To varying degrees of fanfare, more than two dozen
foreign products -- including two Designated Players -- arrived in time for the start of the MLS season. Some have been in the lineup since the first weekend, a few others debuted last weekend
or a week prior. Perhaps not until, say mid-June, will all of them have played at least a handful of games. Funnily enough, that's when the USA/MLS secondary window opens, which could trigger at
least one or two "major signings" and a few lesser ones. But with four weekends in the books, there's enough data to highlight those imports who have adjusted most quickly to the
demands of MLS and the roles given to them by their head coaches. Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney
ranks the MLS's foreign newcomers. ...
The big-money boys,
(Kansas City) and Marcelo Gallardo
(D.C. United) haven't yet proved to be worth a DP slot, yet neither have they disgraced. Laurent
has clearly livened up Toronto's left flank, Fire forward Tomasz Frankowski
looks like he'll be able to score consistently, and Crew left back Gino
held his own last weekend against D.C. United at RFK.
Houston signee Franco Caraccio
is one of the many Argentines who've come to MLS in the past
two years. He's trying to fill the shoes of Nate Jaqua
and Joseph Ngwenya
, who combined for 13 goals last season, then departed for Austria.
takes a while," says Coach Dominic Kinnear
, whose teams have won the last two titles primarily with North American players. "No offense, but Claudio Lopez
ain't exactly lighting it up. Franco is 21 years old, so he's still a young guy. But he's a good finisher and we're just trying to get him around the goal more He doing OK,
he's still trying to figure it out."
This ranking of the top performers is reserved for players coming to America from abroad for the first time this season, and thus excludes
New England's exciting young Gambians, Sainey Nyassi
and Kenny Mansally
, who signed last summer, as well as the Crew's Scottish-born midfielder
, who played for the USL D-2 Cleveland Stars last summer (and kudos to Sigi Schmid
for landing him.)
1. Laurent Robert (Toronto FC) Drilled home the free kick to notch a 1-0 defeat of Real Salt Lake in TFC's home opener Saturday, a week after giving
the Galaxy fits in a rousing 3-2 victory.
2. Tomasz Frankowski (Chicago) He labored against Kansas City last weekend after scoring two goals in the first three
games, yet looks like he'll be tough to track and stop in the goalmouth.
3. Franco Caraccio (Houston) He leads the team in scoring after setting up a Brad Davis goal
with a knockdown header for his first assist, and potting a rebound for his second goal in a 2-2 tie with the Galaxy.
4. Ian Joy (Real Salt Lake) Solid games at left back
have helped strengthen the RSL back line, yet we'll know more about him in another month or so. There are a lot of good right-sided attackers in MLS this year.
Martinez (D.C. United) He's good on the ball and can certainly win tackles. United's defensive woes, though, are of great concern. Timing, communication, and cohesion must
6. Mauricio Castro (New England) Effective both as a wide midfielder and playing in the middle, he drops down the list for kicking Kevin Goldthwaite and
being sent off in the 1-1 tie with New York last weekend.
Doing all right: Gallardo (D.C. United); Lopez, Ivan Trujillo
(Kansas City): Padula (Columbus): Tony Caig (Houston); Rohan Ricketts (Toronto), Kenny Deuchar (Real Salt Lake), Tom McManus, Rafael
Gomes (Colorado), Andre Rocha (FC Dallas).
Must do better: Alvaro Pires (Los Angeles);
Gonzalo Peralta, Franco Niell, Jose Carvallo (D.C. United); Raphael Wicky (Chivas USA), Duilio Davino (FC
Dallas), Argenis Fernandez (New England).
Yet to appear: Matias Cordoba, Jamison Olave (Real Salt