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MLS's Honor Roll
by Ridge Mahoney, August 1st, 2008 7AM

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With about three months to go in Year 2 of the Designated Player, D.C. United and Kansas City are still waiting for Marcelo Gallardo and Claudio Lopez, respectively, to surpass their solid performances and attain the lofty heights attained last year by Juan Pablo Angel, who himself battled injuries for the first half of 2008. In Los Angeles, home of DP David Beckham and his "grandfathered" colleague, U.S. international Landon Donovan, the offense is sexy but the defense is sordid. On the other coast, New England has steadily chugged along without an injured Taylor Twellman and has added a prime Rookie of the Year candidate to its already deep squad. Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney provides a rundown of MLS's top players in 2008 so far, including a league Best XI ...

MVP
Landon Donovan (Los Angeles)
In addition to his flash and flair, Donovan has brought fury to most of his league performances this year, and if the Concacaf semifinal round of World Cup qualifying doesn't wear him down, could be a real force down the stretch. When fit, he's the most exciting player in the league, and the toughest for foes to stop.

Best of the rest: Shalrie Joseph (New England), Dwayne DeRosario (Houston).

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Kheli Dube (New England)
Electrifying pace and clever touches may keep Dube in the lineup no matter when Twellman gets completely healthy. Along with young Gambians Kenny Mansally and Sainey Nyassi, Dube has injected pace and surprise into the Revs' attack. The key to the rest of his rookie season is how he copes with rougher marking and cruder challenges.
Best of the rest: Geoff Cameron (Houston), Sean Franklin (Los Angeles).

DEFENDER OF THE YEAR
Michael Parkhurst (New England)

A strong tackler, a clever passer, and an effective leader, Parkhurst has honed his anticipation and ability to sniff out dangerous situations to an uncanny degree. He's marshaled the Revs shrewdly in both three-man and four-man back lines.
Best of the rest: Bobby Boswell (Houston), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City).

BEST XI
Goalkeeper

Matt Reis (New England)
The former Galaxy backup has sharpened his decision-making and footwork while refining his impressive range, athleticism and distribution.
Reserve: Jon Busch (Columbus).

Defenders
Gonzalo Segares (Chicago)
The Virginia Commonwealth product might solve a lot of left-back headaches for U.S. coach Bob Bradley if he wasn't from Costa Rica.
Michael Parkhurst (New England)
Like Reis, Parkhurst is savvier and smarter thanks to his experience, and is uncanny at reading the game and getting to the right spot in time or making the correct decision.
Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City)
The Wizards posted six shutouts in the first half of the season and along with keeper Kevin Hartman, much of the credit goes to this U.S. World Cup and Copa America veteran.
Reserves: Bobby Boswell (Houston), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus).

Midfielders
Shalrie Joseph
(New England)
Not just the best two-way midfielder in the league, Joseph might be the league's best player, period.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto (Columbus)
Somewhat prone to taking games off last season, the former Boca Juniors legend has been more consistent this year and has only that guy in LA as a peer when it comes to crossing the ball.
David Beckham (Los Angeles)
As he kept insisting during last year's injury nightmares, Beckham is first and foremost a soccer player, and has lit up numerous games with his bending crosses, incisive passes, and clever runs. He barks at the refs, too, about late tackles and dodgy offside calls.
Cuauhtemoc Blanco (Chicago)
Until he went bonkers in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals, the unorthodox Mexican playmaker had been focused and dangerous for the most part. He can propel the Fire a long way if he stays on the beam.
Steve Ralston (New England)
Puts up good numbers and influences the game regardless of who's deployed around him or where he plays, but no stat can accurately measure the class and poise Ralston brings to the office every day.
Reserves: Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado).

Forwards
Luciano Emilio
(D.C. United)
He regained his scoring touch after a sluggish start to the season, and when on his game Emilio is probably the league's best finisher (along with Twellman) of half-chances. Given its defensive woes, D.C. desperately needs his marksmanship down the stretch.
Landon Donovan (Los Angeles)
One of the few attacking players in the league who can unhinge opponents at any time with pace, guile and bravado, Donovan is always vulnerable to fatigue because of his full-tilt style and heavy schedule.
Reserves: Edson Buddle (Los Angeles), Kenny Cooper (FC Dallas).



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