18 October 2006

Yes... but No(wak)...

ESKY BACK, AND NOWAK MORE ADAPTABLE THAN SOME MIGHT SAY

A few interesting things out there for DC United reading: First, Steve Goff indicates that Piotr Nowak thinks that Alecko Eskandarian may be ready to start (did you follow that? Of course you did.)

More interesting is Bill Urban's look at the playoff series as a bellweather for the career of one person in particular over at MASN:

Nowak clearly rates his abilities at getting the best out of his players above all else and ahead of more mundane personal concerns like tactics and his system of play. His characteristic stubborn refusal to change the system or his tactics as United's season ended with an extended run of poor results, the implicit assumption that he and his players could "turn it on" when necessary, has morphed the conference semifinal tie against the Red Bulls into a sort of referendum on the reign of Peter as a result.

Read the entire thing. You may disagree here and there, but I'll bet you also nod your head knowingly on more than one occasion.

Here's my feeling. Yes, I would have liked to see more from the four man backline over the last five months. I thought it showed promised in the first few games. However, injuries to people like John Wilson made that more difficult to sustain. I certainly would not advocate it now since there's enough confusion in the back line that changing the system seems like it would hurt more than help.

Urban is right: Nowak is stubborn. We've written about it here, others have written about it -- It is a source of strength and weakness. But I don't think Nowak has been as inflexible as either of the two previous seasons. In my mind, he's shown much more adaptability over the course of this year than any previous. Urban, in proposing a 4-5-1, asks "Why not play Moreno by himself?" He then promptly answers the question himself a paragraph later: "It must be noted that Moreno's creaking joints and waning stamina have had an adverse effect on United's attack." The days of Jamie holding a ball while the wingers moved up are past... right now he's not fast or strong enough to keep posession in order to buy time for a 4-5-1 to be effective.

The other issue is that Jamie just won't shoot the damn ball, and to have your one forward be a player that won't try and put the ball in the net is ridiculous (although mitigated slightly by the recently more adventerous Christian Gomez.) No, Jamie will be best when defenders have another attacking threat to worry about, and that means United needs two effective forwards. Adu and Dyachenko have not managed to show that yet (although Adu helps on counters). The fact is we need Esky back... if only because he gives opposing backlines something to take seriously in their marking schemes. Which brings us full circle to the first link posted here. This could be the spark DC needs, even if Esky doesn't tally a goal or an assist, he may create more space for others. And he'll take shots, which means defenses have to close him down quickly, allowing others more opportunity.

As for Urban... I think he's too quick to ignore the fact that Nowak has experimented with multiple forms a 3-5-2, a 4-4-3, and a 3-5-2/4-4-2 hyrbrid. He's been willing to try different players this year (McTavish, Metcalf, Wilson, Mediate, and others who have all battled injuries but saw some starting time.) In other words, I think Urban's column was more appropriate exactly one year ago today than now. It still has a place, but I think he's ignored the progress that has been made. Nowak understands that he was somewhat to blame for the 2005 debacle, and as a result has adjusted. Has he adjusted enough? Well, I don't know. But give him some credit.

10 Comments:

At 18 October, 2006 10:23, Anonymous Joanna said...

ESKY! ESKY! ESKY! WOOOOOOOO!!!!

 
At 18 October, 2006 10:28, Blogger D said...

Note to self: Esky = Ratings (at least from Joanna)

 
At 18 October, 2006 11:40, Anonymous Joanna said...

Oh, yeah. :-)

Alecko will be our salvation in the playoffs. Yes, he will. This is going to be FUN!

 
At 18 October, 2006 12:39, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's interesting is this isn't only a referendum on Nowak as a DCU coach, it is a referendum on Nowak as a dark horse MNT coach possibility. -K

 
At 18 October, 2006 12:54, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No doubt, Nowak will have his players motivated and fired up to play their best. The question in my mind is, is that enough? Weren't they motivated to play U. Catolica last year? To play in the playoffs last year against Chicago? Motivation is a wonderful thing, but does it get results?

 
At 18 October, 2006 16:53, Blogger Oscar M. said...

put me in the glad that eski might be back camp !

and complaining that jaime wont' shoot is akin to complaining that the sky is blue. I've been yelling "shoot the damn ball" at him since 1996.

 
At 18 October, 2006 17:02, Blogger The Manly Ferry said...

To go all flaky on you here, the stuff about formations, tactics, etc. has a place, but I think something simpler is ailing DC: sloppy defending (see #1 here for a really modest elaboration). The question of whether they're playing three or four in the back is almost academic. To give an example, bodies were there on all three of Chicago's goals in the season finale, but they were either ball-watching, and therefore not following their marks, or they just got beat; this applies to the first goal, especially, when Segares just managed to get inside. From there, DC is playing catch-up and the 1-0 wins, so familiar from the summer, dry up.

The stuff y'all are talking about with Esky (he is a good 'un) will probably help on that score, but that's just one side of the ball. Fixing the other side...I don't know how you do it. But it seems more a factor of either fatigue or let-up than one of tactics.

 
At 18 October, 2006 23:39, Anonymous Nick said...

Despite the optimism on this blog, if we're relying on Esky to provide that "spark" in this year's playoffs, we will be watching NY in the conference finals.
As erratic as the defensive play has been, this can be more than adequately made up for by a good attack.
The playoffs is not about teams, it's about playmakers--Donovan has proved that year after year. We have three: Adu, Moreno, Gomez. NY has three: Altidore, Djorkaeff, Guevara. Chicago has one: Herron. But NE trumps everyone bc they have to best playmaker right now: Dempsey. As great as DC United was at times during this season, if our playmakers don't step up, we're done. Right now, the smart money's on Dempsey and the Revs...

 
At 20 October, 2006 04:11, Blogger scaryice said...

Hey d, I sent you an email about the BASA's a couple days ago. Just wanted to remind you that the ballot is due before the first playoff game on Saturday. Thanks.

 
At 26 October, 2006 00:15, Anonymous Bill Urban said...

Gents:

Nice breakdown, plenty of fair criticism, and the point about Peter experimenting with 3-5-2 and different lineups, particularly early this season, was a very good one.

United weren't playing 4-5-1 against TFKAM, but with Esky dropping deep frequently, it certainly looked like it for long stretches.

Here's hoping Jaime's fitness holds up, and he and Christian can conjure up another moment of class this weekend.

peace,

Bill

 

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