He has been shoved, obstructed, tripped, elbowed, cleated, pulled on, and generally abused 109 times this season, 24 more times than the second-most fouled player in Major League Soccer. For Kansas City Wizards forward Davy Arnaud, a virtual unknown before this season, all the attention just comes with the territory.
"I've been told about it -- it's not something you think about or would think to keep track of or anything," said Arnaud, the 50th overall pick in the 2002 MLS SuperDraft.
One might think differently after watching Arnaud gain more than his share of gouges and "incidental" contact while helping his team stand up to the Los Angeles Galaxy and the San Jose Earthquakes in his last two matches. But the realistic Arnaud knows the reason behind the intimacy of his markers.
"Especially this time of year, the defense tightens up -- no one wants to give up anything," he said. "I think it's a little tighter all over the field."
Arnaud has started all 29 league contests this season, but in the week leading up to the San Jose encounter, Arnaud spent an inordinate amount of time with team trainer Chet North nursing what could have been a derailing left knee injury.
"I've been kind of lucky as far as injuries go this year -- I haven't really had anything, knock on wood, that's kept me out so far. A little injury I picked up in L.A. didn't turn out to be too serious," Arnaud said. "I took a couple days off last week [from practicing with the squad, but] I'm back training and doing everything normal now."
Of course, Arnaud has garnered what some would call respectful fouling, because of his standing as the ninth leading goal scorer in the league and the fact that he is half of a dangerous Wizards tandem completed by fellow nine-goal scorer Josh Wolff.
Wolff and Arnaud complement each other and their teammates so well that they each have nearly as many assists as goals with seven and eight respectively.
However, only in the USA are assists revered near the level of goals. Major League Soccer matches are often filled with passes sufficient to put players in a scoring position -- it's the well-placed finish that wins games and makes heroes. And Arnaud hasn't been a hero since Aug. 21 when he scored the game-winner against the New England Revolution in a 2-1 victory.
Goals have also been at a premium for his team. The Wizards have tallied only nine times in their last 10 games.
"We've kind of killed off a little bit in our scoring," said Arnaud. "But hopefully we hit that spot at the right time and can turn it around going into the playoffs."
The Wizards have grabbed a somewhat remarkable four wins and four ties in that 10-game span owing to their defensive armor.
"We've been great -- we haven't conceded a lot of goals. And I think if you don't do that, you're always putting yourself in a position to win games," said Arnaud. "We're [not always] going to get a shutout, and we understand that. But I don't think it's something we're stressing over because I think we've seen that we have the ability to score goals.
"(But) if our defense keeps playing the way it does, hopefully we won't have to worry too much about it."
Perhaps Arnaud's light perspective on the Wizards recent offensive slump comes from his enthusiasm for the nearly-fit attacker Igor Simutenkov, who he expects to provide a big boost in the postseason.
"You can see in Igor that he can change a game by himself. His three goals have all been pretty big goals for us," said Arnaud. "But he's the kind of player that definitely is going to be a big help, especially in the playoffs."
Anyone who follows sports will say that playoff time is when true heroes rise to the occasion, thus the term "money time". It seems that the third-year forward has stated his case for a significant raise on his contract already. But the grounded Arnaud is not worried about such matters now.
"I don't know yet what's going on [with my contract]. We'll just see what happens," he said.
It's just that type of focus that will gain Arnaud some wanted attention in the offseason.
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.