymen on good teams somehow get recognition way beyond their due. How else does Brian Carroll end up in the national team picture?
Here are three players for the Rapids who are expected to have breakout seasons in 2008.
- Stephen Keel. he has not received much time playing behind Petke, but he is a good player. He has good feet. He has good size. He plays smart. He always seems to know where he is. Clavijo may need an injury to give this kid his chance, which is a shame because he is good enough to start.
- Colin Clark by contrast will start, and I expect this will be a break out season for him. He has too much to offer that other left mids in the league do not. He can dribble, he can pass, he has fantastic pace, and he plays very solid defense. He is not a classic crosser of the ball like an Eddie Lewis. He is more of a taller version of DaMarcus Beasley, imitating his ability to be a pest.
- Jacob Peterson is my third, but with a twist. His future is as a right mid. In the 4-3-3 formation that the reserves ran last year Jacob was on the outside a lot. His pace was fantastic, he played both sides of the ball, and he provided some very good service. Like Clark he is not a crosser that makes you compare him to Cooke. He is more likely to keep the ball low and to the forward foot. Crosses look nice, but the percentage is not as high as what Jacob can deliver.