Thursday, April 10, 2008

My Take: DC United 2 - 1 Pachuca

I hate it when I get the score right.

I have mixed feelings about what happened last night at RFK. On the one side, United did win the match, finally fighting back to score two late goals and win their third straight home match of the short season. Was that more to do with the fact that Pachuca did what they needed to do, and were sitting back? I am not certain.

What I am certain of is that the better club did win the series. Last night I saw a very discomposed DC United out on the field. I saw several passes that were made blindly and to no one. I saw many miscues when trying to play together, too many for a club that has been together for two and a half months. Pachuca on the other hand had the type of "feeling" for each other that they were able to quickly break out with quick passes, accurate passes, and cause havoc for the United backline. However, the backline did very well, as they have in every other match this short season, which once again gives me hope for the future.

Do we blame the miscues and errant cohesiveness on the fact that United have only been together for about two and a half months? Do we blame the fact that almost half of the starters last night were new players to the club? Again, I am not certain.

Considering that once again we had both MLS clubs knocked out of the CONCACAF Champions Cup, I say that right now, both of those clubs should simply chalk the tournament up as an intense early season primer. Who should be worried about the fact that MLS clubs have again failed to reach the mountain top is Garber & Co.

Yes, the CONCACAF Champions Cup is finished after Pachuca and Saprissa face off in their home & away series, but next season MLS clubs will have to face pretty much the same situation with the Quarter Finals of the CONCACAF Champions League. According to Steve Goff at the Washington Post, the 2009 part of the Champions League schedule is identical to the current Champions Cup schedule -

Feb. 24-26, 2009: Quarterfinal, Game 1
March 3-5: Quarterfinal, Game 2
March 17-19: Semifinal, Game 1
April 7-9: Semifinal, Game 2
April 21-23: Final, Game 1
April 28-30: Final, Game 2

If the league (MLS or SUM, whoever really runs things) wants MLS clubs to compete and win this tournament, they are going to have to figure out something new for the clubs. Maybe a real increase in the salary cap to actually attract better players to fill out the 28 man roster, which would give MLS clubs more than the "real" 16 players that they truly have.

Maybe they need to provide the CONCACAF clubs with more and meaningful winter training, and earlier in the calendar year. Bundesliga clubs have January off, yet they still schedule warm up matches to prepare for the second part of their season, why not have MLS clubs travel to Germany to train and face off against two or three Bundesliga sides? Get the players more than just stretching and running drills before they hit the first Quarter Final match, assuming that they reach the Quarter Finals.

So United is out of CONCACAF play until the SuperLiga (July) and the CONCACAF Champions League (September). I say that United should take the positives from last night and the supposed better match fitness to Salt Lake and kick the hell out of Real on Saturday night. Take the good from the bad and take the points from the league.

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