By Ryan Hunt
June 13, 2007

Tony Quinn/MLS/
Look who's back
Maybe it was the sight of their archrivals, the high-flying, first-place Red Bulls. Or seeing Nelly Furtado wearing United gear one night earlier. Whatever the case, D.C. is playing its best soccer in nearly a year, after turning in its finest performance since running roughshod through MLS for the first half of last season. "We said six games ago that we were going to get ourselves a little run," D.C. United coach Tom Soehn said following Sunday's 4-2 whitewash (and the match really wasn't that close) of New York that included a hat trick from midfielder Ben Olsen -- two of which came with D.C. was playing with 10 men. "Give the guys credit, they've done that." Indeed. D.C. is 4-0-2 since its shocking 0-3 start. How have they done it? For starters, crisp passing, more width in the attack -- something that had been missing in recent months -- and a rejuvenated defensive perfomance since the switch to a 4-4-2 formation from its long-preferred 3-5-2. Now United is right back in the Eastern Conference race. "This is a step in the right direction," Olsen said. "This is a good place to start climbing back up to where we want to be in the standings."
The hardships of summer
With some of the league's biggest stars off playing at the Gold Cup -- including Landon Donovan, Dwayne De Rosario, Taylor Twellman and Eddie Johnson among others -- and more leaving for the Copa América later this summer (including Donovan again and D.C.'s Jaime Moreno), it will be a difficult time for many MLS teams and fans. So what should be done about MLS' scheduling? Some have argued the league should move to a winter schedule, but that isn't an appetizing option -- imagine those January games in Toronto or New England (get out the snow plow!). So what should MLS do? A split schedule, with a two-month break in the middle of the summer? I'm not so sure that's the right answer, either -- next summer, David Beckham could be impacted for Euro 2008, but what about everyone else? In the meantime, teams continue to fight short-handed. Coincidentally enough, defending champion Houston has won back-to-back games with its depleted roster (without De Rosario, Brian Ching and Ricardo Clark) and has earned more points in June (nine) than it did in the season's first two months (seven), while Los Angeles will continue to struggle without Donovan around. This weekend, we'll see how New England and Kansas City react without their stars.
Other random thoughts from around the league
An ugly studs-up tackle by Tyrone Marshall in the 89th minute of the Galaxy's 3-1 loss to FC Dallas broke Hoops striker Kenny Cooper's right tibia. Now, I don't believe it was intentional, but it certainly was vicious -- and it will be interesting to see how the league handles any additional punishment for the defender (Marshall was red-carded and faces an automatic one-game ban) now that Cooper will be sidelined two months. ... On Wednesday, Marshall was dealt to Toronto FC for perenially disappointing striker Edson Buddle. It's a puzzling move for the Galaxy. Sure, Abel Xavier is closer to making his debut, but Buddle won't be the cure for L.A.'s woes. ... Speaking of underachieving strikers dealt in midseason, Joseph Ngwenya and Alejandro Moreno, traded for each other on May 9, scored three minutes apart for their new teams in Houston's 2-1 win over Columbus on Sunday. For Ngwenya, it's his third goal in three matches, a feat that has to be burning Crew fans ... I don't know about you, but I'm still finding it hard to believe Paulo Nagamura's match-winning goal in Chivas USA's 1-0 shutout of Chicago was the first of his MLS career. .... New York allowed eight goals on its recent three-game road trip, after allowing just four in the season's first eight games. The player the injury-plagued Red Bulls really miss? Hunter Freeman, whose overlapping runs and ability to get into the attack took a lot pressure off of the midfield.
Rank LW Team
1 2
Kansas City Wizards (6-2-1)
Sealy, Movsisyan, Pore will have to step up with EJ away
2 3
New England Revolution (5-2-3)
Revs caught a huge break with schedule during Gold Cup
3 1
New York Red Bulls (6-3-2)
The lack of depth, speed in the back has been exposed
4 6
D.C. United (4-3-2)
Moreno will miss at least four matches for Copa América
5 5
FC Dallas (6-5-1)
No Cooper, no Ruiz, and two games on turf in four days
6 7
Chivas USA (4-3-2)
Quietly, this team has not lost a match since May 5
7 9
Houston Dynamo (5-5-1)
What a strike fresh off the bench by Holden vs. Rapids
8 4
Colorado Rapids (4-4-3)
Can surpass 2006's road win total with 3 points on Sat.
9 8
Toronto FC (3-6-1)
90-second lapse vs. N.Y. erased otherwise solid 90 mins.
10 11
Chicago Fire (4-5-2)
Impressed by play, promise of rookie Bakary Soumare
11 10
Los Angeles Galaxy (1-4-3)
And now Donovan will play in Copa América? Ouch.
12 12
Columbus Crew (1-4-5)
A meager five victories in their past 22 home matches
13 13
Real Salt Lake (0-3-6)
At least they're not losing -- four draws of out past five

1. Ben Olsen
D.C. United

2. Juan Toja
FC Dallas

3. Paulo Nagamura
Chivas USA
Thursday, June 14
FC Dallas 1, Real Salt Lake 0 (ESPN2) -- FCD barely escaped with draw last trip to RSL
Saturday, June 16
New England 1, Columbus 0 (FSC) -- Like Houston, Revs find way to win minus big guns
D.C. United 2, Chicago 0 (HDNet) -- Depleted Fire struggling to find an attacking presence
New York 2, Kansas City 1 -- EJ won't be around to burn the Red Bulls' defense this time
Chivas USA 3, Colorado 1 -- Rapids will be without Brown, Mastroeni and Beckerham
Sunday, June 17
Toronto FC 2, FC Dallas 1 (TeleFutura) -- Another brutal Thurs.-Sun. travel week for FCD
Real Salt Lake 1, Los Angeles 0 -- The winless streak has to end some time ... doesn't it?

Last Week: Bye week (4-2 previous); This season: 24-34
Sure, it's not quite MLS-related, but how good was it to see Clint Dempsey back in Gillette Stadium? That was quite a clinic in the U.S.' 4-0 rout of El Salvador. Fun to watch.

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