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Johnston's future still looks cloudy

On most normal days, Mo Johnston can be found with a wide smile on his face and a skip in his step. Spending years as an adored soccer legend will do that for your temperament. Even as he tries to maintain the level of seriousness necessary to be a head coach, Johnston is usually still capable of delivering a funny line or having a laugh with anyone in his presence.

This profile is what made it so tough to see the somberness in Johnston's eyes and the sadness in his voice as he tried to talk about the team that was supposed to be his. No, Johnston hasn't been fired as Red Bulls head coach yet, but he was convinced that the team's new owners would send him packing after Alexi Lalas bolted to the Los Angeles Galaxy. Even after club officials stated on Thursday that Johnston would be retained for the foreseeable future, there is still plenty of reason for the Scottish star to believe that his days in New York are numbered.

For one, Johnson still doesn't know whom he will answer to the rest of this season. Red Bull New York announced a restructuring of its front office, with the position of director of soccer operations created for the person who will serve as Johnston's immediate supervisor. The only problem is that new position has yet to be filled, and until it is, Johnston must continue to keep his luggage ready and gas tank full.

Who is this mystery person that will ultimately be responsible for guiding the soccer decisions of the club? League sources say it could be none other than Shep Messing, the former Cosmos goalkeeper and currently the team's color analyst. Messing's knowledge of MLS would prove valuable to the team but his hiring may not be enough to save Johnston's job, even though he is said to be a fan of Johnston as a coach. There is a growing sentiment around the team that former Brazilian World Cup winner Carlos Alberto will be brought in for the position, due in no small part to the suggestions of Red Bulls advisor Franz Beckenbauer.

While Johnston waits to see who will play the role of grim reaper for his MLS coaching career, the Red Bulls coach has been left without the ability to improve the team. This is evidenced by the Red Bulls' thwarting of some of Johnston's personnel moves. Johnston's looking for a strike partner for Edson Buddle which will allow French star Youri Djorkaeff to play in central midfield alongside Amado Guevara. Now, Johnston must hold off on his player shopping, which had included advanced inquiries into the potential acquisitions of Cameroonian forward Joseph-Desire Job and Trinidadian forward Colin Samuel.

Johnston deserves better. After three years serving as Bob Bradley's apprentice, Johnston had all the characteristics of being a great head coach. Still does. There is nobody in MLS today that could boast Johnston's combination of international and MLS success as a player, not to mention name recognition. He has played for some of the game's most respected coaches, including Alex Ferguson, and seemed like a good bet to be able to match the success his compatriot and close friend Steve Nicol has enjoyed with New England.

Unfortunately for Johnston, he may not get that chance. For now, Johnston continues to put on a brave face as he musters a smile amid the uncertainty. Saturday's match against D.C. United could be his last with the Red Bulls, but it certainly won't be his last as a head coach.

Game Previews

So it wasn't the best start imaginable. No, I'm not talking about the Columbus Crew, or even Real Salt Lake. I'm talking about the 1-5 record in my first week of picking games. After passing on all the easy games in Weeks 1 and 2, Week 3 delivered pain in the form of surprising draws by Real Salt Lake, Colorado and Columbus, or as I like to call them, the relegation trio.

This week's schedule is reduced but there are still plenty of great story lines, from Sigi Schmid's first meeting against the Galaxy to the Lamar Hunt derby between the Wizards and FC Dallas. Look for goals galore after a relatively low-scoring week.

D.C. United at New York Red Bulls

These teams combined for an exciting 2-2 tie in the season opener but everything imaginable is in D.C. United's favor heading into the rematch. D.C. will have Christian Gomez, Bobby Boswell and Brandon Prideaux, who all missed the first meeting. Then there is the dark cloud hanging over the Red Bulls regarding the uncertain future of Johnston. It will all be too much for the Red Bulls to handle.

D.C. United 2, Red Bulls 0.

Real Salt Lake at Houston Dynamo

This matchup has the makings of a real blowout. Sure, Real Salt Lake showed some signs of life against the Red Bulls last week, but its defense was hardly tested the way it will be by the Dynamo. Brian Ching is still holding out hope of squeezing into Bruce Arena's World Cup roster and this is just the type of opponent to show off against, even if veteran defender Eddie Pope is in the middle of the defense. With Dwayne De Rosario back from suspension, Houston cruises to victory.

Dynamo 3, Real Salt Lake 1

Columbus Crew at Los Angeles Galaxy

When the Galaxy fired Schmid two years ago, while the team was in first place, the move was regarded by some as one of the most perplexing in league history. Landon Donovan has helped make the move look like a stroke of genius by carrying Steve Sampson's squad to one of the most improbable MLS Cup titles in recent memory. Now Schmid is back, with a very young team, hoping to gain some revenge against the club that dumped him. Don't expect the Crew to pull the upset. Donovan dons the cape again and carries his team to three points.

Galaxy 1, Crew 0.

Kansas City Wizards at FC Dallas

The game of the week features the first-place teams in each conference. Both are unbeaten but the Wizards have looked far more impressive early in the season, balancing a deadly attack with a defense that was solid last week against New England thanks to Jimmy Conrad's return from hernia surgery. Dallas will lean heavily on forward Kenny Cooper, especially if Carlos Ruiz's hamstring injury prevents him from playing. Without a healthy Ruiz, FC Dallas will struggle to match chances, and eventually goals, with the red-hot Wizards.

Wizards 2, FC Dallas 1

Last week's record: 1-5

Ives Galarcep covers MLS for ESPN.com and is a writer and columnist for the Herald News (N.J.). He can be reached at Ivespn79@aol.com.

Ives Galarcep covers MLS for ESPN.com and is a writer and columnist for the Herald News (N.J.). He can be reached at Ivespn79@aol.com.