27 June 2006

Almost Through it

Hi everyone...

Until mid week, I'm going to be swamped with things. Which makes it difficult to devote the time here I should be. So I'll probably be silent until Thursday.

Just quickly, your men of the match are Clyde Simms and Troy Perkins. Your pregame music for tomorrow is "Tilly and the Wall - Rainbows in the Dark". And did you see how I suggested John Wilson before the Chicago game, and suddenly he appears? Heh. Ego trip, let me tell you. Okay, it wasn't a hard request to make, but if nothing else it shows that Piotr isn't as bloody stubborn as he's been.

I'll see you around Thursday, and we'll debrief the last three games and look at what it all means.

23 June 2006

In Numbers Up Screen Scrolling Up

ASSEMBLING ALL OWNERS: This is what you need to know: If this happens, celebrate, but remember that even if it happens, it might be called off a few months from now. Still, a positive sign. Discovery is a local business, as Metro riders near Silver Spring can attest. So local ownership + support of Kevin Payne is promising. Once it is finalized, that is. Right.

GOODBYE STEVE GUPPY LUCIO FILOMENO: MASR scooped the Post on this one. So give them some love. As for Filomeno, I had hopes for him that never materialized. It is a shame, because you can see all the tools there, but they never seem to click in all at once. The DCenters wishes Lucio Filomeno the best of luck as he returns home. And not even in a sarcastic way. Hey, it didn't work out, at least both parties are cool with that. So handle it with class.

Bruce Should Go, and Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

There are going to be a lot of articles, blog posts, and BigSoccer rants on whether Bruce Arena should stay with the US National Team. There are going to be some that are reasoned, some that are passionate, some that are nasty, and a few that are all three. Most, I feel, will just resort to a sense of despair over the World Cup and move straight into hyperbole. You can do worse for a post-mortem than over at US Soccer Player's and Yanks Abroad though, so they are the links I'll give you. Some of the nastier ones probably won't help your mood.

First, while I touched on this last night during the World Cup Roundtable podcast, I want to refine my thoughts here a bit. The fundamental thought is that the US Men's National Team needs a new coach, and Bruce needs a job other than the US Men's National Team. While the performance in Germany was disappointing, that alone is not why Bruce should go. This is not the same as the catastrophe of 1998. Then we were utterly humiliated, the players were hung out to dry, and no one had any reason for confidence in the program. This time the situation is different: We simply failed to perform. It's not like this some how demonstrated that the US is utterly incapable of performing on the world stage, just that we didn't. The possibility still exists, though the reality failed.

There are several people that will try to quantify what the 2006 World Cup did to US Soccer. They'll say things like "This has set the program back four years." Well, yes, but let's be precise in our angst. The program has been set back to June 22, 2002. That's the day we were ousted by Germany in the quarterfinals. We are not back to wondering if we can even hang with the big dogs, the way it was on June 4, 2002. Simply put, we have not progressed since that performance, but I don't feel that we've slid back below it.

Now, Bruce (and Landon, and DMB, but mainly Bruce) going through to make another run at the World Cup to redeem himself makes a nice story. Which is the problem. Four years is an awful long time for the story to be about the Coach. A game or a tournament? Okay, I can accept that. But a full qualification and World Cup finals period? Too long. That's just simply unfair to the players, the program, and even the coach himself. Four years of "Can Bruce succeed? Has he learned from his mistakes? Why isn't he X?" is just too much. We may not be England in the hyperanalysis of managing the National Team, but we're picky enough that it would be an issue. Even if Bruce Arena is unaffected, it would be an issue for everyone he had to work with, coaches, players, training staff, US Soccer Presidents, MLS teams... End all of it now. Bruce should move on. The story then can go back to the team, and not be about the coach. Sure, there will be analysis of whether Landon Donovan or DMB can come back, should Taylor Twellman have a permanent chip on his shoulder, and all of that. But those are individual player stories that don't have the same scope that Arena's story has now.

I am not going to be someone who wants to slander Bruce. There's a lot of that going on right now, but his accomplishments with the US National Team are overall positive. He brought the team to its best modern performance in 2002. He navigated qualifying with increasing panache. He got our hopes up, even when we knew better, for Germany 2006. His tenure as coach is overall a positive step. He deserves several coaching positions after this, probably in MLS. Anyone who says "I knew all along Bruce was a fraud" should not be listened to. (Note: See comments. I borrowed this phrase inexactly from someone whose views I am not trying to typify. Which can create confusion I did not intend) Bruce has more than enough success to make such accusations laughable. But we can't spend the next four years talking about Bruce Arena.

21 June 2006

Match 11.14 Preview: Chicago Fire

Match #: 11.14

Opponent: Chicago Fire

DC United, 7-1-5, 26 pts, 1st in East Conference , 1st in MLS
Chicago Fire, 2-4-5, 11 pts, 6th in East Conference, 10th in MLS (tie-RSL)

TV: MLSLive.TV - 7:30 PM

Previous Meeting: We don't really want to get into that, do we?

Suggested Pregame Music: Asbestos - Suede

The Stakes: Kill or cure? DC United is looking to reestablish itself as the team to beat, and not merely a good team. The Chicago Fire are on the road (again) after opening their new stadium, and have generally looked less dangerous from week to week. As noted in the 11.13 debrief, the season series with Kansas City concludes soon, and DC will want to enter those games not worried about silly questions. Questions like "Where will the goals come from?" The Washington Post reports that Alecko Eskandarian may be ready to go (he's listed as questionable at the moment.) Prideux is still out. Chicago is missing Curtin, Gutierrez , DCU-alum Sanneh, and potentially Chris Rolfe. That's a mix and match bag, but you'd always imagine Chicago will be more lethal with them around.

A win here does nothing, NOTHING, for last season's playoff debacle. You can say all you want about it, but the issue is that Chicago beats us in the playoffs, the Penguins to our Capitals. The best you can say about three points is that it puts Chicago further in the Eastern Conference cellar and missing the playoffs entirely. But that's not the point, is it? I want to see DC and Chicago in the playoffs. I want to look into the void and kick it in the metaphorical groin.

Things I'd like to see: John Wilson. Really. Look, you've put Freddy on the right, and Josh Gros on the Left. So field a 4-4-2 with Wilson at LB. Just to get opponents back to not assuming we'll come out in the favored 3-5-2. Or at least consider moving to the 4-4-2 if we get up a goal or two.

Previews from the DCUniverse: QuarterVolley, DC Sun Devil, Poplar Point Perspective.

Expected Yield: 2.5 points. No excuse for not getting a win.

D's Location: At the game, usual seats.

Last Words: Retardant

One - On the Verge

LOYALTY: I'm sure that many will give Freddy grief over saying he can't root against Ghana. I'm not one of them, since I have no problem with people holding a special spot for the country of their birth or ancestry. Note that he also says he can't root against the US. That's okay with me. If he were either a member of the US team, or actively rooting for Ghana over the US, that's a different story. But saying "Hey, I like both teams" is acceptable. I say that about Ireland, but I'm not about to root for them to beat the US. That being said, when EI and US get together, I kinda want my home country to represent well. Just not to beat the Stars and Stripes / Fighting Gazelles / Belligerent Buffalos [Bison].

BELATED BIRTHDAY: To Pseudo Corner Kick. Keep at it lads, you know The DCenters loves ya. Just one question: What is a pseudo corner kick?

ANTICIPATION: Chicago Fire tonight, and to my surprise I found I had a ticket to this game. For a time, I contemplated not using it, but well, hell, Fire tonight, Ghana tomorrow, that sounds like a nice 15 hour period of soccer watching to me.

20 June 2006

Debriefing for Match 11.13: At New England Revolution


Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Dan Steinberg: "For the second weekend in a row, the edge was canceled out in the final minutes of play"
MLSNet, Andrew Hush: "D.C. United continued their trend of losing points late on the road "
Mid-Atlantic Soccer Report, Mike Martin: "As bitter as the tie was in LA, at least this one is more palatable"
Poplar Point Perspective: "It sure seems like we give up a lot of late goals."
DC Sun Devil, Brian Garrison: "...from what I read in the Washington Post and from MLSnet.com, they played pretty much the same way that they did against the LA Galaxy. "

The Good

  1. Effort Returned: From my perspective, DC was much more active in this game. Yes, the Revs equalized late, but DC was playing like a team that was trying to get three points. I agree with Mr. Martin above, this was a much better performance than the one we saw against LA. The Revolution were generating their chances by virtue of their play, not by poor passes out of the DC backline.
  2. Troy Perkins: You may disagree with this, but I thought Troy had one of his better games of the year. This is probably one of the first games I recall where he had to make multiple key saves, and he managed to come up with all but one. The goal I can't particularly fault him for.
  3. Jamil Walker: Okay, he didn't do much in this game, but it was sure nice to see him as an option again.
  4. Brian Hall: This was a decently reffed match by Mr. Hall. Given the problems and scrutiny that comes up, credit where credit is due. He had control of this match, and did it without throwing many yellows around.

The Bad

  1. Falling Star: In the last game against New England, Piotr Nowak issued a comment saying "It won't work to hack at Gomez and Moreno, we have too many weapons." Well, not in this game. Alecko Eskandarian's MCL strain (surprise!) seemed to hurt this team, as Filomeno never really managed to establish the kind of presence needed to take him seriously as a threat. Moreno got a beautiful goal, which was wonderful to see, but Adu and Gros couldn't seem to create chances from the wing.
  2. The Problem of Three: The issue of the Boswell/Erpen pairing has always been problematic in the 3-5-2. Boswell was called upon to clear two balls off the line, which was nice, but way too dangerous. Additionally, I feel like the 3-5-2 is once again becoming too predictable. I'd like to see Nowak tactically change it up a bit on occasion, and for a few games here and there bring the 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 back again. Of course, that requires a healthy Prideaux and Eskandarian.

Moreno Watch

Jamie struck a beautiful shot from distance. Just exquisite. However, Jason Kreis answered Moreno in a nicely ironic fashion, putting in a PK. Kries 104; Moreno 102.

Man of the Match

Troy Perkins finally gets a nod from me. He was called upon to be very active, and he had to leave his line way too often for comfort. That's not his fault though, that's what the situation called for.

Final Thoughts

Man, this world cup thing is an attention hog, ain't it?

The mini-road trip concludes. Two points in two games, but it felt like it should have been more. DC is not a truly dominant team yet. We see that. They haven't really utterly destroyed a team since Columbus, and that's not in terms of the scoreline but in terms of the run of play. There are erratic moments coming in.

We get the Chicago Fire on Wednesday. I think that it has been long enough that whatever feelings exist from the 4-0 playoff debacle have faded a bit, and that's a good thing. I want DC to play with energy, but not stupidly. Especially since the season series concludes against Kansas City in the next two weeks. These games might have huge table implications for seeding in the East, and DC needs to find a full 90 minute game in order to be ready for them.

16 June 2006

Match 11.13 Preview: At New England Revolution

Match #: 11.13

Opponent: New England Revolution

New England Revolution, 3-4-3, 12 pts, 4th in East Conference, 8th in MLS
DC United, 7-1-4, 25 pts, 1st in East Conference , 1st in MLS

TV: MLSLive.TV - 6:00 PM

Previous Meeting: DC United 1 : 0 New England Revolution, June 3, 2006 (DCenters debriefing...)

Suggested Pregame Music: Anarchy X - Queensryche

The Stakes: A tedious one goal win and a disappointing draw comprise DC's last two games. The team is not in as good a form as we saw previously (to me, the best game played is still home against Houston). What's more, DC needs to find its form, as it will soon face its first game against the Chicago Fire, and a home-at-home series against Kansas City which has the power to reshape the look of the Eastern Conference table.

New England has seen a middling performance so far, but might sense an opportunity at home against a DC team that they kept close (if not particularly threatened) at RFK. They haven't won since May 13, but they did manage to spoil the Chicago stadium opening for the Fire with a comeback 3-3 draw. Four of their next five games are against weaker competition, so a win for the Revs means a nice little momentum boost going into a period where they can pick up some points.

I don't expect many surprises from either side tactically. Steve Nicol isn't going to abandon the hack and grab style simply because he's playing at home, or because Piotr Nowak told him to. The only issue is that he might see some increased scrutiny from the Ref based on those comments. Don't forget that Shalrie Joseph got an early yellow (as in, the first minute I think) of the 2004 Conference Championship, a decision that I think helped that game develop into a beautiful game of attacking soccer. If there's a yellow in the first fifteen minutes of this game, we might see the same.

Things I'd like to see: Prideaux and Walker as subs. Eskandarian needs to recover from his lackluster performance last week, so as to stop any "he's a streaky player" discussion.

Previews from the DCUniverse: DC SunDevil, SE Podcast (more as they appear.)

Expected Yield: 2.0 points. DC rights the ship with a decent performance, the only question is whether that leads to more goals than the Revs. I think, on balance, it will.

D's Location: At the SE Party at the Pour House.

Last Words: Genuine People Personalities

15 June 2006

The Hurts that Hurt


I think, even after the LA game, that it is fair to say that DC has a pretty good team and a decent bench. The question is: "What is DC Missing right now that can put it over the top?" To my surprise, the answer is offense. Yes, DC has the most goals scored of anyone in the league right now (25), but break those goals down, and there's an interesting factoid. Thanks to the MLSNet stats page, you can see that 10 of DC's 25 goals (40%) come in the first 30 minutes of play (or 33% of the time). DC also has 6 goals in the first fifteen minutes of the second half. When the legs are freshest among the starting XI, DC does well.

However, look at the last fifteen minutes of play. DC only has 3 goals between the 75th minute and full time, a mark that only beats the Crew and Rapids. Why? Part of this can be explained by the fact that since DC has the lead frequently, they don't need to press for another goal (the way RSL would.) Given that they have only given up three goals in this time as well, a mark second only to Houston, this seems to indicate a team that is comfortable sitting on their lead.

However, I can't help feel that part of this is due to two other factors. First, Freddy Adu has been tremendously unlucky in the final fifteen minutes, and if the goals are two inches bigger (let alone Alexi's six feet) then the number changes. But the other factor is a substitution one. Lucio Filomeno doesn't bring anything new when he takes the field for Eskandarian or Moreno. He may have fresh legs, but he's not appreciably faster or better given the fatigue to those that he replaces. Dominic Mediate is certainly a defensive substitution in nature, not attacking. Quite simply, DC doesn't have a decent, speedy threat off the bench to take advantage of fatigued defenses. At least, not right now.

Ultimately, there are two options for DC. Jamil Walker is the most probably one, and he has excelled in the past year as a dangerous counter-attacking option. He makes great sense in close games late since it forces opposing teams, pressing for an equalizer, to back off a bit knowing they may have to counter Jamil, or they risk getting burned with a goal to put it out of reach. He's listed as probable, but he's been listed as probable for a few weeks now. Once he's off the injury report, that'll make life easier. Another loss is Santino Quaranta, who provided a forward/midfield option in addition to Mediate (we can't really talk about Moose right now, given that we haven't seen him and that he's hurt). Tino likewise is an attacking threat, though certainly one that doesn't seem as potent as Walker at the moment. However, with both out, we've lost two perfect late game weapons that could have been used to change the pace of close games. Either would have been useful in LA last Sunday. Let's hope we get them back soon. And then this would have the requisite role players to be truly scary.

14 June 2006


In case it isn't obvious, I have been buried in work. Taking Monday off didn't help. I apologize. You deserve better. I shall make it up to you. Maybe with pretty pictures in the next few days?

13 June 2006


Remember that discussion of getting a Satellite deal for MLS? Someone in DC is listening to Dave Johnson's calls on XM for the World Cup, and thinks it is a good idea. Since I can't get Tony L. over the air at my apartment, I am all for this. Of course, it might dip into the "AudioPass" revenue stream, but really, most of us have ponied up for the MLS.TV deal.

The Implications of the Czech Republic - USA massacre

My thoughts on what it meant, and what it will mean, over at the World Cup Roundtable.

12 June 2006

We Just Need to Communicate

Okay, yeah, today's been taken up with the US game and other considerations. I will have the debrief tomorrow, because while my relationship with DC United is very fulfilling, and I think we understand each other well, and we don't take each other for granted... well, we need to talk. And that's what the debrief is for.

I also will have some thoughts on the USA game, but those I'm probably going to post over at the World Cup Roundtable tomorrow. I still need to see if my argument will fit into the five paragraph structure.

Looking for D during USA-CZE at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse

I'll be in a red DC United t-shirt and blue jeans, and I have somewhat curly hair. If there's open seating (there usually is) I'll try and be on the left side of the theatre somewhere.

11 June 2006

First Take: LA Galaxy 1 : 1 DC United

Ugly game on all parts for United. Truth be told, DC probably deserved to lose this game after a meandering, disheartened second half. United didn't look much better in the first, but at least they weren't giving up long ball chances. Since we've seen what can happen when United's weaponds are firing, or even if only a few are alive, it is somewhat troublesome to see Adu, Moreno, Eskandarian, and Gros all shut down. I think the turning point for LA was deciding to attack Gros, and not Adu, since Josh suddenly found himself getting beat down DC's left flank. Gomez gets a beautiful goal, but even he was subpar the second half.

Full debrief later, but man, what an unfortunate game. Take the draw.

Match 11.12 Preview: At Los Angeles Galaxy

Match #: 11.12

Opponent: Los Angeles Galaxy

DC United, 7-1-3, 24 pts, 1st in East Conference , 2nd in MLS
Los Angeles Galaxy, 2-9-1, 7 pts, 6th in West Conference, 12th in MLS

TV: CSN / MLSLive.TV - 8:00 PM

Previous Meeting: DC United 2 : 3 Los Angeles Galaxy, August 21, 2005 (DCenters remembers...)

Suggested Pregame Music: Space Game - MC Lars

The Stakes: LA, under new head coach Frankie Yallop, is still trying to figure itself out. A loss against Chivas saw a Galaxy team that seemed better, but still not precisely dangerous. DC starts its two game road trip against LA, where Freddy Adu tallied a goal late in a game last year to steal a win.

For LA, getting into the fourth position in the West is an urgent task, and with more games played than anyother team and still finding themselves in last, that could be a mountain that keeps growing. For DC, the object is to keep pushing for points during the World Cup period, to hopefully have the playoffs reasonably clinched by the 24th game of the season, with only seeding to worry about. Winning on the road helps, and it will help maintain some strong momentum heading into New England next season.

The other issue is simply dealing with a team that they may not have well scouted. Yallop's teams won't play like Sampson's, and that should provide both Nowak and DC United a chance to try out reacting in-game to any wrinkles. It should be a good test, but one that will also probably make DC look at continuing its work with the 3-5-2, and shifting that formation depending on what circumstances develop.

Previews from the DCUniverse, Hurried Due to World Cup Attention Span Issues, Which is Totally Understandable: DC SunDevil, Quarter Volley, SE Podcast, Poplar Point Perspective, A Little More Action

Expected Yield: 2.0 points. The purge continues in LA, and since Yallop fired three assistant coaches after the loss to Chivas (including DCU-alum and 1996 stalwart Steve Rammel) I imagine that LA's trainer is praying for a win less Yallop keep working down the chain of command. If DC wins, expect the groundskeeper to start helping the training staff. This would have been 2.5 points a week ago, but Yallop is, as has been stated before, a better coach. Current Expectations to Reality level: 98%.

D's Location: Home, packing some stuff for CZE-USA.

Last Words: Entropy.

09 June 2006

Club Over Country

COVERAGE NOTE: While the World Cup is going on, the DCenters will still be focusing on MLS and DC United, with the occasional post internationally or about the USA. There are several great World Cup blogs out there, so I totally understand if you don't come around here for a few weeks.

LA GALAXY SCOUTING REPORT: The 11.12 Match Preview will go up tomorrow, but did anyone stay up for Chivas - LA last night? A decent game to watch. LA was clearly fighting to impress new coach Frank Yallop, especially in the second half. It is clear they have problems finishing right now, but their effort running through the midfield was improved (it's doubtful that's an effect of coaching, and much more likely to be a "Let's impress the new boss" type of thing.) Also, Lalas gave an interview during the second half. Note that while he praised Yallop, he never promised job security. There was no "we'll give him the season to figure things out." Instead it was "We'll hold Yallop to the same standard as Sampson." See, that's how you avoid the entire dishonesty problem.

08 June 2006

SAMPSON AGAIN: The Belly thinks that Steve Sampson had plenty enough time to get himself fired. I can't disagree with the facts of his argument, and we just a different opinion as to what the facts merit. He may be right -- as they say in the legal profession: "Bad cases make bad law". Sampson had turned in an awful enough performance to merit a firing, but I still think that as a defending champ, you should be allowed a full title defense, and until you're done, you should stay around. Eleven games don't count. But that's more a matter of principle, not a practical application. Practically, firing Sampson to gain Yallop makes a great deal of sense. I just find it uncomfortable when the same might be applied to another coach, much more worthy of time than Sampson.

If nothing else, perhaps we can all agree on this: Alexi Lalas is a tool.

MORE with Mike H. at My Soccer Blog, where he sides with the Belly, and also checks into the comments below. Believe me, defending Steve Sampson is an odd situation, but there you have it.

The World Cup Eve: Watch with D, Watch with Ray

WATCH WITH D: For those that are interested, I plan on catching Monday's Group E games at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse due to their free admission. No, I've never seen a game there before (though I have seen a few films there). It should be an experience. If the experience is good, I may head back there, but I imagine I'll be making the rounds of other venues.

WATCH WITH RAY: I forgot to mention this yesterday, but on Wednesday, WRC-TV 4's George Michael announced that former United head coach Ray Hudson will be providing commentary on the World Cup to the Channel 4 News viewership. We all know that Ray was much better on the mic than on the bench, so I do look forward to seeing him. Hell, even Jim Vance lit up at the mention of this.

LISTEN WITH D: Yes, my first contribution to the World Cup Roundtable podcast was yesterday for Episode 3, covering Groups E and F. I haven't heard it yet myself, so I have no idea how I sounded when delivering such insight as "Yeah, I know nothing about Croatia" and encouraging irrational, longshot betting moves with "I think the USA wins their group." Still, it was a blast to do, and I look forward to showing up there on a few more occasions. Your advice is always welcome, as it has been some six years since I did anything radio/audio related.

07 June 2006

Alexi Lalas: Corporate Tool

Like most warm-blooded Americans, I loved seeing Alexi Lalas and his flowing ginger hair on the pitch during the '94 Cup. He made soccer seem pretty damn cool to a 16 year-old with a counter-culture obsession. Alexi was a guy who managed that rare combination of hipness and patriotism, which is a difficult thing to pull off. That makes it somewhat painful for me to say that I can't stand the man now.

There are two reasons not to fire Steve Sampson. I-66 at Quarter Volley captures it succinctly in his post 3-6-Done (which may be the greatest title used on this issue), and I addressed my thoughts on it earlier here. In short: Sampson had earned a chance to fail, and he wasn't given it fully.

However, what makes me angry and disappointed with Lalas isn't that I consider his firing of Sampson premature, but rather his emerging credibility gap. There are those who have taken issue with Lalas in the past, from his comments during his tenures at San Jose and New York. I, like many, laughed off Eric Wyndalda's displeasure when he felt betrayed by Lalas after Lalas said he wasn't leaving the Red Bulls before promptly leaving. Part of this was that it's easy to find pleasure in Wynalda's discomfort, but part of me was also willing to give Lalas the benefit of the doubt: Perhaps Lalas wanted to stay in New York, was giving every indication of his desire, and he got shown the door anyway.

Still, Alexi Lalas has gone out of his way to talk about the idea that he wasn't planning to fire Sampson at any point soon. Yes, he had given himself the out of "I will always do what is good for the team" but the message has always been the same -- Sampson is safe for the moment. Yet even as more stories appeared about Alexi sticking by Steve, Steve got the axe. It's not that firing Steve is the wrong decision. It is entirely possible that, in the short term, LA will get better. But as a general manager, as someone who's word is going to be analyzed by all your employees, Lalas has succeeded only in cultivating an air of paranoia and distrust which will filter down to the product on the field. Say you're player going through a rough stretch. Not only have the coach and Alexi privately told you to just play though it, but Alexi publicly comments that the team isn't looking to shop you around. Can you really feel safe there? As a coach, do you think Alexi is going to stick by you in a pinch if your team loses a few games in a row? Can he be trusted?

My sense is that Alexi Lalas, the guitar player who flirted with the rebel image, looks at corporate america as a den of vipers. But that image didn't repulse him so much as appeal to his competitive spirit. Now that he's an executive, he's acting out the impression of the coroprate world that he's always had. I do not manage a professional soccer team, but I do know something about honesty and trust, and that more than qualifies me to comment on this. Some executives do get by with a reputation for being liars, but far more often once the public can't believe you, in any business, then your days are numbered. It's why certain CEOs are replaced. It's also something that will plague LA until the day that Alexi Lalas is replaced. And once he's gone... I want him to stay the hell away from my team.


I'll deliver the Lalas screed later, but first a few notes.

The All-American XI for Week 10 is up, and it features 4 DC United players, plus a former beloved DC United player of this particular blog. Congratulations to our sensations.

The DCenters also is affiliated with The World Cup Roundtable, a new podcast/blog from the producing genius of the Screaming Eagles Podcast. At some point, I hope to be participating in its analysis, as soon as I resolve some technical issues on my part. Still, I'll be the first to admit that my attention is much more devoted to domestic research as opposed to international, so don't listen to it for me, listen to it for other people that know what they are talking about.

Brian Straus starts his profile of Freddy Adu at US National Soccer Players...

Compared to the hype machine rolled out by MLS headquarters two years ago and the unrealistic expectations foisted on the general public, the telegenic teenager from Ghana, via suburban Maryland, is a colossal disappointment.
I quoted that bit because I find it interesting, though the rest of the profile is on a somewhat different topic. When Freddy debuted in 2004, I wasn't following MLS as closely as I do now. Still, I actually followed MLS, which put me in a different category than most. However, even among the people I knew who didn't follow MLS a bit, they never really bought into the Freddy-hype of 2004. In fact, most of them were comfortable with the idea that he wasn't starting, and would need time to mature. And these people don't know soccer at all. To me, the only people who really were offended about the difference between the MLS hype and the Freddy Adu reality were... sportswriters. Really. Not sure why that was, but it is my sense. Fans weren't bothered, but the writers were. Make of that what you will.

06 June 2006

LA: Sampson Out.

DC United's next opponent, the Los Angeles Galaxy, have fired their coach Steve Sampson. No replacement has been named. I'm going to expand on this tomorrow, but in my mind this is a horrible decision by General Manager Alexi Lalas. There are two reasons for this: One is establishing the precedent that you aren't willing to stick with people in hard times, but the other is that Lalas now officially has no credibility in his public statements. I will defend both of those comments tomorrow.

DCU Dogma: The First Commandment

DC Fans are a contentious lot, yet paradoxically there are some shared beliefs that a majority of fans clutch to their hearts with fervent passion. In this semi-recurring series, we will examine the orthodoxies and catechism of DC fans, and try to assess what truth is behind them. We'll start with something we can examine, and question, perhaps without much controversy now: The idea that Marco Etcheverry is the greatest DC United player ever.

Of all the stars in the DC United pantheon, one name stands alone: Marco Etcheverry. You can still see his image on banners displayed among the supporters at games today. The Etcheverry #10 jerseys are worn by young and old. As Dave Lifton wrote in celebrating Season 10: "There is no other way to put it: Marco Antonio Etcheverry is D.C. United."

Certainly there other demi-gods, arch-angels, cherubim and seraphim in the Great Chain of DC United Beings. John Harkes, Eddie Pope, Raul Diaz Arce, Christian Gomez, Roy Lassiter... each has their place among the catechism of the soccer saints. Still, Marco stands alone at the top.

The love that DC fans have for El Diablo is unmatched, and why not? I still remember some of the balls he played in the 2003 all-star game, which for me seemed like his last hurrah. Yet now we must ask: Is it time for him the share the lofty pedestal? Are we no longer One Team Under Marco? Jamie Moreno has played with DC for longer that Marco, owns the DC records for Minutes, Games, Goals, and game-winning goals. Marc Connoly recently articulated the case in support of Bruce Arena's view: that Moreno is the "best player in the history of this league." When the day comes that Moreno hangs 'em up, it is time to say that Moreno and Etcheverry will be the binary star-system that the rest of DC's universe will historically revolve around? I think so.

Etch always had Moreno for a partner during the great DC campaigns that they embarked upon, but Moreno has now worked with a second number ten in Gomez, and still clicked. To be unsubtle: Moreno won a championship without Marco, not the other way around. Moreno may end up as the MLS all-time leading goal scorer, and we all know that more than 98% of those goals came in a DC uniform. He had great, pivotal moments in DC's history: He earned the free kicks or set pieces on all of DC's goals in the 1996 Cup Title, his strike against New England in the 2004 Eastern Conference Championship is, to my mind, one of the most beautiful pure shots ever taken in the game. He gave us "You got burned Jonny Walker." Moreno's accomplishments span all of DC's history, his comeback was DC's comeback. If a player "is DC United" then surely Moreno reflects that just as much as Etcheverry.

This is not to take away from Marco. Marco was an exceptional player, deserving of the love he receives. He probably peaked higher than Moreno did. He was more comfortable in public situations early in DC United's life, more approachable than Moreno was. El Diablo was a known name when he came into the league, and therefore was most fitting of becoming an icon alongside John Harkes. Moreno should not replace Marco, merely join him as the. It is said of Etcheverry frequently that "he saw the game better than anyone." Very true. With Moreno, it should be said that he has "played the game better than anyone."

Roll Credits

CREDIT 1: From yesterday, Kinney directs my attention to Du Nord, which had linked the USMNT team blog. Thus, credit can now be rightfully bestowed, as this was indeed the place where I originally saw the information.

CREDIT 2: K had asked how many goals Jamie needs to have 100 in a DC Uniform. Over at the Screaming Eagle's podcast, Dave Lifton gives the answer (he needs one more). Speaking of which, Dave has tweaked the format over there, and it's even better as he's letting the post-game comments run more naturally. You can actually get a sense of the full context and development of answers, which I really, really dig.

CREDIT 3: Happy Birthday to Climbing the Ladder. CtL is a great blog which I reference here frequently, even as I've been known to disagree with Mr. Ice, he's at least provocative enough to be interesting, and substantive enough to be worth arguing against. Always worth reading.

LATER TODAY: The DC DOGMA series begins, and I was going to run it last week, but I suddenly realized that my first post really needed to come out today. Yes, today. See you back here later.

05 June 2006

Confidential to the US Men's National Team: Lesotho

IN THE SEVENTH GRADE, I WON MY SCHOOL'S GEOGRAPHY BEE: Someone, and I thought it was Pseudo Corner Kick, but it wasn't, so I'm remiss in the mandatory hat tip, gave out the address of a blog-esque thing US Soccer is running for the USMNT. Which is nice. To friends of Mr. Reyna, we say Lesotho!

PSYCH-OPS: Bo Oshoniyi on DC Supporters:

CR: DC claim they got in your head during the Cup, even going as far as hanging banners in RFK when you guys play there that say "Hey Bo, remember us?" Just the nature of the position means you're the one guy on the field who is the most susceptible to chants and such. Do you hear that stuff? Does it bother you?

BO: Not really. It doesn't get to you at all. You hear it sometimes. I actually like the good ones. Like if they come with some good ribbing, I'll give them a laugh. I think it's funny; some of the stuff they come up with is original. That banner in DC was kind of neat, to see that out there. For the most part you just focus and try not to let them get in your head. I think it's fun, and I'm glad they get into it.

Of course, who's going to admit that they get psyched out by a bunch of people not directly involved in the play. Other than Jay Heaps, I mean.

MINOR REDESIGN COMING: I will be changing the header graphic later this week, and then changing it again in a month or so. Nothing major, don't worry. Just something for solidarity purposes.

04 June 2006

Debriefing for Match 11.11: New England Revolution


Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Dan Steinberg: "Powered by a first-half goal from Jaime Moreno, a composed defense and a steady performance from keeper Troy Perkins, United maintained its Eastern Conference dominance..."
The Washington Times, John Haydon: "There seems to be no stopping Jaime Moreno."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "Seemingly intent on extracting a handling miscue from Perkins, New England rained high crosses into his box from both sides as the match wound down. But the third-year netminder held his nerve, then salted away the result with a sure-handed collection of Cancela's late free kick."
Mid-Atlantic Soccer Report, Jimmy LaRoue:"It wasn't Saturday night at the fights, but with bloodied lips and hot tempers, it was hard to tell the difference..."
The Boston Globe, Fluto Shinzawa: "'It's tough when you come to a place like this,' said Heaps, whose team fell to 3-4-2. 'They get penalty kicks here. They get calls here. It's an uphill battle.'"
Poplar Point Perspective: "The defense was much improved and kept Tewllmann largely invisible throughout the game."
bLCKdgRd: "Here's what's important: regardless of whether he [Moreno] was or wasn't offside, once the ball was at his feet, he abused Reis."

The Good

  1. Taylor Twellman, Nowhere Man: How many times do you hear "A striker only has to be dangerous for one minute out of ninety?" Well, Twellman was dangerous for about ten seconds. He was denied service, he was expertly marked by the back line and Carroll and Simms, and while he's a goal scorer with his head, he doesn't quite have the talent of Eskandarian on the volley to put his one chance away. A great defensive effort.
  2. Tactics: Piotr Nowak with another strong coaching performance, as he adjusted to the Revolution's early pressure, used his subs well, and salted away the victory.
  3. Jamie Moreno and the 101st Fighting Goalscorers: The offside is questionable, though I tend to agree that he was barely held onside by the far defender as later replays showed (here we saw the advantage of nice and parallel mowing patterns). His run was great, and his shot at an angle was the kind that seems destined for heartbreak, except that he put it on frame. Great goal.
  4. Adu, Playmaker: He doesn't get a goal, he doesn't get an assist. And it is completley unfair. At some point, the "This was Freddy Adu's breakout game" post will be written. Still, it is fair to say that this has been his breakout season. He is a player, and not just a placefiller, but a legitimate threat. He has arrived, and the stats will follow. His defense is amazingly better from last year (did you see him clear a ball out of the box on his head?) He can play on the left, right, and center. He loses the ball a little too often, but even that's vastly reduced from "Freddy takes the pass, a bump, falls down, and loses the ball." It is stunning his development this season.

The Bad

  1. Mental Fatigue: Piotr may not want to admit it, but pretty much everyone on the pitch was not as sharp as they've been. There were a number of passes sent just off the market, odd decisions, and balls given away too easily that suggest that this team was fatigued. I can't blame them for that, and I'm happy they fought through it.
  2. The Game Itself: An ugly affair, not very enjoyable to watch. Part of this had to do with DC's fatigue, part with the Revolution's chippy and ugly tactics. Still, you can only complain about not seeing the beautiful game when you're winning. I'd rather win ugly and lose pretty.

Moreno Watch

Jamie gets another, and with Kreis picked up only an assist in the RSL spanking of Chicago. Now that Jamie is within two, I may have to add a running talley to the "At a Glance" section for the season. I can't think of any other sport where you've had two people going at each other to set the all-time scoring record. The closes is the Sosa/McGwire challenge in baseball. This could make the season really fun to watch all over. The standings: Kreis 103; Moreno 101.

Man of the Match

The game was won by defensive effort, so a defending player should take credit for it. Troy Perkins patrolled the air so well I expected him to give traffic updates to WTOP on the eights. The defense, led I think by B. Caroll, Boswell, and Simms, neatly shut down the Revolution pressure, by both stopping service before it happened, and marking people out of the play so that balls had to be played into space away from the attackers in order to not make it a 50-50 challenge. Josh Gros continued his physics defying perpetual motion machine attitude. Ultimately, while cases could be made for all, Clyde Simms was slightly more active all over the field, so he'll take his first man of the match award.

Final Thoughts

United didn't reach 24 points until July 23 last year. Here they've done it at the beginning of June. Without a doubt, United is playing as a team great soccer.

Still, the upcoming matches should prove whether or not United will have team to beat status by the end of the month. On the road against LA, the road to New England, at home against Chicago, and a home-at home series to wrap up the season against Kansas City. That's a nice set of competition. If they come through that and are still clear of the Eastern table and challenging for the Supporter's Shield, then it will be time to start thinking about history.

03 June 2006

First Reaction - DC United 1 : 0 New England Revolution

I think I'll start doing these before the formal debriefs, just a few quick words on what I saw and thought.

New England deserved to lose, but I can't say that United deserved to win. Then again, there are ugly games that happen in a season, and that it should happen on United's third game in eight days does not surprise me. Yes Eric, I hear you saying play beautiful -- but win first, eh?

Anyways, a good defensive outing from United. Balls played by New England into the box only made it if they were away from the attackers, since typically the defense had marked them out well.

Not sure who the Man of the Match is, but my candidates are Adu, Boswell, Erpen, Gros, Perkins, and Simms. One of them will take it, not sure which yet.

What an ugly game. I know, 3 points is 3 points, but still... Glad United has some time before the next one. At LA, followed by At New England... They'll need a few days to get ready for that.

11.11 Gameday Morning Media

Getting ready for the Revolution tonight? Here are the final media mentions you should be aware of. First, check out the game preview below for the thoughts of The DCenters and links to other DCU friendly blogs.

Then, the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg gives you a deeper look at Lucio "The Chest Hair of Sean Connery" Filomeno, and also tells you that New England left back James Riley is out.

John Haydon in the Times checks in with Ben Olsen and asks him about life training for the world cup.

And for the view across the trenches in Bunker Hill, Fluto Shinzawa for the Boston Globe notes that New England has been victimized by early goals and bad starts.

Now go tailgate.

Match 11.11 Preview: New England Revolution

Match #: 11.11

Opponent: New England Revolution

DC United, 6-1-3, 21 pts, 1st in East Conference , 2nd in MLS
New England Revolution, 3-3-2, 11 pts, 3rd in East Conference (tie-CLB), 6th (tie-CLB) in MLS

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

Previous Meeting: Columbus Crew 1 : 1 DC United, August 27, 2005 (DCenters remembers...)

Suggested Pregame Music: Revolution - The Beatles

The Stakes: Can DC, playing their third game in eight days, maintain the newly created distance in the East? Can they continue to pressure FC Dallas to maintain top of the table status in MLS? Will there be an emotional letdown after Jamie Moreno's 100 goal celebration? The answers, as I see them, are "Yes, Probably, and Doubtful." If Jamie is motivated by stats and such, and I doubt he is, he still has to catch a certain RSL Midfielder/Forward for the all-time scoring record. United still has things that I imagine coach Piotr Nowak will want to fine-tune.

For the Revs, the season is looking mediocre in the wake of injuries and the departure of Clint Dempsey. Yet they still have Taylor Twellman who we know can score at RFK. Noonan and Ralston are far from ineffective and are now uninjured. Their defensive midfield is still a bit battered, but Steve Nicol will find effective tactics against DC United. Count on it.

Personally, I think we need to consider throwing the game off a bit. Given Nowak's experimentation with the 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 earlier this season, it might be time to go to the hybrid 4-4-2/3-5-2 that had been on display earlier. The Revs are definitely going to play forward at times, and it would be wise for DC to have a little more in the back to counter such things. Prideaux may be healthy, and John Wilson behind Josh Gros might not even be a bad idea with Freddy on the right. Of course, that's what I think, but I can imagine Piotr going with the 3-5-2 that's working for him so far.

The Revolution are one of those teams that get up for DC United games, and past scorelines have ranged all over the map from DC's 4-3 loss to a 2-0 win. This ain't an easy game.

Previews from the DCUniverse: DC SunDevil, Quarter Volley, SE Podcast, Poplar Point Perspective, A Little More Action (I'll add more when and if I see them, so check back)

Expected Yield: 1.5 points. I expect the Revs to come out, weather 15 minutes of strong DC play, and for the game to then get very interesting. The possibility of them stealing 3 points, and dealing DC its first home defeat, exists this year. It's a gut feeling, and I know the Revs look like a pale imitation of the 2005 team, but I expect them to be playing out of their minds in this one.

D's Location: Not sure yet.

Last Words: Deuce (see! He is in Europe!)

(Note: Originally posted 10:14 June 2, 2006 --- Date changed to reflect more preview links added, and to correct the spelling of at least one word that bedevils me.)

02 June 2006

Would somebody please tell me what the goddamn rules are?

From the MLSNet preview of the New England - DC game, I see this (emphasis added):

WARNINGS: NE: Sharlie Joseph (suspended next yellow card; good behavior this game)

But wait, didn't the new format for handling cautions eliminate the good behavior bonus? Let's take a look at that press release...

As part of the change the Good Behavior Incentive will also be eliminated. The Good Behavior Incentive allowed players - who were under warning for point accumulation - to play three consecutive games without yellow cards in order to have their total caution points reduced by five points.

Well, I guess I should read the official rules posted on the MLS Website... if only they weren't the 2005 rules discussing "caution points." What the hell? Does anyone know the rules?

DCist: "We're paying attention."

DCist covers the United win over Columbus! Excellent! Keep it coming. I knew if I shut up about it for a week or two, they'd come through for me.

Pleasure and Business

Later today: Preview for New England, and the First in the DC Dogma Examinations. But first, the news...

PARTY-TIME: Normally, MLS players have their birthdays celebrated on a few websites devoted to the team, or perhaps with a few messages on Big Soccer. Or, in some cases, the party arragnements are discussed in the Washington Post. In the Style pages. In the Gossip Column. Headlining the gossip column. Perhaps Roxanne Roberts feels guilty about her comments regarding soccer on last week's "Wait, Wait! Don't Tell Me!".


"They teach you how to do new stuff like keep the ball up in the air with your knees and feet," the third-grader said. "I want to be a soccer player when I grow up and play for D.C. United."

Great article, which hopefully stays with these kids. I remember some of my sporting events as a child, so I hope this stays with these kids.

01 June 2006

Special Games. Special Blogs.

OUR BOYS AND THEIR BHOYS: By now you know that Celtic FC is coming to RFK on July 12 for a little friendly with DC United, and for those of you with game plans it will be "Special Game A" (hey, that's me!). Yes, I'm thrilled. But if DC fans have a nascent "Club over Country" mentality, surely that applies to European teams, even those with Irish Catholic/Nationalist traditions. That means Club over God and Homeland. Black and Red, no green hoops. Really. I mean it.

MORE READING DESTINATIONS: Please welcome some new blogs to the blogroll. Poplar Point Perspective is a new blog that will definately be covering some DCU, as well as other things. For those that mourn the day when The DCenters moved away from the black background, Poplar Point Perspective looks to restore that design concept to your world.

In a wider range of topics, The Far Post looks to become one of the snarkier US Soccer Scenesters out there, and The DCenters loves itself some snark. Even better, this is some genuinely funny snark, not just "ooooh, look how clever, yet cynical, I can be" type snark.

Stand in Solidarity, Shave in Solidarity

Since Ben Olsen made the sacrifice of facial hair for the World Cup gods, I decided to do the same. Last night I shaved the goatee, and I promise to stay clean shaven through the entire group phase.

A few links of note:

The All-American XI is up for Week IX (reflecting the Kansas City game) and three DC players made the team. Three of eleven is pretty good, but Chivas (yes, Chivas) sent four. Having seen the Chivas game, I find it hard to argue with that choice.

Maradawga notes that the Free Beer movement has moved into MLS marketing departments. Forward!

Many others have linked to this post at Bruce's Belly. I do so belatedly, but if you haven't read it yet, please do so. It is very, very interesting.

Hmmm... my chin feels oddly cool...

Debriefing for Match 11.10: Columbus Crew


Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "The second-half uprising was spurred by what Nowak said in the locker room during halftime: absolutely nothing."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "But despite an impressive 6-1-3 record and a seven-point cushion atop the Eastern Conference tables, United are far from satisfied"
Mid-Atlantic Soccer Report, Jimmy LaRoue: "After Nowak gave his team a halftime measure of silent lucidity, United came out roaring to start the next 45 minutes. "
The Columbus Dispatch, Shawn Mitchell: "Columbus bumbled, stumbled and bobbled its way to the fifth four-goal loss in team history, tying the mark for its largest margin of defeat."
bLCKdgRd: "Gomez, given room, is wonderful - why opposing coaches aren't employing the strategy of smothering and hacking Gomez like Chicago did last playoffs puzzles me. Columbus may just not have the defensive personnel, but if you're going to let DCU string pass after pass and complete long elaborate plays you deserve to lose 5-1."
Quarter Volley: "...a scoreline like that is less the norm than a freak occurance" -- Yes, I completely agree with this. See Final Thoughts.
A Little Less Conversation: "Columbus came out and tried to run up and down the sidelines like they did the last game. Only this time DC was ready and shut down the flanks..."
DC Sun Devil, Brian Garrison: "I wanted to run on the field in the first half and smack half the United players for looking lazy, and in the second half I wanted to run on the field and hug every one of them."

And, the result of the bet with MLS News and Views...

MLS News and Views: "DCU is the most superb team in MLS today, and is by far the best team that one can possibly root for. " -- Thank you sir, that will do nicely. You have conducted yourself as a gentleman, and I salute your honor.

Final Thoughts

Stupid blogger ate the previous version of this debriefing, and I didn't have a saved copy. Grrrrr... Still, here's the gist: Josh Gros, you are my man of the match for all the reasons used so well Brian at DC Sundevil. There was lots of good, but please someone watch that back-post. Boswell and Namoff, I'm looking at you.

This result was a fluke, as two of those goals were odd (EZ's OG and Filomeno's goal with a great through ball from Ngwenya come to mind). We've written before that large margins of victory are probably suspect and do not truly reflect relative talent levels the way lost of small result do, and this game provided an example of that.

Also, Ian Penderleith at MASR is right:

The truth is, they look quite good in a mediocre league. There are still too many defensive lapses and too many careless, broken-down plays for it to be maintained that they are totally dominating MLS, despite the stats. This is, in fact, good news for the team. It's better to be simmering in late May if you can be ready to really step up when it matters most--later in the year.

True. Still, if United continues this way for the next six games, we have to seriously start thinking that the team we're watching might be as good, or even better, than the 1998 team. Not yet, and a loss against the Revs would certainly put the kibosh on such reasoning for a bit, but the fact that we are more than 10 games into the season, that United is good but can still improve, and that the possibility still exists out there for a truly magical season? I'll take that.