- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 3, 2009

Jeff Cunningham leads MLS with 16 goals and was named league player of the month Friday but is getting nary a mention as a possible MVP. And a call-up to the U.S. national team? Unlikely.

It’s pretty clear: Cunningham doesn’t get much respect.

“Right now for me I feel like I’m playing for my career,” the FC Dallas striker told reporters last week. “I’m playing for my future. A lot of people have written me off.”

It certainly looks that way. The Jamaican-born Cunningham, who has worn the U.S. jersey 10 times, has seven goals in his past five games. His two goals in Dallas’ 3-0 victory over Salt Lake on Sept. 26 helped him become MLS player of the week for the third time this season. He followed that with a goal on an amazing header to down New England 1-0 on Wednesday.

Despite those heroics and perhaps the best numbers in the league - he also has seven assists - Cunningham isn’t even getting a respectful nod for postseason honors, not even as a long shot. A Soccer America article this week on potential MVPs didn’t even mention his name. Neither did a panel of experts at MLSnet.com.

He gets little press. And don’t strain your eyes trying to find a soccer story in the Dallas Morning News.

Granted, Cunningham plays for a team with a lousy defense that has struggled all year and might not make the playoffs. And Cunningham does carry a reputation: He has been inconsistent at times and has been called selfish - but what striker isn’t?

After seven years with Columbus, he bounced around to three clubs before landing in Dallas in the second half of last season. He started 2008 with Toronto FC, where he was demoted to change in the reserve locker room by former coach John Carver. After Cunningham missed an easy scoring chance in a crucial game, Carver said, “I am thinking, ‘How did he score 99 goals?’ ”

Now he has scored 120, so he’s getting the last word. That total takes Cunningham to second in MLS history, just 10 behind Jaime Moreno. With three games left in the season, Cunningham may need to notch a few more goals before folks take notice. The 33-year-old certainly isn’t going quietly into the sunset of his career.

Key dates - FIFA decided the draw for the World Cup playoffs in the European zone will take place Oct. 19. Teams will be seeded based on the next FIFA world ranking, which comes out Oct. 16. The draw for the World Cup in South Africa will take place Dec. 4 in Cape Town.

In the running again - Here’s a surprise: Landon Donovan is up for another Honda Player of the Year Award. Five-time winner Donovan, Jozy Altidore and Tim Howard are the finalists for the 2009 award, given to the best U.S. national team player. The winner, who receives a new car, will be announced Oct. 20.

Quick kicks - Former United coach Peter Nowak is on a monthlong world tour scouting talent for his new team, the expansion Philadelphia Union. Nowak said he already has 200 player resumes to look at. …

Despite political turmoil in Honduras, the U.S. team’s game there is still on for Oct. 10.

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