Teams enter final phase of season

Richie Baker, Taylor Twellman and Clint Dempsey all missed golden chances. Then, their two central midfielders (Shalrie Joseph and Dempsey) pushed forward and as a result they were exposed to the counter.

D.C. United wanted to win -- and needed to win. They played very aggressively as the away team, but an early goal and a red card took the wind out of the sails. The first yellow card to Ryan Nelsen must certainly be disappointing to Peter Nowak because it was needless, coming for dissent from his captain -- the second yellow card happens in a game, but this time left his team a man down.

Dallas was at home and tried to play as the home team. They attacked with vigor -- especially through Milton Reyes coming forward from the back on the left. On the Metrostars first goal, the Dallas defenders were not very aggressive in helping Reyes as Craig Ziadie beat him to the endline. The heat is always an issue in Dallas and maybe that robbed the Burn a little of their energy.

Another way to results is the counter-attacking oriented approach. The Chicago Fire used this as the home team against New England. The early goal helped, and an emotional midweek game partially brought about this style of play. Andy Herron seems a good replacement for Ante Razov, especially since he knows how to dangle on the offside line, just like Ante.

The MetroStars packed the midfield with Gilberto starting, then brought on Cornell Glen to counter with speed in the second half. But scoring first was perfect for the game plan -- and it was certainly executed well.

The Columbus Crew remind me of Muhammad Ali in his fights against George Foreman. They lay back a little and absorb pressure, but they do it with confidence and a purpose. Free kicks are used wisely -- the only goal (a good one) came when Simon Elliott found Tony Sanneh. Then there is the best 12th man in the league -- no, not the fans, but rather Jeff Cunningham. What a scary sight it is for a tired defense to see him come into the game.

The final approach is to get the points -- or point. The Los Angeles Galaxy against the San Jose Earthquakes is an intense rivalry due to its history, and the tight confines of Spartan Stadium add to hectic nature of the game. Brian Ching is integral to San Jose and missing him took away some of their attack. The Galaxy went more workmanlike and left Andy Herzog on the bench. In the final phase of the match they wanted the point and went with five defenders. For both teams a point was better than none.

It all happens again next week. Who will risk it, who will counter, who will settle for the point? Watch it -- the fun is really just beginning.

Sigi Schmid is one of the winningest coaches in MLS history, having led the Los Angeles Galaxy to four honors in his five-plus years at the helm, including the 2002 MLS Cup championship. Send comments to Sigi at sigischmid@hotmail.com. 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.inal phase


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