Steve Davis
Monday April 12th, 2010

Know your Major League Soccer -- Five things to take away from Week 3:

1. Troy Perkins takes the blame -- but don't believe him: Don't believe D.C. United goalkeeper Perkins when he speaks of Saturday's loss to expansion Philadelphia and says the "whole game" was his fault. It wasn't Perkins' best day, for sure, but his team's 3-2 road loss was so much worse.

You have to admire the bit. United's goalkeeper apparently tried to absorb the brunt of the fan and media maelstrom about to spill D.C.'s way, hoping to subtract pressure from the rest of the side by shouldering the blame. Nice try, Troy, and points to you for jumping on the grenade.

But if you saw the match (as 34,870 did at the Linc -- nice one, folks!) you know better. Where to begin with this United mess?

In no particular order: Julius James is not an MLS defender -- as two other teams already discovered. United's wall disintegrated on Sebastien Le Toux's free-kick goal. Bolivian center back Juan Pena looks like a reasonable offseason pickup -- but he may be hurt now, which is somewhat predictable for a 37-year-old. Which means more James.

On the attack, heralded striker Danny Allsopp may not have the speed for the MLS game. Heralded flanker Cristian Castillo may not have the game for the MLS game. Santino Quaranta has proved to be a useful flank midfielder in this league, but now he's playing attacking midfielder, an experiment that looks like a bust. We could go on. Suffice to say, this team is a real fixer-upper.

(By the way, did FSC announcer Dave Johnson really say, "Julius James is a defender who could start for a lot of MLS teams," or was I on a sugar high from too many sodas while trying to plow through eight MLS matches? Dave might want to rethink that one.)

Oh, and speaking of Perkins' bold move and other stand-up guys: I got on Union manager Peter Nowak two weeks ago for obtuse claims of Seattle Sounders' "flopping." So it's only fair to tip a hat to Nowak for keeping sports and life in perspective Saturday. Managing with a heavy heart because of the terrible tragedy in Poland (a plane crash involving high-profile officials and a few people Nowak knew personally), Nowak paid his respects by observing the match from the press area rather than the sideline. It may have been only a small gesture, but it was still a classy move.

2. "Paging Bob Bradley": What a little head-scratcher we have developing for the U.S. national team boss, who is desperate for forwards worthy of a ticket to South Africa.

He had three MLS forwards in a January training camp who had a realistic shot of making this summer's final 23, presumably auditioning for a spot or two that would be available for strikers from the domestic league. Two of them, Conor Casey and Jeff Cunnningham, would be 0-for the campaign but for a PK goal each. At least they have that. The other MLS forward in the January camp, Robbie Findley, doesn't even have that.

Meanwhile, there's Edson Buddle, who can't stop scoring. His latest call to be noticed was two well-taken strikes Saturday at Houston, where his contributions kept the Galaxy perfect over three contests. That gives L.A.'s striker a league-leading five. And they aren't accidents; he's working hard to put himself in the right places.

Bradley leans heavily on the significant time he and others in the national program have spent evaluating players -- not just talent, but attitude and ability to assimilate, etc. -- over the four-year span of the World Cup cycle. Buddle generally hasn't been part of it.

Frankly, it would be very unlike Bradley to summon Buddle. But at some point, the U.S. boss simply won't be able to resist.

While we're at it, Robbie Rogers didn't have good week, either. He came into the season as a South African long shot -- and the odds are worsening. Something's just not right with him. On the other hand, Chivas USA's Sacha Kljestan is showing signs of having his mojo back. Pretty much out of nowhere, he looked like a man of freewheeling innovation once again. He attacked Red Bull with a swagger that's been mostly tucked away for more than a year. Keep an eye on that guy.

3. Mishap and mayhem for goalkeepers: Several goalkeepers will want to quickly forget Match Day 3. Much of the bungling came from young backstoppers, as with Chicago's Andrew Dykstra. The man tabbed for duty once veteran Jon Busch was carried to the recycle bin struggled mightily in communicating with his back line at one point. San Jose made him pay dearly, and that was a big reason the Fire fell to a struggling visitor in their home opener.

Perkins, as noted earlier, will have better nights. Houston's Pat Onstad made a wildly uncharacteristic positioning error, allowing Buddle to sneak one inside the near post.

The boo-boo of the weekend was from Philadelphia's young No. 1 in goal, Chris Seitz. Apparently, Jaime Moreno lurking nearby unnerved Seitz to the point that he fumbled an attempted punt, dropping the ball on the ground and presenting the wily United attacker the simplest of finishes.

However, the most expensive error belonged to Red Bulls goalkeeper Bouna "Comedy" Coundoul. Beaten by a shot that clanged off the post, a relieved Coundoul attempted to pounce on the ball as it squirted back across goal. Instead, he knocked it into his own goal, reminding everyone how cartoonishly unpredictable things will always be for New York as long as he wears the gloves.

New York looks like a pretty good team under manager Hans Backe -- but it will only go so far with Coundoul in the net.

4. Rookie review: While it's true that New England's Zack Schilawski became the third MLS rookie to hit for a hat trick, let's not start fitting him for the U.S. national team shirt just yet. His goals came against Toronto, whose defense is questionable at best.

Fellow rookie and former Wake Forest teammate Ike Opara played well centrally in defense alongside Ramiro Corrales in the San Jose's surprise win at Chicago.

Opara will earn his paycheck by defending, but a few more match-winners like Saturday's authoritative header sure won't hurt. Meanwhile, hometown rookie Steve Beitashour also started for the Quakes in place of Chris Leitch, who served a red card suspension.

FC Dallas rookie Zach Lloyd got his first start after an impressive preseason. And how about this for a side effect: It might help Heath Pearce land on Bradley's roster for South Africa. Lloyd's arrival gave FCD manager Schellas Hyndman the confidence to shuffle the back line a bit, allowing Pearce to move into his preferred spot on the left. And he looked good, too, getting forward frequently and adding some flavor to the attack.

5. Team of the week: Goalkeeper: Jimmy Nielsen (Kansas City); Defenders: Chad Marshall (Columbus), Wilman Conde (Chicago), Jason Hernandez (San Jose), Roger Espinoza (Kansas City); Midfielders: Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Sean Franklin (L.A. Galaxy), Ryan Smith (Kansas City); Forwards: Sebastien Le Toux (Philadelphia), Zack Schilawski (New England), Edson Buddle (Los Angeles).

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