Monday Hangover: Winless is a relative term

Why cellar dwellers D.C. and Dallas are not the same

Schellas Hyndman

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Edson
Buddle scored and the LA Galaxy are ... oh, forget it. We know the
deal in Lalaland right now. Buddle is on pace to score 52.5 goals this
season, and the undefeated Galaxy are atop the standings.

I’d rather look at the opposite end of things.

Two
teams in MLS remain without a win this season. One “feels like a team
on the cusp of something very, very good,” as one blogger wrote. The
other one has supporters who see a business trip as respite from the
pain.

The
former is FC Dallas, who fell to New York, 2-1, thanks to a late
penalty from Juan Pablo Ángel. From kickoff to final whistle, Dallas
were the better side on the night, and after the match, head coach
Schellas Hyndman was in lockstep with the FCD fans in questioning the
referee’s sanity, er, decision-making. After all, no one who watched
the game could argue that FCD didn’t deserve at least a point, probably
three. They were dynamic in attack, solid at the back, and, as that
blogger, Jay Brownlee on 3rdDegree.net, said, poised to make a move.

The
latter winless side is, of course, D.C. United. What looked merely ugly
a week ago has officially become a “train wreck.” That’s not my phrase;
it’s just one of the choice descriptions found on the United fan
message boards these days. And, as mentioned, one guy went so far as to
say he was glad to be leaving town on business so he didn’t have to
endure the sight of the carnage any longer.

Slipshod
goalkeeping from a goalkeeper who, to be fair, is much, much better
than he’s showing. Poor defense, highlighted by a lack of cohesion and
toothless marking. And an attack so anemic that one desperate fan
actually suggested the club bring back Rod Dyachenko. Oh boy.

So, two winless sides, two very different feelings. I call that progress.

This is
a results-oriented business, as we all know. And yet, although Dallas
have not gotten the results required to escape the cellar of the
Western Conference, their fans feel optimistic. Because the performance
matters.

Same
holds for D.C. The fantastic fans in the Screaming Eagles and Barra
Brava supporter groups—who showed up and did their best to urge their
boys on Saturday—are not frustrated merely by the four straight losses.
It’s the performance that has them gutted. United fans can find no
silver linings in the side’s gray performances and no colorful hints
that things will get better anytime soon.

In fact, the United players themselves, for all the usual sports-cliché buoyancy, are at a loss.

“I don't
have an answer,” captain Jaime Moreno said. “I’ve never felt this way,
I've never been in this situation. I don't think anybody has. It's very
hard to describe.”

That about says it all.

Convey-or Belt

Pundits
love to find causal relationships. To wit, there’s this argument: Bobby
Convey’s being yanked at halftime of San Jose’s season-opening loss at
home to Real Salt Lake has inspired his solid play in the Earthquakes’
two subsequent wins. Whatever.

Here’s
my causal argument. The key to San Jose’s success—and Convey’s better
play—is the consistency and cohesion of the defensive setup. Frank
Yallop has employed the same back four—including steady newcomer Steve
Beitashour—and holding midfielder Brandon McDonald for the two games.
Their organization—this might be the best Quakes back line since the
club’s rebirth—frees up a guy like Convey to focus on attack.

Which he’s done. And, no coincidence, San Jose have come out on top twice in a row.

Stuart Who?

When
three Houston Dynamo players—Brad Davis, Brian Ching, and Geoff
Cameron—were called into the U.S. camp this winter, I asked coach
Dominic Kinnear how that affected their preseason training.

He told me he wasn’t worried about Davis or Ching, because as veterans they knew what was what. But Cameron?

“He’s playing a new position, and he needs as much time as possible to figure it out,” he said.

Well, if
this past weekend’s performance is any indication, he’s finally made up
that time. Cameron, who looked a little out of sorts in the Dynamo’s
first three games, seemed to glide around in the 3-0 win over Chivas
USA. He made some of us think the loss of Stuart Holden may not be the
blow we imagined.

Granted,
Houston’s opponents didn’t exactly put up an Alamo-style stand. But
regardless, Cameron covered a lot of ground, showed his fighting spirit
and did well to provide an option to the backs in the transition to the
attack. He may not be making many highlight reels, but he’s making his
teammates better. He just needed a little time.