Fearless Prediction: Galaxy.
AND THE WINNER IS...
MLS won't announce the official award winners for a few weeks, but here's a look at who deserves the top prizes:
Most Valuable Player: After an unproductive and injury-marred 2003 season with the MetroStars, Jaime Moreno appeared to be nearing the end of a sparkling MLS career. Offseason back surgery seemed to be the final setback for the Bolivian forward, who had helped United win three titles in the late 1990s. But during D.C.'s preseason workouts, the discarded free agent proved he could still contribute. Eight months later, after missing just three games, Moreno finished as the league's assists leader and the most influential player on a vastly improved team. Runner-up: MetroStars playmaker Amado Guevara.
Coach of the Year: Imagine being without the reigning league MVP for all but two games, a national team midfielder for the final three months, a dangerous scorer for most of the year and the longtime starting goalkeeper for a portion of the season. That's what Kansas City Coach Bob Gansler confronted when Preki, Chris Klein, Igor Simutenkov and Tony Meola went down with injuries. Nonetheless, the Wizards were mistake-free most of the year, yielded the fewest goals in the league and finished first in the West, which was a much more competitive conference than the East. Runner-up: Columbus's Greg Andrulis.
Rookie of the Year: No one had a greater impact on the league than Freddy Adu, who made United the highest-drawing road team in MLS history. He played in all 30 games and contributed five goals, including a spectacular sequence vs. Los Angeles in May. But from a consistency standpoint, Columbus defender Chad Marshall, a Stanford product and the second overall draft pick behind Adu, and New England's dynamic midfielder Clint Dempsey (the eighth overall pick from Furman) were ahead of the United teenager. Marshall is the choice, with Dempsey, Adu, United midfielder Josh Gros and MetroStars defender Jeff Parke (the last pick in the draft) deserving recognition.
BEST XI (all-league team)
Goalkeeper: Jon Busch, Columbus
Defenders: Robin Fraser, Columbus; Jimmy Conrad, Kansas City; Ryan Nelsen, D.C.
Midfielders: Amado Guevara, New York/New Jersey; Ronnie O'Brien, Dallas, Kerry Zavagnin, Kansas City; Landon Donovan, San Jose; Eddie Gaven, New York/New Jersey.
Forwards: Jaime Moreno, D.C.; Brian Ching, San Jose.