The Clean Sheet: Benchmark decision

if my name were Piotr Nowak, I most likely would have given in to the hype and started the kid last weekend. Would that have been the right move? Nope. So kudos to Nowak for making the call, when I have to think there might have been some whispers coming his way about TV ratings and other off-field issues.

Through this decision, Nowak has firmly stated that he is running a soccer team and not a promotional vehicle for MLS. Well done. Therefore, Adu has become what he should be for now -- a squad forward. And after the duo of Honda Player of the Week Moreno and Eskandarian wreaked havoc on the champs' backline Saturday, you gotta run them back out again this weekend on Planet LA.

Yes, there will be pressure to start Adu: a packed Home Depot Center, the buzz of Planet LA and another national television audience. But Nowak didn't give in last week, so I'd look for Freddy off the bench again this weekend -- ankle issues aside.

I know that will come as a shock to such soccer experts as Washington Post columnist and ESPN's Tony Kornheiser, who in a column Thursday called for Adu to start this weekend. According to one-half of the PTI duo (very funny on TV), MLS said Freddy was the "savior" of soccer in America. I must've missed the MLS pre-season conference call giving Adu the "savior" award. Funny though, I seem to remember a line from The Commish saying something like, "soccer doesn't need to be saved." Great, now I'm confused. This is dogs and cats, living together ... mass hysteria.

Kornheiser also writes that Adu not starting should lead to the sacking of everyone from United GM Kevin Payne to Nowak all the way up to The Commish and down to the parking lot attendants at RFK. Man, Steven Goff: Did you get beaten to that story, or what? Although, from what I hear from D.C. last weekend, maybe something with the parking attendants isn't that crazy after all ...

Anyway, the only caveat is what Nowak decides to do after Dema Kovalenko snapped yet again. If Nowak does a straight swap for Dema in the midfield, Freddy probably will stay on the bench. If he decides to rework things a bit formation-wise, maybe Freddy slots in up top if the ankle is okay. However, with the way the Galaxy attack was firing last weekend and the possible return of Cobi Jones, I'm thinking defense first if I'm Nowak. I might even be thinking two goalkeepers.

Speaking of Kovalenko, for anyone who wonders why I give Dema a hard time -- joking or otherwise -- Saturday was a perfect example of why. First game of the season, new manager, defending a lead, already up a man, and a bunch of kids on your team who need some leadership -- and he loses his temper and gets tossed. To quote those Guinness spots: brilliant!

THE NEWS: See Carlos Ruiz chest in a goal in the nationally-televised win over New Eng-er-land last weekend?

TCS SAYS: Is it safe to say that was the most influential nationally-televised right breast since Janet Jackson?

Before I get to the game, I will say this for the 357th time -- get to the HDC if you haven't. There is just nothing better than a good game on a nice night on that wide-open field in front of a packed house.

On the field was fantastic -- especially if you are a Galaxy supporter. But perhaps the most relieved was none other than head coach Sigi Schmid. Let's be honest, Sigi went out in the off-season and picked up the likes of Andreas Herzog and Jovan Kirovski to turn the team around ... and probably save his job. After one game, it's looking pretty good.

Even without the injured Cobi, the Galaxy look like they're gonna bring some thunder on offense. Herzog is class, his touch on the ball is wonderful, his vision and passing seem a bit of a revelation. I hope he stays fit, he is really fun to watch. And if Jovan is finishing, he's gonna be a handful.

As for the Revs, they put up a nice fight as well. Taylor Twellman still doesn't care where he sticks his head when he sniffs a chance, but for me, I would have liked to see him show for the ball a bit more as opposed to just motioning for his teammates to whack a ball over the top. That said, I think the Revs' faithful have a lot to look forward to this season.

THE NEWS: Waldo moves into the booth to do color on the opener on ABC.

TCS SAYS: We all know I gave Eric Wynalda a bit of stick in the past for looking a little too buddy-buddy with the players on the sideline, but I thought he was fantastic as an analyst on Saturday. He displayed a rare combination of being able to break down a game while also telling it like it is.

He was high-energy, not afraid to speak his mind about refs or players, and pretty funny. Loved the line telling United midfielder Bobby Convey to keep going right into the locker room after he missed the open net.

On a serious note, Eric did a nice job of telling the tragic story of Nicole Megaloudis after Esky's post-goal tribute -- which was a class move by the kid, by the way. Great start, Waldo. And of course, J.P. was great as always. He just delivers the goods.

GRAB A COLD BUD (OR AQUAFINA) AND PUT YER FEET
UP:

WHAT I'LL BE WATCHING:

Saturday: QUAKES-FIRE (4 p.m. ET on ESPN2): A rematch of MLS Cup 2003 and the debut of Rob Stone and Waldo in the booth. The Fire may have a chance since this game is not being played at The Home Depot Center, which is apparently built on the site where Ante Razov used to club seals in a past life after his nightmare there in last year's final.

Saturday: GALAXY-ADUNITED (10 p.m. ET on Fox Sports World): You know who else looked pretty good for D.C. last weekend? Earnie (don't call me Ernie) Stewart. He is going to be just one of the many offensive weapons on both teams that will be displayed on the wide-open HDC field. This could be a fun one.

Monday: FULHAM-BLACKBURN (3 p.m. ET on Fox Sports World): Normally, this would just be a fun game with a bunch of MLS alums, but things are rather serious right now for Brad Friedel and his Rovers who are flirting with relegation.

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: We done good on L.A. over the Rev and D.C. over San Jose for 50 each, gave back 50 on the Crew, and pushed on Fire-Wizards and my Burn drawing with Mile High Club.
CURRENT BANK: +50

THIS WEEK: Gotta represent West Coast style, yo. I have no idea what that means. Anyway, let's go 50 each on LA over Adunited and San Jose over Chicago.

MLSNET.com COLUMNIST LOCKS OF THE WEEK

Okay, you guys asked for it, so now you're getting it -- every week the
MLSnet.com columnists are going to pick one lock of the week and we'll
keep a running tally to see who actually knows what they are talking about.
Late word is that The Commish was nice enough to offer a brand new Honda
to the winner.

LAST WEEK:

Bradley and I had Dallas, Hard C had the Fire and the rookie had K.C. All teams were involved in draws. Nice start, boys.

THIS WEEK:

Bradley: LA over DC United

Hard C: San Jose over Chicago

Tino: San Jose over Chicago

Lalas: Check his column on Friday

FLICK ONS

Fox Sports World Report rolled out a strong new segment called "The Miles
Report" -- a nice, tight wrap-up of the week in MLS by Christian Miles.
It was very well done and hit on a lot of the relevant story lines including
the return to DC of Jaime (don't call me Jamie) Moreno.

Tommy Smyth, on the ESPN networks, saying he was quoting the News of the World on Becks: "If you're gonna have an affair with somebody, she should be called Rebecca Loos." Whoever that line belonged to, it got some n'yuks from me.

I haven't been watching American Idol but I caught it this week. Here is my challenge to you: Watch this kid George Huff perform. If you can go the entire song without cracking a smile, The Commish has been nice enough to donate another brand new Honda.

Wonder if Scotty Pepper was smiling when Joe Bazooka gave up that howler Saturday night. I know it was called back, but you gotta think Scotty had a moment of peace with the world there.

Goalkeeper Jon Busch said his team was "p----d off" at the season-opening performance. Think of how the Crew fans who paid to sit in that weather and watch that game felt?

Could be worse, you could have been an Arsenal supporter for the last seven days. I know I picked them to win the English Premiership, but for some reason I really want Chel$ki to catch them now.

Okay, let's cut to the chase -- who can I flat-out bribe at DirecTV to get ESPN Deportes on the dial? It was killing me this week seeing those Champions League games in the listings and not being able to see 'em. Killing me.

Forget the NCAA tourney -- you want madness, how about those Champions
League quarterfinals? Are you kidding me with these comebacks? Phenomenal.

The Clean Sheet runs each Thursday on MLSnet. 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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