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Excitement in 2009
February 5, 2009, 5:27 PM
Filed under: Dwayne DeRosario, Former TFC Players, MLS, Toronto FC

Sometimes it’s a single play that makes you want to see more from a player. Sometimes it’s a move from one team, one system, to another that makes you think a player might be on the verge of a big season.

This is what the offseason is for First XI: anticipation. Here’s a list of players we want can’t wait to see on the field come late March:

11. Marco Pappa, Chicago Fire. We caught only a few fleeting glimpses of Pappa last season, as he amassed only 217 regular-season minutes. It was, however, Pappa’s one playoff minute that has me thirsting to see more. Remember that vicious shot he unleashed in the waning moments of the Fire’s Eastern Conference Championship loss to the Crew? Perhaps I’m making too much out of too little, but as the 2009 season opens up, I’m anxious to see if Pappa’s got more of that.

10. Maykel Galindo, Chivas USA. All we got to see out of Galindo a year ago was a paltry 549 minutes as he was nursing injury after injury. In 2007, the Cuban striker looked to be well on his way to becoming one of the league’s more dangerous attackers. What’s more, his partnership with Ante Razov was looking like one of the league’s best fire-and-ice combos ever. Can Galindo return to his old form? Can he even take it up a notch? That’s what I want to see.

9. Cory Gibbs, Colorado Rapids. After a three-season hiatus from MLS, we got to see Gibbs for eight games a year ago. Upon first glimpse, he still looks to have his speed and his poise, but can he step up and be a leader for a Colorado team that missed the playoffs? Gibbs just turned 29, so he’s still in his prime. But it is nearing now-or-never time. Can he stay healthy?

8. Dave van den Bergh, FC Dallas. This is just a case of me wanting to see how a player who developed into such a key figure on one team — New York — can do when he steps onto the field for a new team. Especially when that team, FCD, needs for him to be at least the player and leader he had become in New York a season ago. Certainly, this was a bitter pill for Red Bulls fans to swallow, having watched VDB develop into such a key figure on their team. Dallas now hopes the transition is quick and smooth, because this is a player they need at his best.

7. Francis Doe, D.C. United. I’m remembering Doe’s two-goal performance against New England in October and wondering, is he a starter or super sub for D.C in ’09? In a way, it reminds me of the first go-round for Andy Herron in MLS, when he joined Chicago late and looked like he’d be a terror in MLS for many years … only to become just another well-traveled forward. D.C. United could use a breakout season from someone. Can it be the 24-year-old Liberian?

6. Julius James, Houston Dynamo. The defender from Trinidad goes from a sometime-starting, rookie player in Toronto to the “guy we traded Dwayne De Rosario for” in Houston. Yeah, that’s pressure. Sure, Houston also got allocation money along with James for DeRo, but MLS fans have never had an easy time getting used to the player for money thing. They’ll remember James.

5. Dominic Oduro, New York Red Bulls. Like James, Oduro is going to be feeling some heat from the New York fans as he’s the player the Red Bulls acquired for the popular van den Bergh. Oduro has speed to burn. That’s never been questioned. What is questioned, however, is how come Oduro has never started more than 10 games in an MLS season? Can he earn starter’s minutes on the field alongside Juan Pablo Angel, or will he continue only as a late-game spark?

4. Will Johnson, Real Salt Lake. There’s little doubt that Johnson added an element to RSL down the stretch, when he joined the team after finishing a stint in Holland. He scored the MLS Sierra Mist Goal of the Year, but that’s not what has me wanting to see more. It was the way Johnson seemed to bring a whole new element to RSL’s attack. I want to see if the 22-year old is for real.

3. Nate Jaqua, Seattle Sounders. Seems I say this every year, but I keep thinking that Jaqua is on the verge of a monster season in MLS. He had four goals in 14 games in Houston a year ago. I think he’s a 10-plus scorer in the right environment. Is Seattle that place? Will Sigi Schmid’s first-year collection provide him with enough service to hit double digits? This I want to know.

2. Eddie Gaven, Columbus Crew. How many times have you heard this question in the past year? “Can you believe Eddie Gaven is still only 22?” Well, yeah, he is. And even though (preposterous as it is) some media have called his MLS career “disappointing,” there’s quite a bit of miles left on Gaven’s tires. A Best XI choice at the age of 18. Now, a champion. I have a feeling people are soon going to be seeing Gaven emerge as one of the league’s elite players.

1. Dwayne De Rosario, Toronto FC. And if there’s pressure on Julius James in Houston, how about the expectations for native son DeRo in Toronto? Was last season — 7 goals — a sign that De Rosario is on the downside? Or will a move to Toronto FC re-ignite this all-time MLS great? Toronto is looking at this acquisition as the move that will make them a playoff team. How will he mix with what TFC have already assembled? Will it be magical? Can’t wait to see.

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