Anyone could pick David Beckham, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Juan Pablo Angel or Jozy Altidore as MLS players to watch in 2008, but Goal.com's Pat Walsh provides us with a list of off-radar players to keep tabs on as the season kicks off this weekend. They are: strikers Ivan Trujillo (Kansas City), Franco Niell (D.C. United) and Oscar Echeverry (NY Red Bulls); midfielders Raphael Wicky (Chivas USA) and Mauricio Castro (New England); and defenders Ian Joy (Real Salt Lake) and Ramiro Corrales (San Jose).
You've probably heard of Claudio Lopez, but Trujillo will be the Wizards' point man, alongside Scott Sealy, Walsh says. For D.C., the diminutive Niell will most likely be a third option for Coach Tom Soehn behind Luciano Emilio and Jaime Moreno, while Echeverry, the Bulls' effective new striker, could force Coach Juan Carlos Osorio into 4-3-3 formation.
The experienced Wicky makes a smart addition to Chivas USA's already formidable midfield, Walsh says, with 75 Swiss caps and Champions League experience to boot. Castro will either replace or at least force the "frustratingly inconsistent" Khano Smith to perform better on the Revs' left side. For RSL, attack-minded left-back Joy will anchor a whole new defensive line, while the versatile lefty Corrales, not exactly an unknown, is welcomed back to his former club San Jose.