Four games in and the plot lines for the season are taking shape. There are so many of them. That may or may not be a good thing. But it's interesting. Far more interesting than any other sport. Which is why I love soccer.
1. Will the "old guard" return to form or not? And by the "old guard," I mean DeRo and Pontius. Those two are the pillars around which today's DCU team are built. Dwayne De Rosario, the captain, injured late last season, left the team in the hands of his deputy Chris Pontius who proceeded to lead DCU to a thrilling come-from-sixth-place-and-make-the-conference-championship finish. Pontius was then knocked out of commission in the final game. DeRo then disappointed during preseason with a needless headbutt to a former teammate, resulting in his suspension for the first two games of the season. He has now returned - but there have been only glimmers of his brilliance. Pontius is back, too, but it's not clear if his injury continues to nag him. It's hard to tell because he's so frequently double-teamed. (Subplot: it's hard to call a rookie a part of the "old guard," but DeLeon was integral to last year's playoff run - and he too seems to have a case of the cobwebs - that is, of course, for the first few games he played - because now he's injured and off the field.)
2. How badly will DCU miss its homegrown speed demon? Andy Najar - whose speed and agility seemed superhuman - was sold off to Anderlecht. He was adept at turning good defense into a sudden offensive attack. DCU pulled in Thorrington - not speedy like Najar but a strong and smart playmaker. Unfortunately, Thorrington was promptly injured and knocked out of play for weeks.
3. To Pajoy or not to Pajoy? DCU's main guy up top is roundly criticized for a host of sins - unable to finish, not passing when he should, suffering from a propensity to find himself offsides just as a full attack is coming together. He is also fast, moving like he's skating on ice - when he's on he's fun to watch, frankly. Coach Olsen has clearly favored him while the consensus punditry lost patience with him long ago. The question of whether Pajoy will play in the next game or not has become THE question. The criticisms are not off-target - but Pajoy has found himself the scapegoat for every loss. Unfairly. It's lonely up top. Especially when you're the only thing up top. Should he warm the bench or should he have a partner?
4. Are we ready to unveil our secret weapons? The young Brazilian Rafael - known as the Gladiador - and the old hand Carlos Ruiz - known as El Pescadito for his tendency to feign injuries - are our newly acquired secret weapons. We've caught glimpses of them. Ruiz came on the field during the Real Salt Lake game and showed us a player who is bold and strategic on the attack. Rafael started the Columbus game and zapped a bouncing ball from 35 yards out dead into the net. It was beautiful. But they haven't yet seen the playing time and the partnering that would, I think, send shivers down the spines of our opponents.
5. What crazy save will Hamid make next? Watching Hamid handle shots on goal - especially those chaotic shots close in, with a crowd of attackers - is a thrill every time. It's like the soccer ball is on an elastic string and Hamid owns the paddle. The problem is goalkeeping is not enough to win games. But this man is indispensable.
6. Jakovic. Is that a plot line? May Canada never call him up again while we have games to play.
What plotlines have I missed?