31 August 2006

Kinney's Friends Enjoy Free Beer Movement

First things first, yes, I have friends. They came out to watch DC United play the LA Galaxy and despite what happened on the field they still had fun. I have season tickets and I got them early, so I had 4 flexpass tickets, plus 5 unused tickets (mostly my girlfriend's, not mine). I exchanged all of these and brought 7 fans with tickets for my girlfriend and I to sit next to them.

We got to RFK early and tailgated in Lot 8 with you guessed it, free beer. It actually was free for me too. My friend who has been to 5 or 6 United games with me paid for the beer. So we had six new people drinking beer and about to go to their first DC United game. We found ourselves a little spot on the trail between the Barra and SE tailgates and went to it.

The game was ehh, as we all know. But my friends seemed to have fun. They thought the Barra and Screaming Eagles were especially interesting. We were standing right behind them the whole game, yes standing, I don't go to games to sit. They all thought that the supporters groups were amazing for keeping up the cheering despite the score at the end of the game. The best discussion of the night follows:

Friend: What are they all doing?
Me: What do you mean?
Friend: I mean the hand signal things? Is that some sort of soccer thing?
Me: You mean this? (uses said hand signals)
Friend: Oh, they're flipping off the ref.

All of my friends were happy with the night, while I had very mixed feelings due to what happened on the field. All of them are up for seeing a game with me again. Some of them wanted to try out the supporters groups (where I have my normal tickets) next time if we go in a smaller group. All in all, a good night for the Free Beer Movement if not for DC United.

30 August 2006

The Children Are the Future

Just don't feed them beer at the game. Joanna came up with the perfect solution, a Moreno shirt. Considering I would rather have a Moreno shirt than a beer, I can't really fault this approach.

Here is Joanna's full write-up of her time at the Colorado game with a little one (her neighbor's daughter) in tow. It is a great story that hopefully is a good sign for the future of soccer. I love it when little kids learn the DC United cheer. It is that simple, and hopefully kids take away from the game that its okay to be loud at soccer games, especially when you are rooting for DC United.

29 August 2006

Ihemelu Fined and Mediate Update

Ihemelu was fined and suspended today for two games for his tackle on Mediate.
Ihemelu's suspension and fine were imposed for serious foul play against United midfielder Domenic Mediate. The play occurred in the 78th minute when Ihemelu slide tackled Mediate from behind. Ihemelu's suspension is scheduled to be served over the next two games. The Galaxy travel to play Real Salt Lake on Wednesday, Aug. 30 and face the Kansas City Wizards at home on Saturday, Sept. 2.
Good to see MLS make the right move in this matter. The link provided also has video of the foul that definitively shows that it was red card worthy. (Hattip SE Podcast)

Mediate had surgery yesterday on his leg and is done for the season. Basically, what we thought when we heard the news that the leg was broken. DCenters wish him a speedy recovery and hope to see him suiting up for United next year.

Donnet Signs with DC United

Matias Donnet signed with DC United today. Those of our readers in Richmond on Wednesday will probably be the first to see him suit up in a United uniform. He will also be available to play against Chivas on Sunday. Make sure you check out the Access United video (at the top of the press release) for Donnet's thoughts on United and Kasper's thoughts on Donnet.

Attend Another and Let DC United Redeem Itself

An almost Operation: Deflower! story over at Nationals Baseball Fan. It doesn't technically count because he took himself to see the game and had nobody to buy him a frosty drink. But why penalize the guy for not taking advantage of us soccer fans?

I know a lot of people had some sort of Free Beer Movement event this weekend. I know, given the score we could have picked a better game. But anyways, get your stories up and we will link them here. I also took some friends and will be getting that story up later in the day.

Keep Y'Self Updated

A few notes on some blogroll updates. First, DCist is running DC United recaps, and the man behind them is slowly being seduced by the beautiful game and capturing its drama in some of the best photography you'll find outside of the WPost and Yellow Card Journalism. Therefore, we're happy to add DCist Kyle's Information Leafblower to the blogroll. I see that he's listening to the Luna EP Close Cover Before Striking Perhaps he can explain why "Astronaut" was added to Rendezvous over quality tracks like "The Alibi" or "New Haven Comet"

Also, long time friend of the DCenters David Gilmore is kicking up a sports blog, so we'll be tacking on Dagger! to the blogroll. How can you not love someone who embraces the absurdity that is this particular niche of the internet?

The Mission
The idea behind Dagger! is simple: We want to bring the total number of sports blogs on the internet to four billion.

Actually, we update this thing all the time, so if you're wondering why your site isn't on the blogroll, well, check back in a week or drop us a line or something.

Finally, a commenter thinks that I'm all wrong about Ugo Ihemelu injuring Dominic Mediate. So if you're curious about an alternate point of view (and The DCenters is all about dissent), and want to see me lose a bit of my temper, and perhaps ultimately decide that he's right and I'm wrong (he isn't, and I'm not, but you can decide otherwise) then be sure to read the comments.

28 August 2006

Do Not Hold Your Fire II: Mark Geiger and Ugo Ihemelu

Let's talk about referee Mark Geiger. Dave Lifton, in the SE Podcast, attributes nearly three goals to Geiger [in]actions, and thinks at least two goals were offside (which would really be the fault of the ARs, since they would have the position on such matters). Piotr Nowak intimated in the postgame presser that he wanted MLS to look at the game tape to examine the officiating.

Now, as hypocritical as it may seem given the way I went off on Jair Marrufo, I can't agree that Geiger is most of the reason that we lost the game. In real time, I thought that the PK was the correct call (Perkins I thought didn't get to the ball and just took out the attacker's legs) and that whistling Facundo Erpen for the handball was the correct call as well. The issue on the latter whistle was that while Erpen was sliding and made contact with the ball, and his hands seemed to be a natural position, it looked to me that Facundo adjusted his arm so as the deaden the riccocet off his body. That's handling the ball. So personally, I can't fault Geiger on those calls.

The offside calls, which I haven't been able to see replays of, would be issues with the ARs, but given the way DC's line was so high in the second half, it wouldn't surprise me that those were legitimate runs by LA.

All that being said does not excuse the failure to card Ugo Ihemelu for his tackle on Dominic Mediate. It was a reckless, two-footed challenge that certainly merited a yellow, if not straight red. When you look at the picture Kinney linked to below, you see it's pretty much the picture perfect example of a dangerous tackle. Note how Ihemelu's right leg and left leg are scissoring Mediate's left ankle in the photo. That's pretty much the definition of a reckless tackle. I don't think Ihemelu was trying to injure, but that sort of form made Mediate's broken leg almost an inevitability.

My only explanation for a lack of a card is that somehow Geiger, the AR, and the fourth official all missed the tackle, since anyone looking at it in real time knew it was bad news the moment it happened. Now, I don't want us to turn into FC Dallas fans dealing with O'Brien's leg, but certainly some scorn on Geiger and Ihemelu is earned. MLS should issue a multiple game match ban on Ihemelu, and Geiger should not be allowed in the center of any future DC matches.

However, let's remember that while this was a shocking mistake by the officials, it did not cost us the game. More on that in a bit.

Do Not Hold Your Fire I : Happy-Fun Ball Landon Donovan

Ramifications of DC-LA

Kinney's excellent debrief is up, but already starting to edge down the page, so I please go read the 11.24 debriefing before you read this post. I'll be waiting.

Okay, there are some points out of LA that I'd like to think about before we move onward to our encounter with LA's other team next week. So I'll have a series of posts throughout the day on some of the items from this game we should analyze. We start with Landon Donovan.

Kinney rightly called this out, and Dave Lifton also spoke about it on the SE Podcast with his plea to stop making banners that taunt Landon Donovan. And those banners were clever: "Donovan Under Alles" was amusing, as was "Donovan +10 = Zero". So, should DC fans lay off Donovan since it only seems to get him riled up?

Personally, I say no. Sure, Donovan seems to respond well to the harassment at RFK. This, of course, illustrated Sam's Army's great mistake during the world cup. We thought that the best way to support our team was to cheer the USA and wear red. What we should have been doing was heaping abuse upon Donovan until he saw red. No doubt had we done that, Bruce Arena would still be coach of the US National Team.

Still, the point remains -- Go ahead and taunt Landon. Yes, he may get jazzed up, but if you start modifying fan behavior based on that, then you should probably stop taunting everyone, just in case it fires them up. Which is ridiculous. The Eagles, the Barra, La Norte should taunt everyone, and LD doesn't deserve a pass. DCU should expect most teams to play at RFK with motivation right now, and not taunting Landon won't change that. To my fellow fans, I say, do not hold your fire on Landon Donovan.

Donnet Receives Work Visa

According to Steven Goff at the Washington Post:
Argentine midfielder Matias Donnet has received his work visa and is expecting to get his international transfer certificate early this week, which would make him eligible for next Sunday's match at Chivas USA.

This couldn't come at a better time. Hopefully he will be the spark that is needed to push DC United out of this run of bad form. I would be ecstatic if he had the impact that Christian had when he came to United. At the very least, lets hope he pushes Gros, Adu, and Gomez to work harder and play better. United needs something that kicks them into gear. I don't care if it is Donnet, the bitter loss on Saturday, or group hug. Just get back to your winning ways United.

27 August 2006

Debriefing for Match 11.24: Los Angeles Galaxy


Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Times, John Haydon: "The 24-year-old Donovan scored two goals and was involved in all the others, as Los Angeles handed United its third loss of the season and first home defeat before 24,159."
The Washington Post, Steven Goff: "Last night, however, United's late-summer slumber reached alarming depths and raised questions about whether this once-faultless team had peaked too soon during the long regular season."
USA Today, Beau Drue: ""I watched the (United) game last week with Colorado, and after they gave up their first goal, they were all over the place," Donovan said. "They get down, they start throwing a lot of people forward and they leave a lot of space.""
MLSNet, Charled Boehm: "Donovan promptly ran towards the previously raucous D.C. United supporter groups at midfield and taunted the fans by beating his chest and challenging them to keep cheering."
Mid Atlantic Soccer Report, Ian Plenderleith: ""I guess we were fired up. I hope they keep doing it," said Donovan, in reference to numerous banners such as 'Donovan+10=0' that hung on RFK's upper tier. "I'll put four or five on them next time.""
BlackDogRed: "I'm not that concerned that a desperate LA with a point to prove outplayed and outhustled DCU last night, but I am concerned that attrition has caught up to United. They can talk about refocusing all they like, but if the talent's not on the field it won't matter."
DC Sundevil: "United sucked tonight. I was shocked as I watched the first 5 minutes of the match and was watching United run around like they were coached by Ray Hudson again."
Screaming Eagles Podcast: "Look, I'm sure that you don't want to hear this episode any more than I wanted to do it. But, if you do want to hear what Nowak, Gros, Boswell and Esky had to say about last night's debacle, you can download the episode."

The Good

  1. Tailgates: Well, the tailgates around RFK were all large and ready to see a soccer match. That's about all I can think of for this match. I would give have said the good was a 24,000 plus crowd that was really hyped, but some fans threw crap on the field. I know Donovan taunted us, it doesn't excuse throwing full bottles of beer on the field. Though I would like to hear what Moreno said to him when Landon was complaining to the ref about it.

The Bad

  1. Defense: United's defense went a long time bending but not breaking this season. That ended last night. Hopefully it can be mended quite quick. Chivas with its attacking style and speed is really going to test it next week. Nowak needs to figure out what went wrong. As for me, I think Simms needs a stint on the bench. Olsen should have been sent to foul, pester, and mark Landon out of the game. In short, give him the Gomez treatment because he's that good. Also, when we are behind, or our offense just isn't clicking, it is okay for the defense to keep it's shape. Boswell's shouldn't be playing a give-and-go in LA's 18 yard box no matter what the score. Runs like that, without the d-mids covering, are what allowed LA to counter-attack.
  2. Donovan at RFK: Apparently RFK is not Germany. It's more like Santa Clara. Donovan is the best player in the MLS when he is on, luckily he isn't always on. Unfortunately for us, just coming to DC flips Landon into superdrive. For the second time in two years I got to watch him taunt DC fans after scoring a goal. I would just love to see DC United hold him scoreless next time we play him. But hey at least he scored a goal before he taunted us, I'm talking to you Tino.
  3. Mark Geiger: How Ihemelu finished the game I don't know. Check out a picture of this tackle after Ihemelu had already gotten a yellow card and another talking to from the ref after the yellow card. That tackle broke Domenic Mediate's leg, but only earned a "play on" from Geiger. Not to mention the handball on Erpen that led to the second LA goal, or the questionable PK call when Perkins got the ball first that led to LA's third.
  4. Tired United: United has looked very tired and just plain off in its last couple of league games. I hoped that the Open Cup win on Wednesday was a harbinger of things to come, but no. This match has shown that DC is not out of their funk yet, and might not get out if they can't start clicking together as a team again.

Man of the Match

Insert snarky comment here.

Final Thoughts

That was hands down the worst game of the year (so far). Let's see how the team responds.

26 August 2006

First Impressions - DCU 2 : 5 LA Galaxy

Oh my.

Let's be clear. Sometimes you lose games. Sometimes you get beat. DC got beaten harder than an insurance salesman with Holyfield. Crushed. Slammed. Destroyed. Pick a word, it applies.

So why? Honestly it looks like the season has caught up with DC. They were slow off and on the ball tonight, and LA was not. They made mental errors. At the same time, LA was very good in the execution of its game plan. Once again, DC had problems dealing with tight marking. Balls were played into space on the wrong side of defenders. Guys were not playing to their strengths.

I saw a lot of season accumulated fatigue out there. I don't know if that's something DC can work through, but now they have to. The season is ending, and DC needs to find its second wind in the next few games.

25 August 2006

Debrief for Match 11C - Open Cup vs NY


Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Times, John Haydon: "'We are disappointed because we really battled well in the first half,' said Harkes, a former United captain. 'We don't have the depth. D.C. has -- [Jaime] Moreno and [Ben] Olsen coming off the bench, which is a luxury, and we just don't have that depth.'"
The Washington Post, Steven Goff: "Walker was among five reserves to start last night. Fiercely competitive as he is, Coach Peter Nowak realized his regulars needed a break during this taxing stretch of the summer."
MLSNet, Charled Boehm: "It was a dramatically different scene in the early going, when United's frantic, muddled play gave little sign that they would stroll to victory in the manner they eventually did."
Mid Atlantic Soccer Report, Jimmy LaRoue: "The Red Bulls, who had six shots on goal to United's three in the first half, did not get a shot on goal in the second half until Guevara's meek free kick was saved by Rimando in the 90th minute."
Mid Atlantic Soccer Report, Jimmy LaRoue: "The Red Bulls, who had six shots on goal to United's three in the first half, did not get a shot on goal in the second half until Guevara's meek free kick was saved by Rimando in the 90th minute."
The Far Post: "It was a high school reunion tonight at RFK. All the former DC United players came back, but older and fatter."
Passion they name is Soccer: "one would hope Bruce Arena, even starting mid-season with someone else's players, would be able to get the Red Bulls into the playoffs."
Screaming Eagles Podcast: "Nowak 2, Bruce 0"

The Good

  1. Depth: DC Rested Gomez, Adu, Olsen, and Moreno against the starting lineup from New York (sans Kovalenko who was serving a red card suspension).
  2. Walker's Brace 2 Goals have to give our super sub much needed confidence, which he should translate into more goals down the regular season stretch.
  3. Dychenko & Stokes Dychenko showed some nifty footwork and wasn't too shy to attack, should check him out during a reserve game. Stokes was fast and hungry on the right and directly contributed to the final goal. Plus, you gotta love hearing "You got schooled by Stokes" from the fans.
  4. RFK on a Wednesday Is there a better way to spend time after work in the middle of the week?

The Bad

  1. Rimando: Not very high on the list but Nick is a keeper who needs regular games to get to peak form. He gifted Guevara a goal by punching the ball to the center and constantly gave away possession by punting the ball out of bounds. Will he be with the team in 2007 - a story to follow in the off season.
  2. Eskandarians Right foot (or lack thereof): It's maddening to watch Eski line up a shot for his left foot when he should get a quicker one off with his right. If he's going to be this left footed, Peter should put a mullet on his headgear and give him the #10 jersey. At least, he should do that during practice.
  3. MLSLive TV (or lack thereof): D's got this covered but its worth mentioning here.
  4. NY's Free Kick: Awful bite on a dive by the referee gave New York an opportunity to tie the game

Man of the Match

No debate this time, Jamil Walker's first goal made the difference, and he goes ahead and gets a second one in the net to put the match away.

Final Thoughts

O: D wrote that "But there is no doubt that DC is off of its form. A win in the USOC against Arena and Bulls won't change that. A win over LA won't change that. What would change it is if DC could put up a series of games with more than one goal." While its tempting to read more into this game, it could be a start. A loss would have hure more than this win helps, but our 2nd string (1.5 string?) held their own against New York. Key players got much needed rest and the team is still in the hunt for all 3 domestic titles.

24 August 2006

See What You Missed

Kyle from DCist sends over a link to some pictures he took at the RBNY-DCU Open Cup game from his Flickr site. He writes "Sorry for the NYRB-centric vibe, but I was renting a new lens and didn't really get the hang of it until the second half when Meola and co. were in the near goal. " Thanks Kyle!

As for why the MLSLive.TV feed was unavailable, the DCenters is looking into the matter, and we hope to have some information on what happened to you soon.

MLS Award Tracker: The DCU Review

MLS starts up its award tracker. DC United, rightly so, features prominently. Here's how DC people made it, and how I think it might play out:


#1 - Jeff Cunningham (RSL)
DCU Entries: 2 - Christian Gomez, 3 - Jamie Moreno

Jeff Cunningham will certainly have the edge here. Simply put, without Cunningham RSL is pretty much done for the season, not 2 points out of the playoff hunt. Which sucks, since it will mark yet another year in which MLS's greatest player of the last 10 years will go without an MVP award. Gomez may get another chance, but you wonder how many more chances people will have to vote for Jamie.

Rookie of the Year

#1 - Jonathan Bornstein (CHV)
DCU Entries: None

With so many of DC's players from 2005 returning, there wasn't much space for rookies to break into the line-up. Justin Moose might have had the biggest opening with the departure of Dema Kovalenko, but Josh Gros and the Freddy Adu Wing Experiment knocked him down the depth chart. Rod Dyachenko is just now getting the occasional minutes, and Andy Metcalf and Devon McTavish both have seen a few minutes. Still, no one from DC has simply had the playing time to make a case for this award. Add to that fact that Bornstein is having a great season, and the shutout here is nothing to be ashamed of. Bring them along slowly.

Goalkeeper of the Year

#1 - Troy Perkins (DCU)

Okay, I'll fess up. Even while I thought Troy would get more of his share of starts (I think I predicted about 10 or so) this year, I never imagined he'd be in the running for keeper of the year. But he is. It's not a sure thing for him, since voters may be looking for a reason to go with a more familiar name. I guess that means he'll just have to keep posting clean sheets.

Defender of the Year

#1 - Facundo Erpen (DCU)
DCU Entries: 3 - Bobby Boswell

I'm not sure what logic MLS employed to make this decision, since in my notes I have Boswell having the better season so far. Still, these names both deserve mention, even if I would reverse the order. MLS also puts Greg Vanney at #5, but I'm thinking Drew Moor has had a better season than Vanney as well. No idea what's going on here. A DC player, if we keep the goal scoring down the rest of the season, should take this award.

Coach of the Year

#1 - Piotr Nowak (DCU)

I'll say it even if others won't: Even if DC doesn't take the Supporter's Shield, Nowak has probably earned this award. There were questions galore after last year's ignominous end, Freddy was unhappy, Alecko was uncertain, Dema was leaving, and Kevin Payne was having heart-to-hearts with players and staff the way LBJ would occasionally discuss his feelings on the C-SPAN White House Tapes. Nowak has shown more flexibility, creativity, and inginuity this year while still remaining true to what he believes in. That's an amazing gift, and this race, barring the most amazing type of collapse, should be over.

MLS.TV Problems - DC United Responds

DC United Communications Coordinator Kyle Sheldon dropped this in our comment box and also over at BigSoccer, but given how widespread these issues are I'm going to promote his comment to essentially a full post.

Folks -

I've been in contact with the web folk all evening trying to sort out what went wrong with MLSLive.tv tonight. I can't say that I know why it wasn't on, but I wanted to let you know that it will be available as archived content early tomorrow morning. You'll be able to watch the full game for free - normally, you'd have to be a subscriber to watch full game content.

You'll be able to access that on our web site's Sights & Sounds page: http://dcunited.mlsnet.com/MLS/sights/index.jsp?club=dcu

I realize this doesn't compare to watching the game live, but for those of you who weren't able to see it at all, I hope this will help ease your pain..

Again, if you have comments or questions, feel free to drop me a line directly: XXXXXXX@dcunited.com

Finally, our sincerest apologies in promising you something that we didn't deliver. I swear this wasn't a ploy to try and get you to come watch future games at RFK (though, we would like to see you there!).

-Kyle Sheldon
Communications Coordinator
D.C. United

First, yes, I edited out the email address just to try and stop high level spambot email harvesters, but you can click on the link to his original comment to get it.

Second, I'm pretty sure that MLSLive.TV is something MLS contracted out to another company. So while you may want to get angry with MLS, the truth is that they really don't run that site. It's probably some IT firm you've never heard of that you're angry with. It certainly isn't DC United, but I think it's pretty classy that they're willing to step up, publicly acknowledge the situation, and try and do something to make amends. Part of the reason I love this team.

Kinney's Response to DCNats

It is fairly common for English teams (whose cup is the best known) to rest players in the FA Cup. That is why you see good team just out of the Championship hunt, like Liverpool last year, take the FA Cup. Because it is normal, is okay (read: will not start fan rumblings about who Nowak favors, especially in goal), to rest players where there is very little drop off, like Perkins and Olsen. It does change a little bit for MLS where we also have a league playoff instead of just a league table. However, for DC it makes sense because they are also very interested in the Supporter's Shield for the reasons D enumerated.

I think resting Gomez and Adu was more for injuries than anything else (and Goff confirms this). Adu got a knock in practice last Tuesday, and Gomez came out hurt on Saturday. But giving these two a rest as well as Moreno a rest is also something else though.

Tactics. Yes, tactics. We all know that a Bruce Arena team is going to play a high back four. Watching Barca carve up the Red Bull defense with long balls for Eto, Deco, Ronaldinho, Saviola, and Messi to run on to was a thing of beauty. I was hoping United could do the same in New Jersey last week. They didn't, but it seemed they did tonight.

In a game where you are resting your two best attacking midfielders, why not completely bypass the midfield and play balls over the top? Especially when playing against a team that you know is going to be using the off-side trap aggressively. That is exactly what we did this game, using Walker and Eski paired together for the first time because they both play best running at defenses. We still held a lot of possession, but mostly in the back (with a very defensive midfield) looking for those searching runs.

This also let us bring the pressure up by bringing in our vets for the kill, much like we tried to do in Columbus last year after the Pumas debacle. This time it worked a bit better. Basically, I am saying that in his return to RFK, Bruce Arena got out-coached.

23 August 2006

First Impressions - DCU 3 : 1 NYRB (US Open Cup)

First, some reader interaction

Before first impressions, a quick answer to a question (you can skip to the "Impressions" section if you're impatient). Commenter DCNats asked "why should we play our reserves in the playoffs of a cup tournament?" He think perhaps resting the players during the regular season makes more sense. This is an excellent question to ask if you're trying to get familiar with this crazy world of MLS and US Soccer, so I'm going to take this space to answer his question.

Yes, the US Open Cup is a tournament worth winning. But in my mind, for DC United, it's the third highest priority. Their first priority right now should be to finish with the best regular season record in MLS, thus earning the Supporter's Shield. The Supporter's Shield will qualify DC United for International play next year. Yes, DC has a lead over FC Dallas for this title, but 8 points with 9 games left to play is not secure. So DC needs to take the rest of the regular season games seriously.

DC's secondary objective is to qualify for the playoffs in order to win the MLS Cup. Playoff qualification is pretty much assured at this point, so we don't need to worry about that.

The US Open Cup is the third most important concern. See, the most important trophy is the MLS Cup. The Supporter's Shield may not be as prestigous as the US Open Cup or MLS Cup, but it gurantees International Play, which makes it very important if perhaps not as presitgous. The US Open Cup is, at this point, a vanity title. A cool one, a very awesome accomplishment, but not as important at the other two goals. So resting regulars in US Open Cup games, provided it isn't the final (when the trophy is on the line) makes good sense. Right now, the regular season games are more important for DC. At least, that's how I view it.


Which is why tonight's victory over the Red Bulls was a wonderful thing. Starters Christian Gomez and Freddy Adu got a full amount of rest. Jamie Moreno and Ben Olsen only worked 30 minutes. Eskandarian was subbed out as well. Fortunately, Jamil Walker decides to put on the Jamil Walker Show and get two goals, and Rod Dyachenko teases us with what might be in the future by sending a ball over to Josh Gros for a goal. Great. DC stays in the US Open Cup hunt (and the chance for the, dare I say it, Triple?). DC rests its starters ahead of Saturday's game against LA. This is a pretty good result for all involved. Kudos to Nowak for being willing to sit some guys, even as Bruce Arena (oh yeah, we beat Bruce at RFK, how nice is that?) trotted out his main weapons (Djorkaeff, Guevarra, Buddle) and first team line-up. A good win.

I'll let one of my compatriots take the full debrief for this game, since due to work concerns I had to follow the game through the exclusive MLSLIVE.TV video feed. Yeah, that one, the one that never happened. I've said some nice things about this service, but tonight tested my patience. Thank you for at least getting Tony over the audio feed. But c'mon people. That wasn't nice.

Official: Most Megawesomellent Ever.

Grant Wahl deliveres a great article on a great set of supporters. It may focus on the Barra, but La Norte and the Eagles can see themselves reflected in this article:
200 members of MLS' most raucous fan club are enjoying the Mother of All Tailgates...
In many ways, says Erpen, D.C. United's Barra Brava is different from its counterparts in, say, Buenos Aires. "In Argentina the barra brava usually comes from the lower classes, and if the team plays poorly, suddenly they come to the field and create problems," he says. "Here they respect us. There's not so much pressure, and you always have their support."
See, when a national press writer calls you the "Most raucous", well, that makes it official. I mean, based on my reading of the MLA style-book, if you can footnote it, it's a fact.

Match Preview #11C: Open Cup Quarter Finals

Match #: 11C, Wed Aud 23 @ 7:30pm EST

Opponent: New York Red Bulls

TV & Other Media: No TV or Radio, MLSLive tv feed, but you should get to RFK.

Previous Meeting: New York 2 : 3 DC United (2003 Semi-finals)

Suggested Pregame Music: Matador by Los Fabulosos Cadillacs.

Suggested Pregame Activity: Tailgaiting at RFK, prepare 3 quotes each for Bruce and Nowak to use after the game.

The Stakes: A trip to the semi-finals againsts the winner of the Chicago-New England matchup. The two teams last met one week ago in 1-1 draw at the Meadowlands. United needs to find the offensive rhythm it had at the beginning of the MLS season. For Arena and his team, the Open Cup is a legit shot at winning some hardware this year for his Austrian bosses.

Things I'd like to see: United come out firing, scoring first and keeping New York on their heels. Fans have to be concerned that key players need rest, so hopefully some reserve players can step up this game.

Previews from the DCUniverse: QuarterVolley, DC Sun Devil, .

Previews from New York: Nothing from the Metrologis or NY Red Bulls.

Other Media: USOpenCup.com Preview. DC United preview, Washington Times

Expected Yield: 1.5 points (Oscar).

Oscar's Location: RFK.

Kinney's and D's Locations? I assume they will be at the game as well.

Let's Welcome Bruce Back to RFK...

Bruce is back in town for the US Open Cup. I stand by what I wrote earlier: He gets a big ovation when he's introduced. DC owes him that much for his time here. After that, he is fair game and an enemy forever (or until he retires).

Let me do my part: Dear Bruce - Your DC United teams convinced me that putting my loyalty into soccer was not a waste of time. That my fandom would be rewarded, even though I was far away from my city. You accomplished amazing things with DC, and brought the US National Team forward by two significant steps. For that, I thank you.

And now, you're an enemy. Still, I do want to hype the book you're promoting about your decision to join the Red Bulls of New York. It's a small way of repaying you. Here, I'll show everyone the cover image:

Really, I feel no guilt about that at all.

22 August 2006

...And Rod talked to Freddy Adu and Freddy was like "Yup, I've been there man..."

Get a sense of surprise draft pick Rod Dyachenko, who has a profile up over at The Columbian (that's Washington State, in case you're curious.) Hear how tough it is for an A-Mid to crack DC's starting line-up. Apparently, it's difficult. Hmmmm... wonder why that sounds familiar to me?

A Cup of Coffee, and Some DC Items

A Dark Side, a Light Side, and He Holds the Midfield Together: Josh Gros gets a nice write-up at ESPN from Jeff Carlisle, where they refer to him as a "duct-tape" player. Nice read.

DCist says "Get Thee to RFK": DCist with a fairly good write-up on DCU and the Open Cup. Yes, there are a few items of confusion, but regardless, they take the time to turn in an article that's better than many I've read. Plus the majority of commenters are knowledgeable. The more of this sort of thing, the better.

Before Lucio Filomeno...: ...There was Steve Guppy. Not a bad player, but an injury prone and expensive one. Here's an update, and the DCenters wishes him well.

Carnival Four: The Carnival of American Soccer #4 went live at My Soccer Blog, and has some interesting posts on the US Open Cup. Many more than I thought it would get, to be honest. Good reading all the way around.

Updates and Clarification: DC Sports Chick reports that girlie drinks were served at her Operation: Deflower! event. That's fine. I'm all in favor of fruit salads impaled on umbrellas and served with pastel colored alcohols. Very much so. Like Dave Foley, I too am a girly-drink drunk. And for a first hand report of the event, check out Mayhem by Miss M, and see that even when DC doesn't have its best game, it's important that the Supporters still bring it (and they always do).

Kinney Trial Over, Kinney Era Begins: I know that we called him a trialist when he started here, but having contributed so much in so short a time, I'm happy to say that Kinney has earned Senior Roster status. I mean, he wrote this blog's contribution to CAS #4, and wrote a much better article than I would have. We await his uniform number selection.

Sidebar Updates

I updated the sidebar to include a couple of new blogs and websites.

1. The Carnival of American Soccer - Managed by D and Oscar it is basically a blog devoted that posts the Carnival for later viewing. I added it to the sites that DCenters is affiliated with.

2. Kenn.com - A website done by Chicago Fire radio announcer Kenn Tomasch that has a whole lot of attendance statistics for MLS and other sports. From the link provided, just click crowds. The rest of the website is interesting as well. This resource I put under the Soccer References.

3. Directions to the Auxiliary Field for the DC United reserve games. As asked for by Anonymous in our comments. I put it under DCU Links for anybody that is intersed in going out to a reserve game.

4. The Fish Fry - A blog about politics and soccer, from the veiwpoint of a guy living in DC that makes it to a bunch of DC United games. I put this one under the Kind of People Who Read DCenters.

5. Divergent World - A blog by my friend Jeff who is getting his master's degree in philosophy. Very random and sometimes sporadic blog about his life and random Eastern philosophy or metaphilosophy. This one is obviously under the Kind of People Who Read DCenters.

21 August 2006

Reserve Match 2.9 Recap: Colorado Rapids

DC United Reserve 0 :: 1 Colorado Rapids Reserve

I have decided to start blogging recaps of the reserve matches. Part of the point of blogs is to talk about topics important to a small group of people that don't normally break into the mainstream. If in-depth coverage of DC United soccer is one of those things then coverage of DC United Reserve soccer is truly the epitome of that idea.

One of the problems with MLS is that there is little to no pressure on some players to perform. This has been commented upon a lot around the league, especially when comparing it to Europe. It has also been one of Nowak's themes throughout his tenure here at DC United. The reserve games are the place where fans can make their own decisions about the players that should be pressuring their teammates. DC United’s FO has done a great job getting the word out to its supporters about the reserve games and always writing recaps of the game (something that not all teams have done). It is the small things like this that DC does right that set United up for the bigger prizes, which is why I feel the reserve games should get a bit more attention.

Having said all that, I had to go into work on Sunday so I missed the game. Apparently it was a wide open match with a lot of scoring chances on both sides. Colorado started Kirvoski and Mathis, which is pretty funny/sad. Bouna Coundoul had a great game in the net for Colorado (only played the second half), Luchi Gonzalez missed a PK, and Ryan McIntosh went the full ninety minding the goal for United. Here is the DC United recap. Also, Mid-Atlantic Soccer Report has a good wrap-up. Hopefully next time I will be able to get down to the auxiliary fields and have a first-hand report ready.

Does Unfulfilling Mean "Back for More?"

An Operation: Deflower! story over at DC Sports Chick. Our congratulations to all involved over there. A perfect story of someone giving someone else a chance to enjoy our beautiful game, even if the game did not live up to it. Note: No mention of frosty beverage... please tell me this critical detail was not neglected?

And a reminder that many other DC stories will be taking place against the LA Galaxy. Will you do your part? America needs you! (Ok, American Professional Soccer needs you. And you need a beer. So it works out well.)

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Debriefing for Match 11.23: Colorado Rapids


Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Times, John Haydon: "United looked sluggish and ineffective in the first half but showed more promise after tough talk from coach Peter Nowak at halftime."
The Washington Post, Steven Goff: "Considering all that went wrong on this steamy afternoon before 18,006 restless spectators -- the poor start, the first-half deficit, more missed opportunities and the hamstring injury to playmaker Christian Gomez -- a tie did not seem like such a bad outcome."
MLSNet, Charled Boehm: "Colorado was happy to take advantage on a 31st-minute corner kick, as Kyle Beckerman rose above Facundo Erpen to head past goalkeeper Troy Perkins. It was only the fourth time all season that D.C. has given up the opening goal."
Mid Atlantic Soccer Report, Jimmy LaRoue: "Alecko Eskandarian described an intense atmosphere in the locker room, not just from Nowak, as Eskandarian said he kicked a few Gatorade bottles."
BlackDogRed: "...United came out in the second half with as much intensity and urgency as I've them display in a league game in what seems an eternity. If Gomez' goal itself was odd and soft, it was deserved as United should have had three or four. "
The Far Post: " Fortunately for United, the game’s biggest travesty was the finishing of United-reject Thiago Matrins. That guy couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. "

The Good

  1. Disgust: The fact that DC United's players aren't happy with their play is reassuring. There is no excuse making or dodging. This teams knows it should be playing better.
  2. The Return of the Touch: DC hadn't shown some of the verve and skill I admired during their 3-2 win over Columbus in the last few games. That was starting to come back, and from all sides. Ben Olsen has added a nifty backheel to his move-set. Gomez/Moreno were able to find each other in the second half. Eskandarian twice managed to break down a defender. Now if only we could finish.

The Bad

  1. It's Think-Play, not Think think think think (oh crap, pressure!) play: The back line was apparently very concerned about making mistakes. Facundo Erpen is, at this point, keenly aware that he's made some (let's be charitable) "odd" plays at times. He, and the rest of the defense, compensated by trying to take a little time and make the smart play. Unfortunately, this may have been an overcorrection, as twice DC hesitated with the ball at the top of the arc, and the search for the correct outlet meant that Colorado was able to apply significant pressure, and at one point force a dangerous change of posession.
  2. Stokes and the Line: The greatest sin from David Stokes wasn't his passing (which was adequate most of the time, and unfortunate on occasion) but his inability to hold a line with Boswell and Erpen. In the first thirty minutes, there were multiple occasions where, from my perspective, Stokes did not move up with Boswell and Erpen, and kept Colorado onside. Now, the blame is either Stokes, for not moving, or Boswell, for not communicating clear enough. Your guess is as good as mine.
  3. Jair Marrufo: Awful. But, part of it may be understood. Go read this article at For The Integrity of Soccer. Then look at the foul/card stats for the game. Now, Robert Evans who write FtIoS is occasionally overly insistent about some things (ie, the idea of stoppage time in blowouts, where I disagree with his interpretation of things), but I think he's got a point on this, and it's a point I see all over the league. Colorado was clearly fouling more often, hacking and grabbing and missing challenges, but Marrufo I think called the game with an eye to balance (as opposed to an eye to what was happening on the field). As a result, Colorado was, in essence, allowed some small amount of cheating to aid in the game. That's wrong. This balance crap needs to stop.
  4. Can you work through tired? I don't know. Piotr seems to think you can. And, some of the players might be able to. Certainly Piotr would when he played, and Gros and Gomez might be able to do it. I'm not sure about Moreno or Olsen or Carroll being able to do the same.

Man of the Match

There was a hell of a debate about this at the DCenters. And by debate, I mean me sending an email saying "I got nothing" to my fellow writers. Still, a draw is a result to which we typically award MotM honors, so tepid congratulations to Bobby Boswell. He didn't lose his mark, and he played as well as anyone.

Final Thoughts

D: I'm going to leave this open for fellow DCenter writers to update, but my final thought is that this game was an improvement over NYRB, and while people might say DC "peaked too soon" perhaps, on the same concept, DC is "Slumping at the right time." That, of course, assumes they pull out of this, and that may be a tall order. But there is no doubt that DC is off of its form. A win in the USOC against Arena and Bulls won't change that. A win over LA won't change that. What would change it is if DC could put up a series of games with more than one goal. That would earn some confidence back.

Oh, and it was damn hot on Saturday, even if the temperature didn't show it. I mean, humid and thick and awful. At 10:30AM, running around in the SE pick-up game, I felt probably the worst I have ever felt in over a year. Just sick and tired. I can't imagine what it was like by 4PM.

19 August 2006

First Impressions - DCU 1 : 1 Colorado

Simply put: Better, but not good. United showed better touch and skill in this game than last, but also had stretches of maddening play (like, say, the first five minutes.) However, this team is tired. By the 80th minute, pretty much everyone who started was looking to conserve energy, and even Walker was finding moments to walk around a bit.

More in the debrief tomorrow, but one other thing -- the worst thing on the pitch was not David Stokes. No, it was referee Jair Marrufo. I have, at times, praised refs. I defended them during the 2 PKs given in the RSL game. But Marrufo's calls were without reason. He played the advantage sporadically, he seemed to have no consistent definition of a foul (or even the laws of the game), he invented reasons to blow the whistle... simply, this was the worst performance by a referee at RFK this year that I have seen. Atrocious. He was known for an awful performance last year as well, which involved him carding Kovalenko. Say what you will about Hall (whom I actually think calls a fair game), Kennedy, or even our old friend Abby... Jair Marrufo is the worst official in MLS and it is a travesty that he continues to be allowed to call these games.

Match 11.23 Preview: Colorado Rapids

Match #: 11.23

Opponent: Colorado Rapids, Final MLS Matchup

DC United, 13-2-7, 46 pts, 1st in East Conference, 1st in MLS
Colorado Rapids, 9-8-4, 31 pts, 3rd in East Conference, 4th in MLS

TV: ESPN2 - 4:00pm

Previous Meeting: Colorado 2 : 1 DC United (DCenters Debriefing)

Suggested Pregame Music: Won't Get Fooled Again, by The Who.

Suggested Pregame Activity: Drink you usual pre-game beers. Eat some Doritos. Retire from the National Team.

The Stakes: DC United enters this game on a three game winless streak (at least, in league play). However, United has been on the road for the past couple of games, and are coming to the end of the season where they are at home more than not. DC normally steps it up at RFK, and that is exactly what they have to do this weekend. This is also the first re-match against a team that DC United has lost to this season. So this will be a test to see how United responds.

Things I'd like to see:"A win. Okay, more than that, I'd like to see DC reestablish a sense of importance and intensity to close out the season." That's what D wanted to see at the game in New Jersey. It still needs to be seen.

Previews from the DCUniverse: QuarterVolley, DC Sun Devil, BlackDogRed

Previews from Coloradoland: Umm, anyone know of any Rapids blogs? Seriously, we would love to add them to the blogroll.

Expected Yield: 2 points (Kinney).

Kinney's Location: RFK.

D's and Oscar's Locations? I assume they will be at the game as well.

Last Words: For old times sake.

Soehn Set To Stay With United

In notes section of Goff's preview for today's game he states that Toronto FC will soon be inking a deal with Mo Johnson to coach the team. The other leading candidate was United Assistant Tom Soehn, who was apparently not willing to leave DC United during the season. This is good news for DC United, as they do not lose consistency during the season. Soehn will get another chance; he is too good not too, but kudos to him for making such a decision.

18 August 2006

Thoughts on Improving the US Open Cup

The US Open Cup (USOC) is upon us once again, with the quarterfinal match against Red Bull New York next Wednesday at RFK. The game is Special Event B for everyone who has season tickets. However, I am not here to talk about that game yet, instead this is my submission for the Carnival of American Soccer IV. The topic of discussion for this carnival is what to do about the US Open Cup, hopefully I will provide some ideas below for people to think about and discuss in the comments. I tried to stick to some of the smaller stuff that the USSF can and should implement unilaterally and immediately.

US Open Cup 101

So what exactly is the US Open Cup you ask? Here is a short summary.

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is an American soccer competition open to all United States Soccer Federation affiliated teams, from amateur adult club teams all the way to the professional teams of Major League Soccer. It was first held in 1914 and is the oldest annual team tournament in U.S. sports. However, it has never gained the reputation that it should have as one of the main trophies in U.S. Soccer. Hopefully some of the ideas from this little carnival can push the USOC in the right direction.

Web Design 101

Here is the English FA website. Here is the Spanish FA website. Here is the German FA website. Can you tell me something they all have in common? Hmm, what could that be? Oh, an easy to read link in their toolbar to their National Cup that is always on the front page. What a novel idea! Here is the USSF website. Can you find the link to the Open Cup? If you are lucky you see it above the Studio 90, but it is not always there, and definitely wasn’t there earlier this summer. When it isn’t there, you have use the toolbar to hit Teams & Events --> Other Programs --> Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Other programs! Apparently US Soccer equates the US Open Cup with Futsal, no wonder the tournament has floundered and doesn’t get any of the recognition it deserves.

Here is another novel idea. Write something about the damn thing once and while. US Soccer has written 54 articles in 4 years about the USOC, which is about 13 articles a year on the most important trophy that they award. Admittedly they are getting better, 22 of those 54 articles were written this year alone. But something else should strike you about the 54 articles in 4 years, possibly the fact that the USOC is 92 years old, not 4 years old. Oh, and a dedicated link to explaining the USOC and how it works (including amateur qualifying) isn’t completely out of line is it?

MLS does not escape my wrath on this one either. I can understand their reluctance to actively support the US Open Cup when it isn’t their job and somebody else could win it. But a little help online would go a long way. Putting the USOC dates into their schedules well in advance would help. The new matchtrakers and links they have been putting up on USOC days have been very helpful, before only some of the individual team pages had these. However, archiving these matches and putting all of the USOC match reports in one convenient place would be very helpful.

Fortunately MLS has just the place for this in their competition section. But first you have to switch from national competition to club competitions, and then have to scroll past the CONCACAF Champions Cup, they should be able to update this regularly so the most timely piece is on the top and in front. Once you do that however, guess what the headline is for the USOC. You got it; Herculez's strength lifts Galaxy to victory, about the LA Galaxy winning the 2005 US Open Cup. Apparently even though every MLS team has now played at least one game and only MLS teams are left, the 2006 US Open Cup hasn’t started yet.

A little more information on the Internet couldn’t hurt and would really help out those of us interested in the US Open Cup. Not to mention it might get a few more people thinking about it if you point to it more often. Oh, and MLS, USOpenCup.com is a fan run site, not the official US Open Cup site.

Publishing 101

Every weekend MLS gives out a periodical entitled “Freekick” to all of the fans who walk through the turnstiles to watch an MLS match. Basically it is a free program, but they save money by making it more general and not game specific. It comes out every once in a while, and is usually a little out of date. If I had to guess I would say they roll out a new one every month or so. Some of the articles are obviously for all of MLS while others are geared towards the individual teams, it usually has a roster of the home team.

US Soccer could do something like this for each USOC round. But something up to date isn’t even necessary. What is really needed is an explanation of the USOC and how it works as a tournament, a history of the USOC to help show that soccer has been in America a lot longer than people think, and a player or team profile from one of the lower divisions to give it the feel good story that these tournaments are supposed to have.

This is crucial because so many soccer moms and dads go to these matches without even knowing what they are. Last time at the Soccerplex casual fans didn’t even know what was going on, some thought it was just an exhibition, some thought it was a league game, some thought that you always had shootouts in MLS, most were confused at the overtime. And this was the case in DC, one of the best fan bases in American soccer today. A small preview or pamphlet is needed and should be provided by US Soccer for every USOC game. Though on a DC note, I would like to see DCU step up and provide a cheaper substitute for its fans if US Soccer refuses to do anything.

If US Soccer wanted to go above and beyond and updated it every round with match reports and results that would be fabulous. They could just use the reports they wrote for there website and put them into traditional media. Then tell fans in the handout to check out the website for updated results and more information. Something like this could really help get the word out about the USOC and help it start to gain a foothold in the minds of the average US soccer fan.

Bracketology 101

First of all, whatever is decided for the USOC brackets, please make it available for the average fan. Right now it is the first article in this years’ Open Cup material on the US Soccer website, but it should be separate and outside of the articles along with the USOC history. And please explain not just the regular Open Cup but also the qualifying rounds for USASA. I spent about 2 hours trying to figure those things out and have a pretty good idea, but not a complete grasp, mostly because I have no idea where to look for the info once you get past the USASA Regional tournament and into the individual leagues.

When I started to write this post, I thought I was going to come up with some comprehensive qualification and bracket that could be used for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, that is basically impossible because soccer is growing in America. We have no idea how many teams MLS will have in the future, or USL 1 and 2 for that matter. A comprehensive tournament bracket that has exemption into the tournament (as is now the case) can’t happen unless we are willing cap MLS teams at some point. A huge 128-team bracket is not really feasible because of a lack of control over teams’ fields as Daniel Feuerstein points out in this article. Check out parts one and two as well. Not to mention that I worry about not letting some teams compete as much (it would put amateur teams up against MLS teams from the beginning).

There are some improvements that can be made though. First and foremost I would like to see more amateur teams playing in the USOC proper. Currently 8 teams from the USASA and 8 teams from the PDL, you could easily double both of these numbers without significant changes to the later stages of the tournament. This would give more teams a chance, and eventually get more amateur teams thinking about entering qualifying because of a better chance of making it.

Plus the stories that the USSF must hype are the David v. Goliath battles that these teams face. Dallas Roma’s great run this year is just the latest example. Not to mention that a lot of the past winners of the USOC are still around. If there were 16 teams in this year’s USOC, Philadelphia’s Ukrainian Nationals would have been in the tournament. This is the same team that won the tournament four times (60’, 61’, 63’, 66’), which is second only to the greats; Bethlehem Steel, Fall River F.C., and Maccabee S.C.. How about that for a story?

Another change that should be made is non-geographical alignment after MLS’ first game (or basically at this point in the 2006 USOC). Geographical alignment is needed to cut down on the costs associated with travel at a time when most teams are on the financial edge. However, the problem is unless there are multiple upsets (which will be less likely as MLS teams take the USOC more seriously), the USOC looks a lot like the MLS post-season playoffs. Right now the East bracket is exactly the same as the MLS Eastern Conference playoffs if the season ended today. The West isn’t much better as the only change in teams is the Galaxy in for Chivas and them playing Colorado instead of Dallas. Other than that, it is the post-season playoffs.

Not only that, but conference teams already play each other four times a year, with the USOC and a first round playoff that number jumps to seven. That is a large number of times to play one team in a season, and most likely degrades the importance of the matches. USSF should spice things up a little bit and have a random drawing at this point, some will be close some will be farther away, but it will add some excitement to the tournament.

Whiskey 101

Bring back the Dewar’s Trophy. That’s right, Dewar’s.

The Dewar Trophy is the oldest trophy in United States team sports. Sir Thomas R. Dewar, a British distiller, donated it to the American Amateur Football Association in 1912. As explained by the US Soccer Hall of Fame:

The cup was first awarded to the Yonkers Football Club (NY) in 1912 after they defeated the Hollywood Inn Football Club (NY) at the Lennox Oval in New York City. The trophy was officially adopted as the U.S. Open Cup trophy prior to the Brooklyn Field Club's inaugural championship in 1914 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

The Stanley Cup is older, but couldn’t be won by a US team until 1914. But, everybody knows about the Stanley Cup, few know about the Dewar’s Trophy. More from the US Soccer Hall of Fame site shows why:

The trophy was retired in 1979, but was refurbished by the USASA in 1997 and was presented to the 1997 and 1998 Open Cup winners, before permanently retiring to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, New York.

The one thing that the USOC has going for it is history. Why USSF decided to retire the trophy I have know idea. They renamed the US Open Cup the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, and got rid of the Dewar’s Trophy. I suggest bringing it back, keep Lamar’s name on the title, just make the trophy presented the Dewar’s Trophy.

Go Back to USL!

Kali with the scoop. I shouldn't take satisfaction in this, but I do. I guess I'm just a mean person.


There's an interesting post over at The Lord of the Wing on Celtic's new methods of fan management. In short, Celtic has started data gathering on all sorts of fan behaviors, especially in terms of analyzing merchandise purchases, ticket purcheses, etc... LOTW's Kevin G. feels that while there's all sorts of happy talk about rewarding and respecting fans from management, it really is just a way of milking the customer:

I told the smart card was the start of all things evil. The start off oh you haven’t spent £100 in the last 3 months on Celtic merchandise that means nae away tickets for you. For me that paragraph sums up what the board think of us. The constant cash cow.

I bring this up since I think it reflects a trend you will see more of in all major league sports, and certainly in MLS. CRM, or Customer Relations Management, is a big business area affecting multiple companies. In MBA-speak (ie, a lot of buzz words embedded in Excel spreadhseets that use formulas like "VLOOKUP" and "PPMT"), it's a paradigm for organizing your business. Your organization, your software implementation, your sales strategy, all of it will be derived from a CRM perspective.

Part of the fundamental concept of CRM is the idea that a lot of your revenue comes from only a few of your customers. The common hypothetical example is that you'll get 80% of your orders from 20% of your customers. Given that fact, as a company, it makes sense to identify who those 20% are, what they think, how they'll react, and then keep them happy. It doesn't mean ignoring the other 80% of your market, but it may mean that you treat them differently. As such, CRM has demands that you gather lots of data about your customers.

This is part of the impetus for the custom credit cards or Celtic's smart cards as discussed over at LOTW. It makes it easier to track and understand your customers if they are buying merchandise with your credit card on your website. DC residents will no doubt remember Dan Snyder's attempts to impose this sort of ideology on Redskins fans last year.

Okay, I bring all of this up because just as Kevin was having one kind of experience with CRM and his soccer team, I was having another. MLS is, fundamentally, a business. An entertainment business, which survives, thrives, or dies not merely in terms of the product it presents, but also in terms of how well it treats it customers and fan base. Last week, DC United's Jim Hogan called me to check in on how I was enjoying the season so far. I was on vacation, so I never got back to him (but if he's reading: "Hey, I'm liking things so far. We want goals.") In the voicemail message he left me, he noted that I had not used one of the tickets in my Season plan (true - I was caught at work that Wednesday night) and offered to exchange the ticket for me. Now, there's no pure financial benefit to DCU if I exchange the ticket. In fact, one might argue there's a disincentive, since DCU already has my money, and if I exchange a ticket that's a ticket they might be able to sell somewhere else. But financially it makes sense to keep me happy. It also makes good business sense to keep your hardcore supporters happy. I have no doubt that Kevin Payne doesn't just let the Barra and Eagles have some perks because he's a nice guy, but because he knows that these people buy tickets and merchandise, and keeping them happy is a win-win. Yes, letting them stand (bounce) in the front of the stadium may block the views of some other patrons, but overall the benefit is a net financial positive. This is the kind of thing that perhaps the Real Salt Lake FO should learn.

Now, it's clear to me that DCU has some form of CRM system, given that Joe knows which games I have been at and which games I have missed. That doesn't really bother me. This is the good side of CRM. LOTW is experiencing the dark side, when CRM becomes not a way of keeping people happy, but making them jump through hoops for your product in order to increase your sales margins. That's only workable when you know your produce is so in demand you can get away with it. And in the long term I still don't think it is a viable strategy. It certainly won't work for any MLS team at this point. However, CRM should be used by most MLS teams, and it seems like, based on what we've seen, it is implemented with scatter-shot effectiveness. Don Garber talks about growing the base, but it seems to me like MLS is remarkably poor about sharing best practices that would help them do that. We hear all this talk about a single entity structure, but in terms of business implementation it really does seem like a bunch of tiny fiefdoms. I think that's ultimately a missed opportunity. The league needs to take not just competition rules, but business policies, and help standardize and share them. DC United, so far, has a great CRM system. But I've heard (and by heard, I mean "read on BigSoccer") too many horror stories at other teams. You may not be able to get complete parity in terms of talent on the pitch, but MLS should be able to get competent business organizations in all areas. It's not enough to have a conference once a year with a panel discussion on what teams do. They should be cross training across the league and sending representitves out to see how to take successful strategies and implement (and perhaps adapt) them to other markets. Or that's my take as an outsider, at least.

17 August 2006

Youth Development: A Soccer Dad Report

So in my State of the League post I asked if Soccer Dad could look into the problems of starting true MLS youth academies. He did so in a great post that I read when I was too busy to post about it. But I am now telling you all to go and take a while to read it all, its long but definitely worth it.

Also, to all of you bloggers out there, submissions for the Carnival of American Soccer IV are due to Mike H of My Soccer Blog tomorrow. So if you haven't already written you proposals for improving the US Open Cup get them out by tomorrow.

Oh Bobbbyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!

ESPN has a chat with Bobby Boswell at 2PM today. I fully endorse questions with the words "Dreamy", "HOTTTT!" and "Swoon-bait."

Debriefing for Match 11.22: At New York Red Bulls


Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "Sluggish on attack and lacking rhythm, United had to settle for a 0-0 tie against Bruce Arena and the New York Red Bulls..."
The Star-Ledger, Brent Johnson: "The Red Bulls played D.C. United (13-2-7) tight from the start, keeping the MLS leaders to just two shots on goal in the first half. United would manage just one more in the second half."
Herald News, Ives Galarcep: "Newly acquired Red Bulls midfielder Dema Kovalenko was solid in his MLS debut with the club...Kovalenko pestered D.C. United playmaker Christian Gomez all night, which limited the D.C. attack."
MLSNet, Dylan Butler: "As is often the case when the two rivals meet, there were more fouls than shots in a physical first half that saw three players (Carlos Mendes, Magee and Facundo Erpen) receive yellow cards. Perhaps the worst challenge, Guevara's tackle on Jaime Moreno from behind, wasn't even called by referee Mauricio Navarro."
NY/NJ Soccer, Jason Endres: "Arena felt the Red Bulls played a good match, but the crossing left a lot to be desired. 'I think the worst thing we did technically tonight was our inability to hit a good cross,' said Arena."
Mid-Atlantic Soccer Report, Ian Penderleith: "DC United and New York shared clean sheets and a point each in a game where both sides regretted missing a handful of chances, but were content enough not to have lost a generally mediocre match."
Quarter Volley: "That was unsatisfying"
DC Sun Devil: "Lets see...last night was the first time this season that United were held scoreless, will this Saturday be the first time this season United lose at home? Hopefully Nowak gives the guys a heartfelt, tender, kick in the ass over the next two days."
The Far Post: "The 2006 version of DC United played the 1997 version of DC United on what appeared to be a field of some sort in New Jersey... it was like playing your dad. I mean you can’t show him up! So, United (2006) did the polite thing and grinded out a draw."

The Good

  1. Shut 'em down, young man: DC United's defensive corps played their strongest defensive game to date. Perkins, Namoff, Boswell, and Erpen all had solid games. I can't even fault Erpen on the near own-goal, as it was a classic low-whipped cross that hit him while he was running towards his own net. It happens. But defensively, this team was facing a Red Bulls team where Djorkaeff and Guevara were suddenly playing with the skill that they were supposed to have, and the DC defense handled it well.
  2. Traveling Support: When, on the MSG broadcast, you can hear the DC United chants louder than anything else in the stadium... well, that's good stuff. Kinney, take a bow, won't you?

The Bad

  1. Complications: DC was, I think, too worried about New York. As a result, they were impatient to get the ball out of the defensive third, opting for 20-30 yard balls when perhaps a quicker pass on the ground would have been the better option. Naturally, this made it easier for the newly reinvigorated RBNY midfield (Damn... Dema Kovalenko is really helping that team) to step in front of passes and take possession away. DC needed to play the easier ball more often, and rely on short touches to take the field and hold possession.
  2. Offensive Sickness: Sometimes, you don't finish your chances. That's bad, but it is better than not creating chances. DC was pestered so much in the midfield that when they finally reached the attacking third, they seemed out of both energy and ideas. The four minutes of stoppage time looked better, but DC is consistently having problems getting the ball in the net recently. Perhaps they should call a doctor... (And the DCenters will make that call if they don't get more than one goal on Saturday. Oh yes.)

Man of the Match

Bobby Boswell had a fine game, but Man of the Match honors go to Troy Perkins. I know, there weren't many flashy saves, or critical stops of RBNY players, and his toughest stop was on Facundo Erpen, but this game was technically, I think, his finest to date. His positioning was excellent, his decision making crisp and correct. He came off his line at the right time, punched or caught in a manner appropriate to the situation, and looked every bit like an all-star keeper.

Final Thoughts

The easy storyline is that Bruce Arena got the New York Red Bulls to play better for this game and earn the draw. While I can concede that there is some truth to that, in that without Bruce I doubt that Amado Guevara and Youri Djorkaeff check back as hard as they do in that game, I think more credit belongs to Richie Williams and Dema Kovalenko. The Red Bulls' midfield was more organized and intense than I have ever seen them, and it looked to me that most of the credit for that has to go to Richie Williams. They played the way he did for DC: smart, pestering, and alive.

As for DC, again, I don't think the problem was effort. Instead, it was execution. Players made moves off the ball, but they didn't seem to by in sympatico with the players on the ball. Passes and touches were not as fine as I'd expect. Decisions seemed to be nervous ones, not the decisions of a team knowing they have an edge in talent.

16 August 2006

First Impressions - NYRB 0 : 0 DC United

In the first meeting between DC United and the Red Bulls in New York, I wrote that it looked like DC had more experience on the turf than the Red Bulls did. That was not the case today. United was clearly having problems with controlling the ball on the turf surface, and was also bedeviled by consistent interceptions.

However, NYRB was clearly a better team than the one DC has faced so far this season. Defensively, this was the most organized I have ever seen a New York team. Much of that credit may go to Bruce Arena, but it should go to Richie Williams. They played well, and were clearly at home on the surface in a way they weren't in Match 11.4.

I think some may argue that DC lacked intensity. I would disagree. DC was putting in the effort, but the execution was all off. To be honest, it looked like a preseason game, and after watching the crisp effort put forth against Real Madrid, I am a bit surprised. I don't think we can read too much into this. Perhaps DC was a bit overly cautious regarding the Red Bull tactics. When they started moving with short passes in the four minutes of stoppage, United was much better.

A draw, but not a disappointing draw, just a dull and ugly one.

MLS: Mainstream League Soccer (At least, in DC)

DCist runs an article on "alterna-sports," and if you read it close enough, there's a nice little tidbit to take away. Namely, the fact that DC United is not part of the focus of the article, but instead is lumped in with the Wizards, Skins, and Nats. So in the mind of at least one media source out there, MLS is part of the mainstream now. Progress. You can measure it by inches, but measure it none-the-less.

Stalking DCU Alumni

Andrea Canales interviews Quaranta on his debut last weekend with his new club. The bit about Quaranta having some lingering resentment to "show DC what they missed on" is slightly divorced from reality. Tino had 5 years, injury plagued years for sure, to make his mark and just couldn't. It happens but you can't cast DC United as the villain, when they could have given up on him much earlier.

Our man in Blackburn, Ryan Nelsen (HT: Fantasy EPL) has signed a new four-year deal with the EPL side. Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp had made 3 bids for the defender and will keep trying to sign him away.

Finally, Bobby Convey and Reading will make start their Premier League campaign on Saturday. The game will be shown tape-delayed at 2:15PM ET on Fox Soccer Channel.

Match 11.22 Preview: At New York Red Bulls

Match #: 11.22

Opponent: New York Red Bulls

New York Red Bulls, 5-6-9, 24 pts, 4th in East Conference, 8th in MLS
DC United, 13-2-6, 45 pts, 1st in East Conference , 1st in MLS

TV: MLSLive.TV - 7:30PM, probably the NY/NJ feed. Stupid !@#!@ing Orioles.

Previous Meeting: New York Red Bulls 1 : 4 DC United (DCenters Debriefing)

Suggested Pregame Music: Soul Coughing - "The Incumbent" -- New York, New York, I won't go back / Indelible reminder of the steel I lack / I gave you seven years, what did you give me back? / A jaw-grind, disposistion to a panic attack.

Suggested Pregame Activity: Take a normal piece of paper. Draw a line down the middle. On the right, list the following names: "Sunil Gulati", "Peter Vermes", "Kevin Payne", "Don Garber", "US Soccer", "MLS Soccer 1996-1998, US Soccer 1999-2004","Bruce Arena." On the left, write five deregatory adjectives and two complimentary adjective. Draw lines matching the left column to the right column. If, when done, the complementary adjectives have been matched to the last two items in the right-hand column, then Congratulations! You have simulated a Bruce Arena Interview. Repeat as necessary to generate soundbytes and media buzz. Bonus points if you complementary adjective for Bruce is a fictitious word, like "megawesomellent."

The Stakes: DC United enters this game on a two game winless streak (at least, in league play). Two games without a win ties the high for DC United this season (the previous being back-to-back draws June 11-17 and draw/loss April 29-May 6). Part of what has made DC United successful this season is the absence of a prolonged slump, and winning this game will be a key part of establishing a strong season. The subplot of Bruce's return to New York and taking on his old team is something which is probably of more interest to the fans of the respective sides, and perhaps to the New York Coaching Staff.

Things I'd like to see: A win. Okay, more than that, I'd like to see DC reestablish a sense of importance and intensity to close out the season. Last season, especially the last three games, you could see DC faltering. The DCenters called it out after the draw to Columbus (following a NYRB loss) last year. The feeling that the Chicago game in the playoff happened in isolation is not reflective of reality: DC clearly was losing intensity. So I don't want to see any sign of that as we head into the final ten games of the season. If people need a rest, I'd rather they get it in the next seven games than the last three, but right now we need to finish this season out. The Supporter's Shield is still the goal. I want international play next year. These games matter.

Previews from the DCUniverse: QuarterVolley, DC Sun Devil, SE Podcast, BlackDogRed

Previews from the Metroverse: (will be added as noticed.)

Expected Yield: 2.0 points (D).

D's Location: Home Office, watching on Computer.

Kinney and Oscar's Locations? TBA.

Last Words: Refreshing and Envirgorating Drinks.

15 August 2006

Lenny Bruce Arena

I direct your attention to the Grant Wahl interview with Bruce Arena (ex-DC, ex-USA, etc...). Now, there are some great quotes in here:

[USSF President] Sunil is a great guy. He's always been a good friend. I think he's a superfan who now is president. That's the way our organization is. That's unfortunate, and you add another micromanager to an organization that's already micromanaged. I don't think that's necessarily good. He's a guy who loves the game, who wants to be important and be around the world of bigwigs at FIFA, and he's going to get that opportunity.

Ouch... Say Bruce, how about being a bit sarcastic for everyone?

SI.com: Who do you think should be the next U.S. coach?

Arena: I don't care, and it's none of my business.

SI.com: You care about the U.S. team, don't you?

Arena: Oh yeah. They're going to win the next World Cup, from what I'm told. So I wish them the best. Because we did so poorly over the last eight years, I'm sure they're going to win the next World Cup.

Now, here's the thing. I get the feeling that Bruce Arena is part soccer-coach, part performance-artist/comedian. Not in the clownish Alexi Lalas way, but in the dark Andy Kaufman/Lenny Bruce way. He's not sure how much he means at any given time, but it keeps you interested, keeps you guessing. At some point, for some fans, the act ultimately wears too thin. Suddenly the veneer of sarcasm is spread so fine that you wonder if there is any substance or just varnish. I think that's why Bruce upsets so many people: You're never really sure what he means, or even what he believes. But, there is substance there, and Bruce is a hell of a coach. NYRB may not be instantly better with him, but give him an off-season and I'm sure he'll put something together. You just have to ignore the misdirection from Bruce's mouth, and pay attention to the field.

So that's my advice. Bruce's interview should not be taken with a grain of salt. Instead, they need to be taken with a glass lined with salt, then drowned with a margarita, and preferably a few tequila shots. Bruce wants you to pay attention to the wrong things. So for DC fans out there, if he makes an oversimplification like:

The difference between D.C. and the others right now is Jaime Moreno and [Christian] Gómez. They're two fairly elite attacking players in the league.
Well, don't get up in arms. I think there's more to it than that, and I imagine Bruce does as well. But it's just a distraction. Think of it like this: "If I can get DCU and my own team to believe that the only difference between DC and them is Moreno/Gomez, and then I hack/slash Gomez and Moreno to knock them out of the game, I can motivate my team and demoralize the opposition." It's a clever ruse. I don't think it will work.

14 August 2006

Of course, if DC United is making a move, you can guess what country they are looking in.

Fresh off of random speculation about signings, Goal.Com is reporting that DC United may be in the international market to add a new player from (take a guess?)... Argentina! Boca junior reservist and right midfielder Matias Donnet is supposedly the target of the acquisition. DC United's quoted non-denial makes it sound like this is in the "Hey, let's talk and see if there's a fit here" stage, not a "we're about to sign" stage or a "we've hardly thought about it and have no idea what you're talking about" stage.

To me, this acquisition makes some sense, but I wonder if perhaps an allocation couldn't be better used. Right midfield may be a spot where Donnet could be used as speculated, but at the same time Josh Gros can also play on the right, and Justin Moose should be in the system for playing on the left. A Donnet acquisition could once again log-jam what had been a fairly comprehensible depth chart, as well as potentially sending a signal about DC's #1 draft pick.

Personally, I have been more impressed with Freddy's play on the wing this year than his play up top, so making a move to put Freddy in as a striker or withdrawn forward doesn't ring true to me. This move might not be a bad one, but I can't help think that there are better options out there.

Chelsea Copies DC United Innovation

Okay, that's clearly exaggerated, but it was fun to say. Chelsea Blog has a recap of the Community Shield up, and they have used our format. Being the decent gentlemen that they are, they even gave us a hat-tip and called us "splendid." Very classy. And it gives us a chance to write a headline like the one above.

In other bloggy type news, La Norte has established a weblog. Excellent! Reminds me to go hang out with that crew at some point. Plus, in terms of quality, the La Norte jerseys this year are the classiest supporter jerseys out there. Really top notch.

Cash on Hand

Given that DC United has both dumped salary and made moves to add an allocation, there is a great deal of interest in adding a new player at some point. It's clear that there is some room to add a player, but how much? Let's see what we can find out. Looking at Goff's salary chart, let's add up the credits from the 2006 salary moves where DC doesn't seem to have made a one for one replacement yet.:

+163,500 Lucio Filomeno
+145,500 Santino Quaranta
+309,000 Free

That's not a small amount of money, but it's probably artifically large. There are several players that can probably expect to see raises in the off-season. For the sake of this thought-experiment, let's assign some raises to a few players.

Bobby Boswell: Yes, I think his contract last year was a multi-year one, but it might make sense to renegotiate yet again and lock him in for a few more years. Currently he's listed at $29K, but $45-50K doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

Devon McTavish and Dominic Mediate: If you're going to keep them around, and why not given the good minutes both have provided, they'll probably move off of the developmental payscale. That's 18K a piece, so 36K overall.

Troy Perkins: You gave Nick Rimando a big raise last year, now it's Troy's turn. Now, Troy may only have a season of work in his resume to Rimando's two seasons, but you have to figure that the payscale will be similar. Let's add $50K there.

Misc.: Throw in another $50-75K for various contract raises and potential option years being exercised at increased prices and that's a total of around $190,000 in increased salary next season.

Bottom Line?

That $309,000 is now only around $120K-$140K. And that may not be the end. From various readings, it seems like Freddy Adu's count against the salary cap was an escalating factor, so in terms of cap space he may add on another $40,000 or so (a rough guess, that could be wrong.) So figure that, projecting forward, DC really only has between $80K-$120K to use on a new player, and they have an allocation. That means that despite losing two large contracts from the payroll, I fully expect only one new high contract to come in the door. At least, that's how I figure it on some napkin calculations. We're not in Christmas Shopping mode as a team, we're in selective buying mode.

Addendum: Of course, by the time I first stopped writing this post, I forgot the enitre point - What do we do? We clearly have some money on hand, and the way I figure it, you can either get one expensive (around $100,000) player or two decent role players (at around $50,000) to bolster DC. Personally, I think DC's midfield is in decent shape, and I'd prefer one reasonable sure acquisition to two "maybe they'll work" types. If it were up to me, I'd like DC to go after an outside defender, someone at RB or LB (preferable LB, since I think we have more acceptable options and depth at RB.) The usual fan choice is to get a "pure striker" but with Alecko Eskandarian healthy, that seems like less of a need than it was last year. Also, pure strikers are more of a roulette choice than most positions, so I'd prefer the stability in defense.

Back among my friends

I'm back from my vacation, which nicely coincided with the all-star break. I see that Kinney and Oscar have been keeping this place roaring along, so I don't harbor any pretentions that somehow everyone missed me. Also a shout out to Seattle Matt's comments on the Real Madrid game. Still, there were a few developments that happened while I was away that I'd like to address:

Kovalenko/Kuykendall to NYRB: It seems that to defeat DC United, the Red Bulls have decided to become DC United. Well, that makes a certain degree of sense. D's household (which is to say, my wife and two cats) are upset to see Dema go to the Red Bulls, but it's more of an "Aw, shucks" then a "aw, f*ck." I'm also happy to see that Bruce has added Shawn Kuykendall to the roster over in New York, since I was something of a fan of his during his stay in DC. Good luck to them both.

Tino to LA: The trade of Santino Quaranta to Los Angeles has been well analyzed by Oscar. Oscar does wonder about LA as a destination for Santino, but for me it makes a certain degree of sense. It gets Tino out of our conference, it also procures the second part of the allocation that combines nicely with the one we got from the Red Bulls (in other words, NYRB was already paying us for something, so we could get more from LA). As for Tino, I wish him well. He was a maddening player to watch, showing moments of great promise, and then moments of pure despair on the pitch.

OPERATION: DEFLOWER - I see that there is sentiment for spreading this out over a few weeks. Works for me. Remember, let us know about your stories. You can just go to an MLS game, and enjoy the soccer, but it makes it easier if you have a good host. So be good hosts folks. And drunk ones.