The Clean Sheet: Deep thoughts

who have the luxury of squad forwards, a stable of at least four strikers they can call upon in any combination every game.

The first is you can throw different looks at different teams to take advantage of matchups. Will Dallas go with the track stars up top (Toni Nhleko and Eddie Johnson) or insert the energy of Bobby Rhine or the caginess of Jason Kreis? Does D.C. go veteran and deliberate with Jaime Moreno and Ronald Cerritos, let the kids (Freddy Adu and Alecko Eskandarian) buzz around up top, or some combination of both?

The point is, these teams have the tools to craft their front line on a game-by-game basis - there is no need to have regular "starters" and "reserves." Hey, it worked for Chelsea. OK, another bad example, at least if your owner is a Russian zillionaire for whom second place and going deep in Champions League aren't good enough.

Anyway, the second advantage is simply that you are going to have some serious competition for spots, which is only going to raise the game of the forwards, as well as the defenders and goalkeepers who must deal with them buzzing around in training. Competition for spots is what every manager dreams of, and these three teams have it.

A mini-level below the haves are the have-enoughs -- teams like the Galaxy, Fire, Quakes and Revs -- who could weather the storm if one striker went down because when healthy, they have a guy on the bench every game who could probably be starting. Again: Alejandro Moreno, hello.

And finally, there are the have-nots (Columbus, Colorado and Kansas City), the teams that are thin at forward, and not coincidentally are the three lowest-scoring teams in MLS.

A quick glance at the stable of forwards for each team, and their production so far this season, shows how the classes break down in MLS.

THE HAVES:

METRO: Cornell Glen, Fabian Taylor, Sergio Galvan (King Of Goals) Rey and John Wolyniec (8 goals, 1 assist combined). Glen and Taylor are the guys right now, but head coach Bob Bradley certainly has options.

DALLAS: Rhine, Nhleko, Johnson and Kreis (6 goals, 2 assists). Kreis and Rhine will probably see significant minutes in the midfield, but head coach Colin Clarke has big-time weapons up front, doesn't he?

D.C.: The new-and-improved Jaime Moreno 2.0, Cerritos, Eskandarian and Adu (7 goals and 3 assists). At the end of the day, Jaime and Alecko would be my top tandem, but Cerritos and Adu reminded me of how much I know with a pair of beauties Wednesday night.

THE HAVE-ENOUGHS:

SAN JOSE: Landon Donovan, Brian Ching and Dwayne De Rosario (6 goals, 5 assists). Ching's form has De Rosario on the bench for now, but the Canadian has proven he can play in this league. The steady Chris Brown can also see some minutes up top.

LOS ANGELES: Little Fishy, Jovan Kirovski and Alejandro Moreno (14 goals, 4 assists). Other options at forward include rookie Joseph Ngwenya, who scored from that position on Wednesday night.

CHICAGO: Damani Ralph and Ante Razov are usually first choice, but Dipsy [Selolwane] can do (6 goals, 2 assists between them). I hate myself for writing that. Although I am still seeing "Much Adu About Freddy" headlines in newspapers, which honestly makes me have postal-like thoughts.

NEW ENG-ER-LAND: Taylor Twellman and Pat Noonan, plus Joe-Max Moore if he can stay healthy (2 goals, 4 assists between the trio). Noonan and Moore obviously can also play in the midfield.

THE HAVE-NOTS:

COLUMBUS: Cunningham and Buddle - who, as mentioned before, have combined for a grand total of one goal and zero assists.

COLORADO: Pedro Peguero (2 goals, 1 assist) can play, but can Spenny stay healthy? After that? Slim pickins ...

KANSAS CITY: Davy Arnaud, the injury-prone Wolff (3 goals and 2 assists between the pair), and ... and ...

***

THE NEWS: Catch the show Wednesday night yet? Wow.

TCS SAYS: Yup, Jesse Palmer is a big tool ... no wonder the Giants traded for Eli Manning. I could never look at Palmer in a huddle with a straight face ever again. Oh, wait ... you meant the D.C.-L.A. game.

All kidding aside, if you haven't seen the goals, check 'em out on this site and tell me what sticks out more:

1) The absolute world-class level of service the left boot of Andy Herzog can provide. Not to take anything away from Moreno, but Herzog's passing could even make me look dangerous up top.

2) Nick Rimando, or lack thereof, on the first two goals.

3) Ronald Cerritos (56K|384K)
reminding everyone why he is still a serious threat with an absolute bomb.

4) Freddy just being Freddy (56K|384K) - what have you done there, son?

THE NEWS: Carlos Ruiz is out for the time being with a severely sprained ankle.

TCS SAYS: So first he gets taken out by a goalkeeper and actually pops back up to score a goal. Then a week later, he gets dumped and goes down, apparently injured ... and actually is?

OK, whatever alien has inhabited Little Fishy's body this season, you obviously did not do your homework on how he is on a soccer field.

THE NEWS: The Columbus Crew enter this weekend on the heels of their first win.

TCS SAYS: So what exactly is the deal in Columbus now? How close was/is head coach Greg Andrulis to getting the sack? Well, if you believe rumors, he was to be let go this week. And to be fair -- if they did get stuffed at home on national TV in those fancy special uniforms on the fifth anniversary of the House That Lamar Built -- well, ya gotta wonder.

But, the Crew are unbeaten in their last three, despite what Robin Fraser told Crew beat guy Craig Merz: "The perception nationally is we're crap." Yeah, that's pretty accurate. And while Andrulis got the (dreaded) vote of confidence from the chairman on national TV last weekend, you get the feeling he will be given the chance to try and make things right. Again.

THE NEWS: Wait, I found something I love about the Crew (besides when my Burn gets to play them).

TCS SAYS: We all know I hate statistics in soccer, and apparently so do the Crew: six games played, zero assists! Yes! I've finally found someone who hates recording assists as much as I do.

THE NEWS: South Africa will host the 2010 World Cup.

TCS SAYS: And the delusional award of the year goes to ... Dallas forward Toni Nhleko, who has eight caps with South Africa and had this to say about the 2010 event: "We'll qualify for it as the host and I think we are going to win it."

Yeah, and the Athens venues are all going to be ready for the Olympics this summer.

THE NEWS: Fabian Taylor has laid down the gauntlet to the whole league, and I want to know who is going to answer the call.

TCS SAYS: Well, we all know TCS loves the post-goal celebrations, so who is going to top what Taylor did after scoring against Chicago: taking off his boot, kissing it, putting it on the corner flag, and then bowing and praying to it? Taylor said he thought of it one night before he fell asleep. Fire head coach Dave Sarachan wondered: "Maybe it's a religious thing." Whatever it is, I want to see someone top it.

THE NEWS: Tottenham brings in Leeds' Paul Robinson to challenge Kasey Keller for the starting nod, Brad Friedel finishes the season hurt at Blackburn and injuries also keep Marcus Hahnemann out of Reading's failed push for the playoffs.

TCS SAYS: Timmy Howard, go win the FA Cup on Saturday and give the Yank keepers across the pond a good note on which to finish the season. And stop laughing at Fabien Barthez getting tossed in the UEFA Cup final, that's just rubbing it in.

THE NEWS: NBC and the NHL announced a new deal where NBC will pay the hockey league no rights fees, and the NHL won't see a dime until NBC recovers its production costs through ad revenues. After that point, the deal reportedly calls for each side to keep a certain amount of additional revenue. The deal is very similar to the one NBC has with Arena Football.

TCS SAYS: The folks at NBC will tell you this is the new model for smaller TV properties, so keep an eye on how this plays out. NBC recently renewed its deal with Arena Football for two more years, after averaging a 1.1 rating over the first two years.

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

WHAT I'LL BE WATCHING:

Saturday - REVS-METRO (5 p.m. ET on ESPN2): 26 goals have been scored in the six games Metro has played, so bet the over.

Saturday - QUAKES-GALAXY (10 p.m. ET on Fox Sports World): The Galaxy are right where they are most comfortable: on the road. Ladies and gentlemen, I believe Beelzebub's backyard has officially frozen over.

Sunday - FIRE-CREW (4 p.m. ET on ESPN2): Chicago has played five of their first seven on the road and is still in first place. That's a tad scary.

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: My love-hate relationship with the team from Planet L.A. goes bad again, with the Galaxy somehow unable to dispose of Mile High Club. Another 100 down the drain.

CURRENT BANK: -500

THIS WEEK: I'm going to win 250 this week. If Toni Nhleko says South Africa can win the World Cup, I can say whatever the heck I want this week. Revs-Metro draw, K.C.-Dallas draw, Mile High Club-D.C. draw, L.A.-San Jose draw and the Fire over the Crew. Seriously.

MLSnet.com COLUMNIST LOCKS OF THE WEEK: OK, 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:

Holy beginner's luck, Batman - Lalas is on fire. Look at where he is in the standings compared to the rest of us! I haven't seen a gap like that since I saw his high school prom date's front teeth.

STANDINGS:

Lalas: 4-3

Palace: 2-5

Bradley: 1-6

Connolly: 1-6

THIS WEEK:

Bradley: Chicago over Columbus

Hard C: San Jose over Los Angeles

Tino: Chicago over Columbus

Lalas: New York over New England

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 its clubs.


To report a comment, mouseover or touch the comment and then click/touch the flag icon (Flag).