07 September 2006

Guys? We need to talk.

Okay, I'm going to skip the debrief because I think it is time for an intervention. I'm not an unreasonable man, I know that sometimes teams have bad games, or are a little unlucky, or just run into a team that's having the game of its life. But there are enough individual problems out there that I think we need to address them. On an individual basis. It's time to call some people out. And we're going to start at the top:

Piotr Nowak: Coach, I think the world of you, but a team must take its character from its coach, and you are beginning to worry me. Unlike some, I have no doubt that you wanted to win this game. Sure, I would have liked to have seen a forward subbed into the game at some point, but that's your call tactically. Still, I think you've become a bit divorced from reality. This game makes two games where you have blamed the refs for the loss. First it was the loss to Real Salt Lake. Now I see this reported:

"The officials today won the game for the Fire," Nowak said. "Instead of 1-1, we had 2-0 and the game changed considerably after that."

Bullshit. The officials didn't effect the game in the first half when DC was diddling away with no posession. No, instead DC was playing a lackluster and tedious style of soccer, and found itself level at the half simply because our defense was good enough to stop Chicago from creating great chances, and the ones Chicago had they didn't put on frame. That's not the refs, that's us. You can complain about Donnet's goal being disallowed, but don't pretend for a moment that somehow DC played well enough either before or after that point to indicate they were the better team.

Ben Olsen: You're a leader on this team, so start showing some maturity. I wrote in a BigSoccer post yesterday that I think you left your composure in Germany, and that doesn't make me happy. As a leader, players look to you on how to comport yourself. When you get angry, you make stupid fouls and jaw at the ref. Stop it. If you must, channel that anger into tenacity, not stupidity. Can I draw a straight line between your behavior and Erpen's card or Gros's ejection? Nope, but it does look like DC is becoming an awfully think-skinned team when it comes to dealing with frustration. So stop being a brat.

Facundo Erpen: You got burned son. It's about time, given how many of your random bone-headed plays have gone unpunished. Some of this is lack of concentration. Some if it is trying to do too much (don't be afraid to put the ball in Row Z, you don't always have to dribble out of the back and execute and difficult pass). Play smart, and play simply.

Freddy Adu: You had a better game yesterday. But the effort and work you put forward yesterday is a baseline, not a goal. You've gone from a player with difficult stretches punctuated by good plays to a player with difficult stretches interrupted by good games. Reverse those terms. That being said, I think right now you're sending in the best corners for anyone not names Christian Gomez, and better than him some games.

Everyone, fans, club, and others: I don't want to hear about how the refs are jobbing us, or how some players seem to play the game of their lives against us. DC is good enough to overcome both of those things at the same time, and we should expect it for the rest of the season. So deal with it. Control the ball, play smart, and shoot when a decent, if not perfect, opportunity arises. And keep your emotions controlled, not sprayed all over the place. We need focus now, not frantic action.


At 07 September, 2006 16:02, Anonymous bdr said...

D, excellent post.

I've wondered whether Nowak has the temperament and coaching experience to handle a slumping team. Last year didn't end well. It's all well to be all, erm, fire, at the beginning of the season and when things are well, but coaches can't go emotional full speed all the time (and neither can teams). Two years in a row year end slumps? That ain't bad refs fault.

Maybe Nowak is ref-baiting to set up an "us-vs-them" attitude on the team, but if he really believes DCU's losing games b/c of refs then he has a dangerous lack of perspective.

If the old guys on the team are losing their cool, and the coach is chasing blame, no good can come of it. I'm NOT saying things can't be fixed, but they need fixing.

RSL game this Saturday should be fascinating. Hopefully not like a train wreck.

At 07 September, 2006 18:32, Anonymous Brian said...

D. This is the internet. Your compsoure and clarity are not wanted here.

At 08 September, 2006 07:57, Anonymous matt w said...

Good stuff, D.

I can't imagine that all the cautions for dissent really help United much with the whistle-carriers. We've had some awful calls lately, but that's soccer. And awful calls even out over the course of a season. Make your point respectfully, get back to your position, and forget about it. Or use it to motivate you to do something good for your team, a la #10 last weekend.

At 08 September, 2006 09:28, Anonymous john said...

D, I was working on a post last week (which I never finished), and I had the same thoughts about Olsen:
"Any idea of what happened to Ben Olsen in Germany? I don't know what, maybe alien abduction, maybe Gooch stared at him, Michael Essien touched him, you know, in that way? Ever since he rejoined United the guy has been playing like he's out of his mind. And this is a guy who already played at a high intensity. Arms here, leg flailing there, complain to the ref, oh wait, try the quick restart."

At 08 September, 2006 09:55, Blogger D said...

BDR: Those are two excellent points. First, you're right, Nowak turning around a team's momentum is an unproven factor in his coaching ability. Second, he might be trying to establish "us-against-them" and not believe his own rhetoric, but it strikes me as counterproductive regardless.

Brian: True.

Matt W: Also correct, and I never thought I'd agree with a "We could learn something from Landon" statement, but there you have it.

John: It's strange. It's upsetting. Glad to see I'm not the only one in this boat.


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