Wilf Thorne / Houston Dynamo

Climbing the Ladder: Dixon & The Name Game

Houston’s Alex Dixon: What’s in a name?

Houston Dynamo Academy product Alex Dixon (above), a University of North Carolina alum, made his senior debut for the Dynamo last Saturday and played all 120 minutes in the club's Open Cup match Wednesday night. Dixon's name may sound familiar to long-time MLS fans, as a different player named Alex Dixon saw action for the MetroStars nearly a decade ago. The first Alex Dixon, a Panamanian forward, made three appearances for the Metrostars in the 2001 Copa Merconorte but did not see any regular-season action.

This is the fourth time in league history that two players have shared the same name.

The first instance occurred in 1999, when the second and more notable Chris Brown made his debut. The second Brown had a nine-year MLS career and was last seen with Real Salt Lake in 2007. However, there was also a Chris Brown who was born in England and made one substitute appearance for the Dallas Burn in 1998, as an emergency call-up. That Brown is now the head coach of the Guyana women’s national team.

Brazilian soccer players are often known by a single name, so it’s not a stretch to see one make this list. In addition to the Thiago who contributed to the Chicago Fire attack from 2005-07, a lesser-known Thiago appeared three times for the LA Galaxy in early 2006. That’s the only time two same name players have been in the league at the same time. The second Thiago was brought in by Steve Sampson from Germany, and waived on the same day Frank Yallop was hired.

Jorge Flores, the original Sueño MLS winner, made his debut for Chivas USA in 2007. But before him, there was the Jorge Flores who played for Dallas from 1996-98 and was capped once by the US national team. Though to be fair, it was in the infamous Peru game in October 1996, where replacement players were used.

While on the subject of names, 75 of the top 100 most common surnames from the 2000 US census have been represented among the more than 1,500 MLS players who have played in a competitive game since 1996, including all of the top 40. The top five last names not yet represented are Hill (41), Campbell (43), Carter (46), Turner (49) and Collins (52). Hill was close to being knocked off last year, as onetime US international Kamani Hill trained with the San Jose Earthquakes but was not signed.

Rapids setting the pace in 2011.

The defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids are sitting pretty at the top of the league table with three wins from three games. They should already be feeling very confident about their postseason chances: 26 of the 29 teams to start the season with seven or nine points from the first three games made the MLS Cup Playoffs. That’s a rate of 89.7 percent, compared to 66.7 percent for all teams in MLS history. Chicago and Real Salt Lake may join that group, depending on how their third games turn out.

The three teams mentioned above who failed to make the playoffs are 2003 Columbus, 2004 Dallas and 2007 Kansas City.

While the postseason may be likely, the Supporters' Shield is another matter. It’s been won twice by teams with zero points after three games (2004 Columbus and 2007 D.C. United) compared to just once by a team with the maximum nine points (2010 LA Galaxy).

RSL win means Williams may join elite group.

[inline_node:329676]On Tuesday night, Real Salt Lake advanced to the 2011 CONCACAF Champions League finals. It’s a great accomplishment, possibly more impressive than the two previous MLS teams who won the competition (D.C. United in 1998 and Los Angeles in 2000). Those two teams hosted the tournament, which only required three single-elimination matches in the space of a week. Meanwhile, RSL have played five away games in five different countries during a competition that began last July.

The last remaining player from the original 2005 RSL expansion team is Andy Williams, and he’s been an important part of the success of the past two years. If RSL win the Champions League and he takes the field, he can become only the 16th player to play in and win the MLS Cup, U.S. Open Cup final, and CONCACAF Champions' Cup/Champions League final.

Williams is the only player on the current roster who can achieve this “triple,” as he won the Open Cup with the 2003 Chicago Fire. Ned Grabavoy comes close, but he was an unused substitute in the 2005 Open Cup final won by the LA Galaxy.

The previous 15:

DC: Jeff Agoos, Marco Etcheverry, John Harkes, Jaime Moreno, Eddie Pope, Richie Williams

LA: Mauricio Cienfuegos, Simon Elliott, Kevin Hartman, Ezra Hendrickson, Zak Ibsen, Cobi Jones, Alexi Lalas, Peter Vagenas, Sasha Victorine

All won the three finals with the team listed, except for Ibsen, who won the Open Cup with Chicago and the MLS Cup with San Jose. Ibsen is also the only one who never played on a Supporters' Shield winner.

Saborío close to Champions League scoring record.

Another Champions League milestone to watch out for involves Costa Rican forward Alvaro Saborio. Though he was held scoreless Tuesday night, he’s been outstanding in the tournament, with eight goals to his name. Already, he’s one goal away from the record for most Champions League goals for an MLS team. It’s currently held by Luciano Emilio with nine, while Saborío is tied for second with Christian Gómez. This despite Saborío only playing in one competition compared to Emilio’s four.

Roy Lassiter is in fourth with six goals, all scored during the 1998 edition. That makes him the highest-scoring American, with Brian Ching one behind.