the endless quest to make sure everybody gets minutes. Nowak is definitely struggling with this challenge as far as Freddy is concerned, but is it going to be a problem for the rest of the team? You bet.
The concern of developing a player is not a concern for the rest of the team. The rest of the team just wants to do its job. It's difficult and not in their interest to understand the demands of ensuring Freddy's progress.
My suggestion: Start him Saturday and get it over with. Let's see what he's got. Nowak should take a page out of Bob Bradley's playbook. In Chicago back in 2000, DaMarcus Beasley was an immediate starter. Everyone criticized Bradley, and there were some definite rough spots, but Beasley came through it and look where he is now. Nowak's other players might have a problem with Freddy starting, but it's the best way to clear things up. If he does poorly, that gives Nowak more reason to leave him on the bench. If he plays well, there will be legitimate competition for spots in the lineup.
I hope that the inclusion of this young phenom doesn't ruin a team that has the potential to be so much better, which they have shown every week in the first 45 minutes. But the time has come to see what the kid's got. My prediction: They will be down a goal at halftime for the first time this year -- more uncharted waters for Peter Nowak.
On a related note, I have been critical -- very critical, in fact -- of some of the decisions made by the D.C. United coaching staff up to now, but I am starting to realize how pointless that has become. Nowak is, in my opinion, one of the most brilliant soccer minds that I have ever come across as a player, but this situation in an impossible one. For that reason, I don't think it is fair to really evaluate this team until midseason. So, I think I'm going wait until the All-Star break before I have an opinion about this team as a whole. My guess is they'll figure it out.
Another head coach who has been in the line of fire of late is Bruce Arena. After an inauspicious start to the year, it looks like the U.S. national team has found its form. This shouldn't surprise anybody because the MLS players are four games into their season and are definitely fitter and sharper than they were at the beginning of the year.
Wednesday night, the USA was clearly the better side against Mexico in Dallas. Suffice it to say that's the best performance we've seen from the national team since the World Cup. Looking at Arena's record against Mexico (6-3-1) it's pretty clear that he's figured out how to play against them. I could have sworn I saw him nudge "Mooch" Myernick halfway through the game as if to say, "This is how you beat Mexico."
Using an overloaded midfield, the U.S. outplayed, outhustled and just plain outran Mexico for the majority of this game. Landon Donovan's performance was absolutely world class. In fact, I don't think there was a poor performance from any U.S. players at all.
When you play against Mexico you have to win the little battles if you're going to win the war. And believe me, even though this game had the word "friendly" attached to it, there is nothing friendly about it.
Frankie Hejduk needs to be commended on his performance. Some very well-timed tackles, an endless work rate and some good crosses made for a great performance. Beasley, Bobby Convey, Josh Wolff and Chris Armas all also had solid performances, but for me, the best player on the field was Kerry Zavagnin.
Before the season started, I thought that there would be several players who took advantage of the opportunity in a World Cup qualification year to be a part of the U.S. national team. Arena's got to feel pretty good about having Zavagnin as an option. His passing, his ability to break up plays, his anticipation, and what I would call "sneaky speed" made him the best player on the field.
Taylor Twellman also joins the list of guys who took full advantage of their opportunity against Mexico. Twellman has proven in league play that he's a pretty good forward. He proved to everybody Wednesday night that international soccer needs to be a part of his future.
Also, it's important to point out that referee Mauricio Navarro's performance was outstanding. Not every call was right, but he was consistent. That's what players want and that's what coaches want. I'm a little surprised that anyone would have a negative opinion about the job Navarro did. The referee's performance was why this game was so entertaining. He didn't try to make the game. He just let it happen.
Jorge Campos, now an assistant coach for Mexico, said after the game, "The United States had that luck at the last minute because I don't really think there was a lot of soccer played on the field. When a team has that luck they can win in any minute."
I didn't see Campos on the bench, and I'm thinking maybe he was sitting in the 52nd row. Jorge, your team was totally outclassed. Get over it. Saying that, the fact that the Mexicans did not play well is not a reason to underestimate them next time -- because next time will not be the same.
Former U.S. international forward Eric Wynalda scored the first goal in MLS history, and is currently the analyst on RadioShack's Soccer Saturday on ESPN2. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.