Wednesday, September 06, 2006

DC United Preview - USOC 9/6/2006

DC United vs. Chicago Fire
Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill. (7:30 p.m. CT)

So after a week away on vacation, time to get back in the saddle….

The Semi-Finals are upon us. DC United make the first of two trips in 11 days to Toyota park for a USOC clash with fellow MLS Eastern Conference foe, the Chicago Fire. This is the first time that these two clubs have faced each other in this tournament. DC United won the USOC in 1996, their inaugural season; while the Chicago Fire have lifted the USOC three times.

DC United has looked pretty good in their previous two USOC matches, getting passed the Columbus Crew 2-1 in OT behind some 32 shots on goal to follow that up with a 3-1 victory of Red Bull New York at RFK two weeks ago. Their run of play in MLS hasn’t been as stellar, winning only 1 out of their last 6 matches. They reversed the sloppy play last Sunday at the Home Depot Center with a 2-1 victory over Chivas USA behind 2 Christian “MLS MVP???” Gomez. Due to most of the starting line-up picking up their fifth yellow cards of the season, thus requiring a mandatory suspension, this Saturday’s league match against visiting Real Salt Lake should be contested by United’s reserves. This gives no excuse for the normal starting line-up to be fielded tonight against the Fire, as those players who are suspended will get a week off to prepare for the Revolution.

The Chicago Fire are steam rolling into tonight’s match, having won 5 of their last 6 MLS league matches. They advanced through the USOC by knocking off the Kansas City Wizards 2-0 and a 2-1 victory over the New England Revolution. Knocking off the league leaders at home to advance to the USOC final would be a huge feather in the Fire’s cap.

So, United are facing the hottest club in MLS and have a situation where they will have to play without most of their starters this coming Saturday due to suspensions. I say run this line-up against the Fire:


Namoff – Boswell – Erpen

Carroll – Olsen

Gros – Gomez – Donnet

Eskandarian – Walker

Nick should still get the call in these matches, as Troy still needs the rest from the season matches. Rimando performed admirably against the Crew in the 4th round and despite some very sketchy plays against the Red Bulls, Nick reminded us of the goalkeeper we knew we had. He should start in goal. The back three should remain the same, with David Stokes coming in for Facundo around the 60th~70th minute mark.

The midfield should be pretty much what we have been playing all season long with Carroll and Olsen anchoring the defensive midfield slots. Clyde Simms should come on for Carroll in the second half, but even if Benny starts to get a little gassed, Peter Nowak needs to find a way to keep in him the field. Olsen in the backbone of this team and when he is not on the field, the team loses its composure and form.

Josh Gros is a no brainer. If Christian Gomez is a serious candidate for MLS MVP, Gros would still trump him for team MVP. That guy has been an energy bomb on the right side of the field. As he gets a MLS sponsored holiday on Saturday, I say have him run his lights out.

The next two are question marks. Gomez single handedly won the match on Sunday against Chivas, but had to leave the match due to cramping in his left leg and because of this, might be left out of the match to give him a full 10 days rest for the Revolution match, as he too has been given a MLS sponsored holiday against RSL. The is reporting that Gomez is healthy for this match. If he does not play, expect Rod Dyachenko to start in his place. The other midfield maestro for United, Freddy Adu, seems to be still suffering from a knee injury and might still need the time off, especially if Peter Nowak will need him to run out on Saturday with the reserves against RSL. This brings in United new boy, Matias Donnet. He is a midfielder who plays on the wings, so he and Gros can switch sides with ease, as gros has done with Freddy just about every match. The biggest question mark with Matias is what his fitness situation is. If he can give United a good 55 or 60 minutes, he would be able to provide Peter Nowak with the ability to both fill in the hole left by Freddy and increase Donnet’s match fitness level, in time to maybe run him out longer against RSL.

The forwards selection is yet another story. You can add Alecko to that list of guys who MLS felt needed a sponsored holiday and will be suspended for this Saturday’s RSL match, so there is no reason for Esky to not go the full 90 minutes and strike a few shots on goal tonight. I feel that Jamil Walker needs to start tonight for two reasons. The first reason is that in USOC matches, he has been a different player. He has 3 goals in the tournament and is United’s leading scorer. This is reason enough for him to be included in the starting 11. The second reason is that club Captain Jaime Moreno was subbed out in the 55th minute against Chivas due to injury. He has been left off the roster for this match.

So, all said an done, I think that if United sends out their near-starting line-up, and plays with the same type of passion and composure that they have had in the two previous USOC matches, they pull off the victory and will likely be heading off the HDC for a rematch with the LA Galaxy in the USOC Final on the 27th. If United fail to remain solid on defense and fail to be creative in the midfield, then the USOC ride will get derailed in Chicago. I feel that Peter Nowak won’t let that happen and they come away with the victory.

Prediction: DC United 2 – 1 Chicago Fire


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