The Clean Sheet: Alive and kicking

and this just in: the playoffs start Saturday.

Yeah, the Commish must've sold his soul to the devil for these matchups. Or at least given old Beelzebub some sweet RSL merchandise.

So, out of the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" line of thought, I am pretty fired up about the weekend. Yes, I am against all these teams getting into the playoffs, but I'll be the first to admit, this could be a seriously exciting weekend coming up -- if the intensity level of the games live up to their importance.

With that, let's take a look at what we'll call the opening-round matches on Saturday:

CHICAGO AT NEW ENG-ER-LAND: This is pretty much a nightmare for your old pal Tino. See, we have the despised Fire taking on the team that makes me feel like I am chewing tin foil, the Revolution.

I told you last week about the Fire, and how they scare the living Mapp out of me. To quickly review, with Andy Herron up top, I would not be that entirely shocked to see them get out of the relatively soft Eastern Conference. Kill me now.

Now, let's talk about the Revolution -- the team who just ticks me off every week. Here's why the Revolution shouldn't make the playoffs -- they just never look like they could be bothered. Do they ever play with a sense of urgency? Sure doesn't seem like it.

Take last weekend for instance. Compare the Revs and the Crew in their respective matches: Columbus was playing for nothing, while the Revs desperately needed points to get into the dance. What happened? The Crew looked like the team that needed a result, while the Revolution yet again just lollygagged the ball around the infield.

Frankly, a team with offensive firepower like Clint Dempsey, Taylor Twellman, Jose Cancela and Pat Noonan should be fun to watch anytime, forget about when they absolutely need results. But they look infuriatingly uninspired time after time ... heck, even a broadcasting legend like Greg Lalas couldn't make them look interesting last Saturday.

I don't know if the team has just stopped playing for Stevie Nicol, but I do wonder when I watch them these days. Wake up, lads.

So I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, to say the least. For the good of the game, I actually find myself pulling for the hated cheaters from the Windy City. Maybe something heavy will fall on me before Saturday.

SAN JOSE AT DALLAS: When the Quakes are on song, they are clearly the superior team to Dallas, but for San Jose, those times have been too few and far between this season. Obviously, that is why they are in danger of missing the postseason. Then again, if Landon Donovan looks half as interested Saturday as he did for The Yanks on Wednesday night, it's gonna be a long night for my boys.

But with San Jose's inconsistency, the door is definitely open for my Burn to sneak in and knock the Quakes out. That is, unless Dallas makes mistakes like they did last weekend against FC Entertainment.

Don't get me wrong, Jason Kreis's flick-on was beautiful, and I'm sure Jovan sent him a nice bundt cake after the game. As for the second goal Dallas gave up, the only thing worse than the positioning of the wall was how poorly it held up (get out of the way, the ball might hit you in the shin!). That was pathetic.

But, here comes Eddie Johnson fresh off his three goals in 12 seconds for The Yanks. And here comes Milton Reyes, who never met a two-footed tackle he didn't like (you wanna get near him with the ball, especially after watching that game last weekend?). Maybe, just maybe, the Dallas Burn will live to fight another two weeks.

Unfortunately, I doubt it ... I think after Saturday night, my Burn will be no more and FC Dallas will officially be open for business. See you in Frisco.

FOR RECREATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY:

I know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy ... so every week TCS is gonna put a little action on the action, if you know what I'm talkin' about. Each week in this space we'll track how last week went and what's on the books, so to speak, for the upcoming week.

LAST WEEK: Finally, some daylight. We took 100 each on the Metros-Crew draw, D.C. beating the hapless Revs and Jovan's brace over my Burn. We gave back 100 when San Jose couldn't find a way to turn all of that possession into a goal against the Wizards, so we finish up 200 for the week. We'll take it.
CURRENT BANK: -800
THIS WEEK: The last week of the regular season and I'm 800 in the hole. I can't finish a season owing money (MLSnet.com refuses to cover my debts, the cheap bums). So let's get back to zero with 200 on Chicago over the Revs, 100 on a San Jose-Dallas draw, 150 on K.C. over L.A., 150 on a Crew-Mile High Club draw and 200 on D.C. over the Metros.

FLICK-ONS:

A few brief thoughts on Wednesday night's squeaker with Panama:

You gotta be up front when you blow it, and I'll be the first one to admit, Eddie Johnson is proving me wrong. From the beginning of the season, I thought he was overrated and his finishing was just not good enough (too many instances like the break away he couldn't convert in the 75th minute Wednesday night). However, with his opportunistic four-goal run with the national team, plus 11 goals on the MLS campaign, I think he's gonna be just fine, thank you. Nice call, Tino.

That was quite a performance by the substitutes, huh? You got the feeling The Bruce could have brought on whoever is married to Britney Spears this week, and even he woulda banged in a couple.

Great job by the TV crew with that super slo-motion replay to show whether Landon's second strike was an own goal or not -- that's good television. The telling replay helped ease the pain of ESPN2 missing the opening kickoff, plus the trying in-game chatter about proms, Kinko's and old Tone Loc songs. I don't mind that stuff as much for Rapids-Metros in August, but it's a World Cup qualifier, guys.

And I leave with a bit of advice for one David Beckham: What you did is like dating an ugly guy or girl -- everyone does it. You just don't tell anyone.

The Clean Sheet runs each Thursday on MLSnet.com. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or MLSnet.com. Send any questions and comments to tcsresponses@yahoo.com.


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