The Clean Sheet: This one hurts

This column pains me to write, so I'm going to get right to it.

Before the season, when Real Salt Lake signed Clint Mathis, I got swept off my feet by Cleetus-mania. I had memories of the swashbuckling goal scorer who was going to inject so much fun and creativity into the league that no one would care about his past issues. He would take Checkettsville by storm, banging in goals and making RSL look as good as those dashing new uniforms they would wear.

He was the anti-John Stockton, all about personality and flair, but with the talent to back it up. Yup, it was the height of my Cleetus-aholism.

But alas, almost half way through the season, we are all reminded exactly why Clint Mathis was available to John Ellinger. It would seem that Cleetus as we knew him is over.

I still can't fault John Ellinger for taking a shot, although there are many who disagree, and have reminded me recently of what they told me before the season: It was a bad idea from the start.

As Mathis sat out Wednesday night through suspension, the numbers tell the tale: 13 games, zero goals. And more importantly, his team hadn't scored in about seven months. And many people, within the team and even in the media, are beginning to wonder quietly and aloud (witness a recent Salt Lake Tribune column) if Mathis' negative influence wasn't a big reason why RSL has gone in the tank.

It's just apropos that RSL's goal drought was broken Wednesday by a rookie named Jamie Watson, who probably was only in the lineup because of Mathis' suspension.

They say there is a sucker born every minute, and that means on one certain minute many years ago, I filled the quota. I couldn't wait to watch Cleetus come back this season, for the same reasons I still watch Mike Tyson and still see every new Star Trek movie ... you just hope that some way, somehow, past glories will be recaptured and we will be entertained again.

Alas, I fear Cleetus has joined that list. Now, he may end up getting traded and have one more last chance. A Columbus or a Chivas USA with little to lose may throw the Hail Mary.

And I'll still tune in and watch. I'll remember the five-goal game and the world-class touches. I'll remember the flamboyant confidence and the level of individual class that often justified it. And more likely than not, I will be disappointed.

Before the season, I called out Landon Donovan and he has responded with a stellar campaign, both for club and country (Rich Motzkin, I'm still waiting for my cut). Donovan is simply the player in MLS most worth paying to watch play.

So Clint, if you have anything left, now is the time. Work harder. Play better. You don't have that many chances left. I can't help myself, I'll still be pulling for you.

THE NEWS: Mathis is not alone on the list of players who should not be below the Ryan Suarez Line.

TCS SAYS: Chivas USA's Suarez has one goal this season, which to me is soccer's equivalent of baseball's Mendoza Line. In addition to Cleetus, players who are below the Suarez Line who really shouldn't be include Alecko Eskandarian and Pando Ramirez, my Dominique Wilkins of MLS who has now set a new MLS record with 472 shots without a single goal. I still say he may end up with Goal of the Year ... now I'm just not sure which year.

Right at the Suarez Line and needing to pick it up are Dwayne De Rosario, Andy Herron, Freddy Adu and everyone on RSL except Jason Kreis.

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

WHAT I'LL BE WATCHING:

Saturday - GALAXY at QUAKES (10 p.m. ET on The Deuce): For some of the dogs The Deuce has ended up with this season, this makes up for all of them and more. Besides the question of whether Los Angeles will ever win a game on the road, how about Landon returning to San Jose?

Sunday - RSL at FIRE (7 p.m. ET on Direct Kick): OK, Real, now you remember how to score. Time to bust out of your shell.

Sunday - ENTOURAGE (8 p.m. ET on HBO): If there is a better character on TV right now than Johnny Drama, it is Jeremy Piven's Ari on the show that is a serious TCS fave. Check it out if you haven't already.

FLICK-ONS:

Sigi, I know you are a Pac-10 guy at heart, but how do you feel about a Big Ten town?

Speaking of Big Ten towns, Ante Razov scoring twice against the Crew was just plain mean.

Because he doesn't have enough: Gillette commissioned the design of a 4.5-carat diamond-encrusted razor as a Father's Day gift for Becks. The razor is valued at a cool $50,000. C'mon.

And speaking of Posh Boy, something called wagerweb.com is actually posting odds on whether he will come to MLS by opening day next year. They actually list as 20-1 the odds he will come. They list 1:25 as odds he won't, meaning you'd have to wager $2,500 to win $100. Now I would never, ever condone gambling as we all know, but that seems like a pretty good bet to me. You know, I used to know a guy who knew a guy ...

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. Send any questions and comments to tcsresponses@yahoo.com.


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