Kyle Martino's Crew cut

Crew midfielder Kyle Martino was the 2002 MLS Rookie of the Year and has also played for the U.S. men's national team. Each week during the 2004 MLS season, Kyle will detail the week past, giving insight into the life of a professional soccer player.

In the Columbus Dispatch this week, there was a reference to assistant coach John Murphy saying I did "donkey work" against the Chicago Fire last weekend. What he was trying to say was there was a lot of roll-your-sleeves-up, get-into-tackles dirty work, tracking back and playing a lot of defense. There was a lot in that game - and it normally happens when we play in Chicago - that required sides of the game that aren't my strengths, that aren't attacking and creative, skillful things. The game was calling for someone to get into tackles and put pressure on people and chase back on defense. I had to do a lot of that during the game, as did everyone else, so I think 'Murph' was just making reference to the fact that a lot of the playmakers in the League don't get back and make tackles and do that "donkey work."

Of course, every time we play Chicago, it's a great game. They're consistently one of the better teams in the League and they come to every game. They're very difficult to play against because they've got some tremendous players, not only some hardworking, hardnosed defenders and midfielders, but also some attacking players with pace and skill.

Every time we face the Fire, it's a battle. That's the least that it is. It's a team that when we play them, we try to step up and focus a little more and try to bring everything because if you don't show up to play against Chicago, they're going to punish you. They're going to score goals on you. The game, early on, was a lot like that. There were a lot of tackles, and we tried to get on top of them early. Under the pressure we were putting on their defenders, they gave some balls away in some dangerous positions, and one of them we were lucky enough to get a goal from.

As for Saturday's game in Dallas, I'm not looking forward to the heat whatsoever. We've actually been playing 5-v-2 in a sauna trying to get ready for it. It's going to be absolutely ridiculous, and we know it's like that. We know what the conditions are going to be like and that we need to make sure we're ready for it and that we're well hydrated. We need to come with a game plan so we're not caught running all over the field and, obviously, losing a lot of energy early because that humidity really takes it out of you.

I don't want to give away all the keys, but we're probably going to sit back a bit, and try not to chase the game too much. We don't want, in the second half, to be the ones who are spent and don't have any gas left and have a hard time getting back into the game. So we're going to play smart and conservative from the beginning and try to play to our strengths. We'll try to keep the ball and keep the Burn moving and try to tire them out. Hopefully those tactics will work and we'll be successful. We're definitely going to have to be smart because the Cotton Bowl is not the type of place you can go into and go all out and expect it to last.

The Fourth of July was awesome. We've met this wonderful woman from Pepsi who has been helping us out in getting us into a lot of awesome concerts, and we got into a VIP party up on a rooftop to watch the fireworks, which was incredible. So, we were right there for it, and you know the Midwest people love America, so the fireworks display was nothing short of spectacular. They brought out the sausages and the sauerkraut, but we tried to stay away from that. We tried to eat healthy and get hydrated when we were watching the fireworks because we had a game the next day.

Of course, on the way to pick up the Chicago Fire's Kelly Gray at the hotel in my 1968 Chevy Impala, it broke down in the middle of the road. So the beginning of the Fourth of July did not go so well. It was spent on the side of the road waiting for AAA to show up.

As it turns out, it was a really technical problem. The car ran out of gas. The fuel gauge broke, and it says it has a half-tank in it permanently now. So that's something I had to take in and get fixed. It was a tough start to the Fourth of July festivities, but we got through it and got to the fireworks and had blast.

Wednesday night we went to Van Halen, which was incredible. Eddie Van Halen is just an absolute monster. He's an animal on the stage. The things he did with his guitar were mind-boggling. We felt a little out of place at the concert, though. We felt you needed to be in your 50s and have a mullet and a Budweiser shirt or Van Halen shirt to be there, but to give credit where credit it is due, those Van Halen fans sure know how to party. They were going crazy.

-- Kyle