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.