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Five Aside

Steve Nash really does love soccer

Dropping dimes

Breaking news: Steve Nash loves soccer. Okay, it's not exactly breaking news, but after I played with him in Toronto before the MLS All-Star Game, I got to see first hand how much the two time NBA MVP really loves the game. He plays soccer the same way he plays basketball, always on the move, combining fakes with muscle freezing feints as he selflessly looks to set up teammates. I have no doubt had he chosen soccer we would be talking about his passes to Cristiano Ronaldo in the same exact way we do his patented pinpoint feeds to Amare Stoudemire.

Nash, lives in New York in the offseason because as he simply says, "We love the city," relying on his passion for soccer to get him ready for the rigors of the NBA season. "As far as my offseason conditioning, I play three times a week and that keeps me fit," Nash told me as we waited to do an in-game interview during the ESPN telecast of the 2008 MLS All-star game.

Nash, who was raised by a proud Tottenham father, enjoyed watching the game from the sideline and is now investing in a possible MLS expansion franchise. By the way, I did have a couple of chances to tackle him hard off the ball. However, I thought better of it, I didn't want to be the guy who hurt the best point guard in the NBA. Plus who wants to be a target of the blogs and message boards as the reason the Suns don't make it to the NBA Finals, I will leave that to the rest of the NBA's Western Conference. Well, that's if they can stop the league's only true No. 10.

Petulant superstar or escape goat

If you see someone on the side of the MLS freeway, as summer makes the turn for home, with a sign that reads something like, "Have 99 career goals, will travel", it's probably Jeff Cunningham. It seems Cunningham has burned yet another bridge in MLS as Toronto is trying to find a trade partner for the disgruntled striker.

The relationship has deteriorated to the point where Cunningham, fourth all time in career goals with 99, was moved from the first-team locker room in Toronto and into the reserve-team locker room down the hall at BMO Field. Head coach John Carver reached his limit with Cunningham after he sluggishly warmed-up and acted "unprofessionally" on the bench during TFC's loss to Chicago on July 12.

As a source close to the situation told me, "It's kind of hard in this situation because we all like Jeff, but in this case it seems as if the team is moving in a different direction and Jeff in another. The players have all responded well to Carver but it seems his relationship with Jeff is beyond repair."

There was some thought Cunningham would be part of the Brian McBride deal, and Columbus -- where he began his career -- has reportedly shown interest. But for now, Cunningham, who played 35 minutes off the bench in TFC's 2-1 loss at Real Salt Lake this week, is still on the books at TFC. However, chances are decent Cunningham will be wearing his fifth different MLS jersey when he scores that elusive 100th MLS goal.

Do you know the way to San Jose?

The San Jose Earthquakes have quietly added two of the best young attackers in the league in Scott Sealy and Arturo Alvarez. They might have also added to of the biggest enigmas as well. For Alvarez it's his second stint in San Jose and he returns a better player but still an inconsistent one. The coaching changes in Dallas certainly didn't help Alvarez who after getting cut from the Olympic team last year played the best soccer of his career for FCD.

Few players in the league have Alvarez' combination of skill and talent. Meanwhile, Sealy burst onto the scene in 2005, but despite averaging just under nine goals per season, for some reason Sealy never seem to gain the full confidence of even goal-shy Kansas City. If both Sealy and Alvarez buy into 'Quakes head coach Frank Yallop, in the long run San Jose might have pulled off the best moves of the summer.

Joke is on him

New England assistant coach Paul Mariner (who somehow hasn't gotten a head coaching job, but the Revs aren't complaining) missed the 2007 MLS All-star game in Denver. Mariner had to stay back in New England and train the rest of the Revs who had a match against the Dynamo just three days later. Mariner was disappointed about missing the game vs. Celtic last season and had been led to believe he was going to suffer the same fate this year, thanks in part to the Revs staff.

In the end, the joke was on Mariner as it wasn't until he received his travel information via e-mail about a week prior to the game did Mariner know he was indeed going to able to join the Revs staff in Toronto in leading the MLS All-Stars against West Ham. Clearly, the Revs kid 'cause they care.

Most likely to...

Who cares if the club got more national press from their highly publicized recent incident in the air while traveling to L.A. in July involving a naked man, than they did for making it to three straight MLS Cups. Press is press.

Lizz Summers, Revs director of communications, told me she knew it was a big deal when she turned on her phone upon their delayed and rerouted arrival in L.A. to hear she had almost 50 voicemail messages waiting for her.

When I asked the Revs players and staff who on their team was the most likely to emerge naked out of a bathroom on a plane, a busting-up Shalrie Joseph and Paul Mariner didn't hesitate when they simultaneously answered, "Steve!" Of course, they were talking about coach Nicol and not Ralston. Isn't that an image that's hard to shake, talk about a sight for sore eyes.

Line of the night...

"I actually thought I was in the perfect spot to head it away, but then the ball dipped and moved and hit me in the face. What can you say? I guess when you're hot, you're hot."

Jimmy Conrad -- On the second West Ham goal in MLS' 3-2 win in the 2008 MLS All-Star game that deflected off his face and pass a helpless Matt Reis. Conrad leads the Wizards in goals this season with four.

Allen Hopkins covers Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer for ESPN. Look for Allen patrolling the sideline during "MLS Primetime Thursday." He can be reached at


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