Photograph by David Bernal/ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
When the D.C. United front office rebuilt a lackluster roster that compiled a league-worst 6-20-4 record in 2010, no two offseason acquisitions were prized more than midfielder Dax McCarty and striker Charlie Davies.
United, however, has been without that duo in the starting lineup since a May 14 draw with Colorado. Davies strained his hamstring in that contest, while McCarty injured his groin in training shortly thereafter. Since then, Davies had made three appearances off the bench and McCarty has twice come on as a substitute. Ahead of Saturday's match against Houston, McCarty and Davies described their respective recoveries and both emphasized the importance of playing it safe and risking a relapse.
"You're trying to find the right way to manage your body throughout the weeks," Davies said. "After 90-minute games, your body takes a toll. I haven't been through many 90-minute games in the past year and a half, so it's just finding the right way to go about things during the week because I still want to do extra, I still want to push myself, but maybe push myself a little too much."
Added McCarty: "I think we handled the situation the right way. We didn't force it, and when I felt something and I knew it wasn't right, we made a decision with the coaching staff and the trainers and said, 'Look, it's a long season. It's not worth sacrificing another four weeks to try to play in a game where you're just not ready.'"
Here are some more notes from around the Eastern Conference:
At this point, it's hard to be surprised when the Fire settles from a draw. Ten on Chicago's last 12 games have ended deadlocked, including Wednesday night's 0-0 tie against Real Salt Lake. After his team's third scoreless draw this month, coach Frank Klopas said the Fire simply didn't execute its game plan.
"The last couple days that we had to prepare, we worked on being very quick, one- or two-touch combination play and always looking to switch the ball away from pressure. And I felt we weren't as sharp," Klopas said. "We forced the ball and made turnovers at times."
While Robbie Rogers has spent the past several weeks with the U.S. national team on Gold Cup duty, Columbus has called upon some unlikely contributors to fill in for him on the left flank. With typical replacements Dilly Duka and Leandre Griffit both hurt, rookies Justin Meram and Bernardo Anor have filled in admirably. But when Rogers returns, don't expect him to have to fight for playing time.
"He was called to the national team for a reason," coach Robert Warzycha said to MLSsoccer.com. "I don’t think a player coming back from the national team has to prove again he is a good player. He practices every day with the best U.S. players, so that is a learning experience."
When it comes to MLS All-Star voting, midfielder Brad Davis hasn't gotten much love from the fans thus far, despite his astounding nine assists in 15 games. But considering those numbers, he's probably a safe bet to make his third consecutive All-Star team via the other phases of the selection process.
"The All-Star Game is definitely a fan's event, and the fan voting is good because there are definitely players that they want to see," Davis told MLSsoccer.com. "There's a percentage of voting that's done by media and coaches, and if I get in by them, I'll be happy."
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
The Revolution has fallen down the Eastern Conference table in recent weeks and is now just one point better than the league's worst record. As midfielder Pat Phelan sarcastically pointed out to ESPN Boston, things aren't getting any easier for New England.
"Our next three games are at Seattle, at Salt Lake and against Manchester United," Phelan observed. "So [we should go] 3-0, I think, and [be] hitting our stride."
NEW YORK RED BULLS
With a Thursday night match in Seattle, a Sunday game in Chicago and a U.S. Open Cup contest against FC New York on Tuesday, Red Bulls coach Hans Backe conceded his team will field a team mostly of reserves for that final fixture.
"Ream and Agudelo [could be] in because they haven’t played that much [for the U.S.], but [it will be] mostly reserves," Backe said to MLSsoccer.com. "Even if I still feel that it is a priority to play the Open Cup, with this schedule — San Jose away [next] Saturday — we just need to be smart."
Despite controlling Wednesday's match against visiting Sporting Kansas City from beginning to end, the Union failed to find the back of the net and walked away from PPL Park with just a scoreless draw. Coach Peter Nowak noted Kansas City's negative tactics in his post-game press conference: "In the second half, I don't think Kansas City was looking for a counter in the attack and trying to score a goal."
"This year, everyone is taking Philadelphia Union very seriously with a lot of respect and coming here to PPL Park to get one point as a trophy," captain Faryd Mondragon said after the match. "We have to learn how to play this because these are the type of games we are going to have from now on."
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
From Kansas City's perspective, Wednesday night's 0-0 tie at Philadelphia was a positive result that stretched its unbeaten streak to five games. After lingering in the MLS cellar for much of the season, Kansas City now sits at 3-6-5, just four points out of playoff positioning with a league-low 14 games played and 12 of its next 14 fixtures at home.
"Most of the time you go on the road, you want to pick up at least a point every time," captain Davy Arnaud said after the game. "We’re on a good little run right now. We’ve won on the road at Dallas and we’ve had good results at home. This is not an easy place to come and play, and for us to pick up a point is very positive."
Toronto has failed to make the playoffs in each of its first four seasons as an MLS franchise and seems poised to do so again this year with its 2-6-9 record 17 games into the season. To goalkeeper Stefan Frei, the often-unstable organization will need to achieve consistency if it is going to become a contender.
"You need time to get that consistency," Frei said to MLSsoccer.com. "But I think if we're patient as players, as fans, as a front office, as coaches, and stick to our guns and believe in what we want to achieve, I think we can get that consistency. We will eventually get the results that we need."