In this week's End To End, Goal.com' Noah Davis examines the state of some of MLS' best players.
In this week's End to End, we take a look at two Major League Soccer Defenders of the Year who are going in different directions, gives props to a coach who kept his charges focused amid a potential global disaster, and wonder what's wrong with Sacha Kljestan.
The six feet, three-inch centreback returned to the Columbus Crew's backline after taking a week off because he was suffering from headaches. And what a return it was. The 2008 MLS Defender of the Year terrorized fellow '08 MLS Starting XI member Bakary Soumare, torching him for one goal and what should have been a penalty kick. On defense, Marshall held together a foursome that played without the services of starting right back Frankie Hedjuk and, for the final 33 minutes, sans Gino Padula, who was sent off after a questionable red card. Although a tired Crew side conceded two goals in the final seven minutes, Marshall was to blame in neither situation.
The Riverside, California futboler hasn't seen time in a United States jersey in 2009, but that should change as he's developing defensively and a scoring threat on any free kick. (Also, don't sleep on his defensive partner, Eric Brunner, a former member of the U-23 squad. He's stepped into the space beside Marshall effortlessly and played with skill and poise.)
The Toronto FC right back had himself a pair of magnificent matches during a dream week that saw his club vault to the top of the MLS's Eastern Conference. He played all 180 minutes, helping to TFC post consecutive shutouts against previously undefeated Chivas USA (which only managed one shot on net) and the Kansas City Wizards.
Wynne looked dangerous in the attack as well, tallying an assist on Danny Dichio's game-winning goal. It was the athletic fullback's first of the season, but one has to think more are on the way given his propensity for scintillating runs up the wing. Wynne's performance, combined with the injury struggles of Frankie Hedjuk, make him a likely candidate to travel to South Africa for the Confederations Cup in July.
The U.S.'s U-17 coach led his team to a perfect 3-0 record in Group A of the CONCACAF U-17 Championship. While the rest of the tournament was canceled on Monday due to concerns about swine flu, the squad achieved its goal of qualifying for the World Cup held later this year in Nigeria. Cabrera is following in the footsteps of previous U-17 coach John Hackworth, who's now an assistant coach on the senior squad after leading the American teenagers to three consecutive World Cups, including a Round of 16 finish in 2007.
If anyone told you Chivas USA would be 5-1-1 after seven games but midfield sparkplug Sacha Kljestan (zero goals, zero assists) would have all but disappeared, you would have told him to continue watching the NFL draft. And yet, six weeks into the season, this scenario has come to pass. The Goats are the surprise team of the MLS campaign while the American is an early favorite for biggest underachiever. After a three-goal outburst against Sweden, Kljestan -- who along with Brian Ching, is the only member of Bob Bradley's team to play in all four U.S. games this year -- has taken some knocks for his performances against Mexico and El Salvador. With his confidence obviously down, here's hoping he doesn't turn into Benny Feilhaber 2.0.
Chivas manager Preki continues to trot out his young stud, so Kljestan should have the benefit of playing through his struggles. If he can't, there's always two days of archived NFL draft coverage.
The Houston Dynamo has managed one goal in its past three matches and just four on the season. Holden, who was handed the keys to the offense after Dwayne De Rosario joined to Toronto, owns no goals and two assists in 450 minutes. That's not a horrible total, but you'd expect more from a center midfielder that boasts his impressive offensive ability. Hopefully, the Dynamo's off-week allowed the team -- and Holden -- to fix its offensive problems, but the veteran of the U.S. Olympic team in Beijing, China needs to show he can perform week in, week out in Texas before he's considered a serious threat to break into the American first team.
The good news is that the defender, who moved to FC Nordsjælland after a successful stint with the New England Revolution, has found a spot in the starting line up at his new home. Unfortunately, his team keeps surrendering goals, losing its third in a row on Sunday to Jeremiah White's AGF Aarhus squad. The young Danish team desperately needs Parkhurst's leadership -- and if he can help turn around the season, he'll certainly turn Bob Bradley's head -- but right now his chances for getting a call up look slim.
Noah Davis covers the United States National Team for Goal.com.