31 May 2006

DC United 5 : 1 Columbus Crew; Or, Establishing soccer hegemony requires a lot of people

We'll do the formal debrief tomorrow, but let's say a few quick words in the wake of the United drubbing of Columbus. First, five goals without a single multiple goal scorer. Getting the finishes? Moreno, Eskandarian, Gros, Filomeno, and Ezra Hendrickson (the Boswell Own Goal Method). Getting the assists? Boswell and Gomez. That's six different people for each scoring category. Nice. Glad that Jamie was subbed off around minute 75, not because he was tired, but because he deserved that nice ovation for his performance that night, and for 100 goals and ten years of service, even if it wasn't all for United.

About half an hour before the game, Crew Fan of MLS News and Views and I agreed to renew our bet for this game. As a result, he owes the "Why I love DC United" post. Nice. This raises the DCenters betting record to 2-1-1. We will of course link to the aforementioned post once it is written. And our thanks to Crew Fan for being a good sport about it.

100 - Jamie Moreno

Jamie Moreno, ten seconds ago, scored his 100th goal. Fittingly enough, it comes on a Penalty, earned when Moreno set up Eskandarian all alone before Esky got wiped out by Dan Popik. Congratulations.

Match 11.10 Preview: Columbus Crew

Match #: 11.10

Opponent: Columbus Crew

DC United, 5-1-3, 18 pts, 1st in East Conference , 2nd in MLS
Columbus Crew, 3-3-2, 11 pts, 3rd in East Conference (tie-NE), 5th (tie-NE, COL) in MLS

TV: MLSLive.TV - 7:30PM

Previous Meeting: Columbus Crew 1 : 1 DC United, May 13, 2006 (DCenters debriefing...)

Suggested Pregame Music: Cruiser's Creek - The Fall

The Stakes: United looks to consolidate its newfound lead in the East, and also faces its first game on short rest. Columbus has a new keeper now that they've lost four other to injury. It's the unstable force against the unsettled object at RFK!

The question for me is what kind of line-up Nowak trots out for this game. Is this Rimando's first 2006 start? Does the four man backline return in any form (as a 4-4-2, 4-3-1-2, or 4-3-3), or do we see the 3-5-2 again? I don't have answers for that, but I am curious. Of all the games this week, this is the most uncertain for me. I think we'll know more going into Saturday's game than this one, and that makes it interesting.

On Columbus's side, a recent recovery seems threatened by Busch's sudden injury, so they're looking to take the extended rest period and see if they can create something to build on for this year. While DC is trying for the Supporter's Shield, Columbus must definately be thinking playoffs first. Tactically, a defend and counter team can almost be expected, but the interesting things will be in the details... How many will make forward runs, and where does the defense start? Expect higher pressure earlier and later in the game, with periods of the Crew ceding half the field to the Black and Red. Sounds like a weather map.

Previews from the DCUniverse: Quarter Volley, DC Sun Devil, SE Podcast, A Little Less Conversation

Expected Yield: 2.5 points. United should get three, but Columbus will delight in a draw in such a way that if United doesn't finish some good chances, they may not get many more.

D's Location: I think I'm at home, though it suddenly ocurred to me that I might have a ticket for this game. And, for those of you that follow such things, I am getting that USMNT jersey. Oh yes. Happy day.

Last Words: Curious

Clyde and Prejudice

Sorry for the cheap title, since I'm conflating Washington Post story references. First, Steve Goff with a profile of your healthy Clyde Simms, plus a quick note on Piotr being Piotr:

Notes: Asked who will start in goal tonight now that veteran Nick Rimando has recovered from a foot injury, Nowak responded, "Me!"

Also, Mike Wise checks in with Alecko Eskandarian's global historical conscience. I can not recommend this article highly enough as the way of looking at the entire picture of a player's personality, there is some truly great writing. And if you are wondering about the tackle ordered by the coaching staff, the Screaming Eagles Podcast has the backstory on that one. Truly a great read.

The Washington Times looks at the man between the pipes for Columbus: Maryland alum Noah Palmer. I urge you to carefully scan the quote from Dominic Mediate that John Haydon uses:

"He's a good goalie who has taken a lot of hard criticism because of Maryland's final four outings," said United midfielder Dominic Mediate, a teammate of Palmer at Maryland. "It will be a big test for him because he's with a brand new team and he will be nervous."
Note that Dom doesn't call the criticism unfair, or harsh, just hard. Might he agree with it?

Quick note: another Bobby Convey done good story over at the BBC.

I've got a game preview to write for today, but there's a question I'd like to get to over the next week, and perhaps you'd like to think about it as well. What are the orthodoxies of DC United fandom? Both historically and in view of the current situation. I'd like to run a few posts examining some of the widely shared beliefs of DC fans, and see how true they are. Just because something is widely held and conventional doesn't make it wrong, but it doesn't necessarily make it right. Just something to think about.

30 May 2006

Jamie Moreno: Week 10 Player of the Week


Yearbook Confidential

Let me see if I can capture the situation properly... Think back to when you were in college. If that doesn't work, try high school... say, some point in your life when social interactions were blown way out of proportion. Good.

Now, let's say you have a friendly rivalry with someone, call him, I dunno, Steve. You and Steve have similar interests. Perhaps you both play ultimate, or are on the same Improv Comedy Troupe, or archery, or whatever. Regardless, you sort of have this competitive thing with Steve, and it's the kind of thing where you are trying to top each other's accomplishments just to see how things will go. Maybe a few times it escalates to the point where you say a few nasty words to each other, but for the most part it's just good, fun competition, and people around you even notice that it is pretty cool.

Only there's this other guy. We'll call him Will. Will sees the banter between you and Steve, and thinks that's how he's going to be as cool as you and Steve are. So he starts trying to join in. It's kind of pathetic, but whatever. You and Steve keep doing your thing, and Will snipes from the sidelines. It's a minor annoyance, and you and Steve are still pushing each other to be better.

Only suddenly, Will decides to announce on some internet newsgroup that he's tired of the disrespect you and Steve have for him. He claims that you two are both jealous, and he hates you both. He implies that you and Steve are too much of a clique (despite that fact that you rarely hang out together, outside of the common interest) and that he's promoting a new way of doing things. He tells everyone how much he can't stand you and Steve, and how only he sees things for how they should be. You and Steve are like "What's up with this guy? Whoa. Seriosly... a bit wacked out..."

Okay, got all that? Now substitute Columbus Crew for Will, any other conference team or Steve (or the LA Galaxy), and you can get a sense for how bewildering their reaction to DC is for me.

An explanation of my obsessions

Yes, I tend toward the obsessive at times. Persuing my recent postings, I've noticed that I have this weird obsession with the Supporter's Shield. So I wanted to take a few moments to discuss why I care. In thinking about it, I've come to the conclusion that part of the reason is simply because I write this blog.

Since I started writing here, I've had to pay attention to pretty much every game. Naturally, I want to fit each game as a chapter into a larger narrative. Given the well documented "hot at the right time" nature of the MLS Cup, it is difficult for me to say that Saturday's win over Kansas City really plays into the larger story in a given way. When the Cup is awarded, you can look book at pick out a couple of key games that identified when the team came into form.

The Supporter's Shield works as a matter of narrative convenience. If you're not right on the line for making the playoffs, it is hard to see how individual games make a difference, but not so the Shield. It makes paying attention to each game rewarding, and makes it easier for me to focus on a given game. As a result, I tend to get obsessive over something that, until this year, meant nothing. Even this year, depending on how the CONCACAF Champion's League qualification situation is ultimately decided, the Supporter's Shield might be cheapened a bit. Still, it's fun to watch.

So if I keep harping on it, just write it off to "He needs something to keep track of, or he'd be whining about how pointless it all seemed."

29 May 2006

Debriefing for Match 11.09: At Kansas City Wizards


Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Pete Grathoff: "Along with the win came a stranglehold on first place in the East."
MLSNet, Thomas Foote: "United had most of the right answers in the first half."
Mid-Atlantic Soccer Report, Chad Reynolds: "The dagger in the heart of the Wizards was a Bobby Boswell goal in first half stoppage time, as KC had controlled play and threatened much more than DC, but couldn't quite find the scoring touch. "
The Kansas City Star, David Boyce: "...But a two-goal loss is harder to swallow, especially when all three of D.C. United’s first-half goals could be considered soft."
bLCKdgRd: "I do know that rewarding Simms a PK for his airball and fall in the box was the single worse refereeing decision I've seen since, oh, the last time Terry Vaughn refereed a DCU game."
A Little Less Conversation: "DC's offense was spectacular even without the goals."

The Good

  1. Welcome, Defensive Managers- The defense is starting now to come together. Erpen and Boswell had their finest game as a tandem, working together as best as I've seen them do all year. Clyde Simms, newly healthy, is proving that he is capable as a holding midfielder. Brian Carroll has needed a partner for two games, and it is nice to know he's here.
  2. Forget triangles, think 5-pointed Stars - It seemed that since 1999, DC has been searching for the new Magic Triangle to replace Etch - Moreno - (Lassiter / RDA / Rammel...). Only now they have a veritable buffet of scoring combinations. The triangle is so last century man, now we like to think of Gros - Gomez - Adu - Moreno - Eskandarian, pick any three at any time. That's something to be giddy about. Giddy.
  3. Charging Local Rates- Like pretty much everyone else in MLS, Kansas City's scouting must have said "long balls down the wings will kill United." Fortunately, for once the defense, aided by some up-top pressure, were able to deal with the long balls and make them more difficult to deliver.

The Bad

  1. Posession was not nine-tenths - Piotr Nowak actually noted this in his post game interview, but while United survived the second half with long clearences out of the box, they needed to really capture and posess the ball. It was the one thing that made this game not a model to take forward.
  2. The Refs - Sure, it evened out, but that's damning with faint praise. Kansas City was unduly harmed by the PK that was awarded (isn't that the precise moment when the ref should turn to the AR who might have had a better view and confer?) Eskandarian? Robbed. Sealy? Offside. (Yes, he was. When the ball was played, the only person between Sealy and the goal was Adu, meaning there were not two defenders. That's the definition. He was passively offside until he received the ball, at which point he was off. When the header went into Adu, he was behind Perkins.) Everyone can gripe.

Man of the Match

I want to give this one to Freddy Adu, who got one assist, send the long ball into Simms that earned the PK, and also made the initial run before dishing the ball to Moreno who earned the foul on the first goal. Then he did play decent (if not great) defense the second half. I really think he earned it. But there's also the matter of...

Moreno Watch

Jamie gets two goals, while Jason Kreis saves RSL with his one. Moreno deserves credit for getting onto the end of Gomez's service, and for almost being automatic from the spot. Man of the Match, and closer still on the all-time list. Kreis - 103; Moreno - 99

Final Thoughts

I'm going to hold off on final thoughts this week, and instead address some things in subsequent posts. There is much to talk about. The only thing I will say is this: This game was not critical to the Eastern Conference standings, as United has a lot more to do in that area. This game was critical in maintaining the quest for the Supporter's Shield, as United now stays within distance of FC Dallas. That's the real import of this game. A loss, and United was still very much in the picture for top seed in the East, but would also have a huge gap in the quest for that automatic Champions Bid.

Note: An earlier version of this post misattributed the Post article to Steve Goff. It has been corrected. Also, "The Good #3" was mistakenly not replaced from a previous debrief. That has also been corrected.

26 May 2006

Match 11.09 Preview: At Kansas City Wizards

Match #: 11.09

Opponent: Kansas City Wizards

DC United, 4-1-3, 15 pts, 1st in East Conference , 2nd in MLS
Kansas City Wizards, 4-3-1, 13 pts, 2nd in East Conference, 3rd (tie-Houston) in MLS

TV: CSN / MLSLive.TV - 8:30PM

Previous Meeting: DC United 2 : 1 Kansas City, May 13, 2006 (DCenters debriefing...)

Suggested Pregame Music: The Unseen University Boys Choir - A Wizard's Staff has a Knob on the End.

The Stakes: The stakes aren't the top spot in the East, at least in my mind. No, this is about winning the MLS regular season. Really. At one-quarter of the way into the season, the Supporter's Shield situation is becoming clearer. FC Dallas is the only team above Shield Pace at the moment, having been a point under only two games ago. With two games in hand on the Hoops, DC United needs a win to follow suit. This could be one of those games early in the season that seems like it might not mean much, but a loss here would place DC three points out of pace.

There are other intrigues as well. This the second time DC has played an opponent they faced earlier in the season, and like the Red Bulls before, this second encounter is a road game. Nowak showed ability to learn from the previous encounter with RBNY, can similar success be expected here? The answer is probably not. Kansas City is a better team, and having just taken a beating from Real Salt Lake they have something to prove at home. Still, I've always believed that the World Cup period would be toughest of all on Kansas City, something I believed even before the World Cup squads were announced. The opportunity for a DC win is there, but we can't afford any of the lapses that have plagued this team.

I expect Nowak will come out in the 3-5-2, and probably one closer to the one played last year than the hybrid he's been experimenting with. With Kansas City already thinned at the front and back, if DC can establish midfield dominance it could be a strong indication of things to come.

Previews from the DCUniverse: Most of the DCUniverse is on vacation, but the SE Podcast has their thoughts...

Expected Yield: 2.0 points. My mind is telling me that it should be 1.5, coming up with all sorts of logical reasons to expect the draw. Still, emotion rules the day. (Current Expectations to Reality Level: 108% - I have overestimated DCU's performance to date.)

D's Location: At home. In Sofa. Trying to convince wife that I really need a limited edition red USMNT jersey with Olsen's name and number.

Last Words: Wizards. Really.

25 May 2006

With, Not Instead

One of the more provocative sets of articles that's appeared here at DCenters were the examinations of the Google trends tool and the attempt to gauge how interested people are in using the Internet to gain information on Major League Soccer, especially in comparison to the National Hockey League (See [1] and [2]). Recently I read two articles that make me want to revisit that territory. Yes, this is personal opinion time again, so take it as you will.

Over at Off Wing Opinion, Eric McErlain linked The DCenters analysis with an article he read from the Canadian press. He has some great points that I largely agree with. He says:

It's one thing to measure interest from online searches, but it's another thing entirely to measure it in dollars. Despite the gap that's been discovered here, MLS has a long way to go before it can regularly replicate the atmosphere -- and the box office receipts -- of the Stanley Cup playoffs. That doesn't mean it can't get there, or even exceed it for a time.
What he says here is true. The NHL brings in more revenue than MLS does right now, and I don't see much sign of that changing in the next decade. The point I'm trying to suggest is not that MLS is worth more than the NHL, or that MLS is as popular as the NHL, but rather that the demand for information from content providers, such as your local TV station, ESPN SportSCenter, the Washington Post, and all is similar. The question is one of eyeballs, not pocket money. The demand for information is not the same as the demand for tickets (and while they probably correlate, we all know from Stats-101 that correlation is not causation).

So my argument is not addressed to people considering whether or not building a Soccer Specific Stadium is worth public financing, but rather to the information providers. People want MLS news, and if your national or local coverage isn't getting it to you, then a potential advantage for a competitor exists. Simply in terms of providing information, not box office.

Now, the other issue is the idea of NHL vs. MLS for the position of "Fourth most popular professional league." By writing my first take the way I did, I think I may have contributed to a false dichotomy in framing the issue. There is no reason in my mind that the choice between the MLS is an either-or. We play at different times of the year for the most part. The NHL is a daily event, the MLS weekly. Markets are not necessarily zero-sum institutions, where one segment profits only at the expense of the other. I am an MLS fan before all else, but I don't believe that moving MLS up in the world requires that the NHL move down. I think many believe otherwise. For instance, in an otherwise excellent post on MLS expansion options and their visibility, scaryice at Climbing the Ladder falls into that line of thinking:

As a huge soccer fan, of course I want to see the other major leagues struggle (hey, they're not going anywhere). Especially the NHL, because they are the undisputed #4, offering a product that is increasingly being called a niche sport in America. The goal for MLS is to become a major league, and when we get on par with them, it will be a great day for soccer. It would be nice to get their entirely on the league's success, but if the NHL falling can hasten the goal, then that's a good thing.
I disagree with this 100%. If MLS becomes the #4 professional league because the NHL falls below MLS while MLS remains constant, I don't see that the consequence is that MLS gets more money or attention. Instead, I think people will naturally split the space among the NBA, MLB, and NFL.

To me, I want to see the MLS take its place with the NHL, not have the NHL fall apart. And as a matter of respect, including media coverage, I think MLS should earn, per game, close to the kind of media coverage the NHL has nationally and locally. I know that NHL fans are shaking their heads... "Don't they know how shabbily we're treated?" Yup. I've been a Caps fan in days when it seemed like the only thing the media would mention was a game 7 collapse against the Penguins, coupled with a Tony Kornheiser column about dogs requiring first aid. And it is more than MLS gets in most markets, especially nationally on cable sports stations. We want the same sort of information coverage as the NHL, but not by tearing down ice hockey, but by building up soccer. And, to some degree, I think we are pretty damn close in terms of the demand for information.

24 May 2006

In Defense of the Defense of Troy Perkins

Troy Perkins should be the starting keeper for DC United.

I'm not saying that Perkins starts every match from now until season's end, or that Rimando shouldn't be able to compete for the job. Yet I will say that I believe that over the past eight games, Troy Perkins has played capably and dutifully, and that his performance makes him an above average keeper in today's Major League Soccer.

The job of a keeper, first and foremost, is to keep the ball out of the net. Organization of the defensive line helps that job, and strong distribution is a bonus. But neither matter a whit compared to keeping the ball out. In eight games, Troy has allowed eight goals. Those goals are enumerated below:

  1. Youri Djorkaeff's free kick (April 2, 2006)
  2. Edson Buddle's hitting the muffed save (April 2, 2006)
  3. Djorkaeff slotted shot (April 22, 2006)
  4. Ronnie O'Brien's shot from distance (April 29, 2006)
  5. Kirovski's penalty (May 7, 2006)
  6. Hernandez from Cooke (May 7, 2006)
  7. Victorine's penalty (May 13, 2006)
  8. Ngwenya's counter (May 20, 2006)
Of those eight goals, Troy should be excused for, if nothing else, the two penalities and Djorkaeff's free kick. That's five goals where Troy may have made a mistake to enable a goal, either through decision making, reflexes, or positioning.

In MLS now there are damn few top quality keepers who will only allow in the "impossible to stop" goals. The best you can reasonably hope for is a competent keeper that gets the job done. Troy has done that this year. You may be able to directly fault him for one or two goals, but aside from Buddle's goal I see few instances where one can say that all, or even most of the blame, is Perkins. Yes, he has merited some censure for many of those goals, but so did the defense and midfield for allowing breakaway counter attacks. In eight games, only once has Perkins given the other team a goal. In that same time frame, I believe DC's opponents have given them many more goals (Eskandarian's second against New York, when Tony fell down, comes to mind. You can make an argument for Gomez's goal against Columbus as well. And that's with me thinking for only a few seconds.)

Folks, DC has the best GAA in the East, and that's with some defensive lapses noted here and in numerable other places. So don't tell me that Perkins hasn't done his share of the work, or that the defense is somehow making him look better than he is. (The holding midfielders I might believe, but not the back line). Perkins has carried his share, or more, of the load. He deserves the job. If he starts to falter, then Rimando is there. But at this point, Perkins is the man, and rightfully so.

The USA and Morocco Star in Sam Shepard's "True West"

USA 0 : 1 Morocco

I'll let more USA and World Cup focused blogs discuss this matter, but for me there was something oddly familiar about the game I watched last a night. I saw a team that was dominating, strong, creating more and more chances as time went on. I saw a relative world cup minnow showing great hustle (especially on defense) and tactically sound one touch passing. I saw a goal scored against the run of play on a counter. This is a game I saw many times, only before the underdog was the 1994 USA team.

I don't know that this means much, only it was strange to see the roles so transparently reversed in a game. In a strange way, I feel comforted that the United States is the victim of an oft-told morality tale of international play: No matter how big you are, you can lose in a moment. Usually we've been hoping to take advantage of that cliche, it is strange to see it applied to us for once.

For more on the strange power of narrative reversal and Gary Sinese, enjoy.

23 May 2006

On the Internet, an Hour is a Long Time

Sitting in my draft post file was an post called "First Quarter Grades" This post contained the phrase "I can't believe I'm writing this, but the defensive line needs Brandon Prideaux." While I was messing around earning a living, the Mid-Atlantic Soccer Report beats me to the punch, with a report card that looks fairly similar (you'll have to take my word for that) to the one I was drafting. So check it out. For those that are curious, my grades are below (with similar reasoning in many cases) and I'll put the MidAtlantic grades in the brackets:

Troy Perkins: B [B-] -- In my mind, he's earned the starting job for the immediate future.
Brandon Prideaux: A [A]
Facundo Erpen: B [B-]
Bobby Boswell: B- [B]
Josh Gros: B [B]
Bryan Namoff: C+ [B] -- His injury made him a vulnerability for a few games there.
Brian Caroll: A [A+]
Ben Olsen: A [A+]
Freddy Adu: B+ [B-] -- Really, he's been very good this year, and doing things such as playing defense so much better.
Christan Gomez: B- [B+] -- I think the first few games are dragging this grade down a bit for me.
Jamie Moreno: C+ [C+]
Alecko Eskandarian: A [B+] -- He's putting the ball into the net. He does his job, and he does it well.
Lucio Filomeno: D [C-] -- Has been underwhelming, and not in a way that made me think he's going to break out of it. Of course, I may be bitter since I thought he would break through this year. Also a victim in comparison to Alecko.
Jamil Walker: A [B+]
Piotr Nowak: B [B]
Clyde Simms, Dominic Mediate: Incomplete.

Did the BBC Make Amends?

Apparently, the BBC Radio had a story on American soccer fans, discussing the spanish language influences. It was a companion piece to the infamous "Spread Eagle" story linked earlier. Both the Barra and the Eagles were mentioned in this story. My wife hear it and emailed me about it, but I can't find any record online... anyone catch this? Want to write a summary in the comments? Or post a link if you can find it, since I can't? What I'm hearing about it sounds like it had some differences from the printed version.


Pop Quiz: You are an MLS team that has had good early season success, but you're only in second place in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, you just lost a road game against a lesser western conference opponent. While you lost, the team one point ahead of you managed a draw, which leaves you only two points out of the top spot in the conference. You get the top team at your home next week, and a win allows you to retake the top position. Are you...

a) DC United on May 7, 2006; or
b) The Kansas City Wizards as of today?

22 May 2006

Watch Me As I Give Out Props Like the Stage Manager at a Gallagher Show

So much to write about this week, but first a few nods to some of the others out there in this wild world:

Quarter Volley with a bit of a scoop on the DC Starting Keeper next Sunday, and more stuff on some of the other DC soccer teams we should pay attention to.

Happy Birthday Kali.

Mike H. (and his wife) are back from vacation, and they have a soccer blog.

Are you writing those submissions for the Second Carnival of American Soccer? You should be...

Debriefing for Match 11.08: At Columbus Crew


Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "Despite having to settle for a tie, United (4-1-3) could take comfort from the fact that the club has just one blemish at the quarter mark of the season and continues to generate a dangerous attack."
MLSNet, Ryan D. Kuhn: "...the Columbus Crew were thankful to come away with a single point after allowing just their second goal in their last five games."
Mid-Atlantic Soccer Report, Jimmy LaRoue: "Nowak, in these last two matches, has given Carroll too much ground to cover defensively in the center of the field."
The Columbus Dispatch, Shawn Mitchell: "The overhauled and previously defensive-minded Crew — which added 23 new players in the past six months — revved its engine and roared out of the gates in its fastest-paced half of the season."
DC Sun Devil, Brian Garrison: "The thing that got me was that as United hammered the Crew in the second half, they were unable to get the winning goal, when it looked as if they should."
Soccer Capital News, Walter Wheeler: "When the whistle blew, the Crew had to feel somewhat fortunate to get a point. It was a hard point, but a point earned nonetheless."
A Little Less Conversation: "Watching the Columbus game I couldn't help but think that DC sometimes plays like they are the varsity team v. the freshmen."

The Good

  1. Pressure - DC United was able to create a period of sustained attack unlike any other this year, a period that led to the Gomez goal. Full credit to Moreno, Eskandarian, Adu, Gros, Filomeno, and Gomez who made strong, clever plays to keep tightening the vice.
  2. Piotr Nowak, Mad Scientist - I know, you saw Filomeno in the midfield and you shook your head. What's going on here? Personally, I loved it. Don't get me wrong, I don't think the experiment woked out. United was a better side once Clyde Simms came in for Filomeno. But experimenting with your options this early in the year is exactly what I want my head coach to do. Piotr doesn't want one winning formula, he wants several, and that means trying the occasional odd move. It didn't work, but I'm glad we know that now and not in September.
  3. Christiam Gomez- His best game to date in my mind. His passing was sharper in this game than most in recent memory.

The Bad

  1. Caught in the Counter- Again. There's blame galore on this one: Filomeno, Boswell, Perkins, Gros...
  2. Smoke Break- Picking a man of the match was difficult for this game, as every single player on the pitch had at least one poorly executed decision or move. Fortunately, most of these happened at different times and not all at once, but at least twice multiple errors led to clear Columbus chances.

Man of the Match

Tough choice. Freddy Adu was up for it as he had a series of classy plays. So was Christian Gomez, and not just for his goal. Ultimately, the award goes to the overworked Brian Carroll.

Moreno Watch

Jamie did not look as good as last week, but it was an acceptable performance even if I yell at him for getting too cute. Jason Kreis went the full 90, but I don't know how he looked. Still, no change in the goal scoring totals: Kreis - 102; Moreno - 97

Final Thoughts

Want to enter a world of imagination and illusion? Look at the shot totals and imagine DC's domination... Only it doesn't really reflect what happened. At least four of those shots on goal were: a) From distance; and b) Right at Mr. Busch. That being said, DC did have the run of the play for most of the game, but it wasn't the Black and Red Hegemony. This wasn't last year's game against the Metros.

United has now reached the quarter-season mark with one loss. More importantly, United has chalked up four wins. That's not that bad folks. United is clearly playing as one of the best teams in the league. That we can find problems with the team is a reason to hope, not despair. This is a team that, I think, is playing better now than at the start of the season, and still has room to improve. Draws against FC Dallas and Columbus may have felt bad, but they're acceptable. We're only one point off of the Supporter's Shield pace (and FC Dallas through as many games was in the same boat) and clearly United has set itself up to make a bid for the Suppoter's Shield and the top seed in the East. That's good. Some provisional congratulations are in order. Accept them graciously, and then prepare for Kansas City next week.

21 May 2006

An Unfortunate Mistranslation From American to English

I am working on the debrief for the Columbus match even now, but I see this article over on the BBC. They sent a correspondent over for the Kansas City-DC match, and we get the typical patronizing attitude one should expect. The damage though is in the one misprint (emphasis added):

But Bob was the genuine article, a member of the Spread Eagles supporters group, who - as I would find out inside the stadium - love to bounce up and down on their part of the terraces, causing the wooden structure to vibrate rather alarmingly.

I hope they correct that one fast. I haven't yet checked Big Soccer to see if they've noticed there, but once they do I expect the letter writing to be fast and furious.

Update: Okay, they've noticed, and probably before I got this post up. We await the correction.

20 May 2006

Negotiate / Mediate

NEGOTIATE 1: The DCenters may have a blog bet riding on tonight's game with MLS News and Views. Negotiations are being carried out by email, but it looks like terms similar to what we had against Real Salt Lake Blog.

NEGOTIATE 2: Steve Goff is saying that DC United is ready to announce a July 12 friendly against Celtic from the SPL. Don't think for a moment that The DCenters isn't relishing the idea.

MEDIATE: Both the aforementioned Steve Goff Washington Post article and John Haydon in the Washington Times run stories on former Crew Midfielder Dominic Mediate. From Haydon's article:

Mediate wanted to come to the D.C. area to be close to his girlfriend and his alma mater of Maryland, where he played four seasons. (He suffered a fractured cheek bone in his freshman year and a broken collarbone as a junior.)

To survive financially, Mediate commutes from Laurel to coach a boys team in Reston on Wednesdays and a girls team in Silver Spring on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

How does anyone manage to have a girlfriend on $11.7K and live a life? Wow. I know the Collective Bargaining Agreement is supposedly raising the minimum salary for players in upcoming years, but really we need to do better.

19 May 2006

Match 11.08 Preview: At Columbus Crew

Match #: 11.08

Opponent: Columbus Crew

DC United, 4-1-2, 14 pts, 1st in East Conference , 2nd in MLS
Columbus Crew, 3-3-1, 10 pts, 3rd (tie - New England) in East Conference, 5th (tie) in MLS

TV: CSN / MLSLive.TV - 7:30PM

Previous Meeting: DC United 2 : 2 Columbus Crew, October 15, 2005 (DCenters remembers...)

Suggested Pregame Music: Ohio - Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young

The Stakes: For whatever reason, Columbus has decided to make a statement on this game, one way or another. With Sigi Schmid calling the game a "measuring stick" and with the comments from Mark McCullers, Columbus has built this game up in the minds of their players.

And I don't understand why. Not at all. For DC United, this is another road game. A road game where they should take the mentality of "Aim for three, settle for one." They were stung by Colorado, so I can't imagine that they will look beyond this game to the return match at Kansas City. I can get some dander up for games against the Red Bulls, the Revolution, the Fire, and the Galaxy. I expect quality games against FC Dallas and Houston when we play them. But the Crew... I feel nothing special there. No hatred. No pity. Nothing. Truth be told, I kinda like the Crew and the city of Columbus. I have great respect for their coach. I like their draft pick Jason Garey. Why they are trying to turn this game into a personal alamo is something I just don't understand. Especially considering what happened at the Alamo.

Tactically, I have no idea what line-ups we will see on either side. Sigi has kept the crew line-up in flux as they've gone from week to week. Brian at DC Sun Devil wants Nowak to stop the experiments:

Start the winning formula. Coach Peter Nowak needs to continue to use the same type of formation and starting line up that has picked up 4 wins in 7 matches. I realize that Olsen is away at National Team duty, so he is obviously not available. However, tinkering with your line up and changing the formation when the earlier formation worked so well, isn't the bright thing to do.

I disagree. Nowak hasn't really played the same line-up twice in a row yet, and he shouldn't start now. I do expect we will see the 3-5-2 on Saturday, but it won't be the one we had against Kansas City (I would imagine Simms, if healthy, will go and Adu won't be in the middle with Gomez). And what's more, I don't want us to abandon the 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 experiments we've seen. If Piotr becomes trapped in a system, other teams will plan for it and problems will start. Keep them on their toes.

Previews from the DCUniverse: Quarter Volley, DC Sun Devil, Screaming Eagles Podcast, MLSNet/DCUnited.Com, DCist... (Really, I shouldn't even bother at this point.)

Expected Yield: 2.0 points. (Current Expectations to Reality Level: 104% - I have overestimated DCU's performance to date.)

D's Location: TBA

Last Word: Assisted Living (Is it bad that this is the first listing in a google search for "The Crew"? No.)

When Deals Go Bad...

...they can go real bad. The Washington Business Journal on the court case that has been filed in the wake of GDP's failed attempt to buy DC United:

It's unclear exactly why the agreement between Global Development Partners and D.C. United owner Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) fell through, although McAteer claims in his suit that Major League Soccer would not approve "ownership of a franchise by an entity involving" Lauterbach, Kissler and Al-Sadi.


Updated with Analysis/Speculation: Okay, so let's see what's going on here. It was the DCenters contention that Global Development Partners was leveraged pretty heavily, and then they lost some major projects (such as the new baseball stadium for the Richmond minor league baseball team). This is the second time I've seen a mention that MLS didn't want to go through with the deal with GDP. It's possible that they weren't just leveraged with debt to finance their ambitions, but they were also paying a bit fast and loose. So it wasn't GDP that ran away from MLS, but MLS that pulled out once they got a glimpse of some stuff in GDP's ledger.

The lawsuit could be interesting if it goes to trial (a settlement must always be considered a likely outcome) because then we're going to have depositions, affadavits, and testimony. Someone from AEG and MLS will have to explain why the deal didn't go through. It could get interesting. I see no direct impact to DC United, other than being a nuisance if Kevin Payne has to take the stand, but it could be very, very interesting. The DCenters will monitor...

Places to Go, People to Read

Ah, the slowly expanding blogroll. Please welcome some more places I've started reading recently: Global Football ("Left" midfield is mildly amusing as a name given the backing of that site), Who Ate All the Bratwurst?, and Fantasy EPL.

Correctional Facility

From time to time, I daydream. I walk through a indirectly lit matte black corridor. The walls are lined, floor to ceiling, with TVs. In my hands are remote controls. My index fingers fly across their surface, changing channels across the TVs that flank me. Each channel change from one monitor or the other is accompanied by a shock of static until it starts humming with the images of a great moment of soccer. I progress down the hall in this manner, changing each of the channels. Two thirds of the way down the corridor I toss the remote controls to the ground, John Woo style, and pull out two more, finishing the walk. As I turn back, I see that DC United and the USA are well represented in the screens I am watching. It feels right.

I have no idea why I am sharing that with you, since it is perfectly ridiculous. Then again, I'm perfectly ridiculous. There's plenty to get to today, a preview for Columbus to write, but I'd like to start today by responding to some other writers.

FOR GOODNESS SAKES MAN, WE'RE PROFESSIONALS: Dave Lifton evaluates the decorum in Columbus, and finds it wanting. This is a fascinating point, and one that I think explains my discomfort with Alexi Lalas. When you work for a team in MLS or for MLS itself, you are supposed to be a professional. You conduct yourself accordingly. The DCenters is a fan site, which means I am free to spout off about whatever. But if I were writing analysis for a US Soccer Media site, or for DC United, I wouldn't behave like a fan. No, I'd want to behave as an analyst. Sure, it is less fun and cathartic, but the gravitas you must employ as a matter of course is used for respect. You have to be able to switch these things on and off.

To put it another way, I love DC United and I love our fans. Part of what makes being a fan enjoyable is the shared emotional experience. Emotion. Fans are emotional beings, and what I want in my team officials is professional logic and classy behavior. I do not want them to act like drunken fans. There's nothing wrong with drunken fans, I frequently am one. But what a drunken fan does well is create an atmosphere in a game, not run a team to success. When your GM starts acting like a fan and not a professional, it does not bode well.

HE SUCKS - DON'T FIRE HIM: An actual LA fan articulates a similar position to the DCenters on Steve Sampson. Good to know.

"BECKHAM" +10 AVERAGES OUT: Over at Record As I Am, Oscar has some good, common-sense insight into the proposed Beckham rule and its implications. The cliche that seems to be operative when considering these things is "A rising tide carries all boats" and cliches are cliches frequently because they have some truth to them. But Oscar does point out that the Beckham rule, even if implemented, really isn't going to wreck what parity there is in the league. He backs it up with historical examples.

CORRECTIONS: In the interest of truth:

  1. The DCenters in its Kansas City preview said that its expectations to reality level was 103%. The actual number was 114%. The DCenters regrets the error.
  2. The DCenters picked the New York Red Bulls to finish third in the Eastern Conference this year. The DCenters regrets the error.

Finally, wouldn't this be cool? Yeah, I'm not counting on it either.

18 May 2006

The Year To Date... Sort Of

I just wanted to share the typical snapshots of the horserace as they exist so far. I find these graphs less useful than the pace graphs for a few reasons:

  1. They show week to week standing changes well, but always in relation to the other teams, not in terms of thinking for a whole season.
  2. The pace charts nicely isolate one team's performance against an expected result. These do not.
  3. The pace graphs show the effect of having a game in hand better. Here, FC Dallas is at the top of the chart, but that might change depending on the results of this weekend's games.

Anyways, here we go, starting with the Suppoter's shield. This will look similar to the Pace graph posted yesterday since the top team in MLS happens to be exactly on shield pace at the moment.

Mildly interesting facts? New England and Columbus have put together some nice moves in recent weeks, the Houston Dip at the start of the season is very noticable, and LA, when we look back at the regular season, may find that both Chivas and RSL were doing better by their eighth game than LA. Huh.

Here are the divisional races:

Make of it what you will.

Head-Geared Up

Jeff Carlisle sits down with Alecko Eskandarian at ESPN. And yes, you do earn your nicknames from others:

So far, Eskandarian is doing that and more, despite being razzed by his teammates for the protective headband he now wears around his head, which has earned him the nickname "Headgear." In the meantime, the United forward is savoring every moment.

"I'm just grateful to play this sport, the game that I love, as my job," Eskandarian says. "I love coming to practice every day. I love coming in on game day and hearing the fans, everything like that."

In the Q(ueue)

TOPS: Some quick notes before getting on to other things today. First, DC United tops the Matchnight poll. The DCenters feels fine with this, given that United is currently the only team on Supporter's Shield pace. We're going to look at the snapshots of the division standings later today, and I hope to use that as a contrast to why I think pace is better, at least for now.

HONORS: A DCU player makes Week 7's All-American XI, where they let pretty much any old fool write stuff for them.

Tino's brother Brandon has the kids doing okay in Baltimore (See "Youth Soccer").

QUESTION SEMIAUTHORITIES: Yesterday's morning post had a lovely amount of discussion on Steve Sampson and the Gatorade commercials. One of the things I appreciate is the willingness of commenters here to be willing to question the conventional wisdom, even if it is conventional wisdom I happen to share such as "Steve Sampson = Crappy Coach." Still, the sentiment of most is that you can't fire him. If you only saw the blog in the morning yesterday, I urge to you check it out.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 1: The idea of the CONCACAF Champions League is very cool, but I really want a formal press release from MLS before we celebrate. What's the format? Who's invited? All of that matters to me. Keep the Supporter's Shield meaning something.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 2: As this is a DC United blog, my feelings on the Barcelona-Arsenal match probably don't matter a whole lot to you. Still, I'm going to tell you. If Arsenal feels like they've been cheated, then that alone justifies the result after the way Spurs got the backhand slap of fate at the end of the EPL season. Go ahead and brag about how brave you were, just remember that karma does matter and can always slap you around. Good. You've had several decades to earn a moment like this. It takes some of the sting (or is that food-poisoning nausea) out of the day.

17 May 2006

Take Away the Four Silver Soccer Balls, Add One Gold Soccer Ball

MLSNet and DCUnited.Com are reporting that Alecko Eskandarian has received his fifth-ever Goal of the Week award for, as he said, "Kicking the crap out of the ball." It may only be his first award of the season, but with four more from 2004 he now has the career league lead for GoW awards.

Update! Ah, a linkable press release...

"Some of Hispanic soccer fans' favorite teams..."

Press release from Univision says that MLS will be featured programming on TeleFutura:

"Major League Soccer Game of the Week" will showcase 25 of the best U.S. professional soccer matches, plus the MLS All-Star game, MLS Cup Final, and will feature some of Hispanic soccer fans' favorite teams, including Chivas USA (Los Angeles), LA Galaxy, Red Bull New York, Chicago Fire, Houston Dynamo, FC Dallas, and DC United. (April - November, Sunday 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT)

From a strictly American perspective, I welcome the idea that TeleFutura will have games instead of FSC. You don't have to pay for TeleFutura where I am. Dig it.

Update! Yes, I missed the first formal announcement of a combined MLS/Mexican Champions League that is embedded in the release until I saw someone point it out on BigSoccer. That's even cooler.

Week 7 Pace Reports

Shield Pace Report, Week 7

As part of the continuing effort to follow the season based on the pace concept, now that some teams have reached the quarter season mark, let's review the pace number, starting with the race for the Supporter's Shield and its automatic bid to the Champions Cup:

Week 7 Shield Pace

United has dropped from above pace to right on pace, having burned their margin for error in the draw to FC Dallas and the loss to the Rapids. To get above pace they'll need a win against the Crew. The other teams are all off of pace, but Houston, Kansas City, and FC Dallas can both get onto pace with a win next week, and New England can do it by continuing their win streak for two more games.

Losses hurt when going after the Supporter's Shield. Houston's two game losing streak took three games to recover from, and their subsequent draw against FC Dallas dropped them just below pace again. The Galaxy and Real Salt Lake have suffered under their losses, while the New York Red Bulls have meandered downward by not winning (Which is to say: Draws hurt, they don't help).

The other interesting thing is that the shield pace puts United in a better place than FC Dallas, which some Power Polls are giving the #1 spot to. See what a game in hand does for you?

Eastern Conference Playoff Pace Report, Week 7

In the last pace update, we noted that the situation of having only two teams above playoff pace was not going to hold, and that at least two teams were going to get better as the season went on. Sure enough, New England has moved above playoff pace, and Columbus can move above pace with a win against United. Chicago is at least two games out from putting themselves onto playoff pace. New York is... awful. If all three are above playoff pace by three weeks from now, the DCenters feels confident in predicting that at least one of those teams will start to underperform, and it won't be a situation where the other teams outperform the lone team out.

Week 7 Playoff Pace

Also, we see how that while United still hasn't recovered in the shield pace from their two game winless streak, in terms of the playoffs they're pretty close to their high mark from before the FC Dallas game. Draws don't hurt as much when you have a few wins.

Later today, I might post a few images showing a more traditional view of the year to date so far.

The News Hole

I seem to recall a short-lived Harry Shearer TV show by that name, which I enjoyed even if no one else did. The news about DC United over the offseason was fairly constant, usually an interesting story a day. Now it seems like everyone holds the stories until right before or after a match date. Removing from game recaps, there is pretty much the same amount of content, just spaced differently.

QUIZ TIME! If nothing else, you should be able to answer Question #6.

WHY I DON'T LIKE THE NEW GATORADE COMMERCIAL: I suddenly realized two things over the weekend. First, while I admit that the Gatorade ad is well done, I'm not entirely sure that I agree with the use of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." It's been my feeling that MLS will never replace a major league in the American Media Sports Diet, but it can join the other major sports. The solution is to expand the pie-chart, make the market bigger, so that more people have a piece. Our sports attention is not a zero-sum game where one can only receive more attention at the expense of another. So the undercurrent that soccer replaces baseball is one that I am uncomfortable with. Similarly, when writing previously about MLS vs. NHL media coverage, the point isn't to replace the NHL, but rather to join with it as a media option. Ditto baseball. "It's a whole new ballgame" is a bit confrontational for my preference. Basic rule - Soccer Supremacy will not win over America, but Soccer Rights might.

STEVE SAMPSON OUT...LATER: I'm still not comfortable with the idea that Steve Sampson should be fired only 8 regular season games removed from winning a championship. Yes, it's clear he's an awful head coach. Yes, it might even be best for the team. But isn't there a certain amount of space earned for winning a title, and shouldn't it at least be a year? Not sure about this, and I'll think about it. I just don't think you can fire Sampson until he has completely failed to defend the title. Which, if LA continues to play as they did against RSL, could be just after the all-star break when they are eliminated from playoff contention.

16 May 2006

Who are you calling ugly?

Okay, maybe... but like Sampson, it was a source of great power.

The Second Carnival of American Soccer Will Not Be Here...

ThroughBall.Com is hosting the Second Carnival of American Soccer. Good for them. The date will be June 5th, and I'll be sure to get my post in to them. All you other soccer bloggers, or bloggers who occasionally write about soccer, get your posts in as well. Don't believe it matters? Check out this comment left on Because I Can after the first Carnival:

Dude, you're my new favorite new soccer blog....I never would have checked this out if not for his "American Carnival."

Yup, this is a good thing for all involved. Good for Throughball.com for stepping up to take on Carnival II.

Debriefing for Match 11.07: Kansas City Wizards


Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "More problems surfaced last night against the badly depleted Kansas City Wizards, most notably along the back line, but United found a way to cling to its precarious lead..."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "It wasn't always pretty, but with first place on the line, the Black-and-Red were quite content to take the spoils..."
Mid-Atlantic Soccer Report, Jimmy LaRoue: "...entertaining yet sloppy and sometimes disjointed match..."
Kansas City Star, Craig Stouffer: "...the Wizards showed signs of future promise but ultimately came up short against D.C. United."

The Good

  1. Attacking Construction - United's posession may not quite be at the quality one would like, but the decisions made on passes from the back all the way to the front were much smarter than last week, and the long balls were well played at timely moments. The interplay between Gomez, Adu, Moreno, and Eskandarian was probably at its finest in several games, as they worked well together. Once Kansas City was pushing, this meant each created chances for the other, and it was nice to see.
  2. Dominic Mediate's Debut - Dominic lined up in the right midfield, which meant he was in easy view of my seat for the first 45 minutes. His play was decent, not exceptional, moving well off the ball and calling for the ball at the right time. His defense was a bit rough, but that can improve.
  3. Troy Perkins as Nick Rimando - Several key reaction saves kept the win alive for United.
  4. Alecko Eskandarian - That was a quality goal. At an angle, on the volley, into a small amount of space on the near post... Wow.

The Bad

  1. Caught in the Counter- I do not blame Freddy Adu much for the penalty he gave. Kid covered 40 yards on a dead sprint to try and play defense, you expect me to lambast him for that? By the time he reached the box, he looked out of control, and I can't imagine a way he could have gotten there that fast and not. The PK was proper, you can scream it was weak, as I did during the game, but seeing the replay you can tell Adu not only had his arm out, but he stuck a leg across as well. No, the blame for that goes to Namoff (caught upfield, though it wasn't on his side so perhaps a life there), Erpen, Boswell (also upfield as a target), and Brian Carroll for losing the 50-50 ball. That's a lot of folks caught on one play.
  2. Dominic Mediate's Second 45 minutes - His play was still acceptable, but he was giving up too much space when Kansas City focused their attack on the left. Next time, a little more closing down. Not bad, though...
  3. Troy Perkins as Nick Rimando - He didn't get victimized by it, but I counted three times when a sharp cross brought Troy off his line, only for him not to make contact with the ball. If anyone had been on the other end of those crosses, life would have been difficult.
  4. All the Refs - I don't normally complain about the reffing, but it was noticable in this game. Setting aside the PKs (and if you gave one, you had to give both, and that's fine) there were a number of questionable foul calls (sometimes indicated by the ARs), the near side AR only seemed to call a player offside after he had crossed back onside (a legit call) but missed several more traditional situations, and Brian Carroll certainly deserved a professional foul yellow in the 80th minute. Ugly.

Man of the Match

He scores one goal, he earns the PK setting up the second, and Alecko Eskandarian becomes our first two time Man of the Match winner here at DCenters.

Moreno Watch

From the spot, Jamie gets one. Kreis seved his suspension, and didn't take part in the offensive explosion for Real Salt Lake against the Galaxy (Update: No, I'm totally wrong on this. See the comments). Kreis - 102; Moreno - 97

Final Thoughts

When you stare into the abyss, the abyss will sometimes give up a soft penalty. Everyone in RFK was reliving the Colorado match after United earned the lead, only to give it up minutes later on a penalty. What's frusturating is that United was truly building a strong game until they had to start over. Eskandarian's flop (not quite a dive, but not exactly a hard foul) helped United regain confidence and they played the second half the way you should: Conservative, waiting for the other team to open up in order to push for the equalizer. Then hit him hard in the newly created space. Fine.

Looking at some recent comments, let me say that this was Jamie Moreno's best game in a while. He was in the play, made some nice moves in tight spaces with the ball at his feet, picked up a goal from the spot, sent a few good passes -- it was the kind of game I hope to see from Jamie most weeks.

Now, I was talking to this guy I know on the Metro after the game, and we were both confused by Piotr Nowak's subbing strategy. No objection to Walker for Eskandarian in the 88th minute, but it was clear that Gomez was running out of steam by the 75th minute. Why not Wilson or Prideaux for Gomez? Even if Nowak was not trying to disrupt good chemistry he saw out on the field at that point, a defensive oriented substitution was still in order. It reminded me of the first leg of the Chicago playoffs last year, when Nowak's subbing patterns could have been a cryptic challenge designed by Cox and Ravthon. Very curious.

Anyways, as commenter Matt notes, three points is three points. The Crew are next, over in RFK West, so let's enjoy that. No team in Ohio should ever wear black and gold, yinz needs listening on 'at.

Also, more pretty pictures as I update the Pace situation.

15 May 2006

There will be a slight delay.

Sorry folks, swamped again. Am working on the debrief and some other nice things, but it may have to wait until later tonight or even tomorrow. My apologies. Short take on Saturday: Hooray for winning, but the performance was middling to good, not great.

12 May 2006

Match 11.07 Preview: Kansas City Wizards

Match #: 11.07

Opponent: Kansas City Wizards

DC United, 3-1-2, 11 pts, 2nd in East Conference , 4th in MLS
Kansas City Wizards, 4-1-1, 13 pts, 1st in East Conference, 2nd in MLS

TV: CSN, 7:30PM

Previous Meeting: Kansas City 1 : 1 DC United, July 20, 2005 (DCenters remembers...)

Suggested Pregame Music: Hungry Like the Wolf[f] - Duran Duran. Or perhaps Hungry for...

The Stakes: Like the FC Dallas game, the standings don't matter so much except in the game recap. This game will serve as the early barometer for form during the World Cup period of the 2006 MLS Season.

DC United looks to regain a composure they lost for the first time against Colorado last week. It's a bit mysterious, given that they were down two goals against New York and didn't look as bad as they did when they were tied against the Rapids. A draw is a disappointment, a win steadies the ship nicely after a winless past two weeks. The play of Jamie Moreno is sure to be a topic for discussion.

For Kansas City, this is a chance to prove people that have composed obituaries during the World Cup period wrong. Everyone expects that the 4-3-3 could be abandoned, but why? If the system is that good, you may as well give it a chance in this game to work with your bench. It'll give you a very good evaluation of how deep you truly are.

Previews from the DCUniverse: Quarter Volley, DC Sun Devil, A Little Less Conversation, DCist... (c'mon now folks)

Expected Yield: 2.0 points. (Current Expectations to Reality Level: 103% - I have overestimated DCU's performance to date.)

D's Location: At Game. Typical seats.

Last Word: Intimidating Logos


Working the Numbers

Yesterday's post on using the Google trends tool has generated some fascinating comments, and if you missed it, I encourage you to check it out as some people have done some fascinating checks of their own and posted the results. Overall, the numbers that others have found confirm the basic hypothesis: Demand for MLS information is met with the same amount of media that a similar demand for other sports is met with. DC United seems to be an exception locally, so it might help if other blogs ran the numbers for their local teams. But overall in terms of search requests, MLS represents well against both the NHL, and even the NBA and MLB (the NFL, of course, crushes it). Yet the number of news mentions, MLS is at the bottom of that back.

If you're the kind of person inclined to view things through the lens of economics, you might be able to make an argument that the media is underserving a market that is making its demand curve clearer.

Update: Others are hitting the books... On the Pitch and We Call It Soccer have their analysis and recommendations up. Tasty.


If there is such a thing a must read, then the Mid-Atlantic Soccer Report is it. John Dyson scores quotes from Piotr Nowak, Alecko Eskandarian, and Bryan Namoff. It's chock full of goodness, but let's reflect on one particularly interesting section:

Six games into the season, what do you think the biggest weakness on the team is at the moment?


Does that include you?

"That's mainly me."

Now, you can say that sort of thing when you're second in your division, and people look at it as a coach being gritty and determined and holding himself to a high standard. Can you just imagine what would happen if Ellinger were to have the exact same conversation? Even these folks would have the "ELLINGER OUT" banners up on the web page.

11 May 2006

Stonefoot or Killer?

Commenter Nick looks at my potential all star ballot and thinks I'm nutso:

If Eskandarian is an all-star in mls, the league is in big trouble. All-star performances? Watch him closely next game and you will see that in every game he plays, including every game this year, stone-foot loses possession of the ball about 80% of the time he touches it. If you can't control the ball and constantly give it to the other team, you cannot be an all-star, no matter how much red-bull you spit out...

Now, here's the thing. I admit that much of what he says resonates for the 2004 and start of the 2005 seasons, but this year I don't think I've seen it as much. Esky2006, to my eyes at least, seems better at both running at people, using the ball in small amounts of space, and playing decent passes to other attacking options. But maybe Nick is right and I'm missing it. It's possible (the strange thing about soccer is that one's eyes can be deceived so easily...) Am I viewing Esky through overly rose-tinted shades, or has he brought his game up a level? I leave the option out there for you to look to examine.

MLS: Definately on par with the NHL

Google has released a new trend analysis tool (HT: Gameday at Yuda) that measures news mentions and search volume. For those that were wondering when MLS would start to get the same recognition as at least the NHL, wonder no more. It seems to have happened, both nationally and locally, at least in terms of search volume. Now, the NHL strike skewed things a bit, but if you look at the last season (featuring the return from the strike and the AO vs. Crosby rookie battle) you see that the NHL's search volume seem to be about the same as Major League Soccer.

However, the NHL News Volume dwarfs that of Major League Soccer (not reflected locally, but definately nationally). What does this say to me? People are equally interested in the NHL and MLS, but the news serves NHL fans better. Something we've always thought, but never really had real data to prove.

Note: Edited post to after prematurely posting

Update: Check out what happens when you look only at the United States... that really shows the gap between the media coverage (bottom) and relative customer demand. It also occurred to me that perhaps MLS gets conflated with the real-estate listing service, so take a look at "Major League Soccer" and "National Hockey League", although I doubt news or search terms work like that (given that when you search for "MLS" via google, it takes you first to Major League Soccer, and not a real-estate service.)

I'm looking for pound notes, loose change, bad checks anything...

Don Garber visits DC, and that makes the news. The Post's Dan Steinberg says that local ownership was the topic of the day. The Washington Times has a more indepth article on some interesting comments from Commisioner Don...

  1. MLS may be profitable by 2010 (really? Well, much better than hearing "We have enough money to make it to 2006...")
  2. Expansion will slow at sixteen teams.
  3. Garber really thinks DCU will get sold, and Poplar Point will happen. Of course, no timeline on any of that.

Well, interesting stuff. Been reading some interesting comments on the blog recently, but one popped out at me that'll serve for a later post today.

10 May 2006

I Half Expect Our All-Star Team To Be Identical to Real Salt Lake

The MLS All-Star Ballot is out, and many of your DC United players are up for consideration. I am a firm believer that the ballot one fills out should reflect the performances you've seen so far in the season, and last year I struggled mightily to identify DCU players that I could cast a vote for with a clear conscience.

This year, I'm not so conflicted. Accordingly, I present the acceptable choices for DCU homers, All-Star Edition:

  1. GK Troy Perkins - Look, I'm not voting for him, but he'd done acceptably in his starts this year that you might be able to put a positive case for him. Last year I went with Matt Reis, and this year I might throw a vote to Brad Guzan.
  2. M Josh Gros - I can't really say anyone on the backline has been an all-star so far. Erpen is erratic, Boswell has been decent but not exceptional, Prideaux is much better than I expected... but Josh Gros has had fairly decent games all year moving from defensive play on the wings to running deep and sending a cross into the box.
  3. M Brian Carroll and Ben Olsen - I'm casting a vote for one of these two, and probably both. In a defensive midfield role, both have been dependable and hard working, throwing others to a game plan that involves something other than taking the ball up through the middle.
  4. F Alecko Eskandarian - Of DC's offensive weapons, only Alecko has really stood out as turning in strong performances, yes, all-star quality performances week after week. I expect Twellman or Ching to get their share of votes, but Alecko's form is excellent so far, and I am definately stuffing the ballot box for him.

Of course, if I see Carey Talley as a starter, I will know that something strange is afoot.

09 May 2006

Our New Home Refinancing Plan is Pegged to Troy Perkins GAA + 3 points.

When I linked to the MLS Salary listings provided by Steve Goff, a commenter asked "What do the players do if they are only making 11K a year?" Well, SoccerAmerica catches up with Troy Perkins at the office. And, since I am thinking about buying a home someday, I just want to tell Troy that if you ignore 1998-2001, I'll ignore that muffed save against the Red Bulls. Deal?

Over at the Screaming Eagles Podcast, Episode 10 features Part One of an interview with Ben Olsen. Asked about giving up soccer to become a stockbroker after his injury while at Forest, Ben Olsen replies that he didn't want to be a stockbroker, but was willing to do catering for Tony Meola's mortgage company. There's a steady source of income.

Hm. Wouldn't that be a great ad, with a despondant Tony Meola wandering around... "Curses! Lost another loan to TroyTech.Com!"

08 May 2006

America, I've Given You All


President Bush admits that he didn't grow up with soccer, but he's starting to learn. Along those lines, I want to make an argument to some people who might not read this blog if it weren't for the fact that it is DC based and might reach some local ears. To those who hate soccer, to those that view it as effete export of a corrupt and decadent European society, I ask you now - Support the USA in the World Cup.

Since the start of the American Century, Europe (and especially England, the birthplace of soccer) have taken uniquely American products, repackaged them, and sent them back to our shores in a new-and-imrpoved format. America invented Rock and Roll, we got back The Beatles. We had the Ramones, we got back the Sex Pistols and The Clash. America popularized the mockumentary with This Is Spinal Tap, and we got The Office for our trouble.

I know that some of your distrust the "foreign" element of soccer. But the ultimate revenge is not to ignore. Oh no, my friends, the ultimate revenge is for our country to take that foreign game and learn to dominate it. Look, the US has fallen on the international stage in basketball and baseball recently, both American inventions. We owe them now. It's time for us to take "their" game and beat them at it. Turnabout is fair play, and revenge is a dish best served with Freedom Fries.

I understand that some of you believe that soccer is symptomatic of a culture of non-accountability, where draws are celebrated as "everyone wins" and trophies are handed out to all. I say to you that there's nothing like that at the World Cup. The United States isn't going to get out of its group, much less get a trophy, if it collects a measly three points in its matches against the Czech Republic, Italy, and Ghana. No sir. There's one trophy, and only one country in the world that can claim to be the best. That's the ultimate truth of soccer as practiced at its highest level. One winner, one nation.

My friends, the World Cup is the perfect expression of nationalism and patriotism, a chance to be unabashedly jingoistic for ninety minutes at a time. I love it. What's more, sometimes we're not sure we believe in the myths of our own country. Are we truly a melting pot? The USA team features players of all colors. Is there really such a thing as American Ingenuity? Under Bruce Arena, the US is known for a style of soccer that adapts to its opponents in order to overcome them. Are we the Home of the Brave? Ask Cobi Jones after Mexico tried to take him out with a headhunter in Korea. The better angels of our nature exist, and they enact those shared myths of our country wearing the red, white, and blue.

Soccer is a chance for our country to have a true unifying factor this summer, and I ask you to join it. Even if, like the President, you never saw a soccer ball until recently, you can still join in support of all that should be right with America, even when it isn't.

Okay, pontification over.

Debriefing for Match 11.06: At Colorado Rapids


Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Pat Rooney: "This was supposed to be a match that would have the dynamic United offense salivating"
MLSNet, Tom Buck: "the club [United] appeared to be playing on egg shells"
Mid-Atlantic Soccer Report, Jimmy LaRoue: "'As a team I think we won the game today,' Clavijo said. 'Joe made unbelievable saves and we punished them when we needed to.'"
A Little Less Conversation: "We were beat by our own careless mistakes."

The Good

  1. Brian Carroll - Another solid start for the man looking to steady the defensive midfield in Ben Olsen's absense. That bodes well.
  2. Alecko Eskandarian, Midfielder - From what I saw, Alecko was actually one of the stronger players on the wing, and experiment that worked out for the team. I admit to having been dubious about the line-up when it was announced, but that part worked out fine.

The Bad

  1. The Empty Space - Say hello to 2005, as Colorado took two old recipes for beating United, mixed them together, and found that when you get the peanut butter of constant fouling mixed in with the chocolate of long balls into space on United's defensive wings, good things can happen. Both of these strategies were used to various effectiveness last year, and both combined well for Colorado's game plan on Saturday.
  2. Facundo Erpen, Daredevil - Okay, you can complain about the penalty. I'm not, since I think that if you leave your feet in the box, you roll the dice. But Erpen also seems to be determined to take the place of Dema Kovalenko in both the "Asking for the foul" category as well as the "Let me take shots from ridiculous distances in an attempt to bring down low flying aircraft" category. You get a goal like he got at the Red Bulls a few times a year, not a few times a game.
  3. Trend line - Not to be egocentric, but if you look back at last week's debriefing you will see many of the same problems as we had against Colorado. Mistakes on the backline were complicated this week with a marking scheme that allowed the Rapids too much space. Christian and Jamie are still not hooking up well. The one thing we seem to have corrected is the absolute awful passing that would pop up and victimize the team.

Man of the Match

Not Applicable in this loss.

Moreno Watch

Kreis - 102; Moreno - 96

Final Thoughts

No need, yet, for the panic button. It was the first loss, and it was an ugly one. The comforting myth is that United deserved at least one point for their actual performance on the field, but the truth is that when you play a final 30 minutes with an even score line the way United did... well, a loss can not be entirely unexpected.

This game did feature an odd line-up. Eskandarian was definately playing in the midfield at the start, which made this a 4-4-2 and not a 4-3-3. Giving Walker the start seemed an odd choice, but I can't fault his performance.

United's midfield was strong, but I do worry about the lack of service to the forwards. Adu was marginally more effective than Jamie, but neither was anything to put in your "Save Until I Delete" TiVo setting.

This game must be put in perspective. It was a step back, and clearly the worst game of the season so far, but not an utter disaster. Every team has bad games, and United's collapse in the second half has been atypical of their season-to-date. Indeed, usually DCU has been stronger in the second half than in the first. Write this one off, get it out of your memory, and get ready for Kansas City. Everything that seems gloomy now might seem better after a strong performance next week.

05 May 2006

Preview Watching...

For Match 11.06...

The DCenters? Check
DC Sun Devil? Check.
Screaming Eagles Podcast? Check.
Quarter Volley? Check
A Little Less Conversation? No, but some sweet pics of El Diablo.
DCist? Um... Washington Nationals Check and Check, but no DC Untied preview... Seriously, a scarf to your beat writer when he starts filing reports regularly, that doesn't motivate you? What will it take DCist? I am openly bribing you at this point! You want me to bake cookies? I'll bake freaking cookies! Until then, it looks like I may have to ask the DC Sports Chick to lower the hammer, as she offered.

Match 11.06 Preview: At Colorado Rapids

Match #: 11.06

Opponent: At Colorado Rapids

DC United, 3-0-2, 11 pts, 2nd in East Conference , 2nd (tie) in MLS
Colorado Rapids, 1-2-1, 4 pts, 4th (tie) in West Conference, 6th (tie) in MLS

TV: CSN, 9:00PM

Previous Meeting: DC United 2 : 0 Colorado Rapids, September 17, 2005 (DCenters remembers...)

Suggested Pregame Music: Colorado - Christopher Guest

The Stakes: DC United gets a road game against a struggling, non-conference foe in between home games against top of the table teams. For United, the stakes are to not overlook the game and carry momentum in against Kansas City next week. United needs to see how well they play the final half hour of the game given the altitude (less of an impact than people think), the cold (more of an impact), and the plane trip (ick). Play a solid game, and good things should happen.

Colorado needs to do something to indicate that they don't suck as much as some people say. United's goal differential is equal to number of times Colorado has put the ball in the net this year, and the Rapids have allowed more goals than anyone outside of Salt Lake (suddenly the Rockey Mountain Cup thing makes more sense). Expected Yield: 2.5 points. Really, United needs to win this game. Any other result, even if Colorado packs it in, is not a good result. (Current Expectations to Reality Level: 93% - I have underestimated DCU's performance to date)

D's Location: Catching the game on TiVo, since I think I have theater reservations for Satuday night. Still, coffee and soccer is a good way to start Sundays.

Last Word: Sympathy

Asking for it.

Much has been made over the years of MLS Team names, and now that match 11.06 has come around, the DCenters was suddenly confronted with the name "The Colorado Rapids." Now, The DCenters could personally perform a reading of the text that is "The Colorado Rapids", but instead fortune shines on us, and we are joined by literary theorist Stanley Fish to explain some of the tensions inherent in the signifier "Colorado Rapids." Dr. Fish, welcome to The DCenters.

It's a pleasure to be here. As you know, I'm a huge Bobby Boswell fan since I became the Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Humanities and Law at Florida International University. Nice to see a local kid do well in MLS. Or, rather, it is good to see that many people share an interpretation that Mr. Boswell has done well and is in good form, since his performance on the field is only a text which is devoid of meaning until interpretation.

Right. Couldn't agree more. Now, could you elaborate on the semiotic slippage that plagues the Colorado Rapids?

Of course. As you know, an evaluation of any text, such as a team name, does not exist merely in the vacuum of authorial intent. Instead, we must evaluate the response to a text, to find an interpretive community, a space in which the meaning of the text fills. Clearly, the authors of the phrase "Colorado Rapids" wanted to evoke swiftness and danger, perhaps a denotative meaning evocative of Achilles. Yet when we apply theory to The Colorado Rapids, we must include the reader's natural response to the idea of "rapids". Namely, rapids are things to be ridden, exploited in nature, and ultimately conquered. Therefore the name "Colorado Rapids" is self-defeating, as it implies an eventual subjugation to the forces of man.

Fascinating. So what you are saying is that the Colorado Rapids, by their name, will have their agency subsumed by other forces which will always master them?

It the Second Great Law of Team Names: Don't pick a name that people will naturally ride in or on top of for fun or pleasure. The first Great Law is, of course, not to pick a name that will offend a minority market in your country. That is why the Dallas Cowboys resonate with semioticians much more than the Denver Broncos, as the Cowboy will naturally be imaged subduing the Bronco. Similarly, other team names imply a lesser power dynamic inviting images of being mastered by others include the New York Jets (will be ridden by others), Buffalo Bills (prey to be hunted), New York Red Bulls (slaughtered by matadors or cans crushed underfoot at tailgates), the Anaheim Mighty Ducks (doomed to be pelted with small bits of bread), and the Southern California Jennifer Garners.

I must confess, I had no idea that literary theory could be applied to sporting events so readily.

You often hear of athletes visualizing their performance on a field before playing a match. What is visualization if not an act of interpretation? And influencing that interpretation is the choice of totem image, the primary signifier through a mascot that is a team name. The Rapids are doomed to visualize themselves being mastered.

Thank you for your comments Dr. Fish. Any final predications?

Colorado nil, DC United 2, on goals from Eskandarian and Moreno. Boswell gets an assist.

Suddenly the Shallow End

Readers of the DCenters not starring in a motion picture told backwards about a man with no short term memory will recall that, in the wake of the Benny Olsen call-up, The DCenters wished Shawn Kuykendall was still around. Now Steve Goff reports that Clyde Simms has strained his hamstring, and that the next depth option is Bryan Namoff.

The DCenters is a fan of Namoff (especially when he's healthy) but is troubled by this move. First, we like Namoff more on the back line, where he can play both the left and the right sides. Second, as someone coming back from a groin injury, playing a D-Mid role (where one is constantly extending a leg to try and disrupt passes and through ball, or to settle back-passes played too casually by forwards) doesn't seem the most conducive to his continued health. The DCenters has no problem with deciding that perhaps Jeff Carroll is not yet ready to start for United, but wonders if perhaps another solution isn't called for than converting a gimpy Namoff to a second D-Mid spot. Given Nowak's willingness to experiment with lineups this year, perhaps a game or two in a 4-4-2 Diamond Mid could be in order.

In the meantime, The DCenters still remembers Shawn...

04 May 2006

Once was a man from New Jersey

UPDATE: There are more entries in the comments, and I like them. I should offer a prize of some sort. Keep 'em coming.

Well, today looks quiet for once. I didn't have anything planned for today, but you never know. Today's agenda for me involves paying a little more attention to Colorado, and working on some long term things. While players may not yet be reporting to camp for Bruce, make no mistake, this week starts the Germany impacted part of MLS's schedule. Nobody wants to be replaced on the final squad by Chris Albright (I'd link, but I'm sure you all know about that now.) So this weekend may see some strange games. Personally, I think we should take today and make MLS-themed limiricks. I'll go first.

Best wishes to our D-Mid, ol' Benny.
Give him crap? Well he never takes any!
He's not as vapid
as some other Rapid.
And yes, I mean Pablo Mastroeni.

03 May 2006

Mr. Kevin Payne to the White Courtesy Phone... Er... Make That Just the Courtesy Phone, Of No Particular Color

I have no idea what to make of Marion Barry, on WTEM discussing the new ownership of the Washington Nationals, saying (and this is not a precise quote, but apparently close enough) "I predict to you when DC United negotiations are done, the majority of owners will be African-American".

Really? Has DC United actually promised Mr. Barry that 50% ownership will be African American? This seems odd to me. Actually, it seems ridiculous. While I can imagine that new ownership for DC United will (and should) have a significant minority stake (and that minority may not be just African American, but should certainly include other minorities), I can't imagine that Kevin Payne has promised a 50% share for only African-American investment. Or even a 25% share, for that matter.

The DCenters will investigate this matter, and see what we can find. Any information you might have, please let us know (comments or email).

Week 5 Pace Check

I wrote earlier about tracking the MLS regular season of all teams in MLS in relation to the two things that the regular season matters for: Winning the Supporter's Shield (earning a Champions Cup bid) and making the playoffs. There's been some talk about this being DC United's best start in years, but what exactly does that mean in the big picture? This is an attempt to give you a sense of some of the benefits of DC's strong start. With all teams in MLS having completed four games, let's take a look at the Supporter's Shield pace comparisons.

Supporter's Shield Pace

The graph below shows the performance of all teams in MLS relative to the pace needed to historically win the Supporter's Shield. When looking at this graph, I don't recommend comparing one team against another. What matters is whether or not a team is in positive or negative territory. While there are three teams currently at shield pace or better (Kansas City, DC United, and FC Dallas), historic data says that at least two of them will fall off the pace. All you want is to be the team in positive territory at the end of the season:

So, after 5 games played, DC United is ahead of shield pace, but only just. What matters about winning the Supporter's Shield is that you have to win, it's not enough just not to lose. Losses, however, are costly. Given that Shield Pace is 2ppg, that means you can make up at most one point on Shield pace for each win. For Real Salt Lake, it means they now need to put together a 9 game winning streak just to make it back to the pace level. Ouch. To put it another way, RSL can win half their remaining games and draw half their remaining games and would still be 9 points off of pace. Wins matter, and the start to the season has almost put RSL our of the Supporter's Shield competition. Even more shocking? A few more losses for New England (currently -4pts from Shield pace), and they'll be in the same boat.

Playoff Pace

The race for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference will show similar graphs, but the meaning changes. After DC's strong start, they have a small cushion on playoff pace (two straight losses at this point would still not be enough for them to be behind pace).

The interesting development is at the bottom, where four teams are behind pace. What this means is that New England, Columbus, New York ,and Chicago can't expect to get into the playoffs by playing at their current rate and hoping two other teams do worse. Historically, at least two of those teams will improve and get into positive territory by the end of the season. Chicago seems a good bet to be one of those teams, given that they are currently on the Road Trip of Death and are still less than 1 point from playoff pace. Everyone assumes New England will be the other, but they need to show some life.