Donovan's position on field decided

but perhaps it's Donovan who needs to speak out on the position that will define his career.

The "team" attitude of serving the coaches in whatever position they need him to play has to make way for a determined mentality from Donovan, who needs to take a stand.

If it ain't broke ...: The Dallas Burn are the only undefeated team in MLS and as such, veteran Jason Kreis should expect his "rehabilitation" process to last at least until the first poor performance by the squad. The fact is that the forward tandem of Eddie Johnson and Toni Nhleko has come through for Colin Clarke's squad and they continue to create a healthy dose of scoring opportunities every weekend.

The Kreis situation should prove to be Clarke's first real test, which should also provide a gauge on what the personality of this team will be in 2004. Kreis is a very different player compared to both Nhleko and E.J. -- he does not incorporate Nhleko's physical power and imposing runs and he lacks Johnson's speed and size. Clarke's rebuilding of the Burn midfield also seems to not present an obvious position for Kreis at the moment.

There has been considerable interest from the Burn fans as to when Kreis will return -- not least of which because he's two goals away from taking over the all-time MLS lead -- and Clarke and Burn officials were grilled on the subject in a meeting with season-ticket holders a few weeks ago.

But that should not compel Clarke to employ Kreis, who has shifted between midfield and forward in recent years as coaches have struggled to find the right position for a player who is solid but does not excel at any one particular trait.

Kreis is a Burn original, one of the league's truly good guys and a great professional but the Dallas season and Clarke's reputation will likely be judged on how the club captain is handled on his way back to full health.

Give Williams his due: On Saturday against the MetroStars, Chicago Fire midfielder Andy Williams put forth yet another masterful midfield performance. Williams is the prototypical No. 10, who is arguably the most skilful player in MLS today. However, despite his ability to decide a game on a single play, he is among the most underrated players in league history.

Yes, he may look out of shape and he's not a 90-minute hustler and there are some games in which he disappears. But that description can also apply to some of the great players in soccer. There are several other factors behind the fact that Williams, with all his ability, has not been to an MLS All-Star Game while his namesake, Richie, was a two-time selection:

(1) Andy Williams has been moved from team to team in his MLS career with the Fire being his fifth in seven years as few coaches have been willing to bank on him or his salary.

(2) He has never been on an MLS Cup championship team.

(3) He has never led the league in scoring or assists, the only measure to earn inches in the local newspaper by some people's measure.

(4) He is Jamaican. When one generally thinks Jamaica in the world of sports, the image of the bobsled team in the Disney movie comes to mind. In international soccer, the word Jamaica probably conjures up the images of the fun-loving Reggae Boyz that made it to the World Cup in 1998 with a number of "passport Jamaicans" born and raised in England and without any serious pretensions. Jamaican soccer has unfortunately never been associated with class and talent on the world stage and Williams would be breaking new ground if he could break through the stereotypes.

At the age of 26, Williams is worth the price of admission and has his best years ahead of him. He was one of the few players on that France '98 team who wasn't a hardened English professional. It's about time he earns the recognition he deserves beginning from MLS fans and the upcoming All-Star Game.

Patience pays off: United head coach Peter Nowak waited until the 80th minute to make his first of only two substitutions in his team's tie against the Earthquakes, showing the virtue of patience which was recommended last week.

In two previous losses Nowak had already made his third substitution before the final 15 minutes of each match. Instead on Saturday, he gave United time to work their way into the game and the move was successful as he left the midfield intact. The decision was rewarded when United finished strongly and played their best second half of the season.

Galaxy goes as Ruiz goes: The Ruiz-dependent theory gained even more credibility after Saturday's performance by the Galaxy in New England. Ruiz was the one player who was in a realistic position to score. Yes, he is the team's top forward and is supposed to play that role, but except for an Andreas Herzog strike on goal, there was little contribution by any other players in the attack. And so when Ruiz missed or was stopped on his chances, the Galaxy saw their hopes of earning a result fade fast.

This one-dimensional aspect of the Galaxy is even more disconcerting than the fact that Los Angeles has tended to operate down just one flank in recent games -- something that got them in trouble a year ago. Herzog is nominally supposed to be the left-sided midfielder, but as he tucked in, Joseph Ngwenya was a victim of double-team after double-team as the Galaxy played through their rookie on nearly every attack against the Revolution. And on Saturday the Galaxy are up against the well-organized and undefeated Dallas Burn -- on the road.

Andy Pavon is a freelance soccer writer taking another perspective on the matches of the past weekend, past the box scores and standings. His column appears every Monday and is not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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