28 April 2006

Match 11.05 Preview: FC Dallas

Match #: 11.05

Opponent: FC Dallas

DC United, 3-0-1, 10 pts, 1st in East Conference , 1st (tie) in MLS
FC Dallas, 3-0-1, 10 pts, 1st in West Conference, 1st (tie) in MLS

TV: CSN, 7:30PM

Previous Meeting: FC Dallas 1 : 2 DC United, September 10, 2006 (DCenters remembers...)

Suggested Pregame Music: Who Shot J.R.? - Doldrums

The Stakes: Okay, let's explain what this is not about. This is not about the lead for the Supporter's Shield. It is much to early for this game to decide that particular matter. Even with a loss, the losing team will still remain on Shield Pace (more on this next week).

What this game is about is two teams that have started strongly and have a chance to maintain momentum. This is about setting you form for the first quarter of the season. A loss can throw you for a bit, make you wonder if you were as good as you thought you were. A win for either side means confidence galore and a chance to say that the opening of the MLS 2006 season belongs to your team. This is about settling in for the marathon.

Expected Yield: 2.0 points. FC Dallas, like Houston when they visited, will accept a draw. However, I don't expect them to totally abandon their attack, and look for some deep runs out of FCD's midfield. This should create space for DC to work with, if they can neatly pivot from defense to attack. (Current Expectations to Reality Level: 80% - I have underestimated DCU's performance to date)

D's Location: In front of TV. Yes, I know they're honoring the Best XI of all time, but I made a promise only to buy tix for half a season, and I can't just abandon that now or I'll be buying tickets all year. However, I will be at the reserve game on Sunday. If you see me, say hi.

Last Word: Larry Hagman's Liver

...And Hello to All the Press At Sea

MORE SPIT TAKES: The Eskandarian Spit Take is just too good for people to let alone. John Haydon from the Washington Times does some in-depth reporting (on Big Soccer). Tobias Lopez also thinks the league is erring towards the no fun side. Ian Penderleith is also annoyed by the league. With all this contraversy, it sounds like we need a final decision. Fortunately, the Supreme Court of American Soccer will be in session on Tuesday. Baliff, put MLS v. Eskandarian on the docket!

FC DALLAS PREVIEWS: I'm swamped, so my match preview for match #11.05 will be delayed until later today (and by today, I mean tonight) but Steve Goff can tide you over until then, right? For fun, see how many of Goff's points on United's successful start match the kind of thing you might find on Teh Internets!!!11!!lol11!:rolleyes:

27 April 2006

2006 MLS Salary Information

Fans of MLS, Steve Goff delivers for you. His 2006 MLS salary information is a great resource, and the coverage is stunning given the amount of information he's able to get (sure, it doesn't contain bonuses, option years, etc... but given how secretive MLS has been on this stuff, this is marvelous). Great, great stuff.

Again, my blogging may be late today given work obligations. But I will try and keep in touch.

26 April 2006


Oh really? CSN announces it will carry the FC Dallas game. Well, in that case, I shall forgive the fact that it says (as of 10PM) "The United".

Out of the Gate

One-eighth of DC season has been played. In horse racing terms, I like to think of this as the moment just after the gates have opened and everyone has bolted onto the field for a preliminary order. You don't really know who's going to win, even if someone has a big lead, but you can get a sense of how the team is running, what impediments they might face, and a first impression of overall form.

For DC United, the picture is generally positive. With ten points after four games, the fact that United sits atop the single table standings isn't important to me. It's nice, but the season is so early that it really doesn't matter. What does matter is how DC has looked in its first four games.

Positive Indications

NOWAK, TACTICIAN: The team I see has a number of positive aspects, but here's the first one I want to address, something you can only see by looking at all the games combined: Piotr Nowak is gameplanning better than ever. The preseason gave a hint that this could be coming, and I wrote in the season preview

"The 2004 and 2005 United teams were at their best as a finely tuned sportscar. When they were on, they were almost impossible to beat. But a slight timing issue in the engine could be an expensive problem... Nowak's system may not be so defined as it has been in the past, allowing it to adapt to games when either DCU isn't quite ticking the way we'd like, or when the other team has found a weakness to exploit. The idea that United can shift with similar personnel between a 4-4-2, 3-5-2, and 4-3-3...is one that pleases me."

In the past, I felt that the recipe for United was simple: If we play our game, we win. If we don't play our game at a high level, things go wrong. Now that formula has changed. We adapt our game to win. United has this season seen multiple formation. Piotr Nowak may have been annoyed at having to sub people at the half, but he has made the right decisions. Eskandarian in at the half energized the first Red Bulls game. Simms during the Chivas game didn't work as well, but it was the correct idea. Further, by playing Gomez and Adu in the starting XI, Nowak has gotten out of his clockwork sub pattern of "Oh, it's the 60th minute, time to bring on Freddy. Ah, minute 80, now comes Jamil Walker." Instead, Nowak has been creative in his subs. Even within a single formation, he's made good decisions. Against Houston, in what I think was United's best game so far, he moved Freddy to the right midfield in order to allow Josh Gros to take on Mullan. It was a risky move, but it worked. If Nowak can make such smart moves throughout the season, DC United have a stronger team that can play in such a way where if Plan A doesn't work, Plan B still gives the team a shot.

THE TRENCHCOAT EFFECT: Need something for a key moment? DC has found it. Jamie Moreno will score his fair share of goals, but if he doesn't? Alecko Eskandarian is a threat. So is Freddy Adu. Christian Gomez is dangerous. Josh Gros is showing some good awareness. Facundo Freakin' Erpen is second on the team in goals. Need defense? Olsen and Carroll are beastly in the midfield right now. Josh Gros is shutting down the wings. Get through them? Facundo Erpen has the athleticism to take the ball off you, and Bobby Boswell is backing him up. Brandon Prideaux is playing better than I have ever seen him. Of the three goals allowed this year, only one can be directly attributed to a blown defensive assignment, when the ailing Brian Namoff allowed Djorkaeff through. The others came on a direct free kick and a goalkeeper muff. Multiple weapons and defense in depth? That's a recipe for success.

TROY PERKINS, JOURNEYMAN: In a way, it's a good thing that Perkins had a poor opening and a confused second game, as it seems to have allowed himself to confront his fears, and then overcome them. He now has two solid games moving into Saturday, and he will need confidence that he can feel like he's earned when facing FC Dallas.

Worrying Indications

NOT YET ON THE PAGE: Christian Gomez and Lucio Filomeno aren't where I'd like them to be. Gomez's game has featured lethal balls from set pieces, but his corners this year haven't been great. Admittedly, in two of those games, conditions were not ideal, but it is a bit worrisome. Even the goal he got against Houston came off a deflection.

In the season preview linked above, Filomeno, Perkins, and Adu were identified as players that could step up. Of the three, Filomeno seems to be lagging. What's upsetting is that he clearly has the talent and skill, the problem seems to be mental. He's not finding his space well, and when he does find it, he's having problems finding the net.

DEFENSIVE DISTRIBUTION: DC's defense has been good at stopping attacks, but it seems like there is some confusion or indecision once the ball in won in finding an outlet. Sometimes this manifests itself as bad passes out of the back, in other cases as holding the ball at the feet too much. I'm not sure what is causing this (my guess is that the proliferation of United's offensive looks means that the defense isn't quite sure where the midfielders are any more) but it needs to be solved.

Overall, my impressions are positive. And what is even more hopeful is that I feel like DC hasn't even played its best soccer yet. They are improving from game to game. This Saturday, look for a good game, and they may play a very good game and only get a draw against FC Dallas. That's okay, just keep the quality up.

A Quick Guide to Goodness

Working on a longer post, but a few quick guides to some good content that is out there. First, the blogroll has been updated once again, so please welcome DC Sun Devil (for the moment, I'm calling it an international blog, since he seems to have a global focus, but that may change, who knows?) and a regional blog dedicated to DC United, University of Maryland, and my beloved Spurs at Maryland United FC.

The Screaming Eagles podcast Episode 8 is up, and definately worth your listen.

Maradawga is apparently vying with Tim Froh to win the "it's quality, not quantity" soccer blogging award, as his Five and Five column is up for Week #4. It's a simple concept, but for someone reason I love reading it. The fact that he links over here speaks well of his judgement, even though we tend to argue about MLS.

The All American XI for Week #4 is out, and DC United is heavily represented. To the point where some people are a bit annoyed with it. But, given the fact that DCU dominated in the nationally televised game, it sort of makes sense. Personally, I can't believe I was actually campaigning for Prideaux two week in a row, what a strange world this is...

25 April 2006

Dueling Headlines

Currently over at MLSNET/NEWS...

Eskandarian fined by Disciplinary Committee
Eskandarian named Player of the Week

Now, yes, it is a bit hypocritical for MLS to both be hyping The Spit Take with an image in the Goal of the Week voting and also be disciplining him. And before everyone starts moaning about the fine, if we're going to be honest here (and I'm fairly honest with everyone) we know that Esky deserved at least something. This $250 fine is a slap on the wrist. Which is fine. Pay it, and if you want, slip Esky a twenty the next time you see him in the Safeway. In my mind, MLSNet has basically admitted that this is a fairly harmless moment, but still put the word out that they don't want things to escalate. Well handled.

Pride in the Name of Bull

What a day to be buried in actual employment stuff. Anyways, today deserves more insightful commentary, but instead you're going to get some quick hits.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK, COMEDIAN OF THE YEAR - Alecko Eskandarian is your player of the week, a deserved honor. Yes, I know that I picked Brian Carroll as my Man of the Match, but no defensive midfielder is going to get the PotW award from a guy with two goals just because he helped dominate midfield posession. That's the way of it. So, congratulations Eski, and I hope DCU kicks in a bonus for the award, which can then be promptly used for when the team, or the league, fines you.

FACUNDO ERPEN CAN WIN GOAL OF THE WEEK - ...because there's no nominee from Real Salt Lake, which means the ballot box won't be stuffed by the Loyalists. Yes, Eski (complete with spit take image) is also nominated, but for a pure goal you have to go with Facundo (who currently has two-thirds of all votes).

DCU ALL-TIME BEST XI ANNOUNCED - And it is jam-packed with goodness. I certainly can't say it is wrong (although you may remember I picked Garlick over Rimando) as DCU had enough people for two great teams on that list. So whomever won would be worthy, and it is a shame there just wasn't more room for a game of 14 on 14.

DCist WATCH - DCist covers DC United in their weekend sports round-up, and promptly links to this very blog. Wow. Hooray for local coverage, but we're going to see if we get a game preview ahead of FC Dallas. If we do, the DCist watch will be called off, and I will buy Kyle Guftason a DCU scarf.

There's so much more to talk about, including the fact that it is time to do a "Where are we now?" in the season type review, but I ain't got the time. Unless things get less busy around here. In which case, I will be back.

24 April 2006

Missing for a Moment

Blogger was a bit funny today. Thus, late postings. And, for those that are looking, The Carnival of American Soccer #1 ran on Saturday, so check it out.

The Spit Take

Two days out, and the Eskandarian spit take is still the topic of conversation around MLS. The video of Eskandarian spitting the Red Bull is now up (HT - OffWing) and more people are having their say on the topic (Here's the LA Times' Grahame Jones on the issue, and a supposedly humorous mention in the Washington Post). So how should you feel about this? For me, the answer is pretty much any emotion can be correct for this matter, even if they are contradictory.

Was it funny? Damn right it was. Was it childish and immature? Yup. Did it lack sportsmanship? I may take some heat for this, but yeah, it did. It was a clear thumb in the eye to the other team, holding them up for ridicule. It wasn't sporting. It's not the most unsportsmanlike thing of all time, but it wasn't a class move. But here's the thing... it wasn't so egregiously unsporting as to make me upset with him. The Red Bulls/Metros have been poking at DC United with a stick to see how we would respond for a year. There was Lalas with the "Trade Freddy to us, we know how to use him" comment. The "Superclub" comments. There's the attempted invasion of RFK (good for fans, sure, but still we look on it as an attempt to buy your way into respectability.) There were the blanket pronouncements of How Great the New York Red Bulls Would Be This Year from the management, staff, and supporters of RBNY. All of those things rankled, and then we only managed a draw at home against New York. The fact is, RBNY deserved this a bit. So no, this wasn't the finest example of sportsmanship on the planet, but RBNY deserved it.

Now, as for Eric Wynalda, I have no problem if he didn't like it. Go ahead and express your displeasure. As for Dave O'Brien, I'm glad you felt free enough to contradict Wynalda on the matter. But what I hate, Eric, is that you tried to hide behind Alecko's father in your criticism. It was almost that you were afraid to appear unhip and square, so you invoked the "Well, I don't think Daddy Eskandarian is going to like it" straw man. C'mon Eric, you can do better than that. People love and hate you because you've always shot straight with them. Now is not the time to wuss out on the issue. If you didn't like it, that's fine, but don't be a wimp by hiding behind Daddy.

Now, should Alecko be fined? Probably, but not severely. But for me, it was worth every penny of Alecko's money. And if I can arrange a limited sponsorship deal with his agent that just happens to be for the precise amount of the fine, well, that works for me. Sierra Mist, wanna be refreshing?

23 April 2006

Debriefing for Match 11.04: At New York Red Bulls


Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "D.C. United enjoyed plenty of entertaining moments during its 4-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls on Saturday at Giants Stadium, a result that kept the club undefeated after four matches and left its rivals still searching for a win."
The Star-Ledger, Frank Giase: "The defeat culminated a week in which the focus was more on the comings and goings of front office personnel and the coach's job security rather than soccer."
MLSNet, Jonathan Nierman: "While [Eskandarian's] finish might not take home Sierra Mist Goal of the Week honors, Eskandarian's actions after scoring his second goal of the season surely land him on the short list for Celebration of the Year. He made his way back to the D.C. bench and found a waiting Red Bull energy drink. After one big swig, Eskandarian spat out the sugary energy drink and shook his head."
Herald News, Ives Galarcep: "It was a beating that felt all too familiar and seemed all too inevitable."
Mid-Atlantic Soccer Report, Ian Penderleith: "Here's the astonishing thing about the DC United performance. Three of their most offensive players in Freddy Adu, Jaime Moreno and Christian Gomez all had virtually anonymous games..."
Bruce's Belly: "...I’m increasingly certain that the Red Bulls will continue to be a league embarrassment for the remainder of this year. I’m a DC United supporter, and I’ll admit we’ve got a decent side, but we’re not as good as we looked on Saturday."

The Good

  1. Taking Posession - Ben Olsen and Brian Carroll both had trememndous games in disrputing the New York attack and helping move DC United's point of attack in the offensive third. They both filled in nicely when called to form a defensive line, and made great forward runs of their own. This game was won in the midfield, it was just the forwards that finish the team moves.
  2. Adverse Conditioning - I knew the game was going to be a DC win, despite the lack of scoring, when I saw United adjust to the high bounces on the Meadowlands turf and slick conditions a good twenty minutes before anyone on RBNY seemed to have a clue about how to deal with conditions. When DC seems more at home than the home team, especially in inclement weather, then things are going to be good.
  3. Troy Perkins - Another solid outing. A rare defensive lapse lets in the late goal, but otherwise a decent effort.

The Bad

  1. Defensive Dribbling: Facundo Erpen, I know you had a brilliant goal. You needed to get that, since too frequently you were trying to take unnecessary touches in the defensive end. I have no problems with the needed touches designed to move around forward pressure, but it seemed to me you (well, everyone on the back line at least once, but you primarily) were caught with the ball at your feet too often. Given the problems RBNY was having with posession, there is no reason not to clear the ball 40 yards.

Man of the Match

Brian Carroll: I know, Alecko had two goals, and Facundo's shot was brilliant. And against Chivas, I didn't give Ben Olsen the man of the match after Jamie Moreno scored two goals. However, as I said earlier, this game was won in the midfield, and Carroll was amazing in his work there. Alecko, nothing to take away from you man, but someone was going to score on the day even if you didn't.

Moreno Watch: The Quest of the Best of All Time

Jamie Moreno was very quiet this game, having one decent run that culiminate with a shot off Meola's face for a corner kick. Over in Houston, Jason Kreis nearly added goal #102 on a free kick, only to see his shot go off both posts before bouncing out. So, it remains as before: Kreis 101, Moreno 96.

Final Thoughts

There's pretty much only one thing that people want to talk about, and that is the Alecko Eskandarian celebration. Yes, the one where Eskandarian took a drink of Red Bull, then spit it out. Was it a bit tacky? Sure, but what celebrations aren't? As if the infamous, yet brilliant, "RFK Homerun" celebration wasn't a classic "Look at me as I show up the home team" moment. It was, and it was great. Ditto for Alecko. When Steve Goff writes, "It was a humorous moment in a league that often lacks personality," that says something. Since the celebration was written up in the game incident, it is possible the league could fine him. Whatever. If they do, all DC United supporters should hold a bake sale to help pay off the fine. I'll make cookies.

There were only two potential downsides. The first is that given the celebration was early in the game, it was possible it could serve as an energizing moment for RBNY. It didn't. The second downside was that Mo Johnston should have called for a drug test on Alecko the moment that swill entered his mouth.

There is much more to say about this game, and the first four games of United's season. Oh yes, we shall get to it all this week.

22 April 2006

The Carnival of American Soccer #1

Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls! Step right up as we enter into the Carnival of American Soccer. A Carnival of delights so diverse that we do not have one big top, but rather two. Yes, it takes two large tents for us to show you the best of the blog, the cream of the keyboard, the superior sensationalists surmises on soccer! So follow me, as we delve through the carnival. Considering the Germanic nature of this year's World Cup, it is only appropriate that I invoke the words of another Master of Ceremonies when I say, "Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!"

The International Tent

With Germany fast approaching, the carnival is happy to feature many exhibits on the US National Team. Yes, we were all stunned on how the USA moved to #4 in the FIFA rankings. New blog Maryland United FC says that not only the ranking undeserved, but it also works to the USA's disadvantage. Interesting. The Atlantic Review says to forget the USA's #4 ranking, and points attention to the fact that the USA is ranked #2 in a key area entering into Germany. So what do we need to do to overtake the Swiss, I wonder?

Matt Matros looks at the fallout from the Jamaica draw, and he sees a line-up taking shape for The Bruce. He's also unafraid of the trend and conventional wisdom, so at least one name that many thought might have pushed its way into consideration doesn't make it for him.

The World Cup Ticket scandal is still being watched by Record As I Am, who is also making an offer to the entire world: Want to play in a World Cup fantasy league?

Finally, Bruce's Belly thinks of International Play, and says forget the debate over turf vs. grass, there's a perfect surface we can all agree on.

Domestic Tent

Ever see someone write "Well, we all know the problems with MLS, but..." For those of you that have actually wanted someone to spell out the situation, Psuedo Corner Kick gives you a great primer on Major League Stupidity. DCSunDevil agrees with many of those complaints, and offers his views on how to strengthen professional soccer. Still, Because I Can says there's much to love about our homegrown soccer.

The DCenters looks at MLS soccer, tries to reduce it to a computer model, and fails miserably. Yes, that's a post where someone does math at you.

One of my favorite posts that was submitted for this Carnival is also from Because I Can and is a simple post that I think neatly captures the love some of us have for our teams. It's just a list of some of his favorite DC United items that he owns, and the description of getting the Bobbleheads is great. If MLS has fan like these all over, good times are coming.

So thank you for joining me for the First Carnival of American Soccer. I hope that a Second Carnival will happen at some other outpost of the blogosphere, and to all out there, I hope our first touch doesn't let you down.

21 April 2006

DCist Watch: Week #3

Coverage of Washington Nationals hosting Atlanta Braves? Yes, as it should be. Coverage of DC United taking on supposedly hated rival? Not as of 4:45PM (the last time I did this, they got something up two hours later).

C'mon. This is the team that shares the first two letters of your website's name. The team that people who aren't rich can afford to get good seats for. The team that actually has significant minority support, and doesn't take it for granted. Maybe we need a catchy protest cry... PUT THE DC BACK IN DCIST!

Or, it could be that I'm a bit uptight. Too much Red Bull, I suppose. (Ha! Cheap joke!)

Alternate Camera Angles

In case you haven't seem them, there are other blog previes of Saturday out there. From the DC perspective, Quarter Volley has a match preview (and a cool new feature at his site as well). DC Sun Devil is also looking toward tomorrow. A Little Less Coversation does some DC United stadium research.

If you're tired of DC United fans predicting one-to-two goal victories on Saturday, The Kin of Fish looks at things from the New York fandom side, and he says... oh, he says DC two to nil. Trying to jinx us now, are ya? Very clever, but it won't work. We had two years of Hudson.

Match 11.04 Preview: At New York Red Bulls

Match #: 11.04

Opponent: New York Red Bulls

DC United, 2-0-1, 7 pts, 2nd in East Conference , 2nd (tie) in MLS
New York Red Bulls, 0-0-3, 3 pts, 4th in East Conference, 7th (tie) in MLS

TV: ESPN-2, starting at 3:57 on your TiVo in order to get the new hall of fame class announcement.

Previous Meeting: DC United 2 : 2 New York Red Bulls, April 2, 2006 (DCenters debrief for 11.01)

Suggested Pregame Activity: Draw seven boxes on a piece of paper. Connect them with various lines (Colored pencils or markers are OK!). In two boxes, write the name of someone you know or have seen on TV. In the other five boxes, fill in the names "Johnston", "Beckenbauer", "Pele", "de Grandpre", and "Guevara." If you want, add more boxes and lines with names of people you've heard of. Congratulations! You've made a front-office organization chart for Red Bull New York! And the best thing is, it probably makes as much sense as the real one.

Suggested Pregame Music: Genesis - Land Of Confusion

The Stakes: Well, let's start with arguably the most insignificant. The Atlantic Cup is essentially a best of three series now, with New York having home-field advantage. A win for United puts them back in control of the regional series.

For United, this is the first road test, and a strong showing on a pitch other than RFK will help strengthen belief in the team. I believe that their performance against Houston was excellent, and showcased some skill from Nowak as a game planner. If they can make that sort of performance the expectation for the season, things are looking good.

The Red Bulls have endured yet another traumatic week of personnel rumors and changes. This is the kind of thing that lesser teams fall apart during (as in, any Metros team prior to this year). If they pull together for this game, it could be the start of an us against the world/owners mentality that makes the team stronger. Think Major League, although I guess that makes Mo Johnston the James Gammon character. On the other hand, Shep Messing would be played by Bob Uecker, so that's okay then.

Expected Yield: 2.5 points. This is not entirely a slam dunk, and it will be a test. But it is a test I expect DC to pass.(Current Expectations to Reality Level: 78% - I have underestimated DCU performance)

D's Location: In front of TV.

Last Word: Continuity

The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With a Single Healed Tendon

RIMANDO RETURN DELAYED: In the Washington Times, John Haydon gets the scoop that Nick Rimando's foot hasn't healed up all nice and pretty yet. In fact, during a training session, he heard a "pop". As someone who has heard that pop, that ain't a good thing. In similar news that might upset some people, Nowak issues a vote of confidence to Troy Perkins:

"This time is important for him and the team is standing behind him," coach Peter Nowak said. "The confidence he has now is pretty good but you are as good as your last game. The keeper's job is that if you make a mistake the whole team suffers."

Well, I mean, it's a sort of vote of confidence. Look, it's Piotr Nowak, he's not going to buy you chocolates, you know?

ANOTHER FREDDY GROWS UP STORY: Normally I haven't been linking to these, but on MLSNet Chris Boehm actually puts together a well constructed Freddy-centric piece. Worth reading? I think so. It may be stuff we already knew, but it sounds different somehow.

CARNIVAL #1: Yes, another reminder. The Carnival of American Soccer is still taking submissions. I think we have seven to eight now, some from a few new places, some from old friends. Again, I'm still taking submissions, probably until I write the thing tomorrow afternoon. So if there is a post, commentary, or just quick observation you think is interesting, drop it in an email to TheDCenters[AT]gmail[DOT]com. (If you are curious about what a blog carnival is, check out Carnival of the NHL #13 and #14.)

20 April 2006

Bureaucracy Shall Set You Free


Well, this is strange, as Marc De Grandpre will replace Alexi Lalas at RBNY. Mo Johnston will report to Dr Grandpre, who was "with Red Bull North America for more than seven years as the Director of Field Marketing." At some point, a "Director of Soccer Operations" will be names, in which case Mo Johnston will report to that new gentleman (or lady).

So, in short, Mo will be around for the weekend, working as a guy who knows advertising, and his boss will change at some point. This sounds like a recipe for success. Of course, at least they kept Mo.

Reminder! Carnival of American Soccer! Deadline Tomorrow!

The Carnival of American Soccer #1 is starting to get submissions (a few from places I didn't even know existed, which is very cool). I have two or three people that have submitted links to posts that they would like to be part of the Carnival, and I hope to have more. If we can get 11 links from different soccer bloggers, I would be very happy.

For those curious what will happen, you send me a URL to a post you've written on American Soccer, in any of its forms. On Saturday, I will have a post containing all of those links and a quick write-up on each. For readers, hopefully you'll find a set of interesting articles that you might not have otherwise read because you don't constantly scan soccer blogs. This gives you a chance to read what some writers consider their best, or at least, their somewhat interesting. For writers, I hope to give you a chance to showcase your talents, and drive some people to check out your site. For future hosts, you get the beauty of having a bunch of people visit your blog to check things out.

Again, if you want to contribute, just send an e-mail to me (thedcenters[at]gmail[dot]com) containing the permanent link to a post you think people might find interesting. I've gotten a few volunteers for some future hosts, and will announce the name of the next host on Saturday.

Did Someone Break the Cone of Silence?

From the Salt Lake Tribune story on a new alleged racial comment, this time from Amado Guevara, there is a curious paragraph buried about halfway down the article (emphasis added):

Ultimately, the league concluded that Nowak did not make a racial comment, but fined him an undisclosed amount for making "improper remarks" by encouraging the intentional injuring of an opposing player.

Now, that's not what I recall the league saying in their press release, but it is entirely possible that they concluded exactly that. If so, I feel much better. And perhaps the speech embargo MLS imposed is leaking a bit, and more may come out of the story. That's what I hope that sentence means. Otherwise, it's just a case where a reporter is misremembering something.

No Mo' Mo?


The New York Daily News is reporting that Mo Johnston could be fired before DC arrives in New York for their match with the Red Bulls. The new ownership debacle is reaching a position of outright warfare with the New York fans, who I imagine will not be happy to see a coach that saved their season last year dismissed before he's even lost a game. Really, this is ridiculous. These changes should have been done preseason, or they should have waited until at least 8 games in. Doing it now is bizarre.

19 April 2006

Like Groundhog Day, But Expensive and You Can't Walk Out of the Theater

The problems at the MLS Gear store have been numerous and well documented over the years. Inevitable, once every three months a new thread will appear on Big Soccer and the stories will told again. Sadly, they're not the same stories as before, but new ones from new experience. So it is without surprise I read that I-66 is having problems. Now, can you imagine if this wasn't one single order, but rather a problem in that a non-functioning MLS related product was charging you again and again for?

What I'm getting at is this. MLS TV has an auto-renew feature.From MLS TV's FAQ (HT - MLSFanGirl):

Q. Do I have to renew my subscription each year?
For your convenience, your subscription automatically renews, without interruption, before the start of each subsequent MLS season at the rate then in effect unless you cancel your subscription by sending an email requesting cancellation to customerservice@website.mlsnet.com or by calling Customer Service at 877-557-3774. MLSnet.com will honor any refund request for a seasonal subscription made within 10 days of the purchase for the current season or at any time before the subsequent season begins.

This is fine and dandy provided everything is working well, but what if it isn't as great as we hope it is? No problem, we can just cancel our subscription for the next year. Except that as baseball fans have discovered, that can be easier said than done:

I’ve received no response yet. No auto-responder even. I’m extremely bitter. Obviously, I’m not in the mood to give my money to MLB right now, but the original reason I wanted this was to enjoy the product and I’d still like to do so… at least for now.

While I want MLS TV to work well, and be great, and not cause a problems for people, I do think everyone should be a bit wary. Yes, I'm putting in my $20, but keep your eyes peeled in case people start to have problems. For once, I am desperately hoping MLS is nothing like the other major sports leagues in the US.


FOOT, FOOT, FOOT, GROIN, GROIN: Steve Goff updates the United injury report. In short? Rimando - Might be a backup on Saturday. Eskandarian - Working through foot problem. Simms - ditto. Namoff - depends on whether he chooses the knife or not. Quaranta - no update.

DCIST WATCH: Last year, the hipsters over at DCist promised that new and better United coverage was coming. This year, we've had one season preview, a decent game recap for the opener, and the rest is silence (well, I think there was a brief line about Quaranta missing a game.) The reason this frusturates me? DC United is a great place for a district focused news site that wishes to serve the under-served to make a difference. This should be in their wheelhouse! And sadly, right now The Express has better coverage of United, and they just recycle AP stories. If they need correspondents, perhaps they might consider I-66, DC Sun Devil, Soccaplaya, or any of the other local folks that dig the black and red. (Sorry MLSFangirl, but as soon as you make it back to DC I'll put in a word for you.)

18 April 2006

It's Almost as Though They Have an Ombudsman.

If I disagree with Ian Penderleith (see Final Thoughts), I always do it with trepidation, since Ian probably knows more about soccer and MLS than I will ever approach. But, that being said, when Chris Webb looks at Ian and says it might have been tad too gloomy, that makes me feel a bit better. Not that all is flowers and sunshine with Chris. But I do think Chris's early take on DC United's first three is pretty much spot-on. For myself, I'm waiting until game four before making my "How has the season started?" rounds. Game four will give us an away game, plus that nice little figure of "one-eighth of the season played." That 12.5%, a nice looking number. Cool.

Escape from New York


Before my hands rebel forcing someone to lop them off at the wrist and replace them with a chainsaw, let me type this out: Alexi Lalas was doing a good job at New York. Not a perfect job, but a pretty good one, one that was getting better and better as the weeks went on. His departure from the Red Bulls to LA is certainly a blessing for DC fans, as I honestly believe that he was in the process of building a decent New York team, which is a headache none of us want.

Let's talk about some of the good decisions Lalas made while in New York. Yes, he feuded with Amado Guevara, but Amado Guevara feuds with marshmellow peeps if he's feeling ornery enough. He fired the winningest coach in MLS history when the winningest coach couldn't win, and Mo Johnston did enough to get the team to the playoffs. He executed a decent deal to land #1 draft pick Wynne in New York. He refused to sign Galvan Rey despite people screaming "what about scoring?" Goals are fine and good, but SGR's production for the price required was a fool's deal that only the most desperate GM would make. Lalas refused to mortgage more of the New York future on stupidity, a refreshing change.

Sure, he never really wanted Coach Mo, but he had the integrity to stay with him after Mo got results. When Red Bull came in, Lalas was a company soldier, and never squeeked out of tune. He did a great deal right in New York, a great deal that he should get credit for. Sure, he resigned to go to LA, but every rumor had always indicated that this is the same sort of resignation that a Presidential Cabinet appointee makes. Red Bull wants their team, and Lalas isn't a part of it. As a DC fan, all I can say is thank goodness. I'd hate to think that Lalas might have gotten that team together.

17 April 2006

New York Cowardice Watch: Day 5

The Metrologist looks at The DCenters challenge to RBNY bloggers/web site owners, and thinks it looks like a set-up:

I'm not above taking a risk now and then, but this sounds like just a little bit of a sucker bet. I mean, as long as we don't what combination of Chinaglia, Mattheus, Sakiewicz, Donadoni, Bora, Sven Goran the Unstoppable Sex Machine, and Prof. Julio Mazzei is going to be running the team in August.

Okay, well, I am not an unreasonable man. To remind you, the conditions I proposed for the New York party to win this bet were any of the following:

  1. New York defeats FC Barcelona.
  2. New York achieves a non-scoreless draw with FC Barcelona.
  3. New York leads during the game for more than four minutes, and then are defeated by no more than one goal.

Maybe that is a tad unreasonable, so what should the condition be? Remember, the idea is that the Red Bulls of New York must represent MLS better than DC did against Chelsea. I proposed my conditions based on what DC achieved. What should the conditions be? We can negotiate here...


It has been an interesting weekend in DC United land. Looking at United's home-stand, anything fewer than five points from three matches would have been disappointing. To really work up one's enthusiasm, at least six would be needed. Seven points in three home games is good work, but now United hits the road for the first time. Saturday's game means the season will be one-eighth complete, the first possible point to start making any judgments. Even those will be premature, but that's what I'm all about. In the meantime, let's catch up on some non-game related news from the weekend...

OLSEN FOR NATS - THE CAMPAIGN: On Saturday, DC papers saw an interesting one-two punch that would have impressed even the Carville/Matalin types. Steve Goff in the Washington Post gives the clinical appraisal and cautious wording that one expects. It contains measured phrases praising Ben Olsen like, "Olsen's versatility also should help his cause." The words "should", "hope", and "might" are used throughout the piece. That's the "just-the-facts" approach supporting Ben. IF you want some nice agit-prop, John Haydon in the Washington Times comes out with a "OLSEN NOW!" column. Key grafs in the opening:

When U.S. soccer coach Bruce Arena names his 23-man World Cup roster on May 2, D.C. United midfielder Ben Olsen should be on it.

He may not be a starter, but Olsen is the kind of player who can come off the bench and stir things up. Olsen brings leadership, experience and guts. He's also a good man to have in the locker room. The once scrawny kid Arena recruited to play at Virginia and who won rookie of the year honors at D.C. United has matured into a wise player.

Together, these pieces make an great combination pitch for Olsen. Accordingly, the DCenters has removed all other United players from our National Team Odds board, and moves the odds on Olsen to 2:1.

RED OR GREEN? In my print version of my Sunday Post, a blurb mentioned that DCU was in "preliminary" (read: very, very early) discussions with both Liverpool and Celtic for a friendly over here. Should Celtic be chosen, I will endeavor to get Cardinal McCarrick to explain to Irish Catholics, such as myself (sort of...), how to feel about rooting against the Bhoys.

MORE KICKS: I-66, who writes and co-writes the blogs Yeah So I'm... and DC Sports, both of which the DCenters has checked out and linked to from time to time, has launched a new soccer blog and joined the Barra. It's called Quarter Volley, and seems to be a general MLS blog, though I imagine DCU may feature over there. Welcome sir.

REMAINDERS: Want another Bobby Convey done good story? Sure you do... And I have no idea what this is intended to be. Funny? Lame? Insightful? No clue.

16 April 2006

Debriefing for Match 11.03: Houston Dynamo


Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "...goalkeeper Troy Perkins and his defenders stretched their shutout streak to 252 minutes and United created a steady stream of scoring opportunities."
The Washington Times, John Haydon: "While Gros did a lot of the hard work, Gomez had some delicate touches and scored his first goal of the season, and Adu came alive late in the game."
Mid-Atlantic Soccer Report, Ian Penderleith: "If, as a DC United fan, you want to look on the negative side, this is the third weekend running that they've played at RFK without looking anywhere close to convincing." -- More on this later.
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "D.C. United earned their second consecutive victory with a composed 2-0 win over Houston Dynamo..."
Houston Chronicle, Bernardo Fallas: "The Major League Soccer team that boasted the best defense last season can't find its sharpness in the back. For all the players know, it might be in a mover's box, waiting to be unpacked."

The Good

  1. Bottom's Up: Any analysis of this game should start with the defense and move forward. Troy Perkins, in assembling a resume to take over the starting keeper role from Rimando when Nicky is healthy again, can put this game at the top of his "Experience" section. He was in command of the box, easily intercepting crossed and lobbed balls into the box. His save on Cerritos in the dying minutes was well executed, and was only cleanly beaten once. On that occasion, he failed to take the ball off the attacker walking the goal line, and a pass squirted to the top of the six yard box. However, the back line of Prideaux, Boswell, Erpen, and (somewhat) Gros were excellent. Houston found their attack snuffed out due to the line's shape seven times on offside calls. The so-far lethal Brian Ching was stymied, Cerritos frustrated, and Serioux looked out of place when trying to hold the ball. If there was a consistent problem, it might have been Facundo Erpen's distribution, and Perkins insistence on distributing the ball down the left flank.
  2. Wingbacks and Midfield: I say "somewhat" when referring to Gros on the back line because he was truly more of a wing back, running up the left side of the midfield. This was even apparent before the opening kick, as Gros did not participate in the huddle of the other three backs, instead jogging up and down the length of the left defensive end. This move paid dividends, and Gros, Brian Carroll, and Ben Olsen were solid in the midfield. United dominated possession from the start.
  3. Set Piece Attacking: Shockingly, both goals came from set pieces. Yes, Gomez was a bit lucky, and you might say Gros's goal was a garbage goal. The fact is though that United saw better execution on both its corners and attacking free kicks than in anything in the previous games. Gros's goal was an ugly thing by the time it reached him, but only because Moreno's previous shot had barely been stopped by Onstad. Overall, United showed real hope on set piece execution, a consistent problem for the last year (two years? Three years?).
  4. Forwards Take Control: In the final ten minutes, both Freddy Adu and Alecko Eskandarian tracked back into the United left defensive third to win balls. Sure, they weren't forward getting goal scoring opportunities, but this was when United was trying to hold a two goal lead, and they both helped. The fact that both showed ability in the offensive third even at the death was great as well.

The Bad

  1. A Momentary Lapse of Reason: Every United player is still occasionally making silly plays. Prideaux and Erpen nearly handed Houston a goal when Erpen's clearance riccoted directly into Brandon. Moreno, Adu, Gomez, and Carroll all made at least one absolute howler of a pass at some point. Still, we're now talking about moments of problems, and not problems in consistent execution. That's progress.

Man of the Match

Brandon Prideaux: As someone who has been a Prideaux critic, I have to acknowledge that he played an excellent game. Houston eventually gave up attacking United's left-flank, and tried to exploit the space between Gros and Boswell/Erpen with only mild success. When it comes to keeping someone onside, Brandon was usually the culprit, but today the defense held its shape beautifully, Brandon shut down opposing attackers, and even made some decent forward runs of his own. The defense earns credit for this victory, and it was a choice between Prideaux and Perkins. Perkins had an easier job thanks to Brandon and all.

Moreno Watch: The Quest of the Best of All Time

Jamie was robbed of a goal which was later converted by Josh Gros. Over in the RSL-RBNY match, Jason Kreis added # 101. Moreno is now 5 goals behind the all time MLS lead, 101 to 96.

OZ Watch: Olsen v. Zavagnin

The way I figure it, Olsen's major competition for the spot on the World Cup team is Kansas City's Kerry Zavagnin. Ben played a solid 90 minutes for United, and did nothing to harm his chances. In Kansas City's 1-0 win over New England, Kerry Zavagnin helped the Wizards frustrate Sharlie Joseph, and seemed to have also had a decent game. This Week's Advantage: DRAW.

Final Thoughts

This is the kind of game that creates optimism for a DC United fan. I understand what Ian Penderleith was getting at above, but I honestly felt that he had that mindset entering last night's game, and that the article was pretty much written except for a few Mad-Libs spaces. His report was more true of the Chivas and New York games than last night. United played with the kind of control we hadn't seen til now against a team that is still pretty good. It was a total step upwards from the first two games. If Ian found it boring, I found it encouraging. Yes, the chances weren't instantly coming, but you could see United breaking down the Houston back line. As time went on, the line was being pushed father back, more space was open on the wings, and more balls were finding their way in the box. In fact, while the first goal came on the set piece, United fans only a moment before were frustrated that Olsen wasn't given the advantage call when he fought off the shirt tug to play the ball into the box.

As a United fan, I was extremely heartened by the Houston game. The game was not perfect, but it was such a thoroughly decent game that I can't fault them. I do believe that Houston was trying to play a simple game and walk out with a draw, especially for the first thirty minutes where they ceded United possession for the most part. Only down a goal did they try and threaten. And then United was able to find even more opportunity at the end. That's the way it is supposed to happen. If there is a down side in the scoring, it is that Filomoeno seems yet to have really threatened. But with Moreno, Gomez, Gros, and Eskandarian all with goals to their credit, and Freddy Adu really stepping it up so far, this is a very hopeful time.

14 April 2006

Match 11.04 Preview: At New York Red Bulls

Match #: 11.04

Opponent: New York Red Bulls

DC United, 2-0-1, 7 pts, 2nd in East Conference , 2nd (tie) in MLS
New York Red Bulls, 0-0-3, 3 pts, 4th in East Conference, 7th (tie) in MLS

TV: ESPN-2, starting at 3:57 on your TiVo in order to get the new hall of fame class announcement.

Previous Meeting: DC United 2 : 2 New York Red Bulls, April 2, 2006 (DCenters debrief for 11.01)

Suggested Pregame Activity: Draw seven boxes on a piece of paper. Connect them with various lines (Colored pencils or markers are OK!). In two boxes, write the name of someone you know or have seen on TV. In the other five boxes, fill in the names "Johnston", "Beckenbauer", "Pele", "de Grandpre", and "Guevara." If you want, add more boxes and lines with names of people you've heard of. Congratulations! You've made a front-office organization chart for Red Bull New York! And the best thing is, it probably makes as much sense as the real one.

Suggested Pregame Music: Genesis - Land Of Confusion

The Stakes: Well, let's start with arguably the most insignificant. The Atlantic Cup is essentially a best of three series now, with New York having home-field advantage. A win for United puts them back in control of the regional series.

For United, this is the first road test, and a strong showing on a pitch other than RFK will help strengthen belief in the team. I believe that their performance against Houston was excellent, and showcased some skill from Nowak as a game planner. If they can make that sort of performance the expectation for the season, things are looking good.

The Red Bulls have endured yet another traumatic week of personnel rumors and changes. This is the kind of thing that lesser teams fall apart during (as in, any Metros team prior to this year). If they pull together for this game, it could be the start of an us against the world/owners mentality that makes the team stronger. Think Major League, although I guess that makes Mo Johnston the James Gammon character. On the other hand, Shep Messing would be played by Bob Uecker, so that's okay then.

Expected Yield: 2.5 points. This is not entirely a slam dunk, and it will be a test. But it is a test I expect DC to pass.(Current Expectations to Reality Level: 78% - I have underestimated DCU performance)

D's Location: In front of TV.

Last Word: Continuity

13 April 2006

Play Misc. D For Me

A few random thoughts:

First, it seems to me that MLSNet has not been running as many of its commentary pieces from Connolly, Palace, Bradley and the rest of its Crew as it used to. Or that may just be my perception.

I'm curious if Moreno is going the full 90 again this Saturday. Very, very curious.

In Limbo is back. If you were curious why I was disappointed to see it go away for a bit, read this post in response to Ian Penderleith. Well written, insightful, and pointed. I like that in my soccer bloggers.

I may put up the Match 11.03 preview tonight, as blogging may well prove light tomorrow. Just an FYI. No, nothing major going on, just looks like a busy day in other aspects.

Dear MLSNet: I want to give you money for MatchCast. Please let me know how. And don't be jerks about renewals the way MLB has been. But, really, if the price is around $20, I am totally in. Take my money. Please.

Why I Don't Have Media Credentials With DC United

Let's start with the simplest reason: I haven't asked for any. But there's a story in that.

There's a lot of angst in the sports blog world regarding media credentials, and the willingness or unwillingness of professional teams to issue them to J. Random Blogger. Some have made the denial of press credentials a person crusade, blaming a shadowy cabal of professional journalists and team executives for their perceived lack of access. See, in these bloggers' world view, The Man is trying to keep the New Media Revolution down, while the blogger knows that Information Wants To Be Free. Or so the oft-told blog post goes.

Yet I can't help feel that many of these writers don't desire press credentials as a tool to obtain information, but rather as a vindication of their own self-importance. "If I had press credentials, that'd prove I was a real journalist, and not some fan in a basement somewhere." The credentials are not really important for what they do or allow, but instead for what they signify. That you've made it. You're for real. Someone to take seriously. Someone who's going to earn those Google AdSense clicks.

On the few occasions where I have directly contacted the DC United front office, they've been very kind and responsive to me. If I asked for media credentials, I'm pretty sure they'd seriously think about the idea before giving me an answer, one way or the other. But if I'm going to ask, I want to know that I'd be asking for the right reasons.

The press credentials should be given not to fans, but to someone who's going to report. MASR is a great example of a group that does honest-to-god reporting on things. Steve Goff and John Haydon, for the Post and the Times respectively, are good beat reporters. These folks earn their credentials by finding great stories and interviews, and telling the public about them. Credentials aren't a reward, they are a tool. Analysis and opinion writers, which most bloggers are, don't need credentials unless they are going to be doing first hand research different from what others are doing, or they are serving a public that otherwise wouldn't hear the story. That's the bargain. The team gives you access and accepts that burden in return for visibility they might not have. For most bloggers, there isn't a compelling reason for them to have credentials.

Some folks have earned it. Dave Lifton at the SE Podcast has media credentials, but he earns them by providing a service to the public you just don't normally get. Until ESPNews starts broadcasting post-game press conferences, the only place you'll hear audio of Piotr Nowak answering questions is over there. And believe me, it helps. If you've only heard Piotr Nowak answering questions from Brandi Chastain, you don't really have a sense for what the man sounds like. And that sort of thing, as we learned this summer, is important. It certainly makes me believe that, from Nowak's mouth, the words "Hospital" and "Africa" might sound similar. It moves away from the realm of "oh, you're kidding me, right?" to "okay, that's possible." And that's something I might not have been comfortable saying had I not gotten the podcast from Lifton, which he gets by using his credentials.

So before I even think of asking United for a media pass, I want to know that I won't be using it as a trophy, but rather as a tool. I want to know that I will not be self-indulgent in blog triumphalism, but rather seeking to provide a decent service to a public that wouldn't get whatever my angle was otherwise. I want to know that I'm using it not as away of getting into places for free, but rather that I need to be in those places to tell the story (on this last count, I would feel more comfortable now that I've bought a ticket plan, so DCU knows they've got my money).

And whenever I read an internet writer complaining about their access to media credentials, I wonder: Do they really have a new story to tell, or a different audience to serve, or is this really a convenient way of saying "pay attention to me."

Lift Every Voice. And forehead.

BOSWELL BACK AS BACK - John Haydon in the Washington Times grabs some time with Bobby Boswell, after Bobby insisted on extra set piece practice (Why isn't the entire team insisting on the same?). And in case you were wondering, Coach Nowak is not big on fluffy blankets and chicken soup when you've been ill:

United coach Peter Nowak is also eager to have Boswell working on all cylinders.

"Right now he is doing some extra work," Nowak said. "We pushed him more this week in practice because he is not 100 percent. Bobby has a lot to prove against Ching this weekend and he's still national-team material for the future."

Here's my question: Between grabbing extra practice sessions, being a humanitarian, and trying to live on the pittance that MLS pays him, does this kid have any time for a life? I hope so...

IF YOU KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN DURING THE SURGERY SCENES IN "HOUSE" - The Kansas City Star runs an article discussing Jimmy Conrad's decision to get experimental hernia surgery from the same doctor that has treated Gomez and Namoff. Of course, Jimmy Conrad wasn't willing to believe it after it worked for Christian Gomez. No, he had to wait until Alan Shearer went in for it. Sheesh!


12 April 2006

A Challenge To New York Fans

This blog exists, in part, to indulge my propensity for making juvenile bets. And with MLS all a-twitter over FC Barcelona's visit, let's put the challenge out there once again.

Readers may remember a bet between this blog and Chelsea Blog over the friendly played last year. The DCenters lost, and had to put Chelea's final score victory on our sidebar for a month, in blue and white. Still, I was proud of my DC United, and felt they represented MLS pretty damn well. So I challenge you, bloggers and website operators that support New York, can they step it up?

We can discuss the various forfeits that will need to be played, but here are my terms. Do you believe that the New York Red Bulls will represent MLS better than DC United did against Chelsea? I will agree they will have done so if they meet any of the following three conditions:

  1. New York defeats FC Barcelona.
  2. New York achieves a non-scoreless draw with FC Barcelona.
  3. New York leads during the game for more than four minutes, and then are defeated by no more than one goal.

So what say you, bloggers or website operators that support New York. Are you game? If so, drop an email or a comment, and we can discuss terms. If nothing else, we will learn this: Does Red Bull give you courage?

Think of the Children

Fair Warning: This is an opinionated piece. Skip if you just want the news and the facts and the simple observations of DC United

Over at Real Salt Lake blog, some people have apparently taken pot-shots at Kali because she wants things like alcohol or caffeine in her drink. That is, of course, an affront to the local majority (and national minority) religious situation of her locale. And, since she says things like, "the FO does realize that you can't even get caffeine at that [BYU] forsaken hellhole, right? Like, all they sell is Caffeine Free Diet Coke?" -- well, that clearly means she hates:

  1. The Church of Latter Day Saints
  2. Men
  3. Religion
  4. America

It used to be that whining about the over-PC state of America was the province of the right, and they had a point. We had reached a point of ridiculous oversensitivity in our dialogues of race and class. But rather than liberate our discourse, instead values conservatives have added religion and "culture" to the things we're not supposed to disparage. (Note: I actually could use with a little more sensitivity on the issue of sexual orientation, especially in sports fandom where the phrase "Player [x] is so gay!" is considered insightful commentary.)

The problem here is the idea that any group can decided to dictate to any other group that certain legal behavior is unacceptable, and that if you say "Well, that's stupid" or "I don't think that's right, and I would never want that sort of thing" then you are somehow anti-[INSERT OVERLY SENSITIVE GROUP NAME HERE]. It's as silly as saying that anyone the Atkins dieters are Nazis because they support bacon.

If MLS Expands, and I hope it does, then more suburban, family friendly fans are going to come to games. And they may, from time to time, overhear coarse language from the Supporter's sections. I don't want a situation where the Front Office is now dictating fan behavior based on who gets the most offended. I know others disagree (Tobias Lopez, that is your cue). What Kali is seeing in Salt Lake is an extreme case due to local conditions, but you and I both know that similar conditions have developed (Portland, New York) and may continue to develop elsewhere.

There's no problem with a family friendly section (or area, or even side of stadium) but the hyper sensitive will not stop there. If they can't go wherever they want and be sheltered from whatever, then they will complain. Hell, if they even think you might be saying something a little blue, even if they can't hear it, they will complain. And that's not right.

For those that say you have to draw the line, I'll draw it for you. If I am not harassing you or your ethnic group personally, then shut it. Racist, Sexist, and even Homophobic comments should not be allowed. But if you don't like the word "asshole" then I don't have time for your complaints.

As someone who was raised Catholic, I don't assume that anyone who says "The dogma of transubstantiation is a silly idea" somehow hates me. And if I say "Aw, Fuck Cobi Jones, and pass me a beer" that doesn't mean I hate you. It just means I dislike Cobi Jones. And sobriety.

And if you succeed in getting this stuff banned, then you will have damaged your children. All you will have taught them is that life is always a happy meadow with dancing bears, and if you complain about something it will go away. There is no such thing as the aesthetically displeasing, and if there is, well, we can get it banned. And that's ridiculous. Think of the children. You don't have to teach them that it is okay, but they should at least learn that people are different than they are, without having to feel like those differences mean that other groups want to persecute them. So, please, think of the children. Won't you?

Time Out and Time In

UNITED INJURY UPDATE: Steve Goff in the Washington Post gets the updates on Santino Quaranta and David Stokes, both out for around three weeks with injuries. Also, the earliest possible moves from Rimando's Army will have to wait until April 22 against the Red Bulls, when Rimando will be "available to play"

BEN OLSEN, AMERICAN HERO: The sleek and aerodynamic face of Ben Olsen, no doubt to be used in advertisements for the Schick Quattro, scores the U[ML]SA's only goal in salvaging a draw with Jamaica. MLSNet notes that The Bruce likes what he saw out of Olsen. I thought that while there was the occasional odd touch or errant pass, Ben had a pretty good game for the mini-Nats. More impressive than his goal (which required that Jamaican Keeper Donovan Ricketts to almost usher Ben's left footed shot into the net) was his standing up for his teammates after hard tackles. I don't know that it is enough to get him to Germany, but I think he's made the best case he could possibly make between his match against Chivas and his performance last night.

UNITED (WO-HO) RADIO: The SE Podcast for the Chivas game made it onto my iPod last night, and it is good listening as always. Things to pay attention for include Bobby Boswell's opening, Piotr Nowak syntax, and road trip details. Enjoyable stuff, as always. Plus I love Wall of Voodoo.

AAXI WEEK 2 - "DE-FENSE!": The All American XI has the Week #2 honors for potential US Nationals. Sadly, the list is DCU-less. No, alums like Albright and Pope don't count.

MASRampage! Mid-Atlantic Soccer Report has got some great stuff this week. Dig the interviews with Piotr Nowak and Alecko Eskandarian, and break out the HiFi headphones for the Best of Jamie Moreno Mix Tape. The interview with Nowak has some very interesting things in it (note: Player relations, use of players and fatigue) so I may have to come back to that.

So that's what you need to know now.

11 April 2006

ESPN Pregame Soundcheck

"Test... test... is this on? Sideline soundcheck... 1-2...1-2... Everything good in the booth? Okay, I'll check on it, but I've got to get right back here and adjust the parabolas to point at the field."




"Well, I need to see some final things tonight. And you're going to get a chance to start."

"Look, I'll do anything to play in Germany for you."



"Yeah, anything. I'll play on the back line, defensive midfield, sit on the bench, whatever. You know I'm good for it."

"Well, I admit. You're a good presence for leadership. You're versatile. You stick up for your teammates. You are vocal in the locker room. You take coaching well... But I need to see just a bit more."

"What? Tell me, I'll do it!"

"I need you to shave. You've taken that minister's license a bit too seriously. It's gone from Captain Caveman to Amish Minister and Furniture Craftsman."

"Shave? But what about my street cred in DC? I go to clubs, they'll think I'm totally a Blink-182 fan or something."

"Ridiculous. Look at the members of Radio 4. They could be accountants, but they still produce a seamless blend of new-wave and punk that is the envy of the free world."

"Okay, I'll shave. I'll even do it before the game. Anything else?"

"Well, you could score a goal tonight. That would help."





"Cripes, did we leave these things on? Let's get battery readings so we can make sure we get interesting comments when the game starts. Wouldn't want out viewers to miss any interesting comments from the assistant head coach at half-time."

Nats and Nats

It's opening day for the Washington Nationals, yet another reminder that strange bounces in the six yard box will be with us all season. Those wanting to chat around for the Mets/Nats game, I commend to you Teh Yudites.

Ben Olsen is in Cary getting ready for the Jamaica friendly. I honestly think that his level of play has been rather good, and while there's a lot of people in front of him on the depth chart, I can see the Bruce wanting to take a dependable, versatile player. Yes, part of me hopes that Bruce leaves him with us, but I couldn't begrudge Ben a trip to Germany.

The First Carnival of American Soccer is attracting some interest. I have received, by email or comment, about six people that are interested in getting linked up by the carnival, and two potential future hosts. I'll be in touch with everyone, but just a reminder that I'd like your link by April 20. The Carnival will run on the 22nd, and I'll also be announcing the location, hopefully, of the Second Carnival of American Soccer.

And yes, I realize that this is probably more the area of expertise at Climbing the Ladder, but part of the reason I wanted to bring it out was that I think it says something interesting. Forms of Pythag have been adapted, with relative degrees of success, to the NBA and NFL. The fact that it doesn't work in MLS is fascinating. And relates to something else I've been thinking about, but that's another post.

Finally, thanks Dwayne (second item).

10 April 2006

This is a prelude to finishing runner-up in the MLS MVP Vote...

Congratulation to MLS Player of Week #2, Jaime Moreno. Kinda surprised me too. But take it and run in your snazzy red shoes.

The Limits of Statistical Determinism, the Failure of Pythagorean Expectation


Note: This is a statistical related post, and may be quite boring, and also does not deal directly with DC United. If you care about such things.

Bruce's Belly has an interesting post up that deals with the ideas of winning soccer games through other team's mistakes, or results being dictated only in the margins. This actually mirrored something I had been wondering about. Namely, does Pythagorean Expectation work in MLS? The answer that is suggested to me is "Not really. In fact, almost the reverse."

For those unfamiliar with the concept, Pythagorean Expectation is credited to baseball empiricist Bill James, and is almost a cornerstone of the sabermetric analysis in baseball. The fundamental concept is that you can calculate what a baseball team's record should be with a formula involving the runs scored (RS) and allowed (RA) by a given team. The formula is most commonly described as Win %= RS2/(RS2+RA2). More recently, statisticians seem to be agreeing that an exponent other than 2 is more accurate, something like 1.81.

Part of the fundamental assumption is that games in baseball decided by one run are likely the result of luck, and the wider of margin of victory in a game, the more likely it is a reflection of a true comparison between the skill levels of any two teams. Just something to keep in mind when I tell you that I looked at Pythagorean Expectation in MLS.

The idea in baseball says that if you have two teams, and both have 20 wins and 20 losses, you can still determine a difference in a level of play. A team with a Pythagorean record of 23-17 has probably played better than a team with a Pythagorean record of 16-24, and one team has simply been luckier than the other. This isn't necessarily a prediction of future success, but it does let one evaluate how well teams are really playing in a way that luck in one-run games might obscure.

Using the results in MLS since 2001, I grabbed the final records, goals allowed (GA), and goals scored (GS) for all teams. Now, winning percentage, given the existence of draws in MLS, is not entirely an simple concept. So I calculated a number of different winning metrics that could be used: Percentage of Standing Points received / Maximum, % of games won, % of games won with draws counting as .5 of a win, and percentage of games won of games won and lost (throwing draws out).

Using the simple formula for pythagorean expectation (in this case, PythagExp% = GS2/(GA2 + GS2)) I calculated a pythagorean expectation for each team. But what does this percentage describe? The percentage of points won? Of games won? Can it account for draws?

So I ran an R2 evaluation between Pythag and each of the metrics I calculated for a team's performance. The data showed some pretty strong correlations. Between Pythag and % of Total Points was a .838 r2 value. Even better was the correlation of .847 between Pythag and a winning percentage where draws counted as one-half a win. Pythag was looking pretty useful as a way of discussing how well a team was truly performing, based on goals for and against.

The problem is that pythag was not better than a simpler formula of Expectation=GS/(GS+GA). That formula had slightly higher R2 values against all of the metrics I created. For Total Points %, its R2 was .844, and against the Win% (with draws as half-wins) it's R2 was .855. Further poking around produced the highest R2 values with an exponent of around 0.5. In other words, blowouts should have their impact deemphasized, not exaggerated as in the traditional Pythagorean discussion.

Which brings me back to what The Belly wrote. The fact that DC United defeated Chivas 2-nil is fine with me. But I also, if forced to swear on my Marco Etcheverry handtowel, would have to admit that 1-1 would have been a fair representation of the play that had occurred. MLS, and I think soccer in general, will see a significant margin of victory usually only as the result of some flukes, whereas close games are truly more representative of typical skill levels. Given that soccer is a game where a less skilled team may well bunker in an attempt to keep scoring down (feeling a nil-nil draw is fine with them) in a way that doesn't really extend to the NFL, NHL, MLB, or NBA, this makes a certain degree of sense.

So one of the fundamental cornerstones of statistical analysis in baseball simply doesn't seem to transport that well to MLS. Doesn't mean other models won't emerge, but I did think it was interesting that Pythag won't be one of them.

Overheard in the Supporter's Sections...

New York: I'm feeling good. Draws against New England and DC... We have the same number of standings points at the defending MLS Cup Champions!

Los Angeles: We have the same number of points as the former Metros? Oh god, I feel ill...

Salt Lake: Eddie Pope looked the best at his position out there. It's a shame he was playing as a forward.

Kansas City: I told you Bo Oshiniyi was a world class keeper. Never had a doubt.

Los Angeles (part dos): Soy triste que Bolivia no está en México.

Washington, DC: We were clearly the superiour team, there was no luck involved...can you get rabbits' feet in black and red?

Columbus: Down 2-1 in the 50th minute... I'm sure glad we drafted a proven striker like Garey so he can come in off the bench in a time like this.

Colorado: Clint Mathis is totally rejuvenated! He looks so much younger, his passes in the midfield are excellent, and his new number 14 suits him.

Houston: Between the preseason game in Charleston and this game, Dwayne De Rosario is establishing himself as one of the premier enforcers in MLS.

Dallas: Like Wynalda says, that Carlos Ruiz is one unselfish player.

Chicago: Chris Rolfe is so awesome, there should be a type of sausage named for him.

New England: If we can't have our players lead the league in scoring, at least they can lead the league in cautions. Tell Matt to put his kneepads on.

09 April 2006

Debriefing for Match 11.02: CD Chivas USA


Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "United received several favorable bounces on the cold, rainy day..."
The Washting Times, John Haydon: "The drab play matched the weather..."
Mid-Atlantic Soccer Report, Jimmy LaRoue: "DC United, after another sluggish first half, then closed out the match in the waning stages..."
A Little Less Conversation: "The defense...seems like organized chaos"
Liveblog by Upper90.

The Good

  1. The theory of the four man backline: Around the 50th minute, Chivas plays a dangerous ball forward to Juan Palencia. Dangerous until Facundo Erpen neatly steps in on the ball and removes the threat. Five minutes later, Erpen again steps in front of a Chivas pass, disrupting their attack, but the ball fall quickly to Ante Razov. Bobby Boswell quickly shuts him down while Erpen is running back to a defensive position. This was always the hope of those that argues for the four man back line: Take advantage of Erpen's athleticism and compensate for his risk taking by letting Boswell be there to mop-up. John Wilson was also excellent when called upon to shut down an attacker with the ball. In today's game, we saw how this could work.
  2. Ben Olsen- Ben had one of the strongest games out there, and was in the running for Man of the Match for both his defensive work and his ability to gain posession for United at midfield. Great game.
  3. Flexibility - Piotr Nowak showed some ability to adjust to game conditions in his planning. His substitution of Simms for Filomeno would have worked better if Simms had played better starting off. As for his other substition...
  4. Freddy Adu - Had one of his strongest games as either a starter or sub that I have ever seen. Deserved his assist for a calm and cool play with players bearing down upon him at midfield. Was willing to track back fight for the ball in the defensive section of the central midfield, and his strength has reached the point where he's taking fouls for fighting through players to try and gain attacking posessions.

The Bad

  1. The execution of the four man backline: Distribution from the backs to the midfield in the defensive end was a consistent problem. Gros, Boswell, Erpen and Wilson all made ridiculous errant passes (Wilson primarily in the first ten minutes, the other three throughout the rest of the game.) How much of this is because they have one fewer forward passing option isn't clear to me. This is clearly a liability at this point, one that may correct but should be watched.
  2. Set Piece Defending - Yes, I'm convinced Chivas was robbed of a goal. I'm also convinced that the problem is deeper than just free kicks from inside of thirty yards. United struggled to clear balls off corner kicks with their first touch. This led to multiple difficulties and nervous moments. It seems like they're having difficulty figuring out how to judge and place themselves to meet the ball. Not sure what the remedy for that is.

Man of the Match

After 45 minutes, I was thinking Ben Olsen. After 55, John Wilson had put himself in the running. Two goals later, the only choice was Jaime Moreno. Sure, one of those goals was a bit fluky, but he had enough space to close down the distance between himself and Guzan to force the deflection. Which is just crazy.

Final Thoughts

Jaime Moreno has now had two straight games playing the full 90 minutes, and one wonders if he can maintain his form all year. Something to think about.

I'm not sure if Freddy Adu earned back his starting position, but the problems of one week ago were not present. Lucio Filomeno, who I believe has the ability to be successful, is under pressure from Alecko Eskandarian for time much faster than I expected (I think the forward projection said he'd challenge for starting roles in July. It's already happened.)

I bring this up, because in some ways the first four games are an extension of the preseason, a chance to see what works when play begins under real conditions. To some degree, auditions are not done with. Doing well so far are Eskandarian, Erpen, Wilson, Moreno, and Olsen. Showing promise are Adu and Carroll. Needing to do better are Filomeno, Perkins, and Simms. Just how I see it so far...

07 April 2006



In the wake of this place's birthday, some correspondence with some other SocBloggers our there, and the addition of Throughball.com and Upper 90 to the blogroll, I figure this is now the right time for this idea. I am now at the point where I am sure there are more good blogs on American Soccer than I have time to read. Which means I'm missing good stuff, and I don't like that.

Accordingly, I'm issuing a call for the first ever Carnival of American Soccer. For those unfamiliar with the concept, a Blog Carnival is a regularly scheduled event in which one blog post highlights articles on particular topics. The responsibility for organizing a given carnival rotates throughout the blogosphere. There's even a web site dedicated just to tracking blog carnivals.

Accordingly, The DCenters, on April 22, will publish the first Carnival of American Soccer. I'd like to see a Carnival on the 11th and 22nd of each month (11 being a good number for Soccer). Here are the ground rules:

  1. Anyone who has a blog post dealing with American Soccer (MLS, USMNT, USL, Rec-league, whatever, so long as it related to the USA and soccer...) that they would really like people to read is invited to submit a link to the carnival host(that'd be me for the first one). You do not have to be a soccer blogger to write such a post.
  2. The host will set a deadline on when to receive links by, usually a day or two before the carnival. I'd like links by April 20, 2006.
  3. If you are interested in hosting the carnival, please contact The DCenters and I'll try and schedule a time for you to be the Master of Ceremonies. I would prefer sports blogs and soccer blogs ask to be hosts, but this is also open to any blogger.

Hopefully, this will help disperse traffic to many of you and draw attention to new blogs in what is becoming a more crowded area. If you have a soccer blog, and you think this is an interesting idea, I ask you to help spread the word, and to hype each carnival as it makes the rounds through the SocBlog world.

Hope to see you on the 22nd.

Match 11.02 Preview: CD Chivas USA

Match #: 11.02

CD Chivas USA

DC United, 0-0-1, 1 pt, 3(T) East , 6(T) MLS
CD Chivas USA, 1-0-0, 3 pts, 1(T)West, 1(T) MLS

TV: ESPN 2 (The Deuce! And not Clint Dempsey)

Previous Meeting: DC United 3 : 0 CD Chivas USA

Suggested Pregame Music: Cake - "Sheep Go To Heaven"

The Stakes: For DC United, the conventional wisdom is that a fast start in the first 8 games of the season is a must for a shot at the Supporter's Shield. With a draw last week against the Red Bulls, getting three points against Chivas becomes imperative. MLSNet is projecting Bobby Boswell as "PROBABLE" for this game. After a case of dehydration like he must have suffered, I wouldn't mind if he sat another game to get his strength back.

For CD Chivas USA, a 3-0 win over Real Salt Lake is receiving caveats of "but that's just RSL". In short, for a team looking to prove themselves, Chivas should up for Saturday's game. A win over DC will be considered notification to the league that Bob Bradley's team has well and truly arrived.

Expected Yield: 2 points. Yes, CD Chivas USA are improved, and Ante Razov does seem to have some ability left in him. The addition of John O'Brien to the midfield does make this stronger on the ball. However, the Chivas defense does not present as great a threat as the Red Bulls, and if DC can maintain possession, they should come out on top. Not a push-over, but a game DCU should win more times than not.(Current Expectations to Reality Level: 50%)

D's Location: At home, on couch. Then after the game, I think I have a birthday party for a friend. Not that you all are really interested in that, but there you have it.

Last Word: Tailgate.

The World Is Watching. Somewhat.

Eric McErlain, writing in Off-Wing opinion, catches up with Week #1 in MLS. Eric's a pretty knowledgeable sports-junkie, the The DCenters doesn't just say that because he has some kind words for us. He's not a soccer freak like yours truly, but he's always giving MLS a chance. No knee-jerk Jim Rome-esque anti-soccer reaction there. He loves sports (with something of a focus on hockey) but is exactly the sort of leading edge fan that MLS needs to win over in the next five years. Anyways, he has some interesting writing on the MLS regular season / playoff discussion, so I thought I'd take some time to address some of his points.

He's smart enough to know that promotion/relegation is not on the table, but he suggests a playoff system that is, I think, the same they use in Aussie Rules Football (UPDATE - No, not Aussie Rules. See Comments from KJ):

...think about this format instead: Top MLS finisher automatically advances to a one-game championship. The second and third place teams advance to a home and home two-game series in the typical European style (total aggregate goals wins, total away goals serves as tie breaker). Winner of that series advances to the championship to face the first place finisher.
Not a bad idea, especially when you factor in his comments regarding playoff ticket sales (not really a problem in DC, but in other places that offer $5 playoff tickets, the point is quite valid.) A few other points in response to his article:
  1. MLS may be going overboard with the entire Eurostyle naming conventions. It worked for DC United, but the LA Galaxy are also successful. There's no reason we need to be all one thing or all the other. MLS soccer has a polyglot of influences (USA, the Americas, Europe), and the naming conventions should reflect that. So the [City Name] [Animal] convention should not be removed from consideration. Nor should Eurostyle names, or even Central/South American names. Let's let them mix freely. Seems appropriate for the soccer league of the world's melting pot.
  2. Since expansion, it is no longer 80% of the teams that make the playoffs, but 66%. The overall point is, I admit, still valid. But with MLS now saying that the single table winner represents the US in the Champions Cup, we're moving in the right direction. (This point more accurately should be addressed to Bob Sturm, who Eric is citing)
  3. The You Tube video Eric is using is from Scaryice over at Climbing the Ladder. I should say that in a comment, but I hate typekey. It's a thing with me. So Mr. Ice, take credit as you can now claim results in helping MLS's visibility. Well done.
  4. Don't think for a moment that "For more MLS news, check out DCenters, the favorite blog for the best fans in all of MLS" isn't going into The DCenters' ego file. Damn straight it is.

Okay, I've got a game preview to write. Better get cracking.