By Ridge Mahoney, Senior Editor
Soccer America Magazine
FLICKERING FIRE: Chicago's attack rarely ignited Wednesday during a
dispiriting 3-0 home loss to New England and Saturday the Fire plays at
Columbus, which hasn't conceded a goal in two home games this season.
Second-half subs Chris Rolfe, Chad Barrett and Andy Herron
did what they could to spark the offense, following a mostly lackluster display
fronted by Nate Jaqua, who scored the only goal of a 1-0 win over the
Metros the week before yet seldom threatened the Revs' goal.
Twice he latched onto passes inside the penalty area with space to shoot but
both times his shots were blocked. The front trio of Jaqua, Thiago and Justin
Mapp rarely clicked although Thiago's dribbles did unhinge the Revs a few times.
For Jaqua, the team's No. 1 pick and third choice overall in the 2003 SuperDraft,
the competition is increasing. Rolfe scored a nice goal in a 1-1 tie with D.C.
United three weeks ago in his only start, Herron is slowly regaining full
fitness and Slovakian striker Lubos Reiter joined the club this week.
A forward at the University of Portland, Jaqua was moved back to midfield last
season so Coach Dave Sarachan could accommodate Ante Razov, Damani Ralph and
Dipsy Selolwane. All three of those players, as well as playmaker Andy Williams,
are with other teams this season.
Jaqua, who had four goals and four assists last year after scoring twice in 20
games as a rookie, admits re-learning the forward position hasn't come quickly:
"As a forward, there are a lot of little nuances of things you have to do to
find a little bit of space to score goals," he says. "I need to find that rhythm
and comfort zone. You don't have much time to work with. You have to make the
right decisions when you get the chances.
"We've made a lot of changes but all the new guys are very good. I'll just keep
working and wait for my chance."
YET TO BE TESTED: Much more will be known about unbeaten FC Dallas after
it plays three consecutive games on the road, the first of which is Saturday at
Home Depot Center against the Galaxy.
The strike force of Carlos Ruiz, Eddie Johnson and Ronnie
O'Brien is proving to be potent, and a midfield marshaled by former Quake
Richard Mulrooney has also looked solid. Yet while reeling off three wins
and a tie against Chicago, Colorado, CD Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake a revamped
back line anchored by U.S. international Greg Vanney has seldom been tested.
Defenders Clarence Goodson and David Wagenfuhr are second-year players who
rarely appeared as rookies yet have performed with confidence, and Bobby Rhine
is making a real go of the transformation from battling forward to rugged right
back as a challenger to Philip Salyer.
After playing the Galaxy, FC Dallas travels to Kansas City and San Jose. In 12
games last year against those teams, Dallas went 3-8-1 and was outscored 25-11.
Guatemalan internationals Ruiz and Los Angeles midfielder Guillermo Ramirez did
not travel to Sao Paulo for a friendly that Brazil won, 3-0, on Wednesday, so
both should be fresh for the showdown at HDC.
Points on the road are vital, yet just as important for FC Dallas is how well it
can keep things tight at the back and strike on the counter, which it should be
able to do with a fearsome forward line and good midfield supply from Mulrooney,
Simo Valakari and Carey Talley.
REF WATCH: Referee Mark Geiger whistled three penalty kicks in New
England's wild 4-3 win over D.C. United last weekend, and two were
Rookie James Riley clattered into Santino Quaranta as he shot and
Riley lay on the ground in disbelief when Geiger called the penalty, but Riley's
wild challenge failed to connect with the ball and he chopped down the attacker.
That Quaranta's shot missed isn't relevant; a bad foul was committed in the
penalty area while the ball was in play.
Leonard Marshall of the Revs was whistled for a penalty when a ball he
controlled with his chest brushed his arm as he turned. Technically the arm
played the ball but since a player can't be expected to turn without moving his
arms this call seemed a tad harsh. However, a case could also be made that
Marshall could have chested the ball back to his keeper or otherwise controlled
it cleanly without it touching his arm.
Eddie Johnson feigned injury after being fouled by Eddie Pope in
the FC Dallas-Real Salt Lake game, and referee Hilario Grajeda sent off Pope
with a straight red card. Again FIFA's instructions on tackles from behind came
into play, as Pope's tackle made contact with the ball and only minimal contact
with Johnson. MLS has often fined players for "simulation" and should do so
again in this case even though Pope's card and suspension will stand.
FAN WATCH: Has word gotten out that the Revs are pretty good? Bad
weather plagued their home opener and only 9,727 fans showed up. MLS officials
will be anxiously watching the crowd count at Gillette Saturday, to measure the
effect -- if any -- of the Revs' run as well as the first trip east for CD
Chivas USA. Last year, New England's average crowd of 12,226 was second-worst in