who was on the verge of a breakthrough with the Colombian national team -- time to fully adapt to his new surroundings. But the scrutiny will only grow with each game.
Spencer's loss costs more than goals: The effect that John Spencer's absence was expected to have on the Colorado Rapids has in fact materialized. One week after struggling to create scoring opportunities while holding a man advantage, the Rapids struggled to finish against the New England Revolution on Friday night.
It came to the point that Rapids coach Tim Hankinson even threw rookie defender Gary Sullivan up top for his first-ever appearance at forward in his playing career -- and if he had a bit more of a goalscorer's touch, the Rapids might have claimed the full three points.
Spencer has brought more than just his keen sense of goal to the club. The Rapids' captain had the vision to spot his teammates and that slight touch of creativity that made the difference. First-year player David Castellanos was very straightforward and predictable as he tried to play with his back to goal against New England, often dishing the ball to the most obvious teammate. The Rapids' three goals scored are the second fewest in MLS this year.
Although there is never any good time to have an injury, the Scotsman's left hamstring strain came at a stretch in the season when the Rapids will be facing D.C. United, the Chicago Fire and Kansas City Wizards in three of their next four matches. All three teams have exhibited suffocating team defense this season with the Fire and Wizards having conceded just two goals and one goal respectively in the early going.
Revolution should expect more from Ralston: The U.S. victory against Mexico may have put the memories of the disastrous performance against Haiti (March 13) behind many of the players who participated in the affair at Lockhart Stadium. But the effects of that game seem to be lingering with Revolution winger Steve Ralston, who registered arguably the poorest performance of any U.S. player against Haiti.
That performance has seemingly carried over to his MLS season, in which he has offered subpar showings thus far. Friday's match against Colorado was further evidence of how Ralston has disappeared from matches of late although a recent report indicated Jose Cancela's presence may be a factor in taking away from Ralston's touches.
Barring an MVP season, Ralston does not figure to be a key member of Bruce Arena's plans for the 2006 World Cup. The soon-to-be 30-year-old needs to redefine himself and find his identity again -- and that should start with figuring out how to perform within the Revolution system and seeing that club fulfill what many see as a potential MLS Cup this season.
But the national team is now a thing of the past and Arena should not provide false illusions with future call-ups. There are other right flank players, such as like Chris Klein (Wizards), Justin Mapp (Fire), Ben Olsen (D.C. United) and Brian Mullan (Earthquakes), who are more likely candidates with World Cup qualifying on the horizon.
Andy Pavon is a freelance soccer writer taking another perspective on the matches of the past weekend, past the box scores and standings. His column appears every Monday and is not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.