29 September 2005

On the other hand...

...it might not be Adu, or Gros, or Rimando, or Namoff... Nope, it turns out to be Brian Carroll. Steve Goff reports Carroll gets the call up early next week. I have been critical of Carroll earlier in the year, when I didn't feel like he was helping move the ball out of the DCU defensive 3rd. However, his recent games have been better (see notes in the 69th minute of the Catolica experience) and defensive mid is a position where the US National Team lacks some depth. This is not a bad idea, and even while Carroll may not get to go into the game, I'm glad to see that some recent hard work is paying off him.

By the way, how weird is it that you can occasionally see tomorrow's stories in the post the day before? It's kind of unneving, but I doubt you could write an entire TV drama around it.

28 September 2005

Go Ahead, Go Crazy

So Steve Goff's chat pretty much addressed every bullet point I had, or at least promised to address it with an upcoming article. But not content with just those few comments, one exchnage clearly stands out:

Beaverton, Ore.: Have you heard who will be called up by Arena to play Costa Rica? How about Santino?
Steven Goff: Yes, Santino is very likely for CR. And there might be a surprise from the DCU roster for the finale against Panama. I will address that in a few days. (Sorry!!)

This sort of thing leads to the reason the Internet was developed in the first place: baseless speculation and wild rumor mongering. Certainly, one three letter name will stand out to people, but that wouldn't really be a surprise, would it? Previously, the DCenters took a look at potential long-shots to make the team. To truly be a surprise, it should be a DCU player that isn't even in the US Player Pool, which eliminates Adu, Carroll, Eski (which would still be a surprise, but an awesome one), Olsen, Rimando, Quaranta, and Simms. Boswell would also be a surprise, but with him not playing many minutes these days he's not my EXTREME LONGSHOT PICK FOR THE USMNT (TM). Nope, my ELPftUSMNT is Josh Gros.

Even though we all know Goff is talking about Adu.

27 September 2005

Someone Who Knows Something

Is Steve Goff. He's got a Washington Post Chat scheduled for Wednesday. He likes that crazy soccer thing, and has been known to write the occasional article about DC United. So go ask him stuff.

Need some questions to ask? How about the following..
  1. Lucio Alejo Filomeno -- Is he still in the mix? How's that entire thing working out? Because he's, um, not on the roster anywehere. Did I miss a memo? [Update Wednesday, 10AM: Sometimes I think I am so clever, catching a story that might have fallen by the wayside and posting a quick blurb about it late at night on a Tuesday. Then the beat writer, who does know more than I do, goes and has a story ready for Wedneday that pretty much answers the question. I feel like a jerk now.]
  2. Jamil Walker has passed Freddy Adu on the forward depth chart, but what about at CAM? With Christian Gomez sitting out a game for accumulated caution points, will Adu start in that position? Oh, and do you ever reach a point where you say "If I have to answer another Freddy Adu question, I'm gonna kick a puppy!" Just curious...
  3. The U17 National Team, here and gone. Do you regret not being able to give commentary on them while they were still playing?
  4. On a scale of 1, meaning a broken straw, to 10, meaning the Oreck XL vacuum system, how sucky are Bob Bradley's chances to be coach of the Metros next year? Does this help explain that answer?
  5. Any thought of moving Erpen out to the wing and letting Mr. Boswell return to the Center Back position. Or is that just crazy talk?
  6. Seriously, does it annoy you that the Washington Post is just letting bloggers mooch traffic off of you via the technorati side bar link? Or is the guilt that a certain blogger is feeling merely the by-product of a Catholic upbringing? And why don't bloggers run spell check more often?
Of course, the questions that you might ask will be far more interesting. So have at him.

An Open Letter to the Fans of the Washington Nationals

Dear Nats Fans:

By now, the pain of not being in the playoff hunt has subsided. Yet it's been a long season, and you really have grown to love RFK. At least, you've grown to tolerate it. Now as the season winds down, and you face a desperate finale to finish third in the NL East, what will you do?

Well, there is still playoff excitement at RFK. Your DC United (you did know you share the stadium with a soccer team, right?) is sitting at second in the MLS Eastern Conference with the third best record in the league. There are only a few regular season games left, and maybe one or two playoff home games (if the stars align), and really, do you want to say goodbye to RFK just yet? Not at all. So find the black t-shirt you had when you thought you'd be a bass guitar player in college and make your way to RFK.

What's that? Don't know much about soccer? Here's a quick guide on how to leverage (that's a business term meaning "recycle and hope no one notices") your knowledge of baseball to sound informed about DC United.

For the Nats: What Livan Hernandez thows, or Mike Stanton throws when he isn't balking.
For DCU: Another word for the field.

For the Nats: A cantankerous, manic-depressive word-smith who occasionally gets off a few good lines.
For DCU: A rookie defender that gives up a few own-goals, but usually plays balls off the line.

Tony Kornheiser
For the Nats: A past-his-prime writer that rarely deigns to acknowledge the sport.
For DCU: A past-his-prime writer that rarely deigns to acknowledge the sport.

The Ownership Question
For the Nats: Still wards of the league, waiting for a break.
For DCU: Finally got an owner, and a classy one at that in Kevin Payne's group.

New York
For the Nats: Sends annoying Mets fans into RFK where they act like jerks.
For DCU: We send our fans into the Meadowlands, where they outnumber the Metros supporters. At least, it seems that way.

The Hype Machine
For the Nats: Jim Bowden.
For DCU: Freddy Adu, whose hype sounds like it was written by Jim Bowden, but despite that can actually play.

The Flawed Ace
For the Nats: Livan Hernandez
For DCU: Nick Rimando, who has the most shutouts in the league but his positioning on set pieces reminds one of a kitten whose thinking of jumping to the top of a bookshelf. There's a lot of consideration and planning, and sometimes you don't quite make it and knock everything on the floor.

The Cantankerous Coach
Nats: Frank Robinson.
DCU: Peter Nowak.

The Bouncing Stands
Nats: 3rd base line, during rallies.
DCU: Supporters' sections, pretty much throughout the entire game.

Nats: Take Me Out to the Ballgame during 7th inning stretch, and occasionally Sweet Caroline
DCU: Too many to list, at all times.

Nats: pronounced Jay-ME, followed by Carroll.
DCU: pronounced HI-me, followed by Moreno, and then a series of drum beats. Repeat.

The Christian Problem
Nats: A chaplin's quoted views to Ryan Church on salvation for Jews.
DCU: Christian Gomez will miss the home game against the Metrostars for caution points.

There ya go! An easy guide to sounding knowledgeable on DC United action. So come out again to RFK, as we make a run at MLS Title #5.

26 September 2005

Quick Takes and Administrivia

  1. Why do the Revs suddenly wake up after the 80th minute? I saw the game against the Metros, and the Revs played agressively mediocre soccer for about the first 78 minutes, then suddenly made some great runs and created sustained pressure. While Max and the FSC team made this seem like it was only against the Metros, I swear the Revs have been doing this all year.
  2. Working on a few site changes. Nothing major, but the blogroll will, I promise, be updated and perhaps a new header logo. Feedback is always welcome.
  3. On Saturday, the Houston Chronicle's Glenn Davis named DCU one of the top contenders for the MLS Cup. I think he's exactly right in how he breaks it down.
  4. DCU fans are great, even when they're not in DC. Check out this west coast (I'm guessing from the UCLA address) DCU heavy site. Good stuff.
  5. Yes, I've added both sitemeter and technorati to the DCenters. Sitemeter since I had no real idea of the traffic patterns of this site, and Technorati becuase it's pretty darn cool to see your blog in a Washington Post sidebar.
  6. I love soccer. I also, to be kind, suck at it. So a big thank you to the DC area pickup soccer players that don't relenlessly mock me when I put on some cleats and head out onto the pitch, and even offer good advice and criticism. If I don't say anything at the time, it is because I have no stamina and I'm too busy gasping for breath. It is appreciated.

23 September 2005

Laborious Reading

I'm all for getting paid. I'm all for wanting other people to get their fare share. I look at some of the salaries that are paid to MLS players, and sometimes I feel pretty bad knowing that I earn more in my job than they get. But I don't like it when people use recent games as bargaining chips in a labor relations struggle between players and management. We are less than 22 hours from the start of the Santiago game, a game DC United nearly won. Why did they lose? Was it poor defending? Bad passing? Or was it that they didn't get paid enough to win and MLS isn't running the league correctly? If you said "yes" to the last, then you are currently writing for the US Soccer Players website, which has not one but two items that essentially point the finger at MLS for DCU's failure to advance.

From The Soccer Daily (emphasis added):

There are those that would have you believe that the quality of Major League Soccer is already at international level. There are those who have a stock answer for 'how would MLS teams do in England' that has some fighting it out in the lower reaches of the Premier League and others near the top of The Champsionship. There's one guy in particular that likes to talk about the only difference being the uniforms.

Well, not without payroll. What we saw last night in Santiago was a team that didn't have enough outlets, enough speed, and enough ability to lay
for the entire game
. This is a slightly ridiculous generalization, but MLS clubs have too many players unable or unwilling to play the entire game. There's a difference between that and the occasional lapse. With DC United in-particular, they're the only team with the relative honor of being able to show what's a League-wide trend at international level...

Reality being what it is, that returns us to the biggest mistake the League has made since contraction... expansion. Until the contraction year, the League had enough foreign talent to offset the domestic talent, creating what anyone designing a League should want: the ability for new professionals to learn from established pros who have big time experience. That included the American contingent returning from overseas. When that dried up due to player availability and the League's willingness to pay, all that was left was really left was the domestic pipeline...

What we watched last night was a working critique of the current
MLS product
, one that had its two clubs playing in international competition fail. Now the issue shifts to what we already know. The League isn't likely to do anything about it. In fact, they're far more likely to try another round of expansion and make it worse.

Maybe I'm overreading, but it seems to me that the contraction/expansion issue is a stalking horse for the real issue: the league should pay more to get higher quality players. This is a defensible argument, but not one that should be made in the guise of one game, which is what we have going on here. Even if you accept the contraction/expansion argument, and you eliminate Chivas and RSL, does United win because it still has Quintinilla or Ezra Hendrickson? Ridiculous.

But it's not just expansion/contraction/salary thats the problem. Nope, DCU didn't win because they aren't accustomed to playing high-level, cut-throat matches according to the Urban Opinion at US Soccer Players...

The ultimate reason for DC United's failure to advance in the Copa Sudamericana comes down to the demands, or relative lack thereof, placed on the players week in and week out in Major League Soccer. Until the matches matter much more than they presently do, until the players feel like they need to win every time they step on the pitch, the absence of a pressure-cooker match environment will limit the development of the overall quality of the soccer in MLS, a problem requiring a more comprehensive solution from the league office than bringing in a faded European star or two every January with an accompanying media blitz designed to stimulate ticket sales.

Now, is there a common thread here? Let's go back to our college english classes, and see if we can't apply a Marxist reading of these texts. Yup. The reason DCU lost is the fault of management and executives. They're the ones. Not the play, not the players, not the cards, not the fouls, not the lacked converted chances. Management and the Front Office, they're the ones at fault.

That US Soccer Players would want to make an argument against the structure of mangement is fine. That they use DC United's defeat to do it seems tacky at best. I have no problems with unions, and think they do a lot of good in life for workers. And some DCU players are woefully underpaid. And the playoff system should be reworked to value the season more. That's not why DCU isn't heading back to South America this year.

US Soccer Players, as an information source, should be treated with skepticism. It is also a propoganda tool. Read their history of the NASL, which faults the league for many things but doesn't mention overpaying foreign players to live out their retirement by playing half-assed soccer over here, but instead credits the glory years to the free spending Cosmos (yes, there's a truth to that. But there's another side which is ignored).

If there's a point to this rambling, it is only this. Remember motivations when reading all of this stuff, read between the lines. And remember that labor wants you to believe one thing, management another, and truth may lie between, or it might even be on another axis entirely.

The Unfortunate Geometry of Chance

CD Universidad Catolica 3 : 2 DC United
Catolica Advances on Aggregate Goals 4-3

The classic demonstration of the rules of probability involves dropping marbles into a grid of pegs. At each peg, the ball can fall either to the left or right, and then it repeats the process at the next level of pegs until it finally completes its clattering descent to final rest. Drop enough balls, and the normal/bell curve shape arises. Historians, Statisticians, Economists, Sports Writers that love reading box scores, some Coaches... they love the bell curve -- the point at where a vast possibility has condensed into popular vote of truth.

But on a night like last night, a fan rejects the tyranny of the majority that has created the cruel mean. Instead, they project their conciuosness into one marble as it makes its descent. Each peg a moment of action (Left: Erpen misses a header in the final seconds of the first leg. Right: United leads 2-1 heading to Santiago. Left: Moreno hits a penalty into the corner that the keeper is leaning. Right: Moreno remains perfect on PKs. Left: Adu commits a crucial foul giving up a free kick. Right...) And the marble finally makes its descent and reaches the end of its journey. At the beginning, from high above, it could see the majesty of the accumulated decisions of the past. Now, it is on one side of the curve, wishing desperately it could see the view from the other side, but a mountain of condensed probability prevents us from knowing...

MLS is free to take a moral victory away from this. I want none of it. This was a loss, a hurting loss that no words like "effort," "strong showing," or "guts" can remove the sting from. A moral victory is one like Chelsea, where you step up against the best in the world, knowing that everyone thinks you will lose, and you punch the other side in the mouth, smile, and say "Now what do you have?" In this game, there was a real possibility of something more, it wasn't a one-off friendly. And DCU was four minutes from being there. This team has now suffered through the Champions Cup elimination and Copa Sudamerica eliminations, and lost on penalties in the US Open Cup. Only once chance for silverware remains. Do you think they're motivated to grab it?

Washington Post summary of the game here, based on wire service reports. MLS summary here. If you want to read me as I dissolve into a disassociated bundle of nerve endings, you can read my liveblogging of the game here.

22 September 2005

Copa Sudamericana (In Progress)

If you are reading this now, and I don't know if anyone does read this during these times, then get to DCUNITED.COM NOW and kick up the audio broadcast. I don't know how this will turn out. But this could be big. Big. Crazy Big. Or not. Can't breathe.

We're in the 31st minute. 2-0. But it is 2-0 for DC. 3-1 Aggregate for DC. Away goals 2-1 for DC.


UPDATE 41st Minute. Catolica gets one back, and nearly got a 2nd. 2-1 for DC. 3-2 Aggregate. Away goals still 2-1.

UPDATE 45 - HALF. Score is still 2-1 DC. They were starting to get real sloppy at the end there. Multiple players with yellows. Jamil Walker needs to be quiet at times (and yes, Jamil started). I would get him out now and put Adu in. He's used to taking cheap shots, so he'll keep his mouth shut. C'mon... close it out guys.

UPDATE AGAIN. I need a cigarette. I'll be back.

UPDATE 46th Minute. We're under way. Gros in for Walker. Erpen is still in, and not having his best game.

UPDATE 49th Minute. A little more pressure now, with some posession. Namoff, feeling left out, decided to get his name in the book. I want to see Wilson or Boswell.

UPDATE 56th Minute. Tino goes in the book. Nice to learn that cards don't accumulate from match to match, if we advance.

UPDATE 58th Minute Gomez tries a chip, kinda more hopeful than anything, but his position is very deep. Then the corner leads to a ball that hovers in front of an open net the way Coyote would hover over a precipice after chasing Road Runner off a cliff. Some real chances now, but not finished.

UPDATE 60th Minute 30 minutes to go. Maybe I should try sedation...

UPDATE 63rd Minute Catolica having multiple chances, playing balls forward into the box. Gomez is going out (and he had a great goal). Wilson comes in. I don't like a pure defensive sub at this point, I'd prefer Adu in. But I'm not a coach with an MLS cup ring. Sounds like we're trying to close up shop.

UPDATE 68th Minute I haven't felt ulcers forming in my stomach this way since the Eastern Conference Final. Still 2-1 DCU, 3-2 Aggregate, and DCU with the Away goal tiebreaker. No chance for this game to go to penalties, either DCU or Catolica will advance when we reach full time.

UPDATE 69th Minute Catolica nearly equalizes. The post is Nicky Rimando's friend. Catolica must not think a lot of Nicky coming off his line, or his positioning, or something, because they play like the expect him to make a mistake and give him a goal. And the most alarming thing is that he might. Carroll is having the kind of match that makes you wonder why Hudson never looked at him.

UPDATE 71st Minute Please tell Nowak and company that you don't get extra points for the goal if it comes from a nice set of passes. Adu in for Quaranta.

UPDATE 75th Minute Catolica with some sustained pressure and earning some corners.

UPDATE 78th Minute Catolica earns a free kick in a dangerous area...

UPDATE 78th Minute God is testing me. It's a goal. 2-2. 3-3 on aggregate. DCU has the tiebreaker. Catolica gets the lead, and it is over.

UPDATE 83rd Minute I have no fingernails. I am now chewing bits of styofoam around the house. Catolica with sustained pressure on DCU. I don't think it's been out of the DCU third of the field for more than fifty seconds over the last ten minutes

UPDATE 85th Minute Adu and Moreno starting to break the pressure. Dema seems to have lost whatever touch he had about three weeks ago, as he's sent a few shots over the crossbar now. Catolica still dangerous.

UPDATE 86th Minute I am cursed. Catolica scores, they lead 3-2, 4-3 on aggregate.

UPDATE 88th Minute You ever have a relationship that was pretty good, but then sort of fizzled out and ended -- not in anger, but in the crushing weight of familiarity and accumulated mistakes? That's how this feels right now. Like it hasn't ended yet, but you both are trying to figure out on the calendars when to end it so that no one has to miss a dinner party or dentist's appointment.

UPDATE 90th Minute Stoppage time. 2 minutes.

FULL TIME It is over. As if Raymond Carver wrote a short story about DC United, your most overwhelming sensation is the anger at possibility denied. There is a grief too deep for profanity, but some part of me is going to curse, under my breath, for the next day or so at random moments. There is no ambiguity any more, reality has collapsed into a long flight home. By then, composure will be regained, and the city will open its arms to our team. The season in this country will go on, a smaller stage than perhaps we wanted, but large enough if performed well.

[UPDATE: Welcome visitors from MGoBlog! The article you are probably looking for is here. This was just me experiencing the emotional equivalent of a Nazi seeing the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.]

Must Get One: Copa Sudamericana, Round of 16, Leg #2

Currently... CD Universidad Catolica 1 : 1 DC United (Away goals: 1-0)

Tonight in Chile, DC United must come from behind to advance in the Copa Sudamericana. Steve Goff yesterday informed fans that Jamil Walker and Santino Quaranta might not play. Today, he revisits the Pumas defeat in the Champions Cup and the MLS Select Team's destruction at the hands of Real Madrid as the backdrop for his preview of leg number two. MLS/DC United provides their "Welcome to Chile, now go play some five on five" writeup here.

Someone, and I wish I could provide the link to provide the citation, said that even if DC gives up an early goal, it doesn't matter. They must score in order to advance. 0-0 will be a loss, 1-0 is a win, and 1-1 and we're at penalties. So DC can, strangely, afford to give up one goal. (A 2-0 hole, on the other hand, is devastating).

The news is that Santino is ready to start should be treated with mild skepticism. Tino was sighted around town before leaving for Chile, and he was favoring the injured leg. Maybe it's one of those things that when you get out and run around for a bit, it suddenly loosens up and you feel fine. (The flip side of that is for two days after that you cry like a little girl at the slightest pressure. Or at least I did during one of my innumerable ankle injuries.)

Walker is out, and that's a shame. His speed (and his goal) made it possible to DCU to seriously consider taking a shot at a win in this encounter. His speed I think is less important to him than it is to covering up for United's poor passing in the first leg. He made the imprecise balls played on the ground less of a liability by getting to them before they were picked off, in essence he seemed at times to be intercepting passes to himself. With Walker gone, Kovalenko will need to find the net, Moreno will need to improve his passing and running off the ball from the RFK encounter, and the back line can't afford any sloppy play.

This should be fun. Since I don't have Fox Soccer Channel, I'll probably catch this one on the Audiocast. Good luck team.

Edited because apparently I can't remember simple math. See comments.

21 September 2005

The Heel Turn For John Harkes

Yesterday I posted some thoughts on John Harkes' lobbying for Bob Bradley's job. This led to Maradawga's post on why Harkes going to the Metros would spoil a perfectly good rivalry, and be a detriment to MLS. Having pondered some more on the issue, I think you could still keep the rivalry and get Harkes in as coach of the Metros. But only if you take an example from another federation. The NFL? The NBA? No, my friends, MLS would need to learn from the WWE and execute the John Harkes Heel Turn.

That's right, professional sport-entertainment wrestling. The trusted confidant turned traitor is an old standby. Wouldn't it be amazing if there was some ceremony with El Diablo and Harkes and Bruce Arena and Moreno? And in the middle of it, John stands up, grabs a microphone, and delivers the following speech:


"You know, I bled red and black when I played for United. And we won a few titles, me and my friends up here. Those were good times. We had spirit. We had guts. We represented the best of what MLS Soccer could be. And that's why I'm here today. To remember those times..." A pause. "And to bury them"

(At this point, Eric Wynalda on TV commentary does his best Jerry the King Lawler impression: "To bury them? What's he talking about?")

"That's right. My DC United is dead. And while Barra Brava gives all their credit to Moreno and Etch, and Bruce Arena gets to coach the US National Team, what did I get? Nothing but a role on the sideline and some snotty little kids to train. Well, I'm sick of it. And I've discovered the new spirit of DC United... in New Jersey"

(Crowd boos loudly)

"I'm tired of living in the shadow of these people. You can't keep the Captain for Life down. And I'm going be the new Metro head coach. And we'll stomp all over United. Before I go, though, I'll remember the good times, and shake hands with my former friends here."

(Harkes holds his hand out to Jaime, who stares at it for a moment. Then, at one-half speed, he reaches for it, and they clasp in a firm handshake. Harkes smiles, and holds the pose, then pulls Moreno towards him and knees him in the stomach. Whirling, John grabs a steel chair and takes it to Bruce Arena. The crowd is screaming. Alexi Lalas appears and starts battling with Etch. Then suddenly, the Ukranian National Anthem plays.)

Wynalda: "My god, it's Dema!"

(Kovalenko appears, points and Harkes and Lalas, and runs toward the stage. John and Alexi bail out, and cower together behind a buffet table. You can read Dema's lips: "This ain't over")

Wynadla: "There's pandemonium in MLS. Who will survive in 2006?"



Now that would definately keep the rivalry going. And the thing about a heel turn is, well... you can always turn face and redeem yourself later.

Scoreboard Watching Wednesday

Yes, it's the second edition of watching other MLS teams for DCU's fun and profit. Here's a quick guide based on the following principles in order of ambition:

  1. DCU wants the Supporter's Shield (this rule soon to be eliminated, see below).
  2. DCU wants the #1 Seed in the East.
  3. DCU wants home field for the second leg in the Conference Semi-final.
  4. DCU needs to qualify for the playoffs.
  5. Let's not see FCD get home field for the MLS Cup.

Based on these four rules, here's how it all plays out for Wednesday...

Revs @ Crew (Your non-DCU game of the night): The Crew are almost gone from the scene, while the Revs are 4 points up on DCU with a game in hand. A win and their 7 points up. That's a lot of ground to make up in only a handful of games. ROOT FOR THE CREW.

Galaxy @ FCD: Not many implications here, other than kicking FCD down the seeding chart. Yes, I am aware that FCD's defense of Pizza Hut Park has been less than brilliant, but I still don't want to see them with a home field advantage in an MLS Final. ROOT FOR THE GALAXY, OR A DRAW.

RSL @ Rapids: This game has no meaning for DCU. At times, one wonders if it has any meaning for the participants. ROOT FOR FLYING MONKEES TO APPEAR, BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE COOL.

Fire @ Quakes: Okay, I know that some want the supporter's shield. But with a game in hand and a six point lead, it doesn't look likely. #1 seed in the East can still happen, but not the overall regular season top record. Chicago has a game in hand as is two points behind DCU for playoff seeding. I don't want them any closer. ROOT FOR THE QUAKES.

20 September 2005

Maybe not Starting XI, But Nicely Placed as a 2nd Half Sub

Grant Wahl, despite our previous gentle mocking of the idea, names the best US Soccer Blogs, and The DCenters gets a special mention as one of the blogs dedicated to a particular team (along with 3rd degree and DCU-essayist Kali over at Real Salt Lake). Yes, we are touched by this, and appreciative. And like the Dawg, happy to buy Grant a beer if he drops by DC. Also intrigued by the one or two blogs that we hadn't seen before that made his list.

But don't just take Grant's word for things. There are other blogs out there like Footcer Socblog, Pseudo Corner Kick, Fool's Prerogative, and more you should check out. So once I update the blogroll at the right again (sometime this week) then dig in!

Harkes for Bradley?

DuNord picks up a Newark Star-Ledger report on DCU alum John Harkes openly lobbying for the head coach position of the super-club in New Jersey. Key paragraph:
"I can't comment on Bob Bradley's situation, but if Alexi was to call me up, or anything else, for an opportunity to coach there, I'd love to," Harkes said. "It would be fantastic. "

Now, let's keep in mind that we're not sure what Harkes was responding to, and Harkes in the "let's not burn any bridges" graph talks about how his "heart's with DC United". And while the signals are that the fans and Alexi both are upset with Bradley, nothing official has been said at this point. Harkes may just be taking a shot in the dark, having enjoyed coaching with Sigi Schmid over the summer. When we hear that John's been flown to New York for a meeting, then this means something. Right now, it's just a guy who enjoyed a coaching stint and would like to do it again. This is an easy way for him to get his name out for consideration, even if the Metros go elsewhere.

Staying Goalside

A few minutes ago, I sent an email to MVN informing them that I will be passing on their invitation to join their group. That means I'm staying at Blogspot for the time being, and the DCenters continues as you have known it for the time being. My thanks to everyone that made their voice heard on this issue, both for and against a potential move.

Also, while the fireworks may have flown in the comments area, I do hope that MVN finds some talented soccer bloggers. I will be happy to give them links here, and hope that it does raise the visibility of MLS and US soccer within the blogosphere.

Again, I'm staying put for now, and I do thank everyone for their comments, as it had a significant weight in my final decision.


Okay, let's hit all the major bullet points before we move onto the rest of the week:
  • DCU defeats Colorado: A nice game. I'm not sure if it was as good as Peter Nowak was making it out to be, but it was a quality effort and the scoreline reflected the relative quality on display. The reffing was, to be kind, inconsistent, but inconsistent reffing is the norm in MLS and, to be honest, the rest of the world as well. DCU needs to overcome reffing at times, and they did here.
  • Santino Quaranta: There seems to be a lot of happy talk that Tino is still ready to go. Watching live, it looked like an awkward fall on the pitch, and checking the TiVo where you could see the swelling already, it looked worse. Even if the turn was high enough on the leg that he didn't tear any ligaments in the ankle, that looked fairly bad. I would not be surprised to see him sit against Catolica, regardless of what the early talk is.
  • Christian Gomez: His dead ball strike was a thing of beauty. Yes, maybe Cannon gets to that, but maybe not. A beautiful goal that was all about precision execution. He also gets a caution for dissent. I don't know what he said. Maybe it was "So, wait, tackling from behind isn't a foul anymore?" Now he's out a game. According to my TiVo broadcast, there was discussion about disputing the card. I don't think the league will ever, EVER, dispute a yellow for dissent. Nor should they, even if in this case it looks ridiculous.
  • Facundo Erpen / The Defense: I still think that Boswell and Erpen should be starting on the back line. Erpen made some nice work stepping in front of balls and playing some clearences, but I counted at least three poor passes in the first 45 minutes. None of them of truly jaw dropping awfulness, but enough that it made me scared. Prideaux and Namoff had one of their better games, and I think Carroll's new offensive pressure can somewhat be attributed to his comfort leaving the defensive third to make a play.
  • Lucio Alejo Filomeno: Steve Goff identified the new Argentinian that will be joining United. His stats are not overwhelming, but using the media and phrase of the week...
  • "If he's anything like Christian Gomez...": Okay, stop right now. I see similar phrases all over the place, like in the MLS Power Rankings on ESPN. It's true, if Facundo Erpen or Lucia Filomeno bring in a relative talent level and results the way Gomez did, that makes DCU one of the scarier sides moving into the playoffs. But it also sets the bar too high. While some might scoff at using International allocations for depth, I see this as a very good thing. Erpen is not as much of an upgrade as Gomez was so far, but he added much to a defensive line that was only four deep (Namoff, Boswell, Prideaux, Wilson). Similarly, DCU is not deep on the wings, and Filomeno helps out that area. Up top, DCU seems to have plenty of depth, but that relies on treating Freddy as a true forward (and not a CAM) and. Neither Erpen nor Filomeno needs to have the impact of the Christain Gomez to be a success. Remember the Eastern conference championship? Remember how worried everyone was with both Dema and Ryan Nelsen out? This helps address the concern that, in a lose and go home situation, DCU might be full of ineligible players and holes.

There's much more to consider this week, including Catolica Round 2 and the Scoreboard Watchers Picks for Wednesday. Stay tuned.

19 September 2005

You Can't Go Home Again

(Above: Auld lang syne [AP Photo])

DCU 2 : 0 Colorado Rapids

The following audio was captured by a parabola microphone operator during a series of corner kicks taken by DC United in a match against the Colorado Rapids.

UNIDIENTIFIED MALE VOICE #1: Ben, how ya been man? I see RFK hasn't changed much since I... since I had to leave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2: Yeah, it's pretty awful.
VOICE #1: I don't know... I miss the place. Walking down the crumbling tunnels to the pitch, well, it brought back memories.
VOICE #2: Well, I'm glad to hear that.
VOICE #1: Yeah...You guys miss me, right?
VOICE #2: Of course we do...

[Sound a whistle, grunting, another whistle...]

VOICE #1: Hey Dema
VOICE #3: Yes?
VOICE #1: Who's Number 5?
VOICE #3: That's Facundo. He's hilarious. And, he's easy money. I bet him $100 he couldn't do more than three bike clearences a game last week.
VOICE #1: Oh... So, um, Peter likes him?
VOICE #3: Oh yes.
VOICE #1: Do you think Peter would take me back again?
VOICE #3: Well, maybe if you changed your name to something more Argentinian.

[Sound a whistle, grunting, the sound of a ball being headed out, another whistle...]

VOICE #1: Give it to me. I can't stand Diego, I wanna come back.
VOICE #4: «What do you want? Who is this crazy man?»*
VOICE #1: The skiing isn't even that good. Now let me have it!
VOICE #4: «Let go of my shirt! Are you mad?»
VOICE #1: You can't leave me here! It's too awful! Cannon stole my hairtsyle!
VOICE #4: «Help! I am being assaulted!»

*Translated via a grant from Verizon.

16 September 2005

Now the scoreboard watching starts

It's been a busy day at the DCenters, so if you've missed it, be sure to make yourself heard on the future of the DCenters here and the USMNT player of the year here. Now, onto the weekend's action...

Colorado comes to DC, and Diego Serna will make his debut for the 'Pids. Many people have complained about the pitch at RFK, and Diego will no doubt be able to shed further light on the quality of the field as I'm sure he'll take every opportunity to drop down and inspect it at close range. DCU lost to Colorado last time, and Colorado doesn't even have Jeff Cunningham for that game. So why should things be different this time? Because it's RFK, and that makes a world of difference -- DCU 2 : 0 Rapids.

Now, it's also the time to start watching games around the league. Here's your quick guide of whom to root for as a good DCU fan...

Revs @ Metros (Your non-DCU Game of the Week): This game was identified as having a potentially large impact for DCU by the DCenters in August. That is still true, but only to a degree. If, like Joe, you really want the Supporter's Shield, then it's time to swallow the bile and root for the Metros. If you just want to make it in the playoffs, then you want the Revs to put some distance between the Metros and the top 4. Wait, this is DC, where the art of spineless compromise has been perfected... Root For a Draw, and Lots of Cards

Fire @ Crew: The Crew are not going to make the playoffs, though I realize that mathematically they are still in it. The Fire are competitors for a top 2 seed in the east, 2 points behind DC with a game in hand, and are staggering at least a bit, while Columbus seemed to be coming on until last week. Root for Columbus.

Galaxy @ Wizards: The other major competition for seeding in the East, KC is also 2 points behind DCU but with the same GPs. The Galaxy are playing for Steve Sampson's job. OK, well, maybe not, but they are still playing to stay 2nd in the West. Root for the Galaxy to get a road win.

Earthquakes @ Chivas USA: Only has Supporter Shield implications. If you feel strongly about the Quakes staying in San Jose, I can forgive you giving them a token cheer. As for me, it's Chivas Time. I can't believe I'm saying that. Root for Chivas USA.

Real Salt Lake @ FC Dallas: Dallas breaks their home losing streak during US Open Cup play. RSL is fighting to remain relevant. If DCU makes the finals, we really don't want to face a home team. So anything that damages FC Dallas's seeding is a good thing. Root for RSL.

Erpen v. Boswell (or why Boswell should start at CB)

Facundo Erpen has lots of fans. Bobby Boswell has lots of fans. They play the same position. So what to do with both? If you told me we'd be having an argument over defensive depth at this time last year, I would have laughed, but now I'll take it. Here's how I see it.

Let's assume the following:
  1. Erpen is better than Boswell at CB.
  2. Erpen and Boswell are both better defensive players than Namoff and Prideux (perhaps, perhaps not, especially with Namoff, but let's assume it for now)
  3. Nowak is not going to start a player rotation, but instead will continue starting the best XI he feels like he has. (While he says that the Starting XI depends on practices, it really does seem like he has a set list of starters that practice perhaps validates. Gonna have to get ScaryIce's spreadsheets to analyze that).

Now, to simplify this, let's rate the defensive starting possibilities on scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being top level MLS talent, 1 being a just servicable starter, and 5 a typical starter. I'd rate the players performance at their position this year as follows (knowing that these are somewhat hypothetical, especially with Erpen's small sample size) :

Erpen: 7
Boswell: 6
Namoff: 5
Prideaux: 4

Now both Erpen and Boswell are CBs, with Prideaux and Namoff on the wings. Let's further stipulate that moving a player from wing to center, or vice versa, penalizes the player -1 for being not in their natural position. So when Erpen starts at CB, the total value of the defensive line is 16 (7+5+4). When Boswell starts at CB, it's a 15 (6+5+4).

But, if we move Erpen to the wing (where he's played before) and he takes Prideaux's position (and I do think that's an upgrade), and DCU starts Boz at CB, the value of the defensive line is 17 (Erpen adjusted down to 6, + 6 for Boswell, + 5 for Namoff).

Now, while I opened by saying that DCU is having an argument over defensive depth, it does highlight a lack of depth at R/L Backs. But again, this situation may help, since it saves fatigue on the wing backs by promoting a potential move of Erpen across the field.

And I freely admit that this is an overly simplistic view of things, but there you have it. And if you disagree with the numbers, the point they highlight is this. If Erpen is better than either Prideuax or Namoff at LB or RB, and neither Prideaux nor Namoff are better than Boz at CB, then the point holds. I feel comfortable with both parts of that equation.

Is this promotion? Or relegation?

If you read comments on blogs then you'll know that The DCenters has been approached about opening up shop over at The Most Valuable Network. It's an interesting offer, and one I've been thinking about. Via communication with MVN over email, I told them I'd like the opinion of my readership on this issue.

There are pros and cons to the issue, so let me break them out as I see them:
  • A chance to waive the MLS and DCU banners on a sports blogging portal where no soccer presence currently exists.
  • MVN does receive more traffic than I get right now, so the audience could potentially be larger.
  • Ad revenue that could reach the low two figures, allowing me to buy more food for my cats.
  • I've always been a proponent of MLS Team based blogs, and this would help set up an environment for more of the same. Would it be hypocritical of me to decline?
I would list bullet points, but another individual whose identity will be withheld neatly summarized it, fairly or unfairly, this way:
I’d avoid MVN ... Bad graphic design, intrusive advertising and you’ll be paired up with a bunch of mouth-breathers (other blog authors) on the site.

So I ask you, my readership, what do you think? Should I make the move, or stay at home? Your comments will be important to me as I make this decision...

Come play for me Argentina

From MLSNet's wrap-up of the transfer window:

The club has also signed a foreign player whose name will be released at a later date, once he receives approval of his work visa.

From the Washington Post (Steve Goff):

sources... said he is an attacking player in his mid-20's who has played in Latin America and overseas...It will take some time before the new player will be able to join the club because of visa issues, said one source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
Other news? In short, Jamil Walker gets a well-earned promotion from the developmental to senior roster. David Stokes is on season ending injured reserve, which is no surprise. A high point high school alum is given Jamil's spot on the developmental roster, making Calverton, Maryland very proud.

As a quick note, Goff also discusses Eskandarian beginning light workouts. Let's establish a simple fact: Alecko is not coming back this year. Nor should he. Let him take the time he needs to heal, rather than rush to make it back for the finals. I believe that DCU has enough class that they'll keep his space warm for next year.

Interesting, no?

15 September 2005

USMNT: The (Car Company) Player of the Year

Update: I'm going to move occasionally to the top of the blog for people to see. Voting will close September 21, and we'll total it up using the same methodology as the official ballot.

The nominees for the Honda Player of the Year are announced over as US Soccer Players. An "elite group of jounalists" will get to vote on who wins. I'm gonna guess that it doesn't include me. However, let's see how close we get. Feel free to submit your first, second, and third place votes in the comments. I'll total 'em up, and see how close we come to what the "elite group" of journalists decided.

My Choices?
1st: Kasey Keller
2nd: Oguchi Onyewu
3rd: Landon Donovan

The Eligible players, according to the press release:
Goalkeepers: Kasey Keller
Defenders: Chris Albright, Gregg Berhalter, Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Jimmy Conrad, Cory Gibbs, Frankie Hejduk, Chad Marshall, Oguchi Onyewu, Eddie Pope, Greg Vanney
Midfielders: Chris Armas, DaMarcus Beasley, Bobby Convey, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Lewis, Pablo Mastroeni, John O'Brien, Ben Olsen, Santino Quaranta, Steve Ralston, Claudio Reyna, Kerry Zavagnin
Forwards: Brian Ching, Landon Donovan, Ed Johnson, Brian McBride, Pat Noonan, Taylor Twellman, Josh Wolff

Covering the Field

Thank goodness this isn't a general US Soccer or even MLS-wide blog. If it were, I might have to note all the things that are happening, as opposed to just those things of DCU interest. Makes life easier. Also makes that blogroll on the right a bit more important, so go enjoy. I'd also note that the Dallas and LA are your US Open Cup finalists. That makes the winners of the cinderella pool the following:

USASA: The Reggae Boyz, Roma, and the Salinas Valley Samba (DCenters picked the Samba!)
USL-Developmental: Des Moines Menace (picked: Cocoa Expos)
USL-2: Charlotte, Wilmington, Western Mass (picked: Pittsburgh)
USL-1: Minnensota Thunder (picked: Rochester Rhinos)

The DCenters encourages people to cast their votes for USMNT player of the year in the comments over here. The DCenters will total up the votes in about a week, but we only have five so far... Also, relying on the Wisdom of Crows (which I recall DM at The Nats Blog recommending, so thanks there), The DCenters has been approached about a potential change. We'll devote a post to that later, and let people discuss things in the comments, since I'm of mixed feelings on the idea.

(Note: While I say I'm not a general MLS blog, I realize that I end up straying into MLS and USMNT commentary. I reconcile this by pretending that I can still maintain a DCentric approach to these items, but sometimes, well, yeah, sometimes it's a complete fake. Ah well.)

14 September 2005

Badly Drawn Boys

DCU 1 : 1 CD Universidad Catolica

How do you feel after a draw? You didn't lose, but you didn't win. The result demands mixed feelings. But I remember the Pumas game, how I felt DCU was completley jobbed by the PK awarded at the end. No such feelings this time. It was DCU with the late equalizer.

The road ahead is not easy, but it feels easier than the UNAM Pumas was. DCU has, I'd say, about a 1 in 4 chance of pulling this out. Not great odds, but better than most. That's the thing about DCU, and why I love this team. If you ask the question Can they win? the answer is almost inevitably "yes." You never follow a DC game feeling that there's no chance.

When I was liveblogging yesterday, I was worried that DCU would be jobbed. That the ref would disallow a key goal, or award a dubious foul. While I don't agree with all the calls, I have to say my fears were not confirmed, the game was called -- if not completley down the middle -- close enough to it that you can say it wasn't an obstacle to a DCU win.

The first leg is over, and the Rapids are next before anyone books a flight to Chile. Time to refocus, to push the strange, ambigous feelings into the back of the mind, and prepare once again to defend RFK.

13 September 2005

Liveblogging Copa Sudamericana

Thoughts: Like the game says... "Should have done better." I'm going to take the night to think about this. I am somewhat disappointed, but also somewhat releived that it isn't a 1-0 defecit.

Full Time:
1-1, end of game. DCU needs to win to get in. Barring that... at least a 2-2 tie.
90+3: CORNER KICK! Played short... Freddy crosses... Erpen! No, he missed... I'm in exclamation point overuse mode.
Now some posession, but it results in a goal kick.
90+1: Nothing significant yet.
89th: Cleared by Erpen. Then the ref, who has been giving multiple calls to Catolica, gives them another one. They just miss. We need one more counter. 3 minutes of stoppage.
Can't be giving up corners now... C'mon defense. And... Christ, it comes close with Catolica keeping back to stop any counter, and Catolica gets another corner.
86th: Adu having a good game. He's taking the ball from people. Rimando gets a crossbar to help him out too.
84th: Not going to be much stoppage. Catolica is still thinking counter... FREDDY makes a good defensive move. Holy !@#!@#. When did he learn that?
82nd: Usually it's DC that lets down in the last 10 minutes, but DCU seems to have suddenly found the effort to make something happen.
81st: Wilson in for Prideuax. I'd prefer Boswell, but apparently Peter wants to up the attack quotient. ADU... just missed.
80th: JAMIL WALKER! 1-1! JAMIL JAMIL JAMIL JAMIL JAMIL! Crazy goal, finally a bounce goes DC's way.
78th:Moreno caught off again. Very close. Expect the BigSoccer people to be screen capturing that one.
75th: Posession is better now. Adu is playing well on the ball. Dema just showed that he has some skills and draws a caution on a Catolica midfielder. Gomez on the free kick... poor kick. It was the feeling like you have when simulating the game in FIFA 2005, and you see the "Wright-Phillips with just the keeper the beat" fade out to be replaced by "Should have done better."
74th: When I was a young kid, I played the silver ball...
70th: Catolica is now lofting balls toward the DC end like Doug Flutie in his Boston College days. Christian just missed now on a decent ball out from Rimando. That was almost it.
69th: Adu in for Gros. I agree with this sub entirely. Nowak has undergone some criticism, from me included, for his subbing recently. Now he's playing for goals now, and he's right. DCU is essentially playing a 3-4-3 now.
64th: Catolica has had the better of the action so far in this half. Again, DCU is not moving out of their third particulary well. Rimando has had some good saves, but he hasn't put the ball at his feet of his attackers well.
61st: Erpen gets beat again and allows a corner. DCU had dominated minutes 10-40, but they haven't gotten things back to that level.
59th: Catolica plays one of the best off side traps you'll see. They master the art of moving the line as a group.
53rd: Carroll is in a battle. His marking is good, his clearence... not so much.
49th: Gros seems to have woken up, he's much better on and off the ball. Prideaux gets a caution.
46th: Walker comes in for Olsen, who hadn't done much to keep posession like we expect him to.

Oof... DCU has had chances, but the "Bend, but don't break" defense of Catolica has been fairly effective. Dema, Gomez, and Namoff seem to be having a good game. Tino and Moreno need to be doing better, but neither has been subpar. Olsen and Carroll need to get into the play. Ditto with Josh Gros. Erpen, Prideaux aren't having their best game.s

45 +2
: Disaster. Erpen misplays a ball off a throw in, or a throw in was poorly played. Catolica pushes the ball in the net. Quinteros deserves credit for a great reaction. Blah. Seconds later, the half ends.
45th: Yup, 3 minutes of stoppage.
43rd: DCU is starting to slip up on the pressure. Catolica has had their best sustained work in DCU's third since the 10th minute.
41st: I still have a bad feeling about the ref.
38th: Please finish a chance. Please? All credit to Catolica's keeper, but please get one in before the half.
37th: DCU has really started to play well, but can't seem to break through the Catolica final line. Once DCU gets in the penalty area, Catolica's defense turns into a series of pinball bumpers -- Dema has been asked by the ref to remove the chain he wears around his neck. Apparently the ref is afraid this will turn into a reenactment of the Ninentendo game Double Dragon and someone will hit Dema's A+B buttons to trigger the use of the foreign weapon.
36th: Tino should be treating this game as part of his USMNT audition. In fact, I think he is.
33rd: I bet if they played this game in low gravity, so that all the players floated around above the pitch, and the bike was the typical way to move the ball, that Erpen wouldn't have just given up that ball and given Catolica the counter-attack. Sadly, we play on Earth.
31st: Rimando! RIMANDO!
28th:Is Namoff attacking much more the last couple of games? The time at midfield has apparently reawakened a desire to be a striker.
25th: Dema seems to want another goal. You wonder if he has a bet on whether he can finish with more goals than red cards this year.
DC has played a much better from minutes 10-20 than 1-10. More posession, better passing. Now a long wait for the Catolica keeper to recover from a collision with Erpen. Hope this doesn't stop the momentum that DCU was building. We're going to 3 minutes of stoppage time here alone.
18th: First corner of the match goes for Catolica. Fortunately, they forgot that DC United kvetchers aren't happy with Nick Rimando's height, so they head it over the goal.
16th: Remember that crappy PK that was awarded at the end of the first leg of the Pumas game? You get the feeling that could happen again? If I could borrow Joe's Han Solo pic, it would accompany the "I've got a bad feeling about this" quote.
14th: One of those "who's onside, who's offisde?" scrambles in Catolica's box. The Chileans get the offside call.
12th: Finally, DC has made some work offensively. You know, I like the fact that running Catolica supporter club web pages through Babel fish means translates the team to "The Crossed Ones" Makes them sound, I dunno, like a team cursed by fate. Or by icing. Mmmmm... icing.
10th: DC has to get better on the ball. They have not sustained the posession soccer they will need if they're going to win this leg. Catolica has been fast and working their angles nicely, but if DC can see a weakness, it has been Catolica's weakness on set pieces.
7th: DC has not had the best of the play. Catolica has had two chances, DCU hasn't done much with the ball and has only had posession for about two minutes.
8:16 PM
: Game Starts

Your 3-5-2 Lineup:


Nowak playing the top line-up.

Copa Sudamericana: DC United vs. Frank Black and the Catholics

Tonight's game is interesting for multiple reasons. Once again, the annoying MLS vs. The Rest of the World measuring stick will be employed. Nowak and DC United are probably smarting from the UNAM Pumas debacle. MLS from the Real Madrid fiasco. So there is pressure on DCU to come out of this game ahead for the second leg.

What do we know of Catolica? From what I've pieced together on Big Soccer, MLSNet, Steve Goff, and other web sources, here's what I think I know:

  • Catolica plays a 3-5-2 like United, emphasizing speed on the ground but not as much passing.
  • They're tops in the Chilean league, but have shown some vulnerability in recent games to strong defense.
  • They have DCU film to study, and have identified Moreno and Gomez as threats.

Hmmm... Not much to go on, but the 3-5-2 suggests that the midfield will be clogged. That makes distribution from Rimando (probably) or Perkins (possibly) a key to this game, as good distribution will help DCU's attack more so than in other games. DCU needs a result, and will have some fresh players on the attack with Moreno having served his red card suspension, and Ben Olsen also getting some rest will be major pluses. I would expect to see Boswell in defense, though whether he's in as CB or somewhere else is up for anyone's guess.

Frank Black was better with the Pixies, I never really dug the twangy work he did with the Catholics. DCU 2-1, but that's going to make leg #2 tough.

United They Stand

To recap quickly, the last home game was Real Salt Lake, when the trouble between CSC Security and Barra Brava broke out. There was a lot of anger, discussions of the dissolution of Barra Brava, discussions of a boycott, and DCU executives trying to mediate a compromise. Finally, one was reached. Read this letter from [DC United Owner] Kevin Payne, posted to Barra Brava's website, and try to tell me that DCU doesn't have one of the best front offices combined with one of the best fan support systems in the game. DCU and Barra Brava both should receive some well earned kudos for working this out in time for the cup match against Catolica tonight. Well done all. And well finished.

12 September 2005

Now You Can Say It's Over

Barra Brava has called off their boycott. Good for them, not for calling it off, but for standing up for what they believe and winning. It is good to see that you can draw a line, and not back down.

Assessment of FCD-DCU

Creative writing exercises aside, I do have some points I want to make about the FCD-DCU game.
  • The game was an entertaining mess. There was a ton of action for people to follow, physical play, multiple chances from various angles. Good stuff.
  • Not sure about Clyde Simms subbing in during the 90th minute. Shouldn't he have been in 10 minutes before that? And with so many yellows to the back line, I would have brought in Boswell for someone just to avoid a potential double-yellow situation.
  • Erpen gets man of the match not [just] for his goal but the for the ridiculous clearance work done throughout the match. When people said "Erpen is for real" after the US Open Cup, this is what they were talking about. As for Boswell... well, a discussion of that belongs in its own post.
  • Rested for Catolica? Moreno, Olson, Adu, Boswell... I would not be surprised to see Moreno-Adu start up top, just based on the number of minutes Tino has accumulated with Nats duty and the last game. Tino must be tired, he could barely stumble into the ball to get his game-winning goal... (In an email, this is where the smiley would come in)
  • Dema getting the captain's armband was a nice touch.
  • Rimando played very, very well. For those of you not familiar to DCU fandom, debating the skill level of Nick Rimando is like ranking Star Trek movies, a familiar debate to some where outsiders know that Khan was the only true great film. Rimando is one of the best keepers at the MLS level, but not the best and will likely never be The Best. That being said, you know he's good, will get you some points back that you'd otherwise lose, and upgrading that position is a difficult proposition.

The Exorcism of Facundo Erpen

FC Dallas 1 : 2 DC United

Outside the house, the priest and mother consult. A small boy stands between them and the open doorway. Suddenly, he seems to levitate into the air. His legs spin in unnatural geometries, his head erratically snaps back and forth in the air. Surely no human body should be able to withstand the forces that cascade throughout his body.

The mother turns, her eyes wide. "Is this the devil? Has Satan made my poor child his unholy home?"

For an answer, the priest selects a ball from the side of the house, and throws it at the open door. The boy... accelerates, spinning upside down, and the ball shoots back and nearly removes the priest's head. "It is not the devil." The priest crosses himself. "It is worse... It is soccer."

09 September 2005

Good Sports and Pot Odds

Kali at RSL Blog delivers. Thank you Kali, and I wish RSL good luck for the rest of the year, minus one other game. I'm sure at some point I may end up writing a Shakespearean sonnet on the virtues of Jason Kreis.

Now maybe Mark Fishkin or Maradawga and I should set something up based on the Atlantic Cup.... Nah, they wouldn't like the odds on that one.

FC Desperation against DC Unraveling

DC United is coming of two consecutive road losses. FC Dallas fans like to point out that they haven't had a lead in regulation since June. In the worst case scenario, this game ends with a 1-1 or nil draw, so both teams can feel pretty horrible about themselves. With Jamie Moreno serving a "Oh, when I went to my pocket I thought you were Dema" red card suspension, and Olsen out on caution points, there is even more reason to be concerned.

Things to look for:
  • Does Namoff move to the wing at midfield, pushing Dema inside?
  • Does Nowak rest anyone for Copa Sudamerica match against Catolica?
  • Is Quaranta fresh enough to start with Adu? If not, is Jamil Walker ready to step up?
  • Can Freddy start a game and make an impact within the first 15 minutes?

This game is interesting as a barometer for the end of the season. Is DCU really hungry for seeding, or is it all about getting through to the playoffs?

Prediction: DCU scores two goals, but FCD gets one back around the 70th minute. Stoppage time is a scary time. FCD 1 : 2 DCU.

08 September 2005

Barra Brava Resolution?

Based on announcements at Big Soccer, the incidents between La Barra Brava and CSC may have finally resulted in a, well, an armistice of sorts. While final, concrete details have not emerged, and the boycott is still announced on BB's site, it seems that CSC will withdraw from BB's area, and Metro Police will have jurisdiction. If that's the full deal, this represents a tremendous bit of diplomatic finesse from the DCU front office, a victory for protecting Suppoters' Clubs around the country, and congratulations to Barra Brava and DCU are in order for resolving this in a manner that showed what happens when you act like an adult, and not like a goon.

Watch the Blatant Pandering Begin

Grant Wahl at SI covers what the Germany squad might look like. In DCU and ex-DCU terms, he's put Convey on the team, and gives Tino a good shot at making it. He also sounds more bullish on Freddy than I do, but he still doesn't have Adu on the squad.

Here's the more amusing bit that I'm curious to see play out. Grant writes:
For an upcoming edition of the MLS Power Rankings, I want to recommend the best U.S. soccer blogs out there. So send me some URLs and I'll check 'em out.

Hoo-boy. We'll see what happens now. Expect long passages from Joe at We Call It Soccer on why he loves the Swimsuit Issue, and can't wait for Abby Wambach to appear in it. EricPZ will no doubt pen an opus on how he converted his free football phone into a futbol phone with some white and black paint and a D Clamp. Climbing the Ladder will have a statistical analysis on whether Clint Mathis has played significantly worse since he appeared on the cover before Korea. As for the DCenters, well, we play it cool even when we know the adults are looking. In fact, we haven't even shamelessly sent a plug to Mr. Wahl for our site yet. That being said, Mr. Wahl, I happen to think that blogroll on the right is pretty damn good, and it works to keep me up to date. I've added some people since about two days ago, and I think that reading these blogs should keep you pretty plugged in to the American Soccer Scene, certainly at the National and MLS levels.

07 September 2005

Stokes Gone for Season

Steven Goff's United Notebook contains a few interesting stories. The highlights:
  1. Stokes is out getting ankle surgery, will miss the rest of the year. This announcement seems overdue, but TheDCenters wish him well.
  2. United is unhappy with the cards they've been getting. I don't think anyone in any confederation is happy with the officiating at their level. That being said, MLS refs have been brazenly odd this year, and not just with United.
  3. Alecko is starting to workout to see if he gets headaches during "light activity." I still think Esky is gone for the season, but I do hope that perhaps this will give him a headstart on training for next year. Anyone talking of trading/cutting Esky just to get rid of him needs a stern talking to. From a lead pipe.

06 September 2005

DCU and the USMNT: The Trial Phase

Now that the USMNT is heading to Germany, everyone excpects Bruce Arena to start calling in other players on a trial basis for National Team duty before settling on a line-up to take to the finals. You have to figure there are about three distinct stages left in the USMNT selection process:

1) The remaining qualifying games.
2) Any 2005-2006 friendlies (which there will probably be a significant number of)
3) The Germany squad.

The remaining qualifying games are not meaningless, as they could affect the potential seed of the US (discussed over at Climbing the Ladder). The friendlies will probably be used to settle on a starting lineup and generate chemistry.

Accordingly, barring injury, here's a list of current and former DCU players that might get national exposure, and the odds of showing up in each phase:

1) Bobby Convey, M
Bobby was probably 50-50 to make the Germany team coming into this qualifying round, and his performance during the hexagonal has bolstered his case for being on the final squad. His speed and ability to elude marking have never been in question, but he has now shown better skills on service and his time in Reading have started to answer the questions about his finishing.
Odds of appearing in Qualifying? Already In.
Odds of appearing in Friendlies? 20:19
Odds of appearing in Germany? 5:4

2) Eddie Pope, D
We love Eddie, but his best days are behind him. I'd like to see him get one more cap as a thank you for years of service to the USMNT, a chance for the fans to give him an ovation. But I don't think he should go to Germany.
Qualifying odds? 6:1
Friendly odds? 2:1
Germany odds? 10:1

3) Santino Quaranta, F/M
His call-up to the Gold Cup surprised many, including me. But his game, while perhaps not stellar, has been solid, and Arena has apparently been pleased with what he's seen in camp. He is the best hope of a current DC player to make it to Germany.
Qualifying Odds? Already In, probably a starter soon.
Friends Odds? 3:2
Germany Odds? 2:1

4) Freddy Adu, F/M
He appears in a Nike spot in a blue uniform, and questions abound. Do they know something we don't? No. Are they just using him as a recognizable face for US Soccer? Yup. Does he have a shot? Slim.
Qualifying Odds? 40:1
Friendly Odds? 20:1
Germany Odds? 50:1

5) Bobby Boswell, D
The defender has a legion of supporters that think he could step up to the International Stage, but questions about how he handles speed and a killer stat (3 Own Goals) argue against him at this point. Still, the defensive line is probably the place where a breakthrough could take place.
Qualifying Odds? 40:1
Friendly Odds? 30:1
Germany Odds? 75:1

Country over Club

(Above: A celebration I didn't want to see, and a celebration I did want to see (AP Yahoo/FIFA)

USA 2 : 0 Mexico
Rapids 1 : 0 United

In some countries there is a debate over whether you support your country or your club first on your fandom list. Even in this country, this debate has emerged and flickered. On days like Saturday, thanks to MLS's scheduling policy, the debate becomes tangible: a situation where both your country and club play, sometimes with players missing from one heading to the other.

The fact is, even if you want DC United to be first and foremost in your hearts, then you have to support the USMNT's qualification and World Cup Runs. DCU doesn't exist without MLS, and MLS needs the focus of the World Cup to maintain its viability at this stage. So while the sting of a lackadaisical loss and Jamie Moreno red card hurt, the USA victory does make up for it. Ultimately, a strong World Cup performance will compensate DCU in the future, and getting to Germany by going through Mexico in Columbus is just the sort of hype building win that the US, and MLS, needs.

02 September 2005

Barra Boycott

La Barra Brava announces a boycott, with more details coming. This is all stemming off of the incident discussed here. In short: CSC Event Security is a bunch of thugs. That helps explain this page. The DC Sports and Entertainment Commission are their enablers. You can tell that the Barra is struggling on how to accomplish something without hurting United, and it is causing some real pain.

I've said before that I'm unaffiliated, but I do hope that if there's something I, or any DCU fan, can do to help, that the Barra lets us know.

Update 3:00PM Barra Brava individuals are looking to document incidents of unprofessional behavior by CSC personnel. See this thread at Big Soccer for contact information, or feel free to send a message to thedcenters(at)gmail(dot)com

12% of Fans Picked Kasey Keller.

There's a reason that most internet polls are considered unscientific. And a reason that polls are probably not a great predictive tool.

Right now, 6% of the poll respondents at US Soccer Players think Bobby Convey will score the first goal against Mexico. Which may seem low compared to the 33% that picked Brian McBride, but Brian McBride doesn't have the disadvantage of trying to score while serving a red card suspension.

Update 1:37PM I check back now, and I see that they've pulled Bobby's name from the list of options. I promise you I did not make that up.

Comment Spam

Thus, word verification is now on.

01 September 2005

How to Lose Friends And Alienate People

A situation involving Barra Brava individuals and private security employed by the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission has now led to a discussion over at Big Soccer of the Dissolution of Barra Brava. That would be a tragedy. If, as Don Garber once said, MLS feels that the DC market is the "most authentic" in the nation, then this is a situation they should not let stand.

Now, it's possible that this is just a moment of tempers running [justifiably] high, and all of this will blow over. Or it's possible that Barra will formally start trying to send a message. This is a difficult situation, and as far as I can tell, it is all the fault of the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission and their private security firm.

Update 5:05 PM -- So far this seems pretty serious. It should be noted that there is DCU involvement in this matter at the Executive level, but that the bad apples here are the DCSEC and CSC Security personnel. While I'm not convinced that the Barra is gone for good, the Barra leadership, by and large, seems to be indicating that they won't be showing up in the stands. Very, very sad.

Update 9:10 PM -- No immediate word on what is going to happen. But the fans in the Barra are pretty upset, and seem to be getting support from SE, LN, and unaffiliated fans. Again, this entire thing may blow over (see Joe's comments) but people are justifiably angry at DCSEC and CSC, and not just Barra people. I do hope that this all gets worked out, since Barra and all of the supporter groups are integral to the atmosphere at RFK.

Wonderful, Glorious Boredom

Ian Penderleith over at Matchnight complains that DCU's 5-1 win was "boring". He uses this as a platform to discuss expansion and talent dilution. Maybe he was a point. He goes on to write:

It was as dull as Chelsea and Manchester United's respective consecutive opening victories in this season's English Premier League. It was as dull as Celtic or Rangers splitting the Scottish Premier League title between them for the past twenty years. It was like looking at Bayern Munich on top of the Bundesliga, or tipping AC Milan and Juventus for this season's Serie A. There were twenty shots on goal, but virtually nothing to talk about.

Now, there is a point here, but let's not forget the equally wise words of Talking Heads' David Byrne: "Heaven... Heaven is a place, a place where nothing ever happens" Ask Washington Nationals fans how much they'd like a boring 6-1 win over another team. They'll take it in a heartbeat. As will I. I want DCU to win right now. We don't have the talent level of a FC Barca to demand that we only win as long as we win with panache. I want boring games, boring victories, boring away and home legs of a playoff series, boring championships, and another boring MLS cup in the cabinet.

Number 5 set the stage for Number 4 [Cup, that is]

I'm a little late in noticing that the 5th greatest moment from MLS history was last year's Eastern Conference Final. This was the second DCU game my wife attended in person at RFK, and I think it hooked her on the team. That game was truly amazing. Seeing the replays also lets you see some things I hadn't really picked up on at the time. When I first saw Moreno's goal, I thought "that's a really good strike." On the replay, watching it bend into the corner of the net, I can see that it was honestly one of the most beautiful struck balls I will probably ever witness in my lifetime.

When Nick saved the clinching penalty, it was one of the greatest crowd responses I've seen at any sporting event ever. The players rushing over to the supporters, singing as they received the conference champion trophy... Wow. One of the reasons I'm blogging on the red and black may well be that game, and what it gave to me as a fan.

...And Their Little Dog Too

(Above: Christain Gomez on his way to scoring a goal. After, RSL Keeper Jay Nolly will click his heels together, whispering "There's no place like home... There's no place like home..." [AP Wire Image])

DCU 5 : 1 RSL

RSL's only hope was that DCU wasn't going to take this game seriously. But DCU while DCU had only lost its last two league matches, it felt like it was in a four game losing streak (LA, FCD in the Cup, Revs, and Rapids in the HoF). Which meant that they wanted to this one, and wanted it bad. Against the woeful RSL road effort, DCU played competent, but not flashy, soccer. And then turned it into an efficient, ruthless scoring onslaught.

This is exactly what was needed. A good game, a chance to get the vetrans out early, and a restatement of the mission. DCU faces a fairly easy strength of schedule for the remainder of the year, and this is what it needs to do each and every time out.