Rico a no-go in Germany
When Ricardo Clark left MLS for Eintracht Frankfurt at the end of last year, most fans of the national team were pleased that one of Bob Bradley's main midfield men was preparing for the World Cup by playing for six months in the Bundesliga. With 50 days to go until the tournament kicks off in South Africa, and Clark still to debut for Eintracht, those hopes for fine-tuning have been replaced by an increasingly desperate need for him to shake off the growing rust.
Injuries initially hampered Clark's chances of making an impression in Germany, and things have not got any better since he returned. He has been an unused sub for eight straight games.
Clark's inactivity means that not since the U.S' Nov. 18 friendly in Denmark has he kicked a ball in anger. Given the paucity of obvious alternatives to partner Michael Bradley in the engine room, this is a situation that has to change soon. Perhaps it would have been less of a problem had he stayed in Houston.
Edson Buddle's imperious start to the season continued Saturday, but the Los Angeles man does not have a complete monopoly on the "most in-form American striker" moniker due to the impressive consistency being shown by Herculez Gomez for Puebla in Mexico.
Gomez, who endured mixed fortunes while playing in MLS for Los Angeles, Colorado and Kansas City, is the joint leading scorer in the Torneo Bicentenario with 10 goals in 13 games.
Each man is, of course, unproven at international level so either would be a risky pick for a World Cup squad. Where Buddle is concerned, he has the edge as far as all-round ability goes, while his effective partnership with Landon Donovan at the Galaxy is another plus on his résumé.
However, Gomez has been hotter for longer as both a starter and, more crucially, should either make the trip, neither man would start for the U.S. in South Africa as a substitute. Goals in each of the past four occasions in which he has been introduced off the bench proves he has what it takes to influence a game as a replacement, which may just edge him ahead of Buddle in Bob Bradley's eyes.
Well played, San Jose
Given the way I criticized San Jose following an anemic opening day defeat to Real Salt Lake, it is only fair that I acknowledge the impressive response since by the Earthquakes.
Last year, Frank Yallop's side failed to record its second victory until its 11th match and a back-to-back win streak -- similar to the one they are currently on thanks to triumphs over Chicago and New England. This was a luxury it did not enjoy until October when pride was the only reward.
Rookie defender Ike Opara has been the talisman for the turnaround. Having struggled to contain Javier Morales and company in his debut, the third overall pick has settled into a backline that has conceded just one goal since RSL bagged three against him. Opara has also chipped in at the offensive end with two goals.
San Jose is also getting contributions from Bobby Convey -- remember him? -- who has two assists in as many games, matching the number of helpers he compiled in 25 matches in 2009. Meanwhile, Joey Gjertsen and Brandon McDonald have impressed since being promoted to the starting lineup for the Quakes' second game of the campaign.
A thing that made me go hmmm
How many designated player signings will be made by MLS clubs this summer? The league's recent move to increase the number of DPs that clubs can have to three, certainly indicates that it expects an influx of star names.
A recent article in France Football suggested that a host of its nation's veterans are ready to cross the Atlantic, with names mentioned including Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira and, of course, Thierry Henry, who seems to be the odds-on favorite to become a New York Red Bull as soon as the World Cup is over.
The Red Bulls have also been linked with Raul and, this week, Alessandro Del Piero. Clearly, given the DP rules, four into three does not go, but any combination of this trio, as well as Juan Pablo Angel, would be a mouthwatering prospect for crowds at the club's impressive new stadium, which, it was announced Wednesday, will host a four-team tournament from July 22-25 featuring the Red Bulls, Manchester City, Tottenham and Sporting Lisbon.