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Five-a-side: What's hot around the league

the two talk every day, apparently -- over McBride's rights.

(Toronto owns his MLS rights, but McBride has made it clear that he would play only in Chicago. Retirement is the other option.)

But Chicago's recent slump might work in TFC's favor. Denis Hamlett is dealing with the team's first significant dip in form while he's in charge; the Fire are winless in three June matches (in MLS play) while scoring just once.

So, if the current crop isn't doing the job anyway, it adds incentive for Fire officials to get the McBride deal done and get on with things. Previously, Chicago could be rightly reluctant to unsettle a surging side. Now? Well, maybe not so much.

Some Chicago officials are quietly wondering whether McBride should be subject to the league allocation machinations at all. League officials have told Chicago that McBride falls under allocation guidelines -- and therefore his rights belong to Toronto -- because he is in the national team player pool. But McBride is retired internationally, so an argument could be put on the table that he shouldn't be subject to those guidelines.

2. A new day in Dallas: FC Dallas' first two full practices under new manager Schellas Hyndman were tough, two-hour sessions. Hyndman was quite involved, stopping sequences occasionally while expediting efforts to ensure that players understand what he needs from them.

In terms of hands-on instruction, it also helped that FC Dallas had a full staff for the first time in a month. Essentially, the club had been two coaches down following the dismissal of assistant Jorge Alvial and, a short time later, head coach Steve Morrow. Now, with former Real Salt Lake manager John Ellinger also involved, the club once again has a four-man staff, including assistant Marco Ferruzzi and goalkeeper coach Drew Keeshan.

Hyndman traditionally used a four-man back line at SMU and hopes to do the same at Pizza Hut Park. Of course, that brings personnel challenges for a club fashioned around a 3-5-2 philosophy, especially with Adrian Serioux and Drew Moor away this weekend for World Cup qualifiers.

Plus, Duilio Davino seems more suited for a sweeper role in the three-man setup. In a four-man arrangement the veteran Mexican defender would be occasionally matched up one-on-one, and that could prove problematic for the 32-year-old defender.

Either way, Hyndman has been quite honest about the challenges ahead -- the team's and his own, personally -- as he merges into the fast lane of professional coaching. He gets a quick baptism this week as his professional debut comes on the turf in New York, against cagey tactician Juan Carlos Osorio.

3. MLS dots the qualifying scene: There's not much drama in this weekend's anticlimactic U.S.-Barbados World Cup qualifying series second leg. Bob Bradley's crew took care of that efficiently with the 8-0 win in the home-and-away opener last weekend in Carson, Calif.

Still, plenty of MLS players (and one former manager) are helping the CONCACAF drama play out. Rosters for Costa Rica, Canada and others are dotted with MLS types. (A list that includes, surprisingly, Colorado's Ugo Ihemelu for Canada. The Rapids defender is a dual passport holder who was previously capped for the United States, although only in a friendly.)

A steep hill remains for Grenada and Shalrie Joseph, but the tiny island is alive nonetheless in its all-or-nothing second-round series with Costa Rica. The ticos needed a comeback to manage a 2-2 tie in Grenada's home leg. Now Grenada needs something special as the teams conclude the series this weekend in Saprissa.

Puerto Rico's vastly improved side, now under the direction of former FC Dallas manager Colin Clarke, held on bravely against Honduras before bowing out in the second round. Puerto Rico was down just 1-0 at the half on the road before the Amado Guevara-led Hondurans took charge and emerged with a 4-0 win. Puerto Rico's 2-2 draw in the return leg concluded the drama. Promising young Toronto FC defender Marco Velez is on the squad, which eliminated the Dominican Republic earlier.

Red Bulls youngster Chris Megaloudis and former MLS man Petter Villegas scored in the return leg for Puerto Rico.

4. The next transfer target?: There is some number parsing here, to be sure, but it's interesting to closely compare the numbers for two prominent MLS youngsters, and hold up the raw data compared to how they are regarded in the world scene.

Josey Altidore, just sold to Spain's Villareal, finished his abbreviated MLS career (for now) with 15 goals in 37 games. The key, of course, is that he turns 19 this year.

But the raw numbers for Real Salt Lake's Robbie Findley aren't that far off. He has 11 goals in 38 matches, most of which were scored for what is arguably a team with less overall attacking might than the New York Red Bulls.

The other prominent number, of course, is 23. As in, that's Findley's age. That makes him less attractive as a project than Altidore, who seems to have a world of potential in those young legs. Still, if Findley can push the tempo a bit (he has two goals in RSL's last four matches) he could be a primary transfer target before the year is up.

Obviously, other in-form MLS players will have something to say about who becomes the next high-profile transfer target (hello, Sacha Kljestan). Still, it's fun to wonder how fortunes might have changed if Altidore were in Utah and Findley in New York (or still in Los Angeles.)

5: The BMOC at Chivas USA: What kind of a year is Sacha Kljestan having? Consider that he scored four goals in 57 matches before this year. So far in 2008, he has five goals in 12 matches.

And it's not just the numbers. His bold running off the ball and confidence on the ball is obvious. His ability to adjust to varying roles has assisted Preki's injury-stricken bunch. And all this offense from a guy who has made it a priority to improve on the defensive side of things during his third MLS campaign. (In fact, that's an important side note on his ferocious campaign: Kljestan's assist numbers have dropped as he toggled from "provider" to "scorer" out of team necessity.)

And, all this from a guy on a team where the top strikers have been absent or nursing injuries all year. Jesse Marsch is having an outstanding campaign, defying the sands of time in his 13th MLS go-round. But if Chivas USA rallies past all the injuries and does something special this year, here's betting that the Seton Hall man with all that stringy hair (Kljestan) will have plenty to do with it.

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.