Thursday, October 18, 2007

Al Gore's Political Capital -- Nobel Peace Prize laureate!! Al Gore is definitely riding a wave of profound personal popularity and respect, beyond anything he has achieved previously. Indeed, his current stature, in some ways, exceeds that of any other world figure, for many years -- maybe even generations. As Mr. Gore's political standing has grown, a grass-roots movement has coalesced and grown with it, over the past year, seeking to impel the former Vice-President to run, once again, for President. There is no more enthusiastic supporter for a Gore candidacy than me.

If, however, we are to believe his public pronouncements, Mr. Gore is more interested in realizing the objectives of his campaign to initiate action to reduce greenhouse gases and limit the consequences the of global warming. He claims to believe that he is not a very good politician or campaigner, but I believe he is skilled enough to realize that he has built-up enormous political capital, which is probably now at its useful peak. It is with this in mind, that I am proposing a way in which he can productively use that capital.

According to a diary on the Daily Kos site (by NY Populist), the leading organization in the Draft Al Gore movement ( has commissioned a Zogby poll to assess how Mr. Gore would fare in a contest against the Democratic primary candidates. If that poll shows Gore doing reasonably well, the pressure to mount a campaign will increase. Concomitantly, so will his ability to influence the race and the direction of U.S. policy, should Gore choose to flex his new-found political muscle.

Given her tremendous fund-raising, and ever-growing popularity, Hillary Clinton is looking like not only a formidable opponent in the Democratic primary race, but also seems increasingly likely to be the next President. Of course, it is still over a year before the actual election and several months before even the primaries, but Mrs. Clinton is a supremely skilled politician and is unlikely to commit the kind of stumble that could derail such a juggernaut.

Many of Gore's supporters, especially those on this site, believe Mr. Gore does not favor Mrs. Clinton's candidacy. Assuming that is true, Mr. Gore could decide to run himself, to oppose Mrs. Clinton. Some in the Draft Gore movement view him as the man who can wrest the nomination from Clinton. Others, myself included, hope for a Gore candidacy because of their belief in the man and his positive agenda. We wait for a sign or a pronouncement that he will heed the call.

With the primary windows starting to close, Gore's supporters need to consider the alternatives just as Gore needs to decide what he can best do to further his agenda. Because Mr. Gore's personal popularity is at a peak, the time for a decision is now, lest he squander the moment. If Mr. Gore is firm in his decision not to enter the fray on his own, then the next most obvious course of action would be to endorse one of the Democratic primary candidates.

Assuming Mr. Gore would favor a candidate other than Mrs. Clinton, the question to be asked is whether a Gore endorsement of one of the other challengers holds the potential to change the outcome of the race? That seems a highly dubious proposition, not least because Gore's endorsement did not prevent Howard Dean's campaign collapse in Iowa four years ago. The gap appears to be too wide, and it is hard to imagine that Gore's endorsement of another candidate would pull away enough votes from Mrs. Clinton to make a decisive difference.

What then is Gore to do with his substantial political capital? What good is all this political prestige he has accumulated, if he cannot act decisively to move the country in the direction he would most prefer? The answer is to ensure that Hillary Clinton moves in the directions that Al Gore demands for this country. That is where Gore can make the greatest impact.

Mr. Gore should meet with Mrs. Clinton to discuss the terms of a possible endorsement. Would Hillary Clinton be interested in such a meeting? Consider the curious result in recent polling that has her in a virtual dead heat against Giuliani, despite significant preferences for a Democratic candidate. Given that dynamic, I would think that Sen. Clinton would be anxious to rally her base.

Moreover, the Clinton campaign must be anxious about the former Vice-President's plans, since the newest polls suggest that Gore may be a more popular candidate than Senator Clinton. Until and unless Gore rules out a run of his own, Mrs. Clinton will be running in his very large shadow. Mr. Gore's early support for her candidacy could go a long way towards uniting the party behind this likely nominee. It might also influence independents to support her candidacy.

If an endorsement from Gore is strong enough and memorable enough, it might even swing over a few Republicans -- those who are disenchanted with their own party, but still hold an unfavorable image of Mrs. Clinton, formed through the prism of the years of her husband's presidency. No doubt, there are a number of Republicans who might want to atone for supporting George Bush 8 years ago. If Gore were in the race, he might get their votes. However, he might also convince them to support another Clinton, the second most obvious antidote to the Bush years. A Gore endorsement at this time would surely cause a reexamination of Mrs. Clinton, and might kick some more momentum her way. A little momentum, after all, can have a snowballing effect on a candidate's popularity.

So, Al Gore would be in a position to exert some influence on Hillary Clinton, in exchange for a ringing endorsement. Gore should extract promises from her to pursue certain objectives. He should insist that Clinton publicly commit herself to aggressively pursue the two or three major policy initiatives that Mr. Gore is most determined to see enacted into law. He should take the measure of the woman and get her to pledge on record that she will cooperate fully in his efforts to cut back on human-generated climate change. If there are other issues that he wants moved to the forefront of her agenda, he should seek to get some commitments there, as well.

Then, Gore should make a statement (sort of a "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Hillary Rodham Clinton" thing) to the American people -- and I humbly suggest it should read something like this:

"My fellow Americans, I stood before you seven years ago, seeking your votes for my own candidacy to be President. A record number of Americans did give me their votes, but in the end it was George Bush that took the Oath of Office. Over these last seven years, the current Administration has governed from a blind faith in an unreasoning, deeply flawed ideology -- against all evidence, logic, science, and reason -- even against the constitutional traditions of our country. They have struggled against the laws of nature, and the laws of man. They have not changed direction even when all evidence and logic would compel any reasonable person to do so. They have ignored the lessons of their own errors, and it has cost this country deeply.

It has cost us our standing in the community of nations. It has cost us the respect that we earned over generations with our commitment to the rule of law, and our efforts to work with other nations to solve the problems that confront all of us. It has cost us lives, as thousands of brave young men and women have died for a misbegotten cause, and it has severely damaged our efforts in the struggle against the terrorists that seek to impose a totalitarian ideology upon the Islamic nations.

Perhaps most dangerously, it has cost us years that were more important then of us realized at the time, in the race to stop climate change. Many lives were lost here due to a powerful storm, and the powerlessness of the government's response, and still the dangers went unheeded. Now, leading climatologists are telling us we may already have reached the crucial tipping point. Reason tells us it is time for action -- that it has become too costly to wait any longer. Still, that is all this Administration seems intent on doing.

We cannot wait. We need action. Many Americans know this. People all around the world know this. I have spent the years since the 2000 election leading a personal campaign to increase awareness of the danger, and to insist on action. In October, the Nobel Prize committee acknowledged the seriousness of this cause by awarding the Nobel Peace Prize -- shared by the United Nations panel of committed scientists, and myself. It is, without a doubt, the greatest personal honor I could receive. However, this recognition does not mark the end of this campaign. It just makes it all the more important to seize the moment and generate the needed momentum to act.

I have just finished a very profound discussion with Senator Clinton regarding this issue and other issues that concern me today. I came to the Senator because she is in a unique position. I also came because she is one of the most talented political leaders of our time. I have the greatest respect for her husband, whose administration I was privileged to serve for eight productive years. Bill Clinton's appetite for and knowledge of issues became legendary. However, I can say that the Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton, is more than his equal in this regard. There is no person more dedicated to public service, more interested in government and policy, and more committed to changing the direction of our country -- getting this country back on the track we were on 8 years ago.

I have discussed how the Senator and I can work cooperatively to promote a new agenda for this country, especially in the area of reversing climate change. She understands the importance of acting, and I am pleased by the commitments on policy that she expressed in our meeting.

I understand that a lot of people believe this is a moment of great consequence for the country and for the world. I understand why so many have rallied to insist that I enter the Democratic primary race. I am humbled and flattered by their support. I stand here today, though, to say that Senator Clinton also understands how important this moment in history really is. I stand here today to tell you I believe there is no person as prepared or as qualified to lead this country as President over the next eight years. As I stand here, I want to tell you, as well, that I believe Senator Clinton is more prepared and better qualified to be President than any candidate in a very long time. She is a skilled politician, a woman who commands respect everywhere she has been, because she is so capable, and so dedicated. She is, without a doubt in my mind, the right person for these times.

Anyone who knows her can tell you she is a woman of great personal faith. She also knows how important the office of President is, how influential. She knows that the President must demand evidence, must follow logic, and insist on the rule of law and the rule of reason. We cannot afford to have a President who insists on being unreasonable. With the problems we face today, the time is growing short to make a difference. Hillary Clinton will make a difference, and that's exactly what we need now.

I have the utmost respect for the other candidates in the race, I have worked with some of them in the Senate, and I have met the others since. I wholeheartedly support the agenda that John Edwards has been campaigning for, and he is the most forceful advocate for those issues I have ever heard. Barack Obama is an incredibly talented leader, and I am confident that voice will be among the most important of his generation and that his message of a new politics will carry the day -- his time is coming. Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson -- they are all leading lights, dedicated public servants, committed to bringing about needed changes for America.

I would gladly support any of these men, if they were to win the nomination. However, I stand here today to offer my support now to Hillary Clinton because I believe she is the right person to lead America for the next four years.

Eight years ago, I tried to offer America a choice. If I had the political skills that Senator Clinton has, I believe I would have become President. As I said, I am flattered that so many people want me to run again. I am involved in a different campaign now - maybe one that is better suited for me. It is a time for a new direction for this country and Hillary Clinton is the woman to lead us on the path."

I still hope that Al Gore will decide to run, because I believe HE is the right person for the time, the one who best understands what the next President of the United States must do. My second choice, in this regard, would be John Edwards, because I think his policy priorities are similarly well-ordered, and he has dedicated himself to the important causes. However, I expect that Al Gore will not run, and I further expect that Hillary Clinton will emerge as the Democratic nominee, regardless of any Gore endorsement. If it matters, my record's been pretty good in this regard. My first choice doesn't always come out as the nominee, but my predictions have been spot on.

I think Gore can do an awful lot of good by sitting down with Mrs. Clinton and getting some policy commitments from her. I'm not as engaged on the issues as Al Gore, obviously. I wouldn't presume to suggest what policy initiatives he deems so important he could trade his endorsement. However, I believe that, if he is not going to run, the moment is ripe for such a meeting -- it might even be imperative. This diary is offered to recommend that course of action, but only if Mr. Gore will not run himself. And, also to suggest what Mr. Gore might wish to say in such a hypothetical endorsement. That, and nothing more. That said -- I say Run, Al. Run!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Youth is Served as U.S. Wins in Basel -- Put this one in Ripley's Believe it or Not. For the first time in nearly a decade, the U.S. Men's National soccer team has finally won a game on European soil. It was a friendly match in Switzerland, played in poor conditions, on a rainy day and a very slippery field. The U.S.A. has rarely won on European soil, including a losing streak on the continent that dates back to the tune-ups preceding the 1998 World Cup. That record of futility, however, meant little to some of the younger players on the U.S. roster, and it was the kids that combined to deliver the surprising, streak-busting victory.

Coach Bob Bradley fielded a young lineup to begin with, as the most veteran players were Carlos Bocanegra and Eddie Lewis. When DaMarcus Beasley left the game early due to a bruised leg, the lineup got even younger, and younger still when Brad Guzan replaced Marcus Hahnemann in goal, at halftime. The U.S. played the Swiss evenly. The best chances came to the U.S. with a flurry late in the first half, but Eddie Lewis and Carlos Bocanegra both sent balls right at the Swiss goalie.

In the second half, there were few chances before Brad Guzan was called for handling a ball at the edge of the penalty box in the 82nd minute. Although the call could have gone either way, it was an unnecessarily risky play. Fortunately, Guzan made a nice save on the ensuing free kick.

The U.S. attack was lacking much inspiration, and Coach Bradley found the right touch to change that. Freddy Adu came on in the final 15 minutes and immediately made an impact. His first touch was a crafty back heel that set Steve Cherundolo on a run into the box. the most creative play the U.S. had put together. After the close call coming on Guzan's dicey play, Danny Szetela checked in as a substitute. Szetela's insertion further opened up the attack, and proved decisive.

Maurice Edu, who sparkled in his first start for the senior side, recovered a loose ball in the Swiss end. Instead of playing it pointlessly into the defense, Edu turned and sent the ball wide to Szetela, who was unmarked at the touch line. Szetela sent a nearly perfect cross over the defense. The ball fell to a sprinting Clint Dempsey (Dempsey may have intercepted a pass intended for Adu, but no matter). Though Dempsey couldn't control it, the ball went off his knee and over the final defender. As the Swiss goalie raced Dempsey for the loose ball, it was Michael Bradley, the coach's young son, who got his foot to the ball as it came down. Bradley just beat the Swiss goalie to the loose ball and touched it into the goalmouth.

Adu nearly produced a second goal as he got on the end of a nifty pass over the defense from Dempsey. Adu couldn't control the ball, but was able to stretch and chip it over the goalie. Unfortunately, Adu's touch was a bit much, and the ball also floated over the crossbar.

Finally, Robbie Findley came on to earn his first cap, and showed the potential danger that comes with a player that has his speed. Findley's play led to a couple of nice attacks involving Adu. Freddy probably deserved a penalty kick on one, when he was kicked in the face by the defender. Just before the final whistle, Adu was tripped about 25 yards out. He sent the final free kick right into the goalie's midsection, but his talent still shone.

One other American player deserves mention. Heath Pearce came on as a sub, for Beasley, and turned in a very strong game in defense.

For most of this game, the U.S. did nothing very remarkable, except shut down the Swiss attack. This game will be remembered for ending the winless streak in Europe, as well as ending the U.S. team's five-game losing streak. However, the game should really be remembered as the day the torch was passed to a new generation of U.S. soccer players. When the kids got a chance to show their stuff, we got a look at a very promising future.

On a related note, there is an interesting article about Thierry Henry in The New York Times. Henry admits to a fascination with the U.S., and American sports. The best news in the article? The French superstar, supremely talented and probably the most elegant striker in the game, would like to play professionally in the U.S. someday. He's in love with New York City, so it would seem that he might be destined for the Red Bulls. Unless, of course, the MLS comes around to my suggestion of placing a team in New York City. In the meantime, we can expect to see more advertising taking advantage of Henry's fame, paving the way for what we hope will be his eventual Atlantic crossing.

Today was a pretty good day for Henry. He scored two late goals, within 2 minutes of each other to give France a win over a game Lithuania side, in a Europe '08 qualifier. With those goals, Henry become's the all-time leading goal scorere for Les Blues, passing the great Michel Platini. Dare we dream of getting to watch him play in the MLS, perhaps when his current contract with Barcelona runs out? Dream on!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tomorrow (Friday) is Nobel Peace Prize day -- the day that Gore-illas hope will launch the man who "used to be the 'next President of the United States'" on a quest to win, once again (and this time for keeps), the Presidency of the United States. If you're a reader of the Daily Kos (where I am cross-posting this essay), I'm sure you have not missed the deluge of Gore-love paean diaries, proclaiming our hopes for a new Presidential run by the former Vice-President.

Just for review, though: How do I love thee, Al Gore? Let me count the ways!

First: Everyone is always talking about the weather, but no one ever does anything about it!

Many of us fear that every other issue in this campaign is almost meaningless if we don't do something soon about global warming. For us, Al Gore represents the last best hope. Other politicians may say some of the right things about climate change peril, but Gore has lived the cause. A President Gore will be committed to moving heaven and Earth to do something about climate change and greenhouse gas production.

Second: "He's my Commander-in-Chief" vs. "Bernie, thank God George Bush is our President."

Astute readers will recognize the first quote as Gore's perfectly-struck note of unity, offered after the attacks of September 11th. They may also recognize the other quote as Rudy Giuliani's declared recollection of his comment to Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, when he realized New York was under attack.

Al Gore was no weak sister, when it came to Saddam Hussein. Gore was reputed to be the strongest proponent within the Clinton Administration of a more aggressive stance toward Iraq. Yet, in 2002, Gore understood that a war on Iraq would be a terrible distraction and counter-productive to the struggle against militant, terrorist groups. He was right on Iraq -- and for all the right reasons.

Gore may lack John Kerry's Bronze Star and Purple Hearts, but on this issue, he has the right credentials. He can make the best case for a new direction in the struggle that consumed this country on September 11th -- actually refocusing our efforts where they need to be.

Imagine this scenario next September, or October: Al Gore will get on the stage to debate against the Republican nominee, Rudy Giuliani. Gore will remind America that he loyally and enthusiastically supported Bush's decision to move against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Without rehashing whether the Bush Administration could have prevented the attacks, Gore can still remind America why Bin Laden is still at large. More importantly, he can ask Americans if we are as thankful as Giuliani claimed to be that George Bush has been President these last 7+ years.

Heck, Gore can even put the question rhetorically to Giuliani, as to whether he's still thankful that Bush, and not Gore was President. Is this a trap to be avoided? I'm sure Giuliani would have a glib answer already prepared, but Gore can win this debate. He can tell the American people what things he would have done the same as Bush, and what he would have done differently. He can describe how things would be better now. Finally, he will lower the boom on Giuliani, when he asks Americans to answer for themselves whether they are thankful these days that George Bush was the President for nearly the last 8 years.

I ask, rhetorically, "Is there anyone else that can ask those same questions, with the same impact as Al Gore?" Of course not!

Third: Restoring the Pride! A Nobel Prize Winner before taking office -- How cool is that!?!

Unlike Woodrow Wilson, who won the Nobel Prize near the end of his second term in office (and Jimmy Carter who won the award two decades after his term), Gore may already have this extraordinary honor to his name before he ever announces. As I write this, the 'net is rife with rumors that Gore is headed to Oslo or Stockholm for the announcement. Even if the Peace Prize goes to someone else, Al Gore could bring something to the office of President that no one else could. No American has ever begun a Presidency with the degree of international regard and respect that Al Gore commands.

No other person could reestablish the international credibility and prestige of the office as swiftly and surely as Al Gore -- both by dint of the world-wide respect he has gained, and the radical change of vision an Al Gore Presidency would represent. With Albert Gore at the helm of our ship of state, we would no longer have a "We're America -- Full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes!" attitude." A Gore Presidency would mean an America that understands its policies have to change in order to account for the needs and concerns of other countries.

So much of what has gone wrong the last seven years -- including the disdain even our friends have for us, and the despair and disgust most Americans feel when they think of their government -- would change dramatically on the day Al Gore takes the Oath of Office. The challenges that would lie ahead: ending the war in Iraq; reviving American economic strength; reducing the deficit; climate change, of course -- tackling these challenges would seem possible because we would have someone in the office committed to solving these crises.

Al Gore is uniquely positioned to ask the Ronald Reagan question: "Are you better off than you were 8 years ago?" How many would answer yes? To use the pollsters’ favorite question: How many could say this country is headed in the right direction? If George Bush has the country headed in the wrong direction, who is the obvious choice to get us moving in the right direction? Al Gore!

Fourth: Look! Up In the Sky! or A Man of Action Proves Caring is Cool

When Brownie, and the rest of the federal government couldn't figure out how to get into New Orleans and help, Al Gore did something. He took a plane into New Orleans and brought out people who needed attention which they could get elsewhere, making the demands on the local hospitals somewhat more manageable. Isn't that the image we want of our President, not some contorted photo-op on a carrier outside San Diego Harbor?

The resemblance to Superman is uncanny...but he makes caring cool, too.

Fifth: The Rock Star

Al Gore isn’t just another candidate. He may lack some personal charisma, but he’s achieved something grander with his celebrity. His magnetism is based on his ideas, and his dedication to the cause. People believe and trust Al Gore now. The nonsense about the Internet and Love Story can’t hurt him now. He’s established a level of credibility on issues that no other candidate, Democrat or Republican, can approach, or besmirch. He’s not a Teflon candidate – he’s better. He’s become a brutally honest one. We believe Al Gore, because he’s willing to risk ridicule in order to speak painful, even terrifying truths.

Sixth: Second Chances

America has often been the land of second chances and second acts -- where redemption is possible. A second chance to make amends, and set right what went so horribly wrong 8 years ago. Not for Al Gore's sake. For our own sakes, a second chance for America.

Finally: No more 'Mourning in America'

O.K. I could list a lot more reasons for this hope against hope, but brevity is beautiful. Remember that it's always darkest before the dawn. Al Gore wants to bring an end to the 'assault on reason' -- bring an end to the dark madness of faith-based politics, by shining the light of reason. It's been a long night in the wilderness. Soon, it could be "Morning in America" -- with a President Gore.

Cross-posted at

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Shocking News? Marion Jones Admits Steroid Use -- To paraphrase the famous line from Casablanca, "I'm shocked...shocked to find there is steroid use in the Olympics." So, the Washington Post breaks the story that Marion Jones will plead guilty to using steroids, and admits to using the performance-enhancing substances in advance of the 2000 Olympics. Shocking!

I actually don't mean to detract from what Ms. Jones accomplished. She set new standards for female athletes, but this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, least of all Marion Jones. Yet, according to the article, it was a surprise to her. In the latest dodge that athletes have turned to, Ms. Jones is pleading ignorance, blaming it all on her trainer. According to the Post article, Ms. Jones was told she was taking flaxseed oil supplements.

Of course, this was all done with a wink and a nod. Jones says "Red flags should have been raised when he told me not to tell anyone about" the supplement program.

She also says she noticed that she was recovering more quickly from her workouts. Another red flag for Jones might have been the changes in her body. She looks fantastic, but few women are able to achieve that level of strength and development naturally. As it turns out she was getting THG, the synthetic steroid at the center of the Balco case.

I say we shouldn't be too harsh on Jones, because she achieved remarkable things. 3 gold medals and 2 bronze medals. Not because she is feigning ignorance, but because how many other competitors have done the same? How many of Jones' competitors have always been clean?

This case really brings out the crux of the dilemma in modern sports: We demand the highest performance, but attempt to deprive the athletes of tools they could use to elevate their performance. The temptation to cheat is irresistible, particularly when one suspects your competition won't hesitate to cheat similarly. Testing will always be behind the curve. Some athletes will be caught -- maybe, in time, all will be caught, as test catch up to flag preserved blood samples.

The fact is steroids can be harmful to one's health -- destructive to joints, etc. So are sports. 'Roid rage is a problem, too, but we don't criminalize alcohol, which has similar affects. With women, there can also be considerable, and permanent masculinizing changes to the body, but it's a choice women can make, if it's in the open. Otherwise, they may be victimized by unethical trainers.

So, why are we making criminals of athletes who are playing by the rules their competitors are? I know I'll never be able to compete without the chemical boost, and I won't take it. Then again, I’m no wannabe Olympian or professional. Instead of destroying competitions by pretending we're just leveling the field, why not allow the athletes to do what athletes do? Why not do what they do in bodybuilding, with natural competitions for those who want that, and the prestige competitions for the steroid-using hulks, who've taken their body to the extreme levels that fans want from their athletes?

Cross-posted at

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Drought Continues as United Falls in Jalisco -- In case anyone is interested in my impression, I think United was probably ill-served by the defensive shell in which they played this night in the Estadio Jalisco. Chivas was always one ill-considered pass away from the goal that would send them through to the next round. Not entirely surprisingly, that pass came from Clyde Simms, whose defensive play seemed to break down in the second half. Simms made some foolish passes under pressure last week, and did much the same tonight in the return match.

Meanwhile, United did little to generate any offense, and this was largely by design. Christian Gomez nearly scored on a free kick in the first half, but United did nothing to challenge the Guadalajaran goal until after the home team scored, giving them the series advantage, based on away goals. In the final minutes, United was able to generate some good chances, including some goalkeeper-testing efforts by Stephen DeRoux and Ben Olsen, and a couple of near misses by Luciano Emilio, Brian Carroll and Christian Gomez.

If United had been intent on pressing an attack, I think there might have been more chances -- and those chances might have come when United players were fresher and more likely to convert. Moreover, Chivas would have had to play with more attention to defense. Though Coach Tom Soehn was quoted as saying United would play its game, instead of going into a defensive shell, apparently that was no more than mere gamesmanship. The strategy that United employed meant they were behind the eight ball the moment Chivas scored. While it might have seemed to be working in D.C.'s favor, as the game went deep into the second half without any goals, the reality is that United had little time to recover when their defense finally cracked.

No U.S. club team has ever won on Mexican soil. So long as they continue to play for draws, that drought will continue.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Burch's Blast -- Luciano Emilio is being promoted for Sierra Mist's Goal of the Week. I have to admit I was shouting "Goal of the Year", when I saw Emilio's one-time scoring volley, knocking in the rebound of Christian Gomez' free kick that had caromed off the crossbar and out to Emilio. The big goal, though, was Marc Burch's magnificent left-footed rocket (of course), which drew United even with Toronto on Saturday night. Burch's goal was his first -- one that was a long time in coming -- and it touched off a cascade of goals by United, who buried Toronto by a 4-1 score.

About a minute before his goal, as Burch had sent in a nice cross, I was telling my gal-pal all about Burch's amazing left foot. I really think this young man has national team potential written all over him. If he can raise his game, especially on the defensive end, he should become a fixture at left back for the U.S. national squad. His gifted left foot is something no other American has -- something the U.S. team has lacked for the last ten years or so, since the days of Preki.

Burch is really in his first year playing regularly as a defender. He's learning this totally unfamiliar position, while playing at the highest level in this country. His occasional struggles must be expected, but his ability is both obvious and surprising, given the circumstances.

I think Burch can become a very good defender -- I've seen him make some very good plays. Though he was undone last week by the speedy Chivas attackers, Burch will benefit by more such encounters with top players. Hopefully, United will hold on to their one-goal lead over Chivas on Tuesday night. This will mean more games in the Copa Sudamericana, and more chances for Burch to learn how to defend against the speedy, skilled competitors he will encounter someday with the national team, should my predictions for him come true.

D.C. United has once again become the best team in the MLS. It would seem they are reaching their potential at a much more opportune time than last year's squad, which burned out in August. The crowd was ecstatic with United's offensive outburst on Saturday. United is, without question, the best ticket in town. Seeing them win the title this year, in RFK, would be absolutely amazing -- I get goosebumps imagining the celebration that will ensue.

Should United win the MLS Cup this year, it would be the best thing that could happen for the MLS and American soccer. The size of the crowd, the enthusiasm, and crowd's reaction would be something the American media couldn't ignore. No Beckham -- just the best-supported soccer team in the MLS, and an indication of the sport's potential in this country.

So, when Marc Burch or some other left back takes the field for the U.S in the World Cup, and there are tens of thousands of Americans cheering the team on, we can say it is America's game, too. It might also influence the D.C. city government to reconsider it's decision to take bids against United's bid to build a new stadium at Poplar Point.

Speaking of American national team players -- If you saw Kasey Keller post a clean sheet for Fulham, against Chelsea, you have to pleased for him. Keller had one particularly good save. Clint Dempsey is becoming a real fixture for Fulham, and someone English defenses have to watch out for (he had a couple of good chances against Chelsea) -- although he really pushes the limits of the rules with his physical play.

The American I was most impressed by, however, was Carlos Bocanegra. Boca was given the nearly impossible task of defending Didier Drogba. Sure, Drogba was coming off an injury, and was a bit of a surprise in the lineup -- probably not at his best. Yet, it was still Didier Drogba -- the most dangerous attacker in the Premier League last year -- and Boca ran all day with Drogba, and made several solid stops.

Throughout his career, Bocanegra has really been most notable as being a defender who is a good offensive threat -- not especially known for his defending. In years gone by, I don't think Boca could have kept with Drogba, but this weekend, Boca took his game to a new level. This was great to see. Though his national team play has been mostly underwhelming, Boca could still become a strong central left back for the U.S., perhaps flanked, one day soon, by Marc Burch.