former top scorer John Spencer. The experiment of the soon-to-be 34-year-old Scotsman in midfield is a lot different from the MetroStars' shifting of 19-year-old Mike Magee, a second-year player, in the center of the park.
TALE OF TWO PLAYMAKERS: Saturday's ESPN2 Game of the Week gave fans a simultaneous look at two skilled playmakers -- Kyle Martino (Columbus Crew) and José Cancela (New England Revolution) -- who are shadows of the players who excited crowds last season.
Although both Martino and Cancela have suffered nagging injuries over the last eight-to-10 months, their performances on the field have faded drastically from the 2003 season. Martino excited MLS crowds with highlight reel performances during the first half of the season while earning his first senior national team call-ups. Cancela came into the league in 2003 and took the reins of the Revolution as a conductor would an orchestra, serving as the inspiration for every move.
Yet except for rare instances of brilliance, both players have become almost ordinary compared to their past form. Their passes and vision do not stand out as they once did in the past and their creativity is now ordinary.
While in the case of Martino, who scored a spectacular goal Saturday, it seems like it's the player who is opting to be more basic in his play, Cancela is less involved from his midfield position partly due to the fact that the Revolution do not depend on him like they once did. The emergence of Clint Dempsey and the established presence of Shalrie Joseph may have influenced the situation.
Regardless of the reasons, one can see a difference in attitude which can be read on their facial expressions and their body language on the field.
NICOL GETS DEFENSIVE: The local New England media had a go at the Revolution boss following his team's 2-2 tie in which they failed to show the urgency expected of a home team, especially toward the end of the contest.
"Everybody's on about us wanting to get forward in the game and win the game but we don't want to do that and expose ourselves for the counterattack which is all they were trying to do second half," he said. "Of course we want three points ... The fact is we did try and go forward, we did try to win the game but we wanted be solid and not give up a silly goal at the end."
It is rare that a coach is held accountable by the media for the team's approach and attitude during a match, especially in a game that resulted in goals and standings points.
THE GOALS TELL THE STORY: The tactical themes that arise from the weekend's matches are evident in the types of goals scored. On Saturday there were seven goals scored including two penalty kicks, two resulting from set pieces, one defensive giveaway and another scrum in front of goal. The one well-crafted strike Saturday came on Dwayne De Rosario's tally for San Jose in which the Canadian international redirected a Brian Mullan cross with a world-class volley. The MetroStars made a valiant attempt at making up for the shortcomings a day later with John Wolyniec and Eddie Gaven finishing off well-crafted buildups.
Andy Pavon is a freelance soccer writer taking another perspective on the matches of the past weekend, past the box scores and standings. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.