Friday, April 18, 2008

My Take: DC United 1 - 2 Columbus Crew

Ok, I admit it, I stopped watching the game on ESPN2 right after the second Crew goal. I couldn't stand, er, my fiancee couldn't stand me yelling and screaming at the TV for much more and she was worried that I might throw something at the TV.

So I played a computer game instead.

In the small amount of time I did watch the match, I saw alot of things. I saw that DC United has two very large problems with it's offense. First, United retains the ball too long. What I mean is that our players try and hold the ball at their feet longer than they should and this allows for defenses to track back and get ready for any type of attack. I lost count of how many times a United player has tried to dribble the ball into the 6 yard box or make a short pass inside the box, rather than take a short on goal.

Second thing I saw was that United is scared to shoot. I lost count of how many times a United player would make a back pass or a short pass, rather than take a shot at the goal. Namoff took that long range shot in the first half and right afterwards, he was able to get inside the box and cause the own goal. United seems to think that they are only allowed to score from inside the 6 yard box.

If you add these two things together, you can see why the offense has had its problems and why the defense is getting rushed so much now. However, these two problems, IMHO, are more direct results of two outlaying problems that DC United is suffering from. They are the coaching and a player absense.

I am losing more and more confidence in Tom Soehn as the days go bye. As in all other major team sports, the fault should lay with the players, as they are the ones who aren't getting it done on the field. However, as always, the coach shoulders the blame for on the field problems. Soehn needs to get his guys up for these matches. He needs to get the right info across to his guys, mainly that they need to take more shots and stop trying to dribble through 4 defenders. he needs to adapt the game plan, or he needs to go.

The player absense is something that I brought up earlier in the season, and his name is Gomez. The absense of Christian Gomez, regardless of Gallardo's abilities, has IMHO, caused a major problem with the performance of Emillio. Last season, with an offensive midfielder moving in right behind Emillio, defenders had to give Emillio more room, because if they focused only on Emillio, Gomez could kill them, based on how he positioned himself. If they focused on Gomez, then Emillio was free, as was the case some 30 + times last season.

Now you have Gallardo, who plays a much deeper role in the attack, creating a gap in the offensive third of the field. Moreno doesn't play like Gomez had, so he doesn't fill the role, as neither does Niell or Quaranta. Fred could maybe fill the hole, but then we need another guy on the flank. Emillio is left all alone without any type of support, so we are seeing more "holes" in Emillio's play as he is having to fight for more balls with his back to goal, something he is failing at. Losing Christian Gomez, IMHO was a huge mistake and we are seeing that right now.

Gallardo is a very good player and sees a much different game than most on the field. That said, as others have said, the process of getting Gallardo and the rest of the club in the same page is taking much longer than it should, especially considering that United have now played 8 matches this season. This is the type of problem that the coach is supposed to sort out. I am starting to wonder if Soehn can bring this group together or if the FO needs to bring in another coach who can.


Monday, April 14, 2008

What a Goal!!! Manchester United vs. Arsenal: 4/13/2008

This was one wonderful goal to watch, ask the Arsenal wall, they all watched it too!


Too early for mashing the panic button?

There is always one weekend in the beginning of the MLS season where I miss one of DC United's matches. Sara has her birthday in early April, so I spent that weekend either out of town or out to dinner with her for her birthday. Last weekend was that weekend for this season and against the norm, I was actually able to catch part of United's match against RSL. I only watched 5 or so minutes of the match before I turned off the TV.

I am not going to go into what happened, as I didn't watch more than 5 or so minutes. What I did see was that Carvallo was useless in goal on the first two goals. I played goalkeeper in high school, and I have seen video of my play, so I know what useless in goal looks like. Carvallo was useless in goal on the first two goals. I am not certain why Soehn felt that an away trip to Utah to play on a carpet was a good idea for a guy's first MLS start, Steve Goff even asks the same question.

The biggest thing I have come up with is I am wondering what is going on with Ton Soehn. I am not 100% sure on what he is doing with the line-ups. Yes, I know that we have had about 5 matches in 14 days now and have yet another one this coming Thursday, giving guys a rest is something that the coach needs to be doing. I understand that, but why have your starting goalkeeper on the bench for an away match at a venue that you have utterly failed in the last two seasons? Give the backup goalkeeper the home start, on grass, in front of your supporters.

In addition to the goalkeeper issue, I am trying to figure out why Soehn refuses to use Fred in a central playmaking position, if our current central playmaker is out of the match. Rod Dyachenko is no Christian Gomez or Marcelo Gallardo, yet for some reason for the last two seasons, Soehn has felt the need to insert Rod in for both of them and ask him to fill their shoes. Rod simply cannot do the things that Gallardo does. I honestly think that if Gallardo is not going to be on the field, Fred should move from the flank to the inside and take up the role of the playmaker.

I realize that we have just started the season and in MLS, unless you go an entire month without a point, you make the playoffs, so there is really not that much to sweat about right now.


Several of Tom Soehn's decisions this early season, and at the end of last season, have troubled me. Why not use the other two subs in the first match at Harbour View when your team has run out of gas? Why have Emillio and Moreno play in the final match of the 2007 season, when they risk injury, and got injured? Why try the three man defense line with players who have yet to prove that they should really be starting in a four man line?

I am not one to start a witch-hunt for Soehn to be fired. I think that he did a very good job last season with his first year in charge. However, I am starting to think that in order for DC United to be the club that everyone wants them to be, the FO, the players, the coaches, Garber & Co. and the supporters, maybe it is time that the head coach should begin to coach as if his job depended on each result? Coaches in Europe and South America play each match as if it were their last in charge, most of the time they get results because they have to. A swift kick in the butt from time to time gets results; maybe Soehn needs a swift kick in the butt.


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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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Match-Prep: DC United vs. Pachuca 4/9/2008

It's return leg time at RFK Stadium for DC United. United hosts Mexican super-club Pachuca in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions Cup Semi-Finals tonight. Pachuca took advantage of the higher altitude and a less than sharp United squad and grabbed a 2-0 win in the first leg last week.

A 2 goal hole isn't the worst of situations to be in. We are at home and we seemed to have found a much better shape for the side with Santino starting up front with Emillio, in front of Gallardo. It would be interesting to see Moreno start up front with Emillio and have Gallardo, Fred, Quaranta and Simms in the midfield. I think that Santino would be a bit of a better option on the right flank, passing wise and shooting wise.

United coach Tom Soehn summed it up the best when he said, "You don't have to win the game in 15 minutes; you do it over a course of 90 minutes, you have to be patient and we will get our chances."

In the match against Toronto last Saturday, United was very fortunate to have a 2-0 lead by the 6th minute mark... I will be happy with a 1-0 lead by the 15th minute. I am hoping that being at home, back down to earth and fresh off of a very good victory, United is able to retain it's shape and get the goals it needs. Most important thing is that United needs to be patient and play it's game. If United let's Pachuca dictate the pace and the style of play, it will be over.

Unfortunately, I really don't see us winning 3-0, which we need to. A 2-1 win tonight seems more likely.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

My Take: DC United 4 -1 Toronto FC

Now that is how you start a game! I had barely hit my seat when we were all cheering for MVP's goal in the second minute. Santino scoring in the fifth minute was the perfect dagger for a really bad Toronto side.

Not to take anything away from United's offensive explosion, but Toronto really didn't look that great last night. Getting the stupid Red Card in the 22nd minute really didn't help the Canadian's either. For as bad as Toronto looked, United looked amazing.

I called for Santino to get the start over Niell and I am was happy to see him on the pitch at the opening whistle, as he deserved it with how well he has done recently. He has picked his game up so much since returning. The payoff came quick for Santino with his first goal of the season. United over all looked like a much faster and deadlier unit with Santino up front with Emillio.

With all the goals and shots, I would have to say that the most reassuring part of watching last night's match was that our defense continued to show that it has a much better shape than the one we had last season. Peratla and Martinez in the middle, along with Simms in front of them, have been massive in shutting down threats to Zach's goal. Wells looked very strong last night. The 88th minute goal was a last second flub to a great match, but I honestly have to figure that goal came from more of a mental break down of the whole team, rather than the goal keeper.

We have picked up our first 3 points of the season and our first home win. We were able to pull Gallardo, & Emillio early in the second half, as well as get Niell and Moreno time out on the pitch. All of this is building to the Wednesday night match against Pachuca. We still have that 2-0 hole to climb out of. Pachuca is no where near the club that Toronto FC was, they will be ready to play. If we play against Pachuca, they way we played against Toronto FC, we stand a much better chance of climbing out of that hole and making it to the CONCACAF Champions Cup finals, but we still have work to do.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

West Ham are in 1st... in the MLS Western Conference

I decided to randomly check the MLS standings today and I saw this on Fox Sports -

If you look closer -

Now I know why MLS is having West Ham for the All Star game... They are joining the Western Conference!!!

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

MLS All Star Game announced: vs. West Ham

MLS announced what most people heard a while back: that West Ham will face the MLS All Stars in the 2008 All Star game in Toronto.

In no offense to West Ham or it's supporters (especially this one) but I still cannot understand why MLS had to "settle" for West Ham. If MLS couldn't get one of the larger clubs from Europe or South America to use this game as a season warm up, they should have canceled or just set up another East vs. West match. I say settle because we have played two of the larger European clubs before, Chelsea and Celtic. I am sure that SUM could have tossed a few million at Liverpool or Bayern Munich to make the trip. Adidas sponsors both of those clubs as well as MLS, so they could have helped broker the deal.

The All Star Game in general doesn't make sense for me anymore, but this years opponent makes even less sense, given the recent opponents.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

My Take: DC United 0 - 2 Pachuca

I honestly have a lost for words. I expected better. Yes, I know that this is the fourth match of the year and that we were playing on the Moon when you consider the altitude. I don't give a damn. I expected better play.

The thing that bugs me is that I saw better play at times, but I saw some really stupid play at others, and I saw some other things in between. As this young season moves forward, I am getting more and more questions forming in my head about our squad than I am answers.

Zach Wells really did not need to get that Yellow Card. So early in the match, it was plain stupid for him to have constantly held the ball for as long as he did on his goal kicks. Regardless of the altitude, these guys have been training for the better part of 6 weeks, even up in the thin air; they should have been able to get through the first 30 minutes without him holding the ball that long. It was a stupid mental lapse that was in truth, a foreshadowing of other mental farts that the rest of the team would do. One of those was Wells' failure to protect his near post on the first goal.

Paging Mr. MLS MVP!!!! Can someone please find Mr. Emillio? He was thought to have been sighted at RFK a few weeks ago, but it appears that a lazier form of the MVP has taken the #11 shirt. Emillio, WTF?! You shouldn't be playing that deep man! You are a goal scorer, a goal poacher. You sit up high and wait for the service. You don't come back to collect the ball near midfield and "try" (which is stretching the word, as his moves are just a slight step over mine) and juke and jive your way towards goal.

I think I am starting to understand how Gallardo plays and what he tries to do. Unfortunately, I am starting to think that the rest of the team doesn't have a clue how he wants to play the ball. As was mentioned during the match, Gallardo looks to really need someone to play close to him, which might force Soehn to revert back to a 3-5-2 in order to give better play support for Gallardo. He might be a great player, but every time I see one of his passes not get to the intended man, I want Gomez to run on the pitch.

I like Franco Niell, but I would really like to see Santino start the next game. Santino has a better passing ability and if Emillio would play in his proper position, Santino would be able to float in between Gallardo and Emillio to provide a passing option to both of them.

Fred looked much better tonight on the wing, and in all honesty, I wouldn't mind seeing him move into the middle with Gallardo, but I am not so certain how that would work.

So we are in a 2-0 hole, with what could be considered our third international match of the short year, against Toronto FC this Saturday at RFK. If Jamie Moreno doesn't start on Saturday, I would like to see Santino and Emillio up front, with Simms (who again was huge in the midfield tonight) Gallardo, McTavish, & Fred in the midfield. Namoff, Peralta, Burch and Martinez starting in front of Wells. That would give us at least three guys who have some sense of a creative attack (Gallardo, Fred & Santino) to match with Emillio in the offensive third. Bring Jamie on in the second half for holding play and Niell for speed up top.

So much for being at a lose for words. See you all at RFK on Saturday.

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