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Who will win MLS Cup 2003?

In this playful piece, we pose a question or make a statement about something in soccer that will be opined about, agreed and disagreed on, by YOU, the reader. No more talking heads giving safe, politically correct answers. Those days are over. Instead, we’ve opened the floor to everyone out there in Cyberland to throw in their two cents.

With the MLS season now down to four teams after this weekend, there's no better time than the present to make predictions for who will be holding the trophy in Carson on Nov. 23, so we asked fans: Who will win MLS Cup 2003? Buoyed by their dazzling and almost-too-hard-to-imagine win over the Galaxy, San Jose has replaced Chicago as the popular choice, but depending on what region of the country you’re from, all four teams have a shot at the title. Below are the best of the best responses:

San Jose Earthquakes:
“After completing the highly improbable comeback against a veteran Galaxy team on Sunday evening, the Quakes will ride that momentum right down to The Home Depot Center in L.A. The leadership of the Earthquakes never even contemplated the possibility of losing. Ekelund got his whole team going after the Galaxy scored their second goal, Goose kicked in his offense dramatically with a brilliant free kick and Donovan streaked by the stretched Galaxy defense. The Quakes are now a team of destiny! They have battled hard all season long through injuries, national team call-ups and complacency over being the best team in MLS. Now is the time to step up and re-capture the Cup.”
--Andy Sinsigalli / 36 / San Jose, Calif.

“Chicago will win the East if they can get their strikers to find the net. After a sketchy first half, they started to run away from the league. The Crew game was irrelevant, and the Fire stayed focused on the playoffs instead of one meaningless game. The Revs won't be able to stop them, having a relative cruise to the playoffs, with no ‘must-win’ situations this season, and will fail to step it up now. K.C. is still alive thanks to Tony Meola's outstanding 'keeping. Because of his teammates' mediocre play, and San Jose's sudden realization that these games count, K.C. will hold the Quakes at bay initially, then get blown out. San Jose could be surprised if the Fire's offense begins the Cup final on all cylinders, as their defense needs time in games before it is effective. But if they get established, Chicago will struggle in vain. Expect San Jose to win the Cup with highlight reel action.”
--James McNeill / 30 / Phoenix, Ariz.

“Of course we will win it! We have the best and deepest squad, the finest coaching team in MLS with Yallop and Kinnear and a fantastic base of world class players in Donovan, Mulrooney, Ekelund, Agoos (hopefully he will be fit for Saturday?! Please God!), Robinson, Dunivant, Onstad and superb rising stars like Jamil Walker (who was the MVP on Sunday) and the two subs who both came on and scored last night, Chris Roner and Rodrigo Faria!”
--Mike Gaire / Santa Clara, Calif.

Chicago Fire:
“Who's the Best? FIRE! As for your ridiculous question about the season-ending loss at Columbus, I have one word--Spiteri. The game meant nothing to the team. I have one other word for your request for a prediction--TREBLE: Open Cup, Supporters Shield, MLS Cup. The only other question is who we will play. It doesn't matter, but I would like to get back at K.C. for the 2000 MLS Cup when we were clearly the better team, but just couldn't put the ball over the goal line. Sometimes that happens; that is the beauty of the game. This time we will prevail and win in the H.D.C.”
--Jim Kelly / 41 / Evergreen Park, Ill.

“MLS Cup? Well, the odds on favorite from everyone it seems is Chicago. I have no intention of disagreeing, let’s just see if it can be justified. First, the Fire is totally healthy and totally deep, (except maybe in the net, oops did I say that?) What other team has so much talent on the bench? (including a senior international who has only seen two games so far and in those games showed some pretty impressive stuff). Secondly, if the regular season means anything (sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't), the Fire have only to get past the Revs and walk into a great stadium and play teams they have already beaten or dominated earlier in the year. That leads us to the big obstacle for the Fire. The Revs have a huge aggregate on the Fire from the regular season (10-5 on goals) and their all-time match-ups are almost totally even. If the Fire can get past the surging Revs, then yes, they have a very good chance of winning it all in 2003.”
--Todd Spellman / 32 / Lincoln, Ill.

New England Revolution:
“I gotta tell you, and I might sound biased, but the hottest team in MLS right now has to be the team that will win the MLS Cup this year. Who is that team? Kansas City?? No. San Jose??? Please. I am guessing your next guess is going to be the Fire of Chicago. Come on. The team that will win it this year is the team that has become like a phoenix rising from the ashes. The NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (minus Taylor Twellman) will bring the MLS Cup home to Gillette Stadium this year to sit alongside the Vince Lombardi Trophy that the Patriots won early last year. Too bad Taylor is not playing in the Playoffs this year, because this team looks hungry after what happened in last year’s Final to Los Angeles. This team is well-rounded and I think is a much better team than the team that went to the Finals last year. Rookie Pat Noonan is picking up the slack where Twellman left off last year and is a definite Rookie of the Year candidate. The additions and subtractions the Revs have made have been very key to their success this season. Looking at it now, I see the Revolution defeating the Earthquakes in the Final.”
--Shawn P. Egan / 32 / Carver, Mass.

“I really feel this is the Revs' year to take the title. They have overcome injuries to their key players, and haven't missed a step. This Friday's game will be a huge challenge but the midfield combination of Cancela and Joseph will out-duel Williams and Armas. My picks: Revs 2, Fire 1 and Quakes 3, Wizards 2. As for MLS Cup, Revs 2, Quakes 1 (OT) and Ralston scores the winner.”
--Tony Philips

Kansas City Wizards:
“Kansas City's Wizards will win the MLS Cup. Take it to the bank. All of the team’s pieces, save Josh Wolff, are back in place. Diego G's return has been the key to our late season run and Wolde Harris has added needed punch to the offense. And if the Fire should advance, J-Wolff will get off of his deathbed if necessary to put them away in the final. GO WIZARDS!”
--Barry McDannold / 47 / Overland Park, Kan.

For December, the question is: Who was the MVP of the 2003 MLS season?

The odds-on favorite has to be one Predrag Radosavljevic? The guy is 40 and led the league in scoring with 41 points (Hint: that's one more than his years on the planet and equal to his points in '97, when he won the award). The only other player that's been as big of a one-man show has been last year's winner Carlos Ruiz, but of course half of those goals have been PK's and he didn't exactly inspire the Galaxy in their struggle to get back to the final. Around the rest of the league, the top teams -- Chicago, Colorado, New England and San Jose -- have been getting it done by committee. Each team is led by a pair of players (Razov and Ralph for the Fire, Spencer and Chung for the Rapids, Twellman and Noonan for the Revs, and Donovan and Mullan for the ‘Quakes), making it that much more difficult to single out one other good candidates for the award. So who’s it going to be? I’m asking you because I have no idea how I’d answer the question.

E-mail your BRIEF, but well-crafted rant to PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR FULL NAME, AGE AND CITY OF RESIDENCE. Feel free to submit responses for as many months as you wish, but in the interest of sharing the spotlight, we will be giving space to different respondents from month to month.

Download this issue of Center Circle (.pdf).

Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder [“Best of U.S. Soccer 2003”: Who Should Win]
2) In Threes [w/ U-20 MNT forward Mike Magee]
3) Making it to the Show [w/ U-23 MNT defender Nat Borchers]
4) Queries & Anecdotes [w/ WNT defender Brandi Chastain]
5) Mark That Calendar [U-20 MNT vs. Group D Opponents – Nov. 29-Dec. 5]
6) Superstar!!! [w/ WNT defender Cat Reddick]
7) Point/Counterpoint [Who will win MLS Cup?]
8) "You Don’t Know Jack (Marshall)" [U.S. U-20 World Championship Trivia]

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