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Youngsters thrust into spotlight
by Ridge Mahoney, April 5th, 2010 3:55AM

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TAGS:  chicago fire, colorado rapids, d.c. united, mls, new england revolution, new york red bulls

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[MLS] An abbreviated Saturday schedule of just three games nevertheless produced some intriguing subplots for the second weekend of MLS 2010. Young striker Macoumba Kandji  showed he is maturing with New York. Goalie Andy Dykstra has been thrust into a tough spot at Chicago. Meanwhile, D.C. United must sort out its defensive problems before its big match at Philadelphia on Saturday ...

KANDJI THE CONJURER. His opportunistic, first-time strike produced the only goal by which New York beat Seattle, 1-0, on Saturday at Qwest Field, and many other touches by Macoumba Kandji demonstrated his maturation as an attacking partner for Juan Pablo Angel.

After bypassing a chance to set up Angel late in the first half and hitting a shot that Kasey Keller parried as Angel waved his arms in frustration, Kandji broke down the left wing early in the second half and centered a ball that Angel drilled on-frame.

Though Keller came up big again, those raiding runs by Kandji are growing more dangerous as he makes better decisions of how to use his pace, power, and touch at the critical moments.

DYKSTRA’S DILEMMA. Thrown into the starting keeper’s job with zero MLS regular-season games on his resume, Andy Dykstra of the Fire is in a tough spot for any young player, and especially one replacing a top MLS keeper, Jon Busch, who was surprisingly waived two weeks ago and subsequently signed with San Jose.

In Chicago’s 2-2 tie with Colorado Saturday, Omar Cummings opened the scoring with a long-range belter that caught Dykstra hopping to his right just as Cummings struck the ball towards the other side.

Dykstra was off-balance, and all he could do was lunge and flail at the ball as it zipped past him. Cummings hit a good shot, but without that seemingly minor footwork mistake, Dykstra probably parries at least it.

TOUGH TIME FOR WYNNE. Both Chicago goals were attributable to Marvell Wynne; he lost the mark Collins John on the corner kick John headed home for the first goal, and his tripping foul on Patrick Nyarko yielded the penalty kick by which Brian McBride netted the equalizer.

Yet there seemed to be some evidence that John had pushed off Wynne as the corner kick dropped, and replays of the Nyarko foul indicated contact of the players’ feet had been slight.

Colorado coach Gary Smith is waiting until defenders Julian Baudet and Oscar Murillo regain fitness to decide if Wynne will stay at center back or slide outside to the right back slot he’s played for TFC and the U.S.

RAPID MOVEMENT. Regardless of who lines up in the back for Colorado, Smith has assembled an exotic front six that could take on yet another dimension once ex-Wizard and former Argentine international Claudio Lopez gets into the mix.

The pairing of Cummings and Conor Casey, one of the league’ top forward duos, is buttressed by veteran U.S. midfielder Pablo Mastroeni in a holding role, Colin Clark and Mehdi Ballouchy on the flanks, and former Rev Jeff Larentowicz sharing the middle with Mastroeni.

Clark earned a penalty kick by piercing the left side on the dribble and drawing a foul by Marco Pappa, and a clever first-time flick by Larentowicz released Cummings to run at the Fire and nail his shot past Dykstra.

D.C. DOWN. The more zealous segment of United fans is already fed up with the regime of new head coach Curt Onalfo, whose team is 0-2 and has conceded six goals while scoring none. There’s been a fair bit of change to the D.C. lineup, with Cristian Castillo, Kurt Morsink, Andy Najar and Juan Manuel Pena all recent arrivals, and Santino Quaranta learning a new role in the center of midfield.

A boisterous crowd of 20,664 came out for the home opener – nearly twice as many as watched the Rapids game that same afternoon – and agonized as chances and tackles were missed in a 2-0 loss to the revamped Revs.

United’s attack has clicked at times though no goals have arisen, but the defense – which Onalfo in preseason emphasized needed shoring up – hasn’t been impressive. The first Philadelphia Union-United derby, which figures to be divisive, is Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field, and both teams need to step it up.

MANSALLY MARVELOSO. When head coach Steve Nicol engineered the signing of young Gambians Kenny Mansally and Sainey Nyassi after the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup, he knew it would take some time for them to flourish in MLS.

Both have produced bright moments in the past two and a half seasons as backups and occasional starters; this season, the Revs don't have too many other options because of departures and injuries, so starting spots will be theirs to claim or not.

By hitting two fine goals Saturday to down United, 2-0, Mansally displayed a hunger to score as well as the pace and power that first drew the Revs' interest.



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