The Clean Sheet: For your viewing pleasure
management has to get it right, and get it right now.
Lost (ABC): When I ask how the Fire did after any game, this is the word that always brings music to my ears. Fortunately, this happened plenty of times this season, so the Fire (and their fans) will be watching the playoffs just like our FC Dallas (gotta get used to that). Maybe there can be a Brimstone Cup this weekend to see whose players eat the most chicken wings while they are watching the playoffs they both missed. However, unlike the FC Dallas extreme makeover, the Fire have a pretty good nucleus in place once they get healthy. Their biggest offseason decision might be what to do with Big Zach ...
Two and A Half Men (CBS): Could the offense of Jaime Moreno, Alecko Eskandarian and young Freddy Adu carry United through the relatively soft Eastern Conference? Probably not, but with Christian Gomez now pulling the strings, the answer changes, as D.C. easily has the most potent attack in the East. Obviously there are still major questions at the back, but D.C. seems to be the fancied side in this side of the bracket.
Metro -- Hope & Faith (ABC): Hope & Faith is what Bob Bradley is going to have to have that his MetroStars can simply outscore D.C. United and anyone else they come across if they are to advance in the postseason. Metro scored a league-leading 47 goals while giving up a league-worst 49 this season. "Six Feet Under" (HBO) is where I would have expected to be before I saw a Bob Bradley side lead the league in getting lit up -- especially with a national team (cough, cough) goalkeeper at the back.
Less Than Perfect (ABC): I've said it before, but the New England Revolution is a wonderful example of why there are too many teams in the playoffs. I give them full marks for digging out a result against the Fire, but that game just made me wonder how they would have done had they played with that much inspiration all season. And why they didn't.
The Benefactor (ABC): There is a question being bandied about regarding how much of the Crew's success should be attributed to Greg Andrulis. I've heard opinions from readers and others saying he simply was handed guys like Tony Sanneh and the East just stinks, and reasons such as those helped him turn the team around and save his job. On the other hand, I don't think Major League Soccer's Ivan Gazidis was the one who moved Kyle Martino up and put Jeff Cunningham on the bench, so please give the guy some credit. Now, I'm not ready to hand Andrulis Coach of the Year yet, but he obviously is a front-runner for going from the brink of being sacked to the Supporters Shield.
Without A Trace (CBS): They're not dead yet, but what has happened to the San Jose Earthquakes? The team that hands down, no contest, can play the most flowing and joyous football in the league -- isn't. I know they have been hurt by call-ups and injuries ... but who hasn't? It's amazing to think how close they were last Saturday to missing the playoffs, so I am very curious to see if they can get their groove back or if this entire season will just become a disappointment.
Survivor (CBS): You'd think first place would grant you immunity, but then my fellow MLSnet.com columnist got voted off the island on Planet LA. So now, the pressure is on the shoulders of Steve Sampson. If the Galaxy made the coaching move midseason, it would seem they should be expecting results in the playoffs this year. I read a sentence somewhere that said, "The Galaxy managed to secure the second seed in the West after adding head coach Steve Sampson in the middle of the season." Huh? You mean since the middle of the season when they were in first place?
Now on the other hand, to be fair these are not Steve Sampson's players, so that must be taken into account if FC Entertainment gets run out in the first round. Sampson has done some tweaking such as turning Andy Herzog into a 30-minute player (a move worthy of an entire column), but his overall stamp on the team will really begin in the offseason.
Joey (NBC): This is the story about a very funny guy who in the past has been protected by a good supporting cast, but now has the whole show relying on him. Yes, Joe Cannon was simply the only thing standing between Mile High Club and the first overall draft pick next season. I mean, the guy led the league in catches/punches ... what else do you need as proof? So the question is: Can he pull a Tony Meola and carry the Rapids all the way to the A-Roth Trophy? If he does, then would The Bruce give him another look?
The Apprentice (NBC): Speaking of Meola, there is one player who has clearly made the biggest impact on his team with the least fanfare: Bo Oshoniyi. When Meola went down with the Achilles injury, Stuart Scott's long-lost twin simply stepped in and the stingy Wizards have not missed a step. I understand Bo is set to get the nod again this weekend, but Meola may be ready to go after that.
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: Please read the following paragraph, written last week in this space.
"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 against the Revs, 100 on a San Jose-Dallas draw, 150 on K.C. against L.A., 150 on a Crew-Mile High Club draw and 200 on D.C. against Metro."
Well, if it weren't for the hated, detested, cheating Fire, I would have gone five-for-five and climbed out of my hole. Nice dead ball, Damani. Instead, I go four-for-five and somehow have to come up with 400. If you don't see a column in this space next week, well, you know why ... tell the Queen of the Palace I love her.
FINISHING BANK: -400
GRAB A COLD BUD (OR AQUAFINA) AND PUT YER FEET UP:
WHAT I'LL BE WATCHING:
Friday - GALAXY AT MILE HIGH CLUB (9:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports World and HDNet): Colorado doesn't score very often, but doesn't get scored on much either. You get the feeling the Galaxy's offense will decide this one ... if they score goals, this could be an easy series. If they don't convert their chances (a problem at times this season), the Rapids have enough to steal a goal and make for a tense night in Carson in a week's time. I still haven't quite figured out FC Entertainment, but do see them being able to grab at least a draw in Denver. Prediction: Colorado 1, Los Angeles 1.
Saturday - ADUNITED AT METRO (7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports World): Is this D.C. United team coming together a little bit at the right time? I know it's pretty tough to beat a team three weeks in a row, but you just have to fancy United to record a back-breaking win in the opener. Prediction: D.C. United 3, MetroStars 2.
Saturday - CREW AT REVS (9:30 p.m. ET delayed on Fox Sports World): Eighteen regular-season games without a loss is an absolutely phenomenal feat, but does not guarantee you a spot in Carson on Nov. 14. On the other side, you know how I feel about the usually-punchless Revs, who to their credit at least showed some heart last weekend for the first time I can remember. While I do see the Crew scraping out a draw in Foxborough this weekend, I won't be shocked if the Revs find a way through in this series ... after what the Old Towne Team did, anything is possible up in that part of the world. Prediction: New England 0, Columbus 0.
Sunday - WIZARDS AT QUAKES (5 p.m. ET on The Deuce): This series is all about the Earthquakes. You know what you are going to get from the Wizards: a staunch defensive effort, and probably a goal or two per game -- possibly from a guy you've never heard of. So will the real Quakes please stand up? If they are swashbuckling and enjoying their football and Landon is buzzing about the pitch, they'll beat the Wizards at Spartan this weekend and go to war next weekend at Arrowhead. However, if the bland Quakes side that has shown up so often this season is the one playing on Sunday, Kansas City will win a goal or two to nil and will have a nice cushion to protect back home in the return leg. Prediction: San Jose 2, Kansas City 1.
The Clean Sheet runs each Thursday on MLSnet.com. Send any questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.