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Monday Hangover: Winless is a relative term

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

Schellas Hyndman

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

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

Twoteams in MLS remain without a win this season. One “feels like a teamon the cusp of something very, very good,” as one blogger wrote. Theother one has supporters who see a business trip as respite from thepain.

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

Thelatter winless side is, of course, D.C. United. What looked merely uglya 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 fanmessage boards these days. And, as mentioned, one guy went so far as tosay he was glad to be leaving town on business so he didn’t have toendure the sight of the carnage any longer.

Slipshodgoalkeeping from a goalkeeper who, to be fair, is much, much betterthan he’s showing. Poor defense, highlighted by a lack of cohesion andtoothless marking. And an attack so anemic that one desperate fanactually suggested the club bring back Rod Dyachenko. Oh boy.

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

This isa results-oriented business, as we all know. And yet, although Dallashave not gotten the results required to escape the cellar of theWestern Conference, their fans feel optimistic. Because the performancematters.

Sameholds for D.C. The fantastic fans in the Screaming Eagles and BarraBrava supporter groups—who showed up and did their best to urge theirboys on Saturday—are not frustrated merely by the four straight losses.It’s the performance that has them gutted. United fans can find nosilver linings in the side’s gray performances and no colorful hintsthat 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'thave 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 veryhard to describe.”

That about says it all.

Convey-or Belt

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

Here’smy causal argument. The key to San Jose’s success—and Convey’s betterplay—is the consistency and cohesion of the defensive setup. FrankYallop has employed the same back four—including steady newcomer SteveBeitashour—and holding midfielder Brandon McDonald for the two games.Their organization—this might be the best Quakes back line since theclub’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?

Whenthree Houston Dynamo players—Brad Davis, Brian Ching, and GeoffCameron—were called into the U.S. camp this winter, I asked coachDominic 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, ifthis past weekend’s performance is any indication, he’s finally made upthat time. Cameron, who looked a little out of sorts in the Dynamo’sfirst three games, seemed to glide around in the 3-0 win over ChivasUSA. He made some of us think the loss of Stuart Holden may not be theblow we imagined.

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