Martino: The best is yet to come
Crew midfielder Kyle Martino was the 2002 MLS Rookie of the Year and has also played for the U.S. men's national team. Each week during the 2004 MLS season, Kyle will detail the week past, giving insight into the life of a professional soccer player.
Right now, everyone on the team just feels really comfortable. We feel like we're playing the best that we've played all year. The attitude in our locker room and the environment we've created have been ideal. Everyone's been on the same page, and we've got some great results and played some great games, so we're feeling great right now.
Still, I don't think we've strung together our best games yet. When the playoffs come around, it's going to take three perfect games to get into the MLS Cup final, and that's what we plan on doing. We plan on playing the best games we play all year in the playoffs.
A lot of people have been talking about our 14-game unbeaten streak, but the only thing that we really talk about is to continue to grow and to continue to get better and play the way we've been playing and add a little bit every game. I think that records and streaks and achieving accolades will come if we concentrate on every game and play our best. That's what we're making sure of.
In our next two matches, we play the Chicago Fire, a team we've already beaten twice this year. I think that regardless of who our opponent is, we feel pretty comfortable that we're going to get a good result. Chicago is not a team to take lightly, but yeah, we have had their number this year. We've done well against them, and hopefully we can continue that success. Last weekend, Fire striker Andy Herron scored twice in his first start with them, but we really don't go into too many games worrying about an individual player. We just make sure that we stick to the game plan, that everyone's on the same page. I think it's just going to be like every other game, where our defenders are up to the task, and whoever is on the field and is close to him will take care of business and shut him down.
Speaking of defense, in this week's awards tracker on MLSnet.com, Zack from Columbus Ohio wrote that he's 100 percent sure our defense will hold up in every game. I think that shows that our fans know the game and feel confident and comfortable with the changes we've made this year. Some of the new defenders that we have out there – Robin Fraser and Chad Marshall – are two of the strongest and most confident defenders I've played with. Having them back there makes it so much easier to play in a relaxed mode and be comfortable with knowing we're going to get back into games or win games because they're not shaky. They do everything well, and they never let you feel uncomfortable. You never feel uneasy. They always get the job done. Zack feels exactly what the rest of the players on the field feel.
Saturday's game against the Fire is our last regular season home game this year. It's kind of exciting to think that the regular season is coming to an end and the playoffs are already in our sights. We've got one last home game to show the fans that we're going out to try to get a win or a tie in the rest of our games. This last chance at home to get a good result for the fans and get three points with them behind us is a good opportunity, but we're looking for at least two more games in front of them.
Off the field, things haven't been tremendously exciting recently. I think the closer we get to the playoffs, the smaller the stories are and the less exciting the stories are off the field. We're a bit more business-like. I think everyone knows what it's going to take, and everyone knows there will have to be some sacrifices made, whether it be that people don't spend as much time out at night during the week or they stay at home and watch TV rather than going out to a bar with a couple of the guys. I think that people are starting to make that sacrifice and are starting to look at the playoffs as our chance to really do something and make a run. No one really finds it necessary to go out and party right now.