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Who will be the 2003 MLS Rookie of the Year?)

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.

Now that we’ve read your thoughts on who will emerge as MVP of both the MLS and WUSA in 2003, we look to the rooks. For the May issue, we asked you to predict: Who will be the 2003 MLS Rookie of the Year (and why)? And unfortunately for #1 pick Alecko Eskandarian, fans believe that the top pick jinx is in full effect for the D.C. United forward, instead jumping on that rickety ol’ bandwagon of three players – MetroStars defensive midfielder Ricardo Clark, Chicago Fire midfielder Logan Pause and San Jose Earthquakes left back Todd Dunivant – that are already seeing consistent time for their club. Here’s what you all had to say about the brightest of the new crop of first-year pros in MLS:

Ricardo Clark:
“The award is Ricardo Clark's to lose.  His play for the Metros has been rock solid, and he has all the tools to be a star in this league.  Physically, he is imposing, strong, and has great footwork, but what sets him apart is his ability to read the game and see things before they happen.  I was lucky enough to see him play for the U-23 team against Mexico (on May 14) in Guadalajara, and I was happy to see those attributes translate so well to the international game.  I look forward to seeing him play for Bruce Arena and the senior team sometime in the future. Other players to keep an eye on include Todd Dunivant from San Jose and Logan Pause for the Chicago Fire.  Both are quietly helping their teams to the quick starts they've had thus far.”
- Brian Brower / 27 / Portland, Ore.

“Ricardo Clark. Why?  History proves (and is presently proving) that Eskandarian is jinxed as the #1 pick.  Mike Magee is in a spot on the field that needs to score goals, and his only one as of yet was more good fortune than skill.  Dunivant is solid, but not brilliant.  Damani Ralph is going to develop, but he's not there yet. Rookie of the Year is rarely given for the spectacular.  Although Clark hasn't made the score sheet yet, he has provided (MetroStars head coach Bob) Bradley with a consistent performer day in and day out.  And of all the rookies, he looks as comfortable on the ball as anyone. Being thrown in the center of the field is a difficult duty. Couple that with Clark's age and that makes his fluid transition even more incredible.  Clark's savvy will gives the MetroStars a consistent, reliable, and VALUABLE player whose name will rarely come up in the highlights. However, you can count on hearing his name in the post-season awards.”
- Ryan Masingill / 24 / Boise, Idaho

“The mark of a true Rookie of the Year candidate is that you cannot tell he is a rookie just by watching him play. With that in mind, Ricardo Clark of the MetroStars looks like the early front-runner for Rookie of the Year. He has played nearly mistake-free soccer, demonstrating the positioning, decision making, and tackling skills of the elite American defensive midfielders like Chris Armas and Pablo Mastroeni, but with better ball skills and distribution.”
- Dov Glickman / 26 / Bronx, N.Y.

Logan Pause:
“Since I am a huge Fire fan, this may seem a bit one-sided. However, I believe that Logan Pause is a strong early candidate for the 2003 Rookie of the Year award. I feel this way because in the Fire's first five games of the 2003 campaign, Logan has rarely -- if ever -- been out of the starting lineup [Editor’s Note: Pause has started and played in three of five matches, totaling 275 minutes], and he has also proved that he can make an impact and hold his own against some of the league's seasoned veterans.
- Meghan Murphy / 16 / Diamond Bar, Calif.

“Logan Pause from the Fire has impressed me.  He's not heralded, but he’s taken a lot of pressure off of Chris Armas. Now Armas can put more effort into taking some of Peter Nowak's role only with the confidence that Logan is behind him keeping track of the midfield.  From having seen Todd Dunivant live and on television, he also gets my nod for a nomination. Mike Magee and Damani Ralph have had nice goals and Pat Noonan injects late game excitement into Revs games, but a real Rookie of the Year candidate should play significant minutes for his team.  Here's hoping for more new names to rise up over the season.”
- Chris Etzwiler / Chicago, Ill.

Todd Dunivant:
“I realize that a defender is not always thought of as an impact player, but I think that at this point Todd Dunivant has to get some serious consideration.  Due to injuries, he has started every game and has been a solid defender on a defense that has allowed only one goal (except the own goal) this year [Editor’s Note: At the time of this submission, San Jose had only given up two goals in their first five matches. As of press time, Dunivant has played in all six matches for a total of 560 minutes].  He has defended some of the best attackers that MLS has to offer and has also contributed to the attack.  The year is still early, but if he continues in this direction he should easily be the Rookie of the Year.
- John O'Neil / 38 / Modesto, Calif.

“So far, Todd Dunivant has accomplished the most of any true rookie this year. He has seamlessly stepped in for Wade Barrett, who was one of the top outside backs in MLS. He is an integral part of why the Earthquakes have given up only one goal in five games (not counting Onstad's own goal), and his passing and defending skills reveal a maturity well beyond his actual playing years. Dunivant is a product of Bobby Clarke, Brett Simon, and now Frank Yallop (does it get better than this?), and his qualities reflect his ability to continue to improve beyond the college game. Go Todd!”
- Brian Lee Pelton / 42 / Menlo Park, Calif.

The Others:
“I believe that the dark horse for this year's MLS Rookie of the Year is Colorado's Casey Schmidt.  He has a rare combination of size, speed, skill, and goal-scoring prowess.  He has started one game already, and played in all four of the Rapids' games [Editor’s Note: At the time of this submission, Schmidt had appeared in all four games for a total of 161 minutes.]. He was a first team All-American and Big East Player of the Year at Boston College and will continue his development and impressive goal-scoring record.”
- Hadley Wright / 21 / Boston, Mass.

“Pat Noonan. After a stellar career at Indiana he couldn't have asked for a better system, and a supporting cast of players, to start his professional career with. He will certainly be asked to perform and produce for the Revs, but having players like Twellman around will help easy the burden for him and keep expectations to a realistic level. Noonan excelled when the spotlight was squarely on him for the Hoosiers, so imagine what he will do when defense have to focus on other players and worry about him secondary? Come October he will be hoisting the Rookie of the Year trophy.”
- Kevin Smith / St. Charles, Mo.

Thanks to everyone for the responses to the May question. As you know, the odds of being printed are better if you keep it under 150 words so that we can put as many as 10 opinions on display each month.

The June question: Who will win the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup in France next month?

Will Brazil defend their world title, or do they even care about any tournament that’s NOT the World Cup? Will Turkey be able to duplicate their surprising success from last summer? Will African champs Cameroon add Confed Cup hardware to the trophy case alongside their 2000 Olympic gold medals? And what about our own Stars & Stripes? Can we make it through a vicious Group B and have a shot at the final?

It’s time to decide. E-mail your BRIEF, but well-crafted response 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.


Table of Contents
1) At the Movies (w/ WNT midfielder Aly Wagner)
In Threes (w/ Under-23 MNT midfielder Logan Pause)
Queries and Anecdotes (w/ MNT midfielder Claudio Reyna)
Mark That Calendar (MNT vs. Wales – May 26 / MNT vs. N.Z. – June 8)
5) FAN Point/Counterpoint (Who will be the 2003 MLS Rookie of the Year?)
"You Don't Know Jack (Marshall)" (WUSA Firsts)

Download this issue of Center Circle (.pdf).

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