23 February 2006

Plans of Attack

I'll let you in on a little secret as to how I do things here. There's a formula. This is the first thing I check each morning. That's typically how I figure out what people are saying around this vast, wide, internetty thing. From this I typically cull two to three articles that are of interest to me, and thus the morning news briefing. Then I might make a few notes towards posts on things I think about the stuff I've read recently. I'll scan The DCenters email box (thedcenters(at)gmail(dot)com, if you didn't know) for any emails to tips people have mailed in. A check of the soccerblogoball (sphere is synonymous with ball, right?) follows. Then I might drop in on Big Soccer to see what the latest headache to their moderators is.

Now, the nice thing is that following Happy DC United Day, things here have quieted down. I click that first link above, and see little that needs comment. Which means I can turn and think about bigger things. For instance: "what's changed since 2005?"

It has been a crazy off-season (Adu's going to New Jersey, Adu's going Chelsea, Adu's not going to Old Trafford, There was a draft, DCU caught a moose, Piotr Nowak may have said something really bad, somewhat bad, or totally inoccous, Chelse wants Adu -- but only if he's going to be great...) , made all the crazier by a simple fact that seems elusive: Very little has changed. Last year saw the departure of Ezra Hendrickson, Ryan Nelsen, Ernie Stewart, and then mid-season Mike Petke. That's an entire back line, plus a winger who could cross a ball. This season DC United has lost only Dema Kovalenko. Brandon Prideux has not been traded. Nor has Freddy. Nor has Rimando. United decided to stand pat for the most part. What's more, my money is that no DC United player will be going to Germany (Ben Olsen is still only a 20% shot based on the most recent odds posting)


Compare this with the wheeling-dealing Metros, coaching changes in Columbus and New Jersey, The Revs looking at losing Noonan, Dempsey, Twellman, and who knows who else to Bruce, Kansas City has made more than one move... I tend to think that consistency, in a world-cup disrupted year, could be a great factor (especially going after that Supporter's Shield). The question still remains: Is this squad talented enough to catch fire for a cup bid? To my mind, it is clear that the most talented team in the East is still New England. I think New Jersey's talent level has improved, and could get stronger by the end of the season. Columbus will certainly be more of a threat this year. Kansas City is still a cypher to me. Chicago seems to have taken a similar approach as DC this off-season, and we know how they fared at the end of last year. Quick summary: teams that finished below DCU have gotten better. Teams above DCU are standing pat, but may have more problems with World Cup conflicts. I think DC can hold its own for the regular season, but will it translate to playoff success and another cup? Of course, the answer now is "no." It seems like the modus operandi of Payne, Nowak, et al, is to put the team in a good position during the regular season, evaluate their needs in August, then see if they can broker a good deal or transfer to meet that need. It's an interesting strategy, and one that probably prevents the massive sell-offs that could destroy a quality team. But it doesn't create a team that you look at preseason, knowing it's an odds on favorite for the Cup.

I figure I've written about 20,000 words this off-season, which is an awful lot for a team that is still, largely, the same.

8 Comments:

At 23 February, 2006 11:36, Blogger Doug said...

Assuming Bruce calls up the US team no later than mid-May, we're looking at 3-4 matches against the Wizards without Eddie Johnson, 2 matches without Twellman, etc, and a match against LA without Donovan. If Piotr can whip his team into shape in the early part of the season, we have a good chance to take some easy point.

And, if Bruce continues to like Reis as a backup, we would only face one of MLS's best keepers in 2 of 4 games this season. Esky might like that as well.

 
At 23 February, 2006 12:03, Blogger D said...

Right... which is why there is a bigger question mark about the end of the season. We should be able to steal and sock away a few points. But there's also no reason to believe that will translate into cup success... should be interesting.

 
At 23 February, 2006 12:38, Anonymous the belly said...

Regarding that Google news search ...

I have found this works better because it eliminates the monsters and critics links.

Now if I could just figure out an effective way to eliminate the real estate links when I search for MLS related news ...

 
At 23 February, 2006 12:52, Anonymous Matt said...

I'd be a bit worried about even making the playoffs if it weren't for the WC robbing some rival teams of players. However....

I think that DC was at times a real good team last year, but fell into bad patches quite often. In other words they were very inconsistent and also blew every big game that they played.

Could that have been expected though? When you look at all the losses in personnel that they suffered it's hardly surprising that they self-destructed.

Four veterans left (two of them studs both on and off the pitch..the other two solid MLS vets) and the MLS cup hero hardly played.

DC should be way better this year just by having a year under their belts. Esky is back, Rimando should be healthier, the leadership void created by Stewart and Nelson leaving should be filled, Erpen got his feet wet last year and is no longer an MLS rookie..Boswell is no longer a rookie..though where does he play?

A team doesn't have to add players to get better.....or maybe I'm just still happy over the good feeling that DC day created.

The one thing certain about this MLS season however...is that no one will be watching in June....

 
At 23 February, 2006 13:18, Blogger D said...

Belly: That's so fecking simple! Thanks, though I feel like a bit of a moron for not thinking of it myself.

Matt: Many good points here, but there's one thing that I'd say which is that experience and leadership do not necessarily correlate. I'm going to have to think about this, but it seems to me like there's still a potential gap there.

 
At 23 February, 2006 13:38, Anonymous Oscar said...

Did we really stand pat? We've got alecko back, after effectively misisng him all of last season. If he returns to his old form, that's a much different team than we had last year. We've also got Lucio, who was a non-factor last year.

 
At 23 February, 2006 14:28, Anonymous Matt said...

True point...Stewart and Nelson are very hard to replace. Nelson is a fantastic talent...smart guy..and Stewart is one of the most respected ex-Nat team members.

The fact that he went straight into management in Holland tells it all.

Do you think that Olsen is a good leader? Moreno? Gomez?

There are a lot of young guys.. mixed with MLS journeymen..not exactly a mix that spawns leaders.

Hence...no nat team players....

I do think that just having last year together will make them a much better group...hopefully less likely to rattle.

Rimando is a real key though...if he returns to form it'll be a big plus. Perkins is solid, but isn't going to win any matches for his team....Rimando on his day can...

 
At 23 February, 2006 16:44, Blogger D said...

Oscar - We didn't make a big signing (and I am certainly all in favor of not signing someone just to say I signed someone). Esky is back, but let's not forget that he was with us in 2005 in the beginning, and he was struggling. Actually, now that I think about it, in 2004 he was great at the end, but had cold spells.

Matt - There's a lot you said here, and I need to think it over. Not to cop out, but I imagine I'm going to have to write a seperate post just on some of the issues you talk about.

 

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