COMMENTARY | I recently decided to take FOX Soccer's "BPL Faves" March Madness bracket idea and run with it. In this edition, I have put 16 top Major League Soccer players against each other to determine who I would pick first in a so-called "Fantasy Draft" for only the 2013 regular season. In other words, I'm really building a 2013 MLS All-Star Team rather than putting together the best overall side.
There are a few things I want to point out before diving into the bracket. Rookies and first-time MLS players were omitted because nobody can say with any certainty how well they will/will not play in the US domestic league. I also had to exclude several noteworthy players because I modeled my bracket after FOX's BPL Faves, and thus I only had 16 available slots.
Sorry, Landon Donovan. Maybe next year.
Sweet 16: The Henry Region
Thierry Henry vs. Eddie Johnson: This one wasn't as easy for me as some may think. EJ has had a tremendous year, one that saw him make a return to the US Men's National Team. He can play on turf without picking up an injury, and he is also just 28-years old, meaning that he should have several stellar years still in him. While I was tempted to start things off with an upset, I just can't go against the living legend this early in the tournament. Henry is, when fully fit, fully motivated and in-form, the best attacking player in all of MLS; and maybe in the history of the league. Winner: Henry
C.J. Sapong vs. Fabian Espindola: I've long been a big Espindola fan, and I always believed that he could have been a bigger star had he played in a major US sports market. Because it seems as if he has been in MLS forever, I often forget that he will turn just 28-years old this May. Sapong is a tremendous natural talent, and I do see him playing in a more prestigious league down the road. For the purposes of this bracket, however, I had to go with the RBNY forward. Winner: Espindola
Sweet 16: The Keane Region
Sean Johnson vs. Bill Hamid: This is maybe my favorite match-up of the first round, as it forces you to examine where the 'keepers are now and where they will be at the end of the season. Both are obviously very good, but I think Hamid turned a corner last summer. The DC man is my far-too-early pick for 2013 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, and that's why he advances to the next round. Winner: Hamid
Alan Gordon vs. Robbie Keane: Poor Alan Gordon gets an extremely hard match-up in the first round. It's possible that we're seeing how much the currently injured forward means to San Jose, who have started out a bit shaky in their first three games. Keane, the MVP of the 2012 MLS Playoffs, is simply on a different level. This was maybe my easiest pick of the whole bracket. Winner: Keane
Sweet 16: The Wondo Region
Chris Wondolowski vs. Mike Magee: I understand that Wondo has started 2013 off slowly and also that Magee is on pace to bury a million goals (slight exaggeration, maybe) before the end of the campaign. Does anybody believe that Wondolowski isn't going to find his shooting boots sooner than later? Anybody? Winner: Wondolowski
Nick Rimando vs. Dan Kennedy: It's quite possible that this is an instance of me going with my heart over my head. Kennedy absolutely deserves better than Chivas USA, and I think the Red Bulls would have been smart to suggest a Luis Robles for Kennedy trade back in the preseason. Both 'keepers are able to save points for teams, but think about all of the times Kennedy has bailed Chivas out. He's been through wars, and he's earned a win here. Winner: Kennedy
Sweet 16: The Saborio Region
Graham Zusi vs. Federico Higuain: US Soccer fans may be a little upset with me about this one. Higuain is, for my money, one of the most entertaining and most dynamic players in all of MLS. If he gets a bit of attacking help via the transfer window this summer, Columbus could be the surprise team of 2013. Winner: Higuain
Brad Davis vs. Alvaro Saborio: America loses for the second straight match-up. Saborio has the goods to carry Salt Lake all the way to the postseason, which he may have to do considering the state of their current squad. I purposely didn't book this bracket ahead of time, and so I can truthfully say that I wouldn't be shocked if Saborio ends up winning this thing. Winner: Saborio
Henry vs. Espindola: The first big upset of the tournament is here. I can see Espindola being New York's MVP this year, and the fact that Henry is already banged up before the official start of spring has this RBNY supporter more than a little nervous. Espindola busts a lot of brackets and eliminates Henry from the competition. Winner: Espindola
Hamid vs. Keane: Hamid probably wins this one easily sometime in the near future. There is no reason to believe that Keane will be slowing down over the next 12 months, though, and you can't overstate what he has meant to LA during their back-to-back title runs. Winner: Keane
Wondolowski vs. Kennedy: I only needed a few seconds to pick this one. You can win a MLS Cup by having a good but not elite goalkeeper. No team in the league is winning any trophies without having a consistent goalscorer. Wondo enters the Final Four with ease. Winner: Wondolowski
Higuain vs. Saborio: Looking back, I wish I would have saved this match-up for at least the Final Four. You can't go wrong with either guy, so it's about personal preference. Do you want a flashy play-maker, or a guy who routinely finds the back of the net? This one was a buzzer beater finish for me, with Saborio notching the game-winner on the final shot. Winner: Saborio
Espindola vs. Keane: My opinion on this match-up may change if Espindola gets hot and grows in confidence during his first season with the Red Bulls. I already know what I'm going to get from Keane, though, and that's a forward who can win a game for you each and every weekend. Winner: Keane
Wondolowski vs. Saborio: I surprised myself with this pick. There's something to be said for a poacher who knows what to do inside the penalty area, and Wondolowski is also a leader on the pitch and in the dressing room. The San Jose forward sneaks all the way into the Final.
Keane vs. Wondolowski: I asked myself a simple question when determining a winner: Who would I trust more to score a game-winner in a MLS Cup Final? The answer could not have been more clear.
For more: Filling out the BPL Faves bracket
Zac has been covering New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer, Tottenham Hotspur, the USMNT and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
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