Since the 2005 season Major League Soccer has expanded by eight new franchises, with another addition coming next year in Montreal. That rapid growth of the league causes a depletion of the talent pool as teams have to continually surrender players into annual expansion drafts that enable new clubs to fill their rosters. Working with a tight budget due to the relatively meager salary cap of $2.3 million for a 32 player roster forces MLS teams to be selective in signing new talent. For years it's been hit or miss when it comes to finding the right player for the right price and the introduction of the designated player rule four years ago has only compounded the difficulty in finding a perfect fit.
When it comes to designated players the disappointments outweigh the triumphs with cheaper young talent often stealing regular starting spots from the so-called stars. Cuauhtemoc Blanco was worth every penny the Chicago Fire paid the Mexican midfield wizard as is the Los Angeles Galaxy's Juan Pablo Angel and Landon Donovan, but Brazilian Internationals Denilson (Dallas) and Geovanni (San Jose), Argentine Claudio Lopez (Kansas City and Colorado), Spaniard Mista (Toronto) and Mexico's Nery Castillo (Chicago) all came and went without any fanfare. Sweden's Freddie Ljungberg failed to make a good impression on Seattle or Chicago fans before moving on to Glasgow Celtic and former Hannover 96 midfielder Julian de Guzman has done nothing since moving from Deportivo La Coruña to Toronto FC in 2009. Even David Beckham, for whom the rule was created, has yet to perform up to expectations. Last year's New York Red Bulls signings Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez have yet to make an impact, but judging by the first few weeks of play, MLS coaches and team managers look to have made the right choices this time around.
They might not be familiar stars like many of those mentioned, but Camilo da Silva Sanvezzo, Eric Hassli, Omar Bravo, Javier Martina, Caleb Folan and Diego Cháves, are well on their way to becoming household names in the USA. Americans love scoring and each of these players have notched two goals in the first three games of the season. In fact, a goals-per-game average of 3.0 over the weekend upped the league-wide average to 2.60. Last season ended with a 2.46 goals per game average.
Camilo, the 22-year-old who arrived in Vancouver after playing for clubs in his native Brazil, Malta and South Korea, scored two goals in stoppage time to earn the Whitecaps a 3-3 tie with Sporting Kansas City after his side fell behind 3-0 an hour into the game. Vancouver were missing French striker Hassli and Kansas City had to play without their Mexican star Bravo. Both were red-carded last week after scoring twice in their debuts in the season openers.
Toronto's Dutch forward Javier Martina, from the Netherlands Antilles, scored twice in the 2-0 win against the Portland Timbers last week but couldn't find the net in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Chivas USA.
Colorado Rapids newcomer Caleb Folan scored twice in Sunday's 4-1 home win over D.C. United. The 28-year-old England-born striker plays for Ireland, for which he's eligible through his grandparents. United played without U.S. International Charlie Davies, who missed the game through injury. Davies, signed on loan from Sochaux, leads the league in scoring with three goals in his first two MLS games and is already an American soccer hero after surviving a nearly fatal car crash that forced him to miss the 2010 World Cup.
Uruguayan forward Cháves scored in each of his first two games, but didn't get a chance to add to his tally as the Chicago Fire had a bye week.
De Ro quick to make impact
Just two hours after arriving in New York from Toronto on Saturday, Canadian midfielder Dwayne De Rosario stepped onto the playing field at Red Bull Arena as a halftime substitute and within seconds earned an assist on one of his first touches, freeing up Dane Richards with a through-ball to open up the scoring in a 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo.“I found out about the trade at 6 o’clock last night and got in this morning." he said.
“It’s not easy to come into a new team and gel like that, but I was pleased with our performance and we were a bit unlucky not to come away with the three points."
In other Saturday games, Beckham got his first assist by setting up Leonardo's first goal of the season in Los Angeles' 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Union, Portland earned their first MLS point with a 1-1 draw at the New England Revolution and the Seattle Sounders played to a 2-2 draw at the San Jose Earthquakes. The Columbus Crew notched their first win by beating FC Dallas 2-0 on Friday night.