Loss to national duty overrated

such as the Rapids' lack of ability to possess the ball compared to past years and the absence of a creative spark in midfield -- the most evident indication of Spencer's lack of scoring this year is the fact that the veteran has to apply himself in the provider role, a position once filled by Chris Carrieri. A player who was not afraid to share his opinion inside and outside the locker room, Carrieri was not brought back in 2004. Known for his speedy runs down the flank, he had eight assists last year -- Peguero, Delgado and Martinez have a combined seven with a few games remaining in 2004.

REVS EXPOSED BY TEAM WITH A SYSTEM: There is no escaping the truth that ESPN2 analyst Eric Wynalda mercilessly points out every time the New England Revolution play on Soccer Saturday. Against a decimated Earthquakes squad, the team once again should no initiative, urgency, speed, pressure or game plan. Once again, the Revolution refused to pressure the ball until the opposition came within 20 yards of the penalty area. That only meant that the Revolution had a longer distance to go when they won the ball.

And their plodding attacking maneuver, with few clear ideas, gave San Jose plenty of time to get back to cover. Even without the uninspired Jose Cancela in the lineup, matters did not improve for New England. Only missing the playoffs will jar this group of players, who are stuck in a rut when it comes to their style and attitude.

The 1-0 road victory by San Jose came in a game between two teams heading in opposite directions. While New England attempts to find an on-field identity, the Earthquakes continue to feed off the system and team spirit instilled in it since 2001 by now Canadian national team head coach Frank Yallop. Although even Landon Donovan admitted that the team had to battle complacency throughout the year, which at times warranted calls for a complete overhaul, San Jose still has a game plan it can fall back on: relentless pressure and strong runs off the ball. That's something the Revolution can probably learn from.

POOR MAN'S MENTALITY PROMOTED: He was in the middle of watching his team and he even missed a goal by the end of the in-game interview. But San Jose Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear let a key phrase slip his tongue in chatting with sideline reporter Lorrie Fair: that he would be happy to get out of New England with a draw.

He uttered those words at a time when his team was arguably playing better than a Revolution side that was far from interested in pressuring the ball. Under those circumstances why would the coach of the defending MLS Cup champions be content with one point? Was that part of the speech in the locker room at halftime?

Everyone who follows the game knows that the popular belief in the soccer world is that scraping a point on the road is a great result, especially when you're playing without your stars as San Jose was. But does anyone believe that the best teams in the world take the field on the road with the intent of tying? Games won on the road are what actually separate the championship teams from the pretenders in every league in the world.

Perhaps it is a trait of MLS then? One may think so after reading the comments of former D.C. United winger Bobby Convey in the British press: "I've gotten quicker and better already because ... the intensity is higher because everybody wants to win there [in England]." As opposed to MLS?

SANNEH'S ROLE WORKS -- FOR NOW: His was the much-anticipated debut of the weekend. However, few would have expected that former U.S. national team right back would resume his MLS career at central midfield. His lumbering size and seeming lack of bursting speed and quick feet make him an odd candidate for the position.

The truth is that Sanneh did not particularly stand out against the Los Angeles Galaxy except for a few successful passing combinations. While he should be allowed time to gain some degree of fitness, the fact is that he will have to show he can really make a difference in future games to warrant his allocation roster spot on the club. Performances like Saturday's do not quite reach that level.

However, Sanneh's move to midfield also signified a vote of approval for the solid work of right back Nelson Akwari, who has shown he has earned his place in Greg Andrulis's three-man back line. It also probably means that Duncan Oughton's time as a starter may be short-lived, despite displaying strong form in recent games. When Frankie Hejduk comes back from U.S. national team duty, he is likely to take back his spot on the right side of midfield, the position occupied by Oughton on Saturday. When Oughton sits, the spotlight on Sanneh's play will only be magnified.

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


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