31 October 2005

The Downside of Hegemony

Awhile back, Eric McErlain made a post in the general sports site Off-Wing Opinion that was amusing. After the 2004 Eastern Conference Final, he wrote along the lines of "now I know how it feels to root for the Yankees." Eric, you were half right then, you are fully correct now. After a full day of demands to fire and trade everyone from informed and uninformed people, that's the kind of fan reaction you only see when a proud dynasty seriously screws up. Now you know what it is like to be a supporter of the dominant team, you know the panic, fear, irrationality, and despair that comes from the incongrous moment when the team you belive can do no wrong is sent forcefully to the ground. The kind that fall that echoes across its fandom, the resonates to such a degree that DC shopkeepers look tenatively at their store windows, wondering if they should stock up on plywood. As Suzanne Vega put it: "When heroes go down, they go down fast." And hard.

Now you know.

Recriminations, Reprisals, and Signs that You Need to Just Take a Breath

Wow, lots to talk about on Blue Monday (Tell me now how does it feel? Pretty feckin' awful, thanks for asking.) First, your guide to who is saying what in the media, and our reactions:
  • Steve Goff (Post): "DC United didn't just lose...The club was embarassed." No word on how he felt after being called out by Nowak.
  • John Hayden (Times): "The defending MLS champion was humiliated by the Fire in a 4-0 season-ending loss." Also noted: Famous head-case Hristo Stoichkov was in the locker room. A shame he couldn't attend the press conference and blame this result on FIFA fixing the match.
  • Mike Wise (Post): "Sometimes, Nowak comes across as the proverbial Eastern European manly man. The halting accent. The utter disdain for the media. That great personal flexibility, in which there are two ways to do things: Nowak's way and the wrong way...Other times, he just looks like a lot less." This is one of those interesting situations where you wonder if Wise is allowing Goff's opinion to be heard through a different voice. This is the kind of thing that Nats bloggers occasionally noticed that the beat reporter (St. Barry of Svrluga) relies on having working relations with the team. Accordingly, if he sees something he'd like to call out, he can't since it would make his job almost impossible. Cue the opinion writer who can incorporate some of the beat reporter's observations into his piece. That being said, I doubt that Eric Wynalda is an expert on how the front-office will move.
  • Piotr Nowak (MLS Quotes): "I don't have the opportunity to satisfy everyone. I will go my way even if sometimes its wrong, or you thinking it's wrong." Piotr, this is your strength. And your weakness. Joe at WCIS called you a stubborn SOB once, and he was right. We'll have more words for you later in a post temporarily entitled "Winter Reading"
  • Eric McErlain (Off-Wing Opinion): "I had the distinct displeasure of watching the disappointing end to D.C. United's MLS season yesterday evening." Eric sees Freddy being gone. The DCenters isn't sure that Freddy goes, but we admit it is a distinct possibility that makes sense. More on that later this week in a post under the working title of "Trade Freddy (or someone)"
  • Bruce's Belly: "A team doesn’t go down 3-0 by halftime without either being utterly outclassed or without having experienced some manner of wholesale meltdown." Well, yes, that is very true. But this is not about Adu/Nowak, this was much larger.

Now, for those who have already taken their maximum strength Pepcid ACs, go ahead and read the BigSoccer threads in the DCU forum, where fans apparently want Nowak, Gomez, Rimando, Adu, Kovalenko, Quaranta, and Walker all fired*. Let's take a few things at a time, and the common thread here is let's not overreact to one game:

Fire Nowak: First, he's won as many championships as Hudson and Rongren did put together for DCU. We had a decent season. Has he made mistakes? Sure. Did we look outcoached? Yup. Yet this is a point that I want to emphasize to DCU fans. Sometimes you get beat, and beat bad. It is not time to start calling for the dismantling of an infrastructure. That does not invalidate a season. Some will point to a poor record in the Champions' Cup (where DCU advanced farther than the other MLS representative Kansas City), Sudamericana (heart-breaking, but close), the US Open Cup. So what? This team didn't click in cup competition. Last year's did. Nowak has two decent regular seasons, a championship, and work to be done in the off-season. Calling for his head is stupid. Rx: Breathe into paper bag.

Trade Gomez: He made one classless mistake in an otherwise solid, and occasionally brilliant, year. If he wants forgiveness, we as fans should give it. What he did was wrong, but I think based on the TiVo replay I saw last night that he knew it the moment he was off the pitch. Otherwise he has been a class example of a player on and off the field, and he is OWED some slack from DCU fans. Rx: Strong shot of Jameson's so you remember the stupid things you've done while in an altered state.

Trade Rimando: Okay, I do hold Rimando responsible for 3 of the 4 goals last night, and he could have been responsible for two others that didn't find the net. That being said, he has, this season, compensated for defensive lapses that kept DCU in games that might otherwise have dropped. He needs to change his approach to set pieces. Whether he can do that at this point in his career is debatable. Rx: Another shot of Jameson's, and let's see how well you stick to your line.

Trade Adu: Because of this game? Because of his comments? No, if Freddy is to be traded, it should be for a rational reason and neither his performance nor any "Freddy distraction" rise to that level. There are reasons to trade Freddy. These aren't the reasons. Rx: Ritalin, which will hopefully help you focus on your analysis.

Trade Kovalenko: Yes, he plays too much. But he plays hard. And yes, he's getting older. He can't always go 90. He is not why this game was lost. And let's not overlook a brilliant stretch of play mid-season where it seemed like he had discovered a scoring touch. Rx: Morphine, for the broken leg you'll get when Dema finds out you've been calling for him to be traded.

Trade Quaranta: Like Adu, there is a logic here. But it has nothing to do with Sunday. He does tend to disappear at times, and he was outmuscled on the flank by Chicago's midfielders. Still, there's upside, and he is getting better. Rx: Protein Shake, let's see if you can add more pounds of muscle this off-season than Q. If you can beat him arm-wrestling, you can call for him to be traded now.

Trade Walker: He's not Eskandarian, and people constantly expect that somehow he's going to develop the "Finish first, finish last, finish always" touch that is attributed to Eski. No, he's going to finish occasionally, say, 50% of the time. His strength was speed, in getting to balls that other's can't get to. As the pitch deteriorated, so did that ability. You may still want to trade him, but not for the Chicago game. Rx: Lunestra, you'll feel better after a good night's sleep. Hopefully, so will Eski.

Okay, so everyone whose overreacting to the Chicago game, please calm down. If we make moves out of reaction to one game, then they're probably not going to be the smart moves we need to make to improve for next season. This needs to be approached rationally, with a level head and honest eyes. Right now, we as fans feel too negatively to be objective about what we have, just as after a victory we feel too invincible. In case your wondering, I'm sure that Kevin Payne went through a pack-and-a-half of Marlboro (Lights, I'm guessing) in order to chill him out enough to deal with all the yelling and moaning that was going to come.

Shakespeare is wrong. "If it must be done, twere best done quickly" he wrote in MacBeth as he considered the possibility of making various regime changes. He's wrong. We need to do things a little more slowly, to consider what the right course of action is. Sadly, we have plenty of time for that now. So let's use some of it, and use some common sense.

*Okay, that's a slight exaggeration. Slight.

30 October 2005

Things Fall Apart

DC United 0 : 4 Chicago Fire (Fire Advance to Eastern Conference Final on 4-0 aggregate)

This loss will be remembered. A catastrophic failure across many dimensions. DCU was out played, out-thought, and perhaps worst of all, out-classed. Fans will look at this game and want to point the finger at everyone. Nowak. Adu. Gomez. Rimando. Quaranta. Moreno. Olsen. And yes, I too have people I consider more responsible than others for this loss. But let's start by defending two of the most likely targets:
  • Piotr Nowak: I have been critical of his subbing for much of the season, and particularly last week. I'm sure that many will look at his choices of using all 3 subs by the half as a ridiculous move. However, Piotr was down three goals, and he figured he wanted to try and get it back rather than merely play to make it look respectable. So he fired everything in the clip. Quaranta was ineffective the first 45, so he was gone. Walker was a more questionable removal, but also defendable.
  • Christian Gomez. Yes, it was the worst move by any player this year. Worse than Erpen's fake dive a month ago. Worse than Adu's commentary. Getting a straight red when your team needs you the most is ridiculous. It was uncalled for, it was classless. But I think forgiveness is in order for a player that, if nothing else, was trying hard no matter how far done he got. He let Chicago get to him, he made a stupid move. I think he's a classier player than that one moment. It would be naive to think that somehow DCU was inevitable going to rally if not for that moment.
In the end, it was frustrating. And while the players may see little to take out of it, I did see something that one could look at. Fans that stayed the full 90, unified as they decided not to mourn a loss, but celebrate a season. On the quiet side of RFK you could hear them, perhaps not clearly, but you heard them none-the-less. The most positive thing I saw was a small child, maybe eight, carrying an obnoxious looking horn in his hand, and singing to himself.

"Goooo, United. United, united, vamoose united."

Are you going to tell him he got the words wrong?


This is not the end of the DCenters for this year. Nor will the end of the MLS season mark the end. We've got some things cooking for the offseason, some of which would be very cool if they managed to pan out. I don't want to go into too much detail until I am sure things are happening, but the DCenters is looking at several projects. The next few weeks we're going to look back on the season, pay attention to the rest of the playoffs, and consider the upcoming off-season. Maybe some other stuff as well. Till then, I plan on having a few more tonight, and waking up with a headache in the morning.

Vamos United.

29 October 2005

Cram Session

Yes, I know, we're all waiting to get to RFK tomorrow. But here's some final reading. First, while I was mildly amused at papers in Hawii and Illinois just chiming in on the Freddy saga, let's go a little father afield and check out what The Asian Age says on Freddy.

Then, to lift the mood up, check in with La Bicicletta over at the Washington Times, where John Haydon catches up with the newest Argie to set hearts aflutter. And, check out this gem for all the MLS-haters in the world: "In Argentina, he said he had more time on the ball and there were more 'pauses' in the game. 'From the outside, the game here looks easy, but it's very fast-paced,' Erpen said. " Well, at least people can still hate on the playoff system. But don't do it around Facundo, as we learned he's studied karate and kung-fu.

Both the Times and the Post are reporting that Mr. Armas will be out tomorrow. Fine with me.

Oh, and predictions? I expect this game to be electric. If I have a worry, it's that the crowd and team may by too juiced up by the atmo in the stadium tomorrow. So play with discipline for the first 10 minutes, don't give up and counters, and then start tightening the screws on Chicago. 3-1 and DC advances to take on... could it be New Jersey?

28 October 2005


This time last week we all about the tension that accompanies the start of the playoffs. The Freddy Frenzy only added to a week that was naturally going to be on-edge. The games during the weekend reflected that. All of them were tense affairs, and when goals came in the San Jose - LA match, it was only natural that things would get chippy.

This week has been different. A change of tempo, as fans try to get their inner thoughts to match their outward bravado...

...In New Jersey they great each other with smiles, "We've won a playoff game. Finally!" But does it really count if we don't finish the job at New England?
...The Quakes' fans shrug off the 3-1 hole they find themselves in. "We've come back from worse, we'll do it again." But the weight of cliched wisdom says lightening never strikes twice.
...in Denver the nil-nil draw is shrugged off: "We'll just have to win at Pizza Hut Park twice" But Cunningham was on the bench for 70, it's near Halloween, and their keeper is named Garlick...
...Chicago relaxes in the glow of a baseball championship, an easy swagger that infectious. "It's our year, the stars are aligned" Or did we miss our chance when Brian Hall blew the whistle?
...Dallas has plenty of reason to laugh. "We could have three games in a row at home!" Except we only managed two shots on goal.
...The Revolution fans are stahving for a title. "1-nil is nothing, we're back at our house. The Metros are doomed to failure" It's not like a 4 seed taking out a 1 seed is unheard of...
...Los Angeles also can smell upset. "Two goals, DDR looked hurt, we've got to put them away." Because if we don't we're going to be known as the choking dogs of MLS.
...And in the Nation's Capital, it has rained most of the week. The sun appears today. Ben Olsen is doing radio interviews. The Freddy Sage is over. One game, the teams even, and everything on the line. Just the way they want it. The players seem composed now, in a way they didn't a week ago. But is there a voice of doubt heard here? Yes, of course there is... Is it appropriate to be drinking three beers before 4 PM on a Sunday? Especially while people are running the Marine Corps Marathon? Wait, of course it's okay, the Lord above is probably popping one open right now and putting on his Etch jersey.... whew, moments of existential doubt suck.

Speaking of all this, has anyone ever seen the Sam Beckett play "Breath"? I'm pretty sure it's a commentary on the Metros playoff record.

Trans ) C

Just a quick post on my BASA balloting:

Rookie: 1-Parkhurst, 2-Rolfe, 3-Guzan
I wanted this ballot to be 1-Boswell, 2-Boswell, 3-Boswell, but couldn't justify it to myself. Whether you like it or not, Boswell was benched on a perception of skill level, not on politics. Which allowed me to case my 3 vote for a certain Chivas keeper. To all the people who had Bobby's back, you guys rock.

Defender: 1-Califf, 2-Marshall, 3-Robinson
I have nothing to add to this. Other than Brian Carroll was a perfectly legitimate choice, and one I should have made. Whoever did that, I salute you.

Young Player: 1-Dempsey, 2-Parkhurst, 3-Rolfe
I am a bit surprised on how many people went with Clint at the top of their ballots. This was one of the more difficult decisions I had, so I figured the voting would be wide open. You'll note I didn't vote for Tino or Boz. Honestly, I have to say that the three people I had all had better seasons.

So, at least for these three ballots I kept my homer instincts (cue "D'oh" commenters) fairly well under control. Will it continue for later ballots? Un-bloody-likely.

27 October 2005

In Which Some Surprising Advice is Given...

Whose father told him "stay calm and not get winded up because I can hurt the team?" Who is the DCU object of desire of thousands of DCU fans' wives? Well, there's an interview in the Washington Times with the one and only Dema Kovalenko.

Memo to Illinois and Hawaii: Freddy fallout is so passe these days. Linking it to Wie DQ mania is not going to revive the story.

Yes, I will publish my BASA ballots. I have not forgotten you, dear reader. I shall return.

26 October 2005


This is the 200th post at The DCenters since its inception. As a symbol of gratitude, the Forestry Service decided to present the DCenters with an image to help unite all DC United fans after these troubled times. Yes, one of America's beloved icons has revealed himself as fan of the black and red, and he has some words for everyone:

We agree, and we ask all residents of DC, federal and city government employees, and concerned Americans everywhere to spread this important safety message.

25 October 2005

Get Your Homework Done Before Wednesday

UPDATE (late Tuesday): Mr. Goff is worried about scoring. That should be something other than Freddy-fodder for the chat.

Steve Goff will be chatting at noon Wednesday. Anyone want to guess what the topic of discussion might be?

Note: If someone manages to get a question tying all of the following points together, I will buy you beer:
  1. Freddy's Suspension
  2. Piotr to Chicago
  3. Alecko Eskandarian's comeback
  4. Brian Hall's Whistle
  5. Damien Duff's participation in the Davos Summit.
  6. Avian Bird Flu
  7. The UN Report of Syria's meddling about in Lebanon

I can name that blog in 11 comments...

Real Salt Lake Blog is looking for a new name. Kali has always been a good sport, so if you've got a good idea, go ahead and drop it over there. I'm partial to my suggestions of "Clint's Imaginary Watch" or the "Purple Mountain's Majesty" (well, I guess I'm responsible for 2/3 of that suggestion) so please go ahead and drop her a word in the comments.

Tuesday's Grey (And Probably Wednesday Too)

NOTE: Blogger swallowed part of this post last time, so this is the complete post.

DC United announced their end of year awards, and they evidently wanted to make people who were the runners up for the DCenters awards feel better as Nick Rimando took best defender and Christian Gomez took MVP. Bobby Boswell took best rookie and the humanitarian award. Mr. Adu, if you are looking for inspiration on how a young player can come into the league, struggle to get playing time, and still make a case to become a fan favorite, Mr. Boswell has some advice for you.

The weather here is awful. As it was last week. I've been told that there has been work done on the pitch to repair the ridiculous conditions of the Columbus game, but no one is sure how will it'll hold up come Sunday. That being said, at least something was done.

Looking forward to a [hopefully] quiet day.

Transparent Aluminum? Aye Laddy, that's the ticket.

Dominic Kinnear won the Best Coach BASA as announced by Climbing the Ladder. Here was my ballot:

1- Kinnear
There was really no debate here. The voting reflected that. He deserved it.

2- Nowak
Unlike my Rimando vote, I don't think of this as a homer vote at all. Piotr took a team that lost Ryan Nelsen and Ernie Stewart, lost more defensive depth when Ezra Hendrickson went to Chivas, lost a snakebitten Alecko Eskandarian to injury, and still managed to be in contention for the Eastern Conference top seed until the last two games. Nowak hasn't won the award this year or last, but he may be the best coach of the last two years combined. And even though I was annoyed about the Freddy situation, and some of the sub choices, I don't regret this vote at all. He should get this award at some point, he's earned it.

3- Nicol
Part of me wanted to be snide and vote Mo Johnston, who does deserve at least some mention here. Instead, I went Nicol. There's a lot of talent on that New England team, but being a good coach is not just about making do, it is also about getting top performances out of top players. Nicol has done that.

Oh, and one more thing: Mike H's Soccer Blog thinks Reis is a thug too. Good for him.

24 October 2005

Please, please tell me now!

Is it over? Maybe. But I'm not ready to say that this situation is done with until we see the bench on Sunday. And then, of course, the situation is only temporarily dealt with until the off-season, which is when we should be talking about all of this.

Oh, and check out Maradawga's take on the situation, which is similar to mine but ultimately comes down much harsher on Piotr Nowak than I do. His newly redesigned site is also fairly snazzy. Modern, but not sparse. Classic lines, but bold coloring. I dig it.

Transparent Homerism

So over at Climbing the Ladder, they're awarding the BASAs, which is pretty cool. If you've ever seen the results of these sorts of awards, you've probably wondered "Who was the jockjaw that voted for him?" Well, I've decided to answer that question for you, by making all my ballots public after the award is announced (with the exception of the Best XI, since that'll be absurdly long to get into.)

Anyways, here was my ballot for Goal Keeper:
1 - Pat Onstad
2 - Nick Rimando
3 - Matt Reis

Onstad was an easy call. I guess the real issue is my #2 and #3 votes. Yup, I'm one of the two people that had Rimando second. Why? I've felt that Rimando is certainly a top 3 keeper in the league, and he has played well this year. He hasn't had to pay for his mistakes too often, and I do think he's behind a defense that isn't as good as Reis's in New England. Plus, I'm a homer sometimes, and Reis is a thug. A good keeper, but definately a thug. Matt, I have a Mr. Eskandarian on line 1.

Why not Cannon? How about because he's not had the year this year he had last year. Last year was stunning. This year he seems a little lost, and has had difficulty in communicating what he wants from his back line. I think the stunning thing is that the professional media had him 3rd, not that he wasn't on the top 3 from the BASA voters.

Untangling the Adu Situation

(Warning: long post ahead. Short version: Piotr is letting this drag on too long and misleading and contradictory messages shouldn't be coming from DCU as they are now. Freddy doesn't understand his role, and he hasn't this entire season. DCU fans need to kumbaya.)

Okay, I've spent the weekend thinking about this. When Freddy Adu's suspension was first announced, I was in favor of it. I remember telling Joe at the time "I like this. Nowak sends the message, takes charge, and this entire situation is over by the time we play the return leg." Then we hear that this might not just be a one-time deal, that Freddy may be suspended for Game 2 unless he delivers a full apology to his team. Now the sage is dragging on even more. Kevin Payne is on ESPN at the half-time of the Quakes/Gals match. He says nothing other than he supports Nowak. Non-soccer pundits are suddenly worried that Freddy might decide to not only bolt DC United, but US Soccer in general (I think they're wrong, but that's another story).

So, let me say this. I am upset by this entire situation. Not by the actions that have been taken, but by the way these actions have been portrayed. A quick review:
Tuesday: Freddy's comments are outed to the media. Nowak is upset. Olsen is on TV saying that this doesn't bother the players, Moreno reminds Freddy about the love of the game.
Wed/Thur: Freddy meets with players, staff. Kevin Payne: "It's a bigger deal to the media than anyone in our locker room."
Friday: Coach Arena reminds Freddy to shut up, but indicates he may still make it into camp.
Saturday: Freddy suspended for Chicago game. Russ Thaler on Comcast "This has nothing to do with the comments Tuesday, but is for conduct detrimental to the team. Goff reports that Freddy hasn't made his public apology.
Sunday: Goff - Freddy might miss next week

Since Tuesday, this story could and should have been over at least three times. Instead, we now have this hanging over DCU's head another week. But instead we get a mishmash of quotes. Freddy is suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, but the team's veterans seem to have been saying that Freddy's comments, while hotheaded, weren't a problem for them. Of course, that may have been a public line only, but then it becomes transparently dishonest if you suspend Adu for not apologizing for them. I have no problem with suspending Adu for the comments. Fine. But suspending him for a lack of an apology seems vindictive, an attempt to say "It's not enough for you to know that the team is upset with you. We're not happy unless you realize what a horrible thing you did. It's not how you behave any more, it is how you think. UNMUTUAL, FREDDY! UNMUTUAL!" But if the team is truly fine, this shouldn't be necessary. If they aren't fine, they should be more mature than that.

Piotr doesn't want Freddy to think he's above the team. I'm fine with this. But this indefinite suspension has now put Freddy's comments before the team's interest. It is now Nowak that has elevated Freddy above the team, or perhaps the punishment of Freddy. And I disagree with that. This should be dealt with, once and for all, not prolonged throughout the post-season. But Nowak has chosen otherwise. I disagree, but for what it is worth, he's made the call and the front office and veteran players are backing him. Good for them, they should. But I still think Piotr has unnecessarily elevated this situation to the detriment of the team.

Now, as for all why this is happening, I want to set the way back machine to comment The DCenters found a little odd in April. While we found that comment amusing at the time, I think it reveals a great deal in retrospect. Freddy forgot that just because you are no longer a rookie doesn't mean you are a veteran. Instead, I think Freddy thought he had paid his dues last year, and that this year he was going to get more respect and playing time. To his shock he found he was in about the same place on the depth chart, and in some ways was still be regarded as a rookie-type player. Freddy thinks he's a veteran now, but Pitor and the team still thinks he's a prospect. The team is right, Freddy is wrong. But there's a tension in how things are viewed that will have to be dealt with. In a month or so, not now.

Finally, one note to all of DCU fandom. There are few things more tiresome in sports than a debate over who the True Fans (TM) are. This situation is no exception. While there's a temptation to divide into two camps (let's say, Freddy and Piotr), that should be resisted. There's so much we can only guess at. We should not (and I include myself in this) mistake being a fan of the team for being completely intimate with all relevant facts. We're going to develop different theories based on our interpretations of what we read in the media, and that won't elevate or sully the imaginative purity of our devotion to the team. For a fan base that loves to believe that it is "United" like the team, we sure do love to argue. And occasionally cast stones at fans who don't agree with us. Which is ridiculous. After all, there's only one simple fact that is required for true fandom right now:

Chicago is the ugliest goddamn team in this league.

22 October 2005

...Wait for it...

Recap of last night's game here. I do have revised thoughts on the Freddy Adu saga. I need to check a few things before I make a write-up. Hopefully a little later today I'll have it out. If you can't wait for what I think, The Belly has weighed in and pretty harshly against Nowak. Do I agree with everything he said? Nope. But, if nothing else, it is one perspective, and one that I imagine will be typical of a great many people.

  • Steve Goff's version of last night is here.
  • Also, this story is fascinating: "Miller thought she would be lucky to attract 30 women to form three teams. Instead, 130 showed up." It may lack the inner-city panache of something you'd read at This is American Soccer, but I think it's a fascinating tale of other ways people are drawn to the game. (Actually, that's unfair to TiAS. Adam would totally cover this story.)

Nervous Tension

Chicago Fire 0 : 0 DC United
(0-0 Aggregate Goal after First Leg)

In the textbooks, getting a draw on the away leg of a two game total goal series is considered positive. The textbooks should also be amended to say "it's even more positive when you get a draw after deserving to lose." DCU was out of sorts in this match. The typical possession game was replaced by an attempt to string together a series of long-balls. Balls from the back to the middle. Balls from the middle skied to the top. Rarely seen was the midfield build-up, the ball sent to the overlapping runner, the intricate passing at the top of the box.

I managed to make my way to the viewing party that the SEs were putting on over at Bailey's. A crowd of between 100-200 turned out, and was stunned to learn that Freddy had been suspended. Maybe there were reasons for it, but if he could have been used, tonight was good night for it. United was sloppy on the ball, and if there is one thing Freddy can do, it's take a few touches, draw a foul, and let DC get players forward. Christian Gomez disappeared from his traditional role of directing the attack. He needed to be subbed out for Freddy. That wasn't an option, which led to the curious move (?!) of Walker for Gomez. The suspension was a complete surprise, and I am very curious if we'll ever hear why it happened. (Update - Oh, that's why... Goodness. I have got to think about this one.)

There were bright spots. Brian Carroll deserves credit not just for playing the ball off the line but also playing solid defense. Jamie Moreno made some dangerous moves that led to a few chances. Dema Kovalenko didn't send any balls into the crowd, and had a pass through the box that no one found. Nick Rimando managed to make two key saves within three seconds. John Wilson played acceptable on the wing, and Facundo Erpen showed a much better form than the last two weeks.

There were also problems. Santino Quaranta didn't keep posession well and Brandon Prideaux is still easily overmatched. Piotr Nowak had a curious substituting patten that I can't explain. If he was playing for the draw, he needed to put in defensive help (Boswell/Simms). If he was playing for the lead than Walker needed to be in the game sooner than the 82nd minute. I do not understand it. I am mystified. Please, someone explain.

One nice thing was that I did finally get to share a beer with Joe of We Call It Soccer. He's a decent fellow who knows his stuff. Also, the event that the SEs put on was very classy. And, if you had sharp eyes, you could see a preview of the new 2005 Blackout T-Shirts. They differ from my 2004 t-shirt in three key areas.
  1. They have long sleeves.
  2. They say "2005" instead of "2004"
  3. The do not have a mysterious bleach stain at the bottom. I think I got that scrubbing the tub.
Still, all-in-all, this team has not gotten better yet. And despite all the words about having moved on from the Freddy saga, I'm not sure they have. This could be an interesting week.

21 October 2005

Harold Pinter Presents the DCenters

For about three hours I've had an empty Blogger window staring at me. The playoffs are here, and normally there'd be a game preview or something other than me writing sophmoric new lyrics to old standards.

I don't feel like that right now. With seven hours to the kick, I feel only the expectation one associates with excellent theater. Tom Stoppard in The Real Inspector Hound wrote "You can't start with a pause." Only that's exactly how today started for me. The curtain is open, but the protagonists have merely glanced at each other. Wait. Beat. Beat. Beat.

Accordingly, I have nothing to say. Yes, there are things I could say, but I like the tension of this moment right now. I will savor it. The playoffs have begun, even if the games haven't started.

20 October 2005

You know the tune...

Come on
Oh baby don’t you wanna go?
Come on
Oh baby don’t you wanna go?
Zach gets beat at his place,
let's sweep up Chicago!

Come on
See the big ears on Thiago!
Baby don’t you wanna go?
Soldier Field is the place
We'll whoop up on Chicago

Well, one and one is two
(and that confuses Section 8)
Now it's time to get revenge for Nineteen Ninety-eight
Baby don’t you wanna go?
Back to that same old place
Sweet home chicago

Come on
shut down Guerrero...
Nowak always ran the place
He owns Chicago

Six and three is nine
Nine and nine is eighteen
Justin Mapp, you ain't no D.M.B.
Make room for Jamie Moreno!
just give him another PK
Please do, Chicago...

Oh come on
You won't get by Nick Rimando
Come on
Baby don’t you wanna go?
You'll know when we're done
When we take Cup in Frisco!

Well Earned

Jamie Moreno was voted best 10-year player in MLS over at MLSNet. All is as it should be. Jason Kreis finished second.

Respite, of a sort.

For the past two days I pointed out we were early in the media cycle, that one could almost count of some sort of statement of reconciliation coming from both Adu and United regarding Tuesday's Goff Article. That Tuesday I wrote: "There is plenty of time for reconciliation and understanding." While it isn't a joint statement, apparently DCU and Adu are talking as Steve Goff reports in today's post. This is exactly the kind of "okay, let's settle this, move into the playoffs, and then maybe we'll revisit how things are" kind of meeting that needed to happen to allow both sides to move forward with some semblance of dignity.

Michael Wilbon weighs in on the issue: "United had already won championships. The promise was to, as Garber said, 'grow the sport.' You think it's going to grow very much when the prodigy is sitting on the bench much of the time? " This is a reasonable perspective, similar to what Maradawga has written on this topic. Your order of soccer allegiance impacts the way you view this. I am a DC United fan first, an MLS fan second. That's my order of operations in these things. But if you have a stronger allegiance to US Soccer/MLS in general than a specific team, then you probably view the Freddy affair differently.

[UPDATE 10:53 AM] For an example of how to write a contrary opinion piece that does annoy me, see Tom Ziermer's column in the Badger-Herald (University of Washington): "fans of American soccer and the future of the sport in this country don't really cafre about Jamie Moreno's 16 goals... Those who have the best interest of the beautiful game...care about the future of the game in the United States. And Adu is a huge part of that future." Kid, I see you are in college. Let's try to avoid to overgeneralizations here, shall we? Many "fans of American Soccer" do not yet acknowledge Freddy as the second coming of Pele, and they're not even DCU fans. The goal of MLS is not to develop american talent, that's a means to an end. The goal of MLS is to make money, and to do that you have to put on an entertaining product, and to do THAT you might want to develop domestic talent. See, it's a little down the list there, which changes how you view things. Okay, we're cool now.

In other news... when I woke up this morning and turned on the radio, I heard DC United news. Shockingly, it had nothing to do with Freddy, but rather WAMU led off their local sports coverage with Jamie Moreno's finalist status for MVP. A story on the Nationals was second, and nothing was mentioned about either the Caps or Redskins... Huh. Maybe soccer fans are generous during pledge weeks. Who knew Diane Rehm was such a devotee of Etch back in the day?

19 October 2005

Things to Remember...

...like the fact that a playoff game is upcoming, and the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that Zach Thornton will be in goal for the Fire.

Anying we should remember about Mr. Thornton? Something that might unite DCU against their opponent? From June of this year, perhaps? Yes, I thought so... that will do nicely.

(In a perfect world, Jamie Moreno blows a PK past him, and with wise, understanding eyes, he'll walk up to him and say "That'll do, pig, that'll do." Does Jamie have a James Cromwell impression?)

Big Soccer = Ratings (and other Administrivia)

Lots going on these days. The Freddy Saga. The DCenters choices for DCU awards. My rather poor camera skills at the reserve division games. So go read that stuff for actual soccer content. Yes, as opposed things like this.

Yesterday this site recorded the most traffic it has ever seen. Part of that had to do with The Freddy Saga, but the vast majority came from the outing of this blog over at BigSoccer. While I wasn't tracking traffic when CNN/SI talked about this site, I did see at least the tail end of that trafffic spike. MGoBlog's linking to the post regarding the Copa Sudamericana saw another spike. This one blew those two away.

What does this tell me?
1) That there are a lot of US Soccer/MLS/DCU fans interested in reading diverse soccer media opinions.
2) That the soccer blog world serves as a complement to, and not a competitor to, the well-established soccer sites like BigSoccer. What the blogs do tends to be slightly different than what you get at places like BS. Not better, just different.
3) That the existing media coverage of Soccer has improved, but lacks diversity. We have great beat reporters around the country (Steve Goff, Tobias Lopez, etc...) but few commentators, which I think is where the blogs are stepping in. We also don't have the sports radio infrastructure to allow for people to engage in a free-flowing argument of different ideas or interpretations of what happens. BigSoccer is serving as a global watercooler for these fans, and allowing people to learn a lot about the game.

Now, that's probably overly simplistic, but there you have it. The existing media has given people some of what they want, but not enough of it. So soccer fans themselves are stepping into the void. And good for them.

More Administrivia...
Updated the Blogroll (finally). There are some good people writing out there, many of whom are also BigSoccer posters as well (no, I'm not going to out them. Well, other than scaryice who uses the same handle both places). Working on site design changes (minor things, like a new heading graphic and the like), but haven't finalized what I like yet. And yes, you can contact me directly at "thedcenters (at) gmail (dot) com" with anything you want to say.

Oh, and if it seems like I'm not commenting on something, it's because I'm lazy, drunk, or both.

Adu Part Deux

Normally, I try to respond to things in the comments are of this blog. And normally, I hate revisiting a topic. But there's enough now to say a bit more.

First, blog reaction has been swift and fairly diverse:
  • Maradawga thinks that Freddy has been ill-served under Nowak, and perhaps a change of scenery is in order.
  • We Call It Soccer delivers an analysis on familiar points. The take-away from this article for me is that Piotr Nowak's stubbornness is a great strength for DCU, and potentially in situations like this a weakness.
  • Bruce's Belly offers a fascinating comparison between Adu and Etch, not in terms of talent but in terms of temperament.
  • Pseudo Corner Kick admits the timing was off, but thinks Freddy is probably right.
  • Record As I Am falls on the other side of the fence, feeling that Freddy has been inconsistent this year (no argument here) and wonders where he might go.
  • US Soccer Players: "Nowak is worth more to United than Adu is currently..."
Comments have also poured in from yesterday. As I said, normally I'd respond in that area, but there's some interesting stuff going on there:
  • There's division among Metros fans as to whether they'd want him or not. Personally, I think all this talk about Freddy going to the Metros is premature. Now, if I were of a true conspiracy mind, I'd speculate that Freddy's story and the rumors of Nowak leaving for Chicago are linked, and that Nowak goes to Chicago and a new coach comes with order to PLAY FREDDY. Then I would take off my tin-foil beanie and lie down for a bit, and remember that I've actually kissed someone once.
  • Jason Anderson argues that Freddy's important to MLS is overhyped. He's got a point there. I think the issue though isn't so much Freddy's important to MLS, but to US Soccer. US Soccer wants this kid to be an impact player by 2010 for the USMNT, and MLS was a means to an end.
  • The Belly drops over to take issue with my comments regarding Nowak. I agree that Piotr is most often starting the correct players. My complaint is that Piotr is very intimidating, especially for a 16 year old. For godsakes, Piotr Nowak intimidates me, and I'm a grown-ass-man (who still plays video games). That means that it is Piotr's responsibility to see how Freddy feels and to talk him through it, rather than let him stew in isolation. I imagine Piotr might view that as "coddling" a player, something that would cause his upper lip to twist into a Snidley Whiplash sneer. Which is why it didn't happen.

Now, also, a few hours out, I think there's a little more that's come out that makes me a bit less sympathetic to Freddy. It looks a little more like a calculated comment and less like a slip in front of the friendly beat reporter now. Freddy's mom's comments in The Post also sound like that this may have been rehearsed before hand, that they planned for this to happen. I hope that's not true, but I'm afraid it might be. Still, it's really not that far along. We're about two days from the Chicago first leg, and that's a long time in politics and media. This all may blow-over, when Freddy and Piotr and Kevin issue a joint statement. In fact, even if it hasn't really blown over, I'd expect that such a statement would come anyway. If only just to postpone any final decisions until after November.

18 October 2005

Duck. Cover.

Few things about my being a DC United fan are as complicated as my feelings about Freddy Adu. I am a fan of the organization, the team, the atmosphere more than any one player. Freddy complicates that, because for so many others in the US Soccer (and the DC United) scene, Freddy Adu and DC United are so tightly linked. MLS's marketing of Adu gave rise to Freddy-mania, and brought a new set of fans to the red and black. Some of the old guard harbored a resentment of these people: "Do you know who El Diablo is? Then go away..." To me, it was always a silly division. Enjoy DCU. Enjoy Freddy. It is ridiculous that the two should ever be mutually exclusive.

Then we get an article like this from Steve Goff in tomorrow's Post:
D.C. United's Freddy Adu voiced his frustration with Coach Peter Nowak today,
saying he is upset with the amount of playing time he has received and that he
will consider leaving the club after this season.

DC United's anti-Adu contingent will seize on this. "Not a team player" will be the commentary. "Too big for his britches. Needs to be taught a lesson." There's truth here. Adu should not have said anything like this to the media. Steve Goff is a reporter, and while he's sympathetic to DC United he's there to get the story. MLS's golden boy unhappy and wants out? That's a story.

But I have no problem with Freddy feeling the way he does. I think Piotr Nowak has, especially this season, not used him as well as he could have. If I were Freddy, I would be frusturated as well, being sent to the bench after a game-winning goal against Real Salt Lake and earning Player of the Week honors. He wants to be a part of the US National team, and he's absolutley correct that in his current role Bruce Arena isn't going to give him much of a look. But you don't say it aloud entering a playoff run. You keep your mouth shut. You let the anger drive you on the pitch, fueling you as it did against RSL. You also realize that your natural position is a Center Attacking Midfielder, and while you're good, you aren't better than Christian Gomez. At least, not yet.

Piotr is not blameless here. Goff notes that "Nowak was surprised by Adu's comments." I can't see why he would be. He should know what Freddy is going through. And if he doesn't, then he isn't really paying attention. Freddy is 16, he's full of the casual arrogance that comes with that age, and he is able to outplay people with four times his experience. Piotr has the stoic resolve that, at times, is brilliant to rally a team behind; but also may make it difficult for him to deal with personal feelings. To Nowak, personal feelings aren't part of the game. To Freddy, at his age, they're probably something he feels intensely and, at times, can be overwhelming. That requires a softer touch that I imagine Piotr possesses.

This sort of thing was probably inevitable, but the timing is horrendous. The simple answer is to say "Freddy- grow up." True. But also true is this: "Piotr - He's not grown up, and he'll need understanding of things other than soccer to help him get there. He's not you as you are now, he's not you as you were at 16. Part of being an elder adult is to realize that kids say stupid things, impudent things. But you don't know everything either, and no one benefits if you make it a you vs. me battle. Forgiveness and understanding are soft skills, but important." Then you go to the off-season, and you discuss things. Maybe Piotr and Freddy don't fit well. Fine. But right now you are in it together, so do your best to get along for a few more weeks.

Addendum: I've reread this entire post, and let me see if I can say things in a simpler fasion: Freddy was very stupid to say what he said. Freddy is not DC United. Piotr may think he's completley fair about everything, but I don't think he is. I think Piotr gets an idea in his head, and it takes a lot (read: more than a necessary amount) of evidence to convince him he's wrong. Piotr is convinced Freddy isn't an every day player. It's tough to prove you are an everyday player unless you play every day. So Piotr may not have been using Freddy as often as perhaps he should. See also: Bobby Boswell. To Freddy, who is 16, life seems unfair. Life seems unfair to everyone who is 16. So he says something. Dumb. But, perhaps, not incorrect.

If push comes to shove, and I don't think it will since we're in the early stages of a media cycle here, I'd want Nowak to stay and Freddy to go. But that's an extreme case, and we're not there yet. There is plenty of time for reconciliation and understanding. Let's not forget that in a rush to choose sides.

The DCenters 2005 Season Awards

My first post on this blog was April 5, 2005. Which means this blog is only about half-a-year old. But it's been around for most of the season, starting with the CONCACAF Champions Cup, and I think it has certainly meant that I've paid closer and better attention to the soccer I was seeing. Which means that there are some people I'd like to honor this season, and since most of them won't see a MLS Award or a BASA or perhaps even DCU's own awards, here's my chance to say thank you to a few special players over the course of the regular season.

My categories are slightly different than most. For instance, I have no "Best Coach" category or "Best Keeper". I really don't even do "Best Forward" or "Best Defender", instead I want to focus on how each player shaped the game regardless of their position. So here goes:

2005 Best Defensive Player: Brian Carroll.
Early in the year, I felt that the midfield was not helping out on defense enough, that Ryan Nelsen's presence had perhaps made everyone too comfortable. I mark the change in DCU's fortunes from the early season struggle at the point when Carroll, and to a lesser extend Olsen, started playing a little more back and really focusing on disrupting the opponent's possession. Sure, Brian may not be a great player going forward, and his clearances are adventuresome at times, but there was no one better at shutting down an opponent's passing game in DCU's third of the field. I can't give this award to anyone in the backline, as I feel like your candidates of Boswell, Erpen, Namoff, Prideaux, and Wilson never were sufficiently proficient to survive without help. Playing in more regular season games (32) than any other player for DC United, Brian Carroll was that help.
Runner-Up: Nick Rimando

2005 Best Attacking Player: Jamie Moreno
Yes, nine of those goals are from the penalty spot. But when you see Jamie on the field, you see the way opposing defenses will bend their shape around him. He worries them, the RB stays just a bit closer to the box than normal, the CB takes a step or two trying to anticipate what pass will come off Moreno's foot, and space appears. Moreno may only have seven goals from the run of play, but the space he opens counts for at least one hidden assist for each real assist he has. In many ways, he is now the Marco Etcheverry of this team. He may not be quite the player he was five years ago, but he his also the heart and soul of the magic that this team can be.
Runner-Up: Christian Gomez

2005 Best possession Player: Christian Gomez
Stepping into Christian Gomez's head must be like entering the horror world of an H.P. Lovecraft story. The angles and geometries of his mind do not seem to exist in nature, but he still sees them. He plays balls into space like no one else, never seems to take too many touches, but rather just enough before rattling a ball off at an angle that is neither obtuse or acute to Gros or Kovalenko as they make a run into space.
Runner-Up: Ben Olsen

2005 Best Impact Substitution: Jamil Walker
Jamil when used as a sub is a joy to behold. He doesn't worry about running himself out, but rather delights in the sprint, gliding over long distances as though he were on ice skates. Some point, during this year, he learned how to finish his shots, and the result has made him the perfect substitution around the 60th minute. While I quibble with many of Piotr Nowak's substitutions, seeing Jamil come into the game in the 60th, no matter what the situation, is never one I argue with.
Runner-Up: Freddy Adu

2005 Workhorse Award: Dema Kovalenko
This is an award not based on skill, but on heart and drive and determination. Dema does not have the best touch out there (or even a particularly good touch). His shots are just as likely to find the Visa Sky Cam (TM) as the net, and he leaves his feet at, shall we say, interesting moments. But there isn't a harder worker out there, he digs, digs, digs at balls. He runs back to play defense. He stares down opposing players through eyes that, if they were rendered in a Marvel Comics Adaptation, would be nothing but blue flames extending from his head. At some point, he realized that the point of all this work isn't just to intimidate to opposition, but to turn defensive moves into attacking moves, to pressure opposing defenses, and to pick up the odd goal here and there. You may not think he's making the best move at any given time, but he's always trying out there.
Runner-Up: Clyde Simms

2005 Most Improved Player: Jamil Walker
No one, including me, thought Jamil Walker was anything other than the occasional desperation third attacking sub at the start of this season. He has improved far more than any other player on DCU's roster, including Freddy Adu. What's more, he's done it not just during the offseason, but from game to game. His shots at the beginning of the year were haphazard affairs, almost after-thoughts to making a great run. Now they've developed into well-taken strikes.
Runner-Up: Santino Quaranta

2005 Best Prospect: Bobby Boswell
I've taken a few shots at the defense over the course of this season, but I can't deny that Bobby Boswell hasn't performed way above expectations. Undrafted out of Florida International University, don't tell me that RSL, the Metros, Los Angeles, Colorado, or Kansas City wouldn't kill to have this guy starting for them right now. He provides height on set pieces which have been problematic for at least three years for DCU. His defense, while not perfect, seems like it will improve with better technique and experience. He has not replaced Ryan Nelsen's skill level in the back, but he just might at some point.
Runners-Up: Clyde Simms, Matt Nickell

2005 DCU Goal of the Year: Freddy Adu At Real Salt Lake
Really, DCU is going to be involved one way or the other as the MLS Goal of the Year. I hope it's this one.
Runner-Up: Bobby Boswell vs. Chelsea. For four minutes, he made us think it might just be pulled off.

2005 DCU MVP: Jamie Moreno
This one is tough. Yet it comes down to one thing, Moreno is missed more when he's out of the game than Christian Gomez. No one comes close to replicating Moreno's impact to the game when he's in there. Not Santino Quaranta. Not Jamil Walker. Not Freddy Adu. When Christian Gomez is out, Freddy Adu has been competent in running the midfield. But the drop off is much more severe when Jamie has had to miss a game. He currently leads the team in goals, points, points, shots on goal, fouls suffered, and even ejections (a far cry from the 1998 season). If DCU is to take a fifth MLS cup, he will have to be the difference maker more often than not.
Runner-Up: Christian Gomez

17 October 2005

Drawn Into the Quarters

DC United 2 : 2 Columbus Crew

There is a fun and happy story from this weekend. This one isn't it.

Here's how I figured it. Pathetic loss to the Metros last week leads to rebound effort this week, building momentum for the playoffs. For about 15 minutes, I figured I was right. Then came 75 minutes of dry, uninspired soccer. The kind of soccer that makes you want to do something more interesting, like the laundry or updating your blogroll. United got a point for the draw but deserved to lose. Let me break this down a few ways:

1) Defensive Line - John Harkes decided to demonstrate his strong knowledge of how to coach defense by piling on Facundo Erpen. Yes, I screamed when Facundo left his feet for the tenth straight time, and he got burned more than once. But the problem is that this team is not really the 2nd best defense in the league. They're an average defense at best, and if I have to explain why they have given up so few goals, I think I have to credit midfield play from Messrs Brian C and Ben O, combined with DCU's strong offensive posession skills. Prideaux/Erpen/Namoff is simply pedestrian at this point. I still think the line improves with Erpen/Boswell/Namoff, as this allows Erpen's speed and athleticism to be less of a liability than he is as the last line of defense that is leaky at times.

2) Finishing - Early this season United was snakebit, and you could see signs of that resurfacing Saturday night. Dema is a work horse when it comes to digging balls out of traffic, but even the goal he got doesn't disguise his inability to put the ball on the frame at times. Josh Gros was making excellent progress moving down the right side, but was suddenly stricken with the Christian Gomez if-I-make-a-perfect-pass-it-somehow-counts-for-more disease. Josh, I don't care about the angle you were at, when you have the keeper one-v.-one, put the ball at the net.

3) The Pitch - It was awful, and the worst part is that a posession team like DCU is penalized more by this than perhaps another team. If home field for the playoffs is to mean everything, this must be fixed.

So a week more of blogging before the playoffs come. I think there's a great deal to tackle before then, and I hope I can get to it all.

16 October 2005

One Title Down

DC United Reserves 2 : 1 Columbus Crew Reserves

I'll address the final MLS Season game in a bit, but today marked a continuation of a proud tradition. Adding to a list of firsts (First MLS Cup winner, First MLS continental cup winner, First MLS repeat champions) the DC United Reserves defeated the Columbus Crew reserves at the RFK training pitch, winning the first ever MLS Reserve Division Title. About 300 people turned out, in full voice, to watch a fairly well contested match. Troy Perkins made a few key saves, Nick Van Sicklen got the first one in the nest (read: net. And, well, no, Jamil got that goal. See the comments. I thought the ball ricocheted off a Columbus defender, but apparently it was Jamil's head. Oops. This is why I am not an official score keeper.) nope , but Jason Thompson gets the game winning goal from nice cross by Tim Merritt. For me, the standout was Nana Kuffour, who made himself a pest around the midfield all game long. Jamil Walker, whose performance in the Reserve Division helped push him up the depth chart, showed the typical dangerous speed, and a scary moment when he collided in the Columbus box and was down for a good two minutes.

Amidst cheers, chants of "Same Time, Next Month" and "This Looks Familiar", the reserves got a cup which was promptly filled with Reserve Division Champagne (Cristallino? What the hell is that?).

United's photo gallery is here(and check out the snazzy cup and champion t-shirts). Much better photos than the one I got, but mine at least has Boz with a bottle (and yes ladies, he's just as much a gentleman was you think he is):
The only moment of embarrassment for me was not the miscue that led to the lone Columbus goal, but me accidentally swearing at Shawn Kuykendall on a mistouch before I remembered I was sitting near his parents. They didn't seem to notice. At the end, with a team twenty-thousand dollars richer (which works out to, what, a grand a person? Freddy, pass on your share) I think everything was forgotten.

12 October 2005

Today is Grey In DC

Let me undermine any sort of hardcore soccer fan reputaiton I might have had and just quickly say this: I miss the Washington Freedom, and the WUSA.

DC Soccer: Our men's team will beat your team, our women's team will beat your women, our benchwarmers will beat your benchwarmers. Just maybe not all at the same time.

Oh, and our rec league players will beat your rec league players, so long as I'm not allowed anywhere near the rec league roster.

Answers from someone who doesn't talk about "FREE MONEY"

Steve Goff's hosts his semi-monthly chat at noon today. Last time, he answered pretty much every hypothetical question I had for him. Maybe this week he will as well. Here's what I want to know:
  1. Carroll for the USMNT? Really? I mean, I love the kid, but huh?
  2. Based on Boswell's performance at Salt Lake, and Erpen's performance against the Metros, can we please see Bobby get more playing time?
  3. Is Tino hurting or helping himself with the USMNT right now? It seems like he's being used exclusively as a 60'+ sub. Can he make the team that way?
  4. Why is Filomeno still not on the DCU roster?
  5. Please go ahead and swat down this silly Nowak to Chicago rumor. Bonus points for profanity.

11 October 2005

The Most Unlikely Diaspora

Not Doug Logan, at Logan's Revenge, has one of the most fantastic ideas for a coaching merry-go-round during the offseason. In short, he posits the following scenario:
  • Yallop takes over the Galaxy.
  • Harkes to New Jersey (please let John cut a killer promo before he leaves).
  • Nowak (?!) to Chicago.
Now, before any DC fans start the wailing and gnashing of teeth, let me say that NDL's scenario requires these things to almost happen in order. For a less fantastic viewpoint, he links to Ives "I've picked the Metros to beat DCU all year, so if I pick DCU this week they're bound to lose" Galarcep's recap of the coaching situation in the swamplands.

As for the Piotr Nowak to Chicago idea, this seems far fetched. Piotr is well known for NOT talking to the media and saying even less than he does, so how does NDL know this? We won't know, but that doesn't mean it isn't true. But it should be viewed with skepticism. I mean, what is Nowak's motivation for leaving a place where he's relatively secure and successful? The only thing I can think of is that he wants to prove that he was driving force behind Chicago's success, not Bradley. That's awfully petty. If this happens, I draw to every inside straight I have for the next week, because clearly the universe is on tilt.

sunday, Sunday, SUNDAY (was: Finally, a Title)

While United may have lost a chance at 1st seed in the East, congrats to the DCU reserves whose victory over the Metro Reserves secures the first ever Reserve Division title (hold on, see below...). MLSNet's standings aren't updated, but as of today, here's the top of the table:

DCU: 21pts (7-4-0, 11 GP)
New England: 19pts (5-3-4, 12 GP)
Chicago: 18pts (5-4-3, 12 GP)
San Jose: 17 pts (5-4-2, 11 GP)

MLS seems to be indicating that Sunday's game can influence the winner, but I don't see how. A few names on the reserve squad this season are familiar to DCU fans: Adu, Walker, and Perkins. But let's give some credit to some of the others that stepped forward: Shawn Kuykendall, Matt Nickell, Nana Kuffour, Nick Van Sicklen, Jason Thompson, and Tim Merritt. Some of these names will no doubt make the news in future seasons.

UPDATE! Spoke too soon, and didn't do enough math. The Reserve Division Title is not yet set, as DCU needs points to gurantee the Reserve division title. Incorporating the 10/9 results into MLS Net's standings as of 10/4 gives the following:

DCU: 21pts (7-4-0, 11 GP)
New England: 19pts (5-3-4, 12 GP)
Kansas City: 18 pts (5-3-3, 11 GP)
Colorado: 18 pts (5-4-3, 12 GP), or are they?
Chicago: 18pts (5-4-3, 12 GP)
San Jose: 17 pts (5-4-2, 11 GP)
MetroStars: 16pts (4-3-4, 11GP)
FC Dallas: 16pts (5-5-1, 11 GP)

First, a draw or a win for DCU is a title. Kansas City if DC loses and their reserves win at FC Dallas. The weird thing is Colorado, currently listed in the MLS Standings as 4-4-3 with 10 games played. Despite the fact that 4+4+3 = 11. I think that while the 10/2 result of the RSL Reserves @ Rapids reserves has not yet been posted on the reserve division page, that result has been factored into the standings. If I'm right, Colorado is out of it. Kansas City is the only comptetition.


(Above: Ugly, ugly, ugly. [AP/Wire Image])

DC United 1 : 2 New Jersey Metros

DCist nails the DCenters (while being otherwise complementary) for looking beyond the Metros to the race for the Eastern Conference Title. Rightfully so. Saturday's game proved the old adage that the best team doesn't necessarily win. I had little fault with the Red and Black's effort's against the visiting Metros. My only complaint was a tendency for missed chances on clean shots with only Meola to beat. Dema skied one. Christian passed one away. Jamie shot directly at the keeper. That being said, Peter Nowak slams the team in, I think, overly harsh terms in Steve Goff's write-up: "I cannot mention one player who had a good day." Ouch.

Some credit does belong to the Metros. A team that had every reason to collapse, following their uninspired play against DC, a collapse against Chicago giving away two points, came out and played with heart in difficult conditions at RFK. Mo Johnston did what Bob Bradley couldn't do: he got his team to play at something close to their potential.

So United is now in second place in the East, and will remain there. The playoffs are never a sure thing, and while a #3 or #4 seed has never advanced to the cup using the current format, let's not forget that #4 New England was a penalty away from having done it last year. We're getting a chance to defend, and while you'll hear lip service about the Columbus game being important, I don't think it matters that much. All that matters is the playoffs.

07 October 2005

Meanwhile, at the DC United Art Gallery...

In honor of DCU making the playoffs, and me installing GIMP, I offer you this. Distribute as you will...

06 October 2005

Depth with Charge

(Above: Dema Kovalenko shows Cleetus [off camera] how to annoy the other team yet still have mad skills [AP/Wire Image])

Real Salt Lake 1 : 3 DC United

Dear New England Revoultion: Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear...

Some people have, from time to time, wondered about Piotr Nowak's lineup choices. Yet last night, no one would have objected if the typical Starting XI were put forward. Instead, Nowak puts in Boswell and Wilson at defense, Perkins in the net, Freddy goes the full 90 and Simms gets a rare start. Moreno gets subbed off at the half, and Christian when things started to get chippy. It was exactly the kind of tactical "Let's get some rest for the regulars during the 3 games in 8 days" lineup you rarely see from Nowak (I think the last time he pulled this move was after Pumas against Columbus). DCU again had a sloppy opening 45 minutes (although it was great for Boz to get credit for a goal) but rather than a merely acceptable second half, I think they played excellent soccer. Against a team that wasn't mailing it in. Jamie Watson is young and hotheaded and immature when he slapped away Olsen's hand of reconciliation after a hard tackle. He is also a born competitor who played his heart out when he came in during the second half. That kid could be good someday, and it might be real soon. Still, DCU outclassed the opposition, rather than letting their opponents merely fall apart against them. It was an excellent win from a team full of non-typical starters.

One week ago, New England was sitting on an eight point lead in the east. Now it is two. A loss in either of their two last games opens the door for DCU to take the #1 seed. Fortunately, Kansas City takes on New England next, and they may still be playing for their playoff lives (as opposed if KC played the Revs a week from Saturday, by which point a DCU win over the MEtros will have allowed KC to back in to the playoffs). So a loss is possible. Two Rev draws and DCU also can make it into top seed position by winning out.

The race is on, and our best just got a bit of time. Jamil Walker has shown a world of improvement this season, and he's proving that he's an excellent late sub, or even sub at the half. Freddy Adu's game-winning goal was one of those "Oh no he didn't... oh yes he did" moments, a beathless display of skill and cunning combined with the audacity of youth. Freddy's "spinning guns into the holster" celebration was a tad cheesy, but with that trademark Freddy smile you forgave it. It was exactly what the biggest Freddy promoters had promised, and why its absence was seized by every Freddy detractor. For me, it was just a classy goal. I don't expect it every week, but it sure was nice to see every once in a awhile.

This feels pretty good.

[UPDATE] Freddy's goal is up over at MLS with the title "Adu Burns... Everyone!" Go see it.

05 October 2005

Win And In, but not Won and Done

Another thing: We're going to have a shot at defending the MLS Cup since D.C. United is accompanied by that tiny little "x" over at the MLS Standings page. I think that might call for a celebratory graphic at some point. I should get to work on that.


I still want that #1 seed.


Metros 1 : 4 DC United

Twin forces of employment and culture forced me away from my TiVo for a bit, but I eventually managed to catch the Metros host DCU. So let's make this a big update on a lot of things. Much has already been made of this game, and for about 24 hours it seemed like the video and images of Christian Gomez banging away with the Barra/Eagles contingent in the Meadowlands stands would be the most enduring legacy of the entire match (HTs: DuNord, WCiS). Which is fine and good in the romantic myth of a cup run for a team. It adds the sort of imagery that allows one to elevate sports into an honored collective memory.

Escape from New York
Then, Bradley gets fired. In my mind, this is exactly the right move for Alexi to have made. While I am as much of a DCU homer as anyone, the fact is that DCU did not dominate the Metros so much as the Metros failed to play with any sustained intensity. I have rarely seen a team give up on a game as fast as the Metros did with the score still tied. DCU was, to be honest, playing a horrible sloppy first 45 minutes followed by competent but not brilliant soccer in the second 45. It is not the sort of win that one can look to for playoff success. Alexi tries to be nice to Bradley in the goodbye potion of the pink slip press conference: "this team has failed to live up to the loyalty and faith that he [Bradley] has consistently shown them. " Maybe that's true, but Bradley for whatever reason couldn't get them to show up for more than one game straight. And that's Bradley's fault. One of the things I like about Peter Nowak is that when DCU plays an awful opening half, he's gonna make them play better the second half around. Shape up, pay attention, get into the system. The Metros have entertained mediocrity for a season, rarely transcending into a cohesive force. There are those who might argue he should have stayed around for the playoffs. I disagree. The manager is responsible for getting his players, if nothing else, to play like a decent team out there. Bradley failed, and never was that failure so apparent as last Saturday. Maybe the fault is the New Jersey front office, but if so, the best thing is that Bradley go somewhere else.

Tonight... In this Very Ring!
Enough about them. DCU with a win tonight against RSL will move to within 2 points of the Eastern Conference title. So what? So a loss by the Revs in any of their 2 remaining games would allow DCU to control its own destiny, provided it gets three tonight. The Eastern Conference top seed is very much in play. I want it.

As a side note, the BASA's will be voted on soon, and I think I get a ballot. Looking at the categories, I see we get to name a Starting XI. Which I started doing in my head, then I noticed I had no DCU players from the back-line on the team. Despite DCU having the best road defense and second best overall defense in MLS. But who could you name? Boswell's on the Bench, Namoff only played half the season, Prideaux has been the weakest link, Erpen is too new, Wilson is a second half sub... yet somehow this group and Nicky Rimando let in only 1.1 goals per game, second only to San Jose's impressive 0.93 gpg. I think my solution is to take a CDM from United, maybe this guy. Or the other one.