Results can be deceiving

which has to frustrate Nowak even if it is so early in the campaign.

D.C. United's first half was arguably the best half of soccer played by any team in 2004 marked by crisp one-touch play, constant pressure in every sector of the field and quick transitions led by its midfielders.

However, Nowak's squad is one that builds its momentum until it reaches a crescendo and it finds itself imposing its will on the opposition. The halftime break and subsequent second-half substitutions have only served to ruin the team's advantage. In his first questionable decision of the year, Nowak erred in bringing in Joshua Gros for Dema Kovalenko. Defensive help could have been used on United's right flank, where each of the MetroStars goals originated.

Doug Warren had his chance to convince Nowak but he did not take full advantage to seize the starting spot. The goalkeeper position continues to be an Achilles' heel for United but Warren arguably enjoyed the better of the two "average" performances between him and Nick Rimando, although there is concern about the quality of the third goal to beat him, a seemingly soft shot from Fabian Taylor that rolled under Warren's hand.

BRINGING AN END TO THE ADU EXPERIMENT

After seeing Freddy Adu in three consecutive substitution appearances,
it is abundantly clear that he has a difficult time finding his place
on the field when he comes off the bench. He seems to be uncertain as
to which position to take up or what runs to make when a game has already
taken its shape.

The time has come: Nowak should give Adu his first start next weekend. The first-year coach has stressed patience and said that would happen only within the larger context of making the team better.

He should see what Adu could do when United is at its sparkling first-half best and if anything, bring on Alecko Eskandarian as a substitute. Eskandarian is the grind-it-out type who will attract fouls, hold the ball in attack and not shy away from the physical battles which is what a team usually needs late in a match with a result in sight.

However, starting Adu does not necessarily mean pairing him with Jaime Moreno. They share a similar playing style and it would not serve the team if they take the field at the same time. Ronald Cerritos would be the better option.

RESULTS CAN BE DECEIVING (2)

The Kansas City Wizards have been tagged with the label of "defensive"
since their title-winning season of 2000. Head coach Bob Gansler has almost
had to apologize for his team's playing style on occasions during the
past four seasons.

Gansler deserves considerable credit for his track record and his service to the game in the USA but the 9,682 in attendance at Arrowhead Stadium will not have gone home calling their friends and family about the exciting time they had last Saturday. Yes, the home side earned a 1-0 victory, but it was a win by the Wizards that was as painful a soccer viewing experience as any in 2004.

It is an age-old debate in soccer: Is the result more important than the style of play? In the world of professional soccer, where fans pay money to be entertained, style counts for a great deal.

Kansas City will point to the number of goals scored last year, among the highest in MLS. But a great deal of the credit of the attack's success goes to Preki, a player who was once under-appreciated in Kansas City before making his triumphant return and capturing a Honda MVP award in the process.

However, one player does not make a style of play. If the Wizards want to get more cheers for their play than for the free pizza minutes in the second half, the team needs a different attitude on the field to replace the safety-first, possession-oriented, mistake-free philosophy that is professed.

The fact that Josh Wolff is a forgotten man for 90 minutes and that the team is relying on the creative genius of defensive midfielder Kerry Zavagnin should send a message that it may be time for an overhaul -- especially when the brighter moments of the second half came from the visiting Columbus Crew, who were playing a man down.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE MIDFIELDERS GONE?

Three of the teams that had forgettable performances on Saturday can
attribute their difficulties to one area: midfield.

That was certainly the case on both sides of the ball in the slog in Kansas City. Crew coach Greg Andrulis made two changes to his opening day team -- but the addition of Brian Maisonneuve and Duncan Oughton to Frankie Hejduk and Simon Elliott did little (and it certainly didn't help when Hejduk was sent off just before halftime). Kansas City saw Francisco Gomez come in for Chris Klein, but the remainder of the group (Diego Gutierrez, Diego Walsh and Zavagnin) struggled for consistency.

As well, the Los Angeles Galaxy quartet of Andreas Herzog, Sasha Victorine, Arturo Torres and Peter Vagenas did little to greatly trouble the Colorado Rapids.

While there have been flashes of brilliance from some of those players before, really none of these midfield corps can be said to feature players of superior skill, vision, creativity or acceleration. It is not a coincidence that none of the three squads were able to create many scoring opportunities in their respective matches.

The midfield talent issue is a problem that has not been addressed by many coaches in MLS. Very few fresh faces have been introduced at the position in the league and it seems that the same workmanlike types continue to surface at these positions, offering little in terms of standout, difference-maker qualities.

Andy Pavon is a freelance soccer writer taking another perspective on the weekly matches beyond the box scores and standings. Views
and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's,
and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or MLSnet.com.


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