Davis: Wing play is the key

who did what, what it means and what to look for next:

New England 2, at Columbus 2

Man of the Match: Frankie Hejduk and his bottomless supply of energy boosted Columbus all night in Thursday's 2-2 draw with New England. He crashed up the right side once again to provide the telling cross on Kei Kamara's late equalizer.

Bigger picture: Argentinean star Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the Crew's newest signing, should arrive this week. That's bound to help with Andy Herron facing a possible suspension. But Schelotto will be a playmaker or winger, not an out-and-out striker. And the Crew still seem short of a pure goal-getter.

Pressure point: Last week's draw against Columbus was the first match in the toughest stretch this year for New England. The Revs play four of their next five on the road, including stops at Dallas, D.C. United, Houston and Los Angeles.

New York Red Bulls 1, Houston 0

Man of the Match: Young Red Bulls sensation Jozy Altidore impressively battled tough Dynamo center back Eddie Robinson all night, and nearly scored on a highlight-reel slaloming run before halftime. Then the 17-year-old, U.S. Soccer's current "Next Big Thing," won the night with a fabulous turn and savage shot into the roof of the net.

Bigger picture: Oddly, Bruce Arena's biggest moments in coaching over the last 12 months have happened when his team plays a man down. Remember the amazing nine-man stand his U.S. team took against Italy in the World Cup? Saturday, the Red Bulls defensive organization was superb after Clint Mathis' 36th-minute ejection. In fact, Houston outshot New York by only 7-6 from that point. Not good maybe for Dynamo, but a real statement for Arena's men.

Pressure point: Dwayne De Rosario has struggled to impact matches so far. He has no goals or assists and is, in fact, still looking for his first shot on goal of 2007. De Rosario, twice a league MVP runner-up, doesn't have a history of slow starts. "De Ro" collected four assists in last year's season opener and he scored in his first start in 2005.

Chicago 2, Kansas City 1

Man of the Match: Scoring in his second consecutive game, Chad Barrett provided the Fire's first strike, and then later helped to create the game-winner. His pass into Ivan Guerrero led to the game-deciding penalty kick. Barrett also forced two saves off Kansas City goalkeeper Kevin Hartman early.

Bigger picture: The Fire showed tremendous faith in Barrett when they traded away Nate Jaqua and Andy Herron in the offseason. Now, Barrett's hard work up front for Chicago seems to be paying off, as Chris Rolfe, Justin Mapp, et al, continue to benefit from their teammate's active movement off the ball. Barrett, who recorded the late equalizer in last week's draw at Colorado, is a big part of the Fire's first unbeaten start after three matches since 1999.

Pressure point: Did the Fire just show the league how to handle Wizards forward Eddie Johnson? Chicago used speedy Dasan Robinson (in his first start this year) to help neutralize Johnson's quickness and applied low pressure overall. That generally kept Johnson in front of them, requiring him to beat them one-on-one. Johnson did much of his damage to D.C. United last week when he slipped behind the defense. Now, he'll have to adjust as teams force him out of his strengths.

Chivas USA 4, Real Salt Lake 0

Man of the Match: Nothing says "Man of the Match" like two early goals, which pretty much decide matters. Former Cuban international Maykel Galindo struck for two early goals as the home team won easily.

Bigger picture: Don't let the scoreline fool you. It could have been worse than 4-0, as Preki's men left at least five terrific chances unclaimed at The Home Depot Center. And at the other end, goalkeeper Brad Guzan continues to look sure and strong in his third season.

Pressure point: Ante Razov couldn't possibly have been any more wide open for his 100th. Later he was equally unattended but couldn't put the home team even further in front. Real Salt Lake's defense conceded 30 road goals last year and John Ellinger's back line didn't get off to a good start in adding to that total with four in the 2007 road opener.

FC Dallas 3, Colorado 1

Man of the Match: FC Dallas midfielder Ramon Nunez just loves facing Colorado, scoring three goals in the clubs' previous two regular season meetings. He netted a nice one in the first half Sunday, then cracked the game-winning free kick around Colorado's wall in the second half. Nunez's slashing run through the Rapids defense led to the foul.

Bigger picture: Here was the FC Dallas starting midfield Sunday, with their ages: Dax McCarty is 19, Juan Toja is 21, Ramon Nunez is 21 and Aaron Pitchkolan is 24. Just ahead of them, Kenny Cooper is 22. It's a young man's game, indeed.

Pressure point: Even the best forwards enjoying outstanding form will miss chances. Kenny Cooper had a point-blank shot somehow bounce off his knee in what looked like a certain early strike for Dallas. And Herculez Gomez, who converted so impressively last week, had his own miss that seemed impossible, failing to convert from up close.


Technician's notebook:
• Once a match, Freddy Adu and Chris Klein switch places at Real Salt Lake, with Adu moving over to the right flank and Klein taking up a wide place on the left. Klein doesn't look as effective on the left, but still seems dangerous. Adu, on the other hand, looks fairly lost when asked to go at people from the right.

• Speaking of Real Salt Lake, opponents have certainly noticed who makes RSL go. Attacking midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy is easily Major League Soccer's most fouled player so far with 12 in three matches.

• Chivas USA manager Preki has employed the double-forward change in two of his club's three matches, bringing on Matt Taylor and John Cunliffe simultaneously for starting front-runners Maykel Galindo and Ante Razov.

• Colorado's offense doesn't work well if Terry Cooke isn't on his game. The veteran flank attacker - about as close to a classic winger as there is in MLS - didn't have his best game Sunday. Without a stream of crosses from his side, the Rapids offense can't be as effective. (Even on an off afternoon, Cooke managed to pick up an assist, his league-leading third on a long ball into Jovan Kirovski.)

• Pablo Mastroeni made his first start of 2007 on Sunday. Still recovering from injury, he had appeared as a substitute in the Rapids' first two contests. The U.S. international's introduction in the lineup means Kyle Beckerman can play in a more advanced role. Mastroeni prefers the screening role in front of the Colorado's four-man back line.

• Sigi Schmid's Crew might have to switch halftime snacks or something. Just as they had in the previous outing against Real Salt Lake, his midfielders ruled the opening half last Thursday against New England. But then, just like against RSL, they couldn't sustain the pressure and got taken apart in midfield after intermission against the Revs. Only Frankie Hejduk's industry and late-game energy saved the night.

Worst knowledge of history: When Dominic Oduro secured FC Dallas' win Sunday with a stoppage time goal, the home team celebrated by pinning the young forward on the bottom of a red-striped dog pile. Oduro stayed on the ground a few seconds after FC Dallas players had moved back into position for the kickoff, then slowly arose holding his shoulder.

Surely, Steve Morrow was thinking, "This can't be happening again."

Morrow, you see, was once injured in the post-game celebration after he scored a huge goal for Arsenal in an FA Cup semifinal. Tony Adams lifted him high off the ground, when Morrow tumbled awkwardly; he broke his arm and had to be rushed to the hospital.

Worst timing: What a moment for Clint Mathis to be suspended, with FC Dallas up next for the Red Bulls. Bruce Arena's team will be without Cleetus during Thursday's ESPN2 contest. No player bothers Dallas like Mathis, who has 19 goals and seven assists in his career against the bunch from Pizza Hut Park. Bruce Arena's men will also be without the recovering Markus Schopp and new signing Juan Pablo Angel, who awaits his work visa.

Weird stat of the week: Counting preseason, the Red Bulls have attempted three penalty kicks. And they've missed ... three penalty kicks. Bruce Arena joked that he might take the next one.

Steve Davis is a freelance writer who has covered Major League Soccer since its inception. Steve can be reached at BigTexSoccer@yahoo.com. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or MLSnet.com.