Users feel the force of Fire

Responding to this week's Have Your Say discussion topics, users pointed to Chicago Fire as potential candidates to win the 2008 MLS campaign, which got underway at the weekend. Respondents also gravitated toward Spain's La Liga to locate who they consider to be the best central defenders in the world.

The week's first topic turned heads towards North America and the question: who will be MLS's best in 2008? Asked on the eve of the current season's opening salvos, the responses came in fast and furious.

Chicago Fire, beaten last year in the first round of the post-season play-offs, were the side tipped to go on to their take the title in 2008, only just edging out LA Galaxy in the voting.

The main reasons put forth by Chicago fans, personal loyalties aside, is the presence of Mexican legend Cuauhtemoc Blanco in the team. "It's time for Chicago to show its true Fire," wrote in ClubAmerica. "Blanco is going to shine at his fullest this time around and pick up where he left off last season."

Chivasmejor of Mexico was in full agreement about the Fire's chances: "Chicago has a strong team this year. And with Blanco in there leading the lines their chances of winning the title are very good."

Despite the Fire running out to a lead among users, nearly all 14 teams in Major League Soccer received votes of confidence. LA Galaxy, in fact, were only one vote behind the mid-westerners.

"This is Galaxy's year," wrote kengfifa. "Beckham will be fit and take charge this year. With him linking up with Landon Donovan, the team will be unstoppable."

New England Revolution, two-time defending champions Houston Dynamo, Chivas USA and Toronto FC all have their admirers, but for a cross-section of users, Chicago - champions of MLS back in 1998 and twice runners-up - are the one to watch as the 2008 season gets rolling in earnest.

The best backs
With users taking a rather loose view of what comprises a centre back, Real pairing Fabio Cannavaro and Sergio Ramos and Barca boys Rafa Marquez and Carles Puyol ran out favourites when asked: who is the best central defender?

John Terry and Rio Ferdinand were also included in the discussion, but most users strayed to Spain's La Liga - not the Premier League - to locate their favourites.

"There is no need to ask this question," wrote mexico1992, one of nearly 500 responders. "We all know that Rafa Marquez is the King of Kings." From the USA akinksy favoured Barca, but cast his vote for Puyol: "I believe Puyol is the best central defender ever, not only is he a great defender but he's also capable of fantastic attacking moves too."

Antwan619 of Canada even called the Catalan hero: "the ultimate fire extinguisher."

Although Italian national team-mates Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta were in the running, Cannavaro was by far the most popular Azzurri candidate among users.

"He (Cannavaro) is simply the best defender in the world," said bwaseem from Israel. "He can do it all and keep even the best attackers at bay." Egyptian M.Samy was more expansive about his enthusiasm for the 2006 FIFA World Player of the Year: "Cannavaro is the best defender in the world for many reasons. He is very strong in the air and very good ball winner. He also has a strong body and is very calm. Cannavaro is an example for a perfect defender. would like to say a big thank you to everyone who contributed to making these debates so intriguing.