31 July 2006

Defending the Championship

Too bad it’s the reserve cup. But you go with what you got.

MLSnet has finally updated the reserve page on their website. The last update was June 18th. That’s a long time, but the method to the madness is that MLS is only updating the page every month. Apparently MLS has decided that though it was a good idea to spend money on the extra players to form a reserve division, it is a bad idea to spend money on a web-developer taking an extra hour each week to update the only comprehensive table for the division.

I can understand that the league doesn’t make any of the large moves banded about on BigSoccer (please don’t make me repeat any of them). But if you are going to go for small and steady, you better get small right. That’s all I’m saying and the end of my rant.

Anyways, MLSnet has finally updated the reserve page on their website. It seems appropriate to look at how the DCU Reserve is defending its title. Especially considering MLS updated the page the day before DCU Reserve beat Salt Lake City’s reserves.

DC currently has 15 points in 7 games and 15 point available for a possible 30 points.

Colorado has 12 points in 5 games and 21 points available for a possible 33 points. However DC and Colorado play on August 20th in what could be the most important game of the reserve season. If United beats them and wins all the rest of its games DC will win on the tiebreaker no matter what.

Kansas currently has 18 points in 8 games and 12 points available for a possible 30 points. However United wins the tiebreaker due to a 4-1 win on May 14th.

Basically DCU Reserve has its destiny in its own hands but must run the table from here on in. They will need our help to do it (well maybe not, but we love to think they do) so come out to the RFK reserve field and get up close and personal to the action. All games are at 10:00 AM. Directions in PDF.

2006 Home Games
8/20 DCU v. COL
9/10 DCU v. RSL
9/24 DCU v. RBNJ

For Further Reading...

The Carnival of American Soccer #3 is up at The Fool's Prerogative. It is nice to see this tradition continue, but a reminder that Carnival #4 has yet to be awarded. So if you've thought about hosting, drop those kids a line. In a related note, a centralized Carnival of American Soccer site is slowly being established in order to help point people to the newest carnival goodness.

Also, it's been a bit since I mentioned the All-American XI, but it is up for Week 17, and a DCU face makes an appearence. As for Week 18, your guess is as good as mine.

Finally, Scaryice no doubt intends to further the curse that comes with invoking history, looking at how many points DC needs in order to be the greatest team of all-time. You fool! Don't you realize you've only managed to curse the Open Cup and all-star games? I have some thoughts on this, but let's just say that the Top 5 is fine with me.

Kinney is a DCenter

The DCenters is pleased to announce that David Kinney, a long-time commenter at DCenters, is being brought in on trial to join the DCenters staff. You may have read his public policy discussion work at Global Century, and we're happy to have him expand our writing staff here. Technically, he's coming in as a trialist, but that is more for his benefit than ours. After tip-toeing around the used pizza boxes that litter this place, he may not want to stay. Of course, since I hope he does, I might even have to clean up. Man, I'm a mess.

Debriefing for Match 11.21: At Real Salt Lake


Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Nate Carlisle: "Salt Lake pushed forward more on offense in the second half and finished with an 8-5 advantage in shots on goal. Meanwhile, United penetrated less on offense and had only one shot on goal in the second half."
MLSNet, Peter Richins: "...That set the stage for the late heroics, and in the end, Real had not only goals at home to celebrate, but a whole lot more."
Salt Lake Tribune, Chhun Sun: "...the end result was this: Real Salt Lake, considered the worst team in Major League Soccer, did the impossible, stunning the league-leading D.C. United in a 2-1 victory before 20,027 fans at Rice-Eccles Stadium. "
Matchnight, Scott Stucki: "The finish of the game was poetic justice after the last two home games when RSL gave up stoppage time goals."
BlackDogRed: " I ask myself to view PKs two ways: what would I think if I could make myself a interested neutral; what would I think if the same call benefited DCU. And in both cases, I just can't summon outrage. "
QuarterVolley: "John Wilson is dead to me."
DC Sun Devil: "I have been bringing this up for some time, that United say that they are focused, that the events of last season were and are still fresh in their minds...They say all that, then when you watch them on the field, their play does not reflect that verbal commitments that they put in the paper. They look lethargic and slow. "
Real Salt Lake Blog: "It was a KWALITEE night all around. And nobody got sent back to hospital."
Are You Loyal?: See Matchnight Above. Note to self: See if Jimmy LaRoue wants to join a blog. Second note to self: Nah, probably not. Third note to self: Make sure to delete previous note to selves from blog entry. Fourth note to self: Do we have any Mac and Cheese in the pantry? I could go for some Mac and Cheese.

The Good

  1. Midfield Dominance: For the first 60 minutes, United dominated play, especially in the midfield. RSL was looking better at their back line, and up top they were occasionally dangerous, but they had little success moving the ball through the middle third. However, DC was flustered by the long ball attack (despite the fact that most teams try this tactic at some point) and decided to move from the 3-5-2 to the 4-4-2. As a result, suddenly RSL was not only able to move the ball into DC's defensive third, but keep it there and switch around through the middle.
  2. Christian Gomez: Gomez had a fairly good game. RSL wasn't trying to shut him down nearly the way Chicago did, but even when players did try to collapse on him he was making nice touches to find space. I think that matters. Good stuff there.

The Bad

  1. John Wilson, Reckless: I said on the first impression that John Wilson should not be blamed for this loss entirely. I still mean that, but any discussion of the difficulty looking at this game has to start here. Wilson gave reason for both penalties to be called, and at a key point in the game. While the second foul was less legitimate than the first, it was paradoxically the more stupid play. The first penalty could have resulted from Ballouchy tripping over any number of legs, it just happened to be Wilson's. The second was an insanely stupid challenge.
  2. How do you train in practics for bad referees?: Answer: You don't. I understand that Piotr and Wilson are upset, but blaming the refs for this loss misses the fact that RSL was playing decent soccer against us. To hear Piotr Nowak say "If you're going to beat us, beat us in a fair way...Especially the two PKs -- this isn't supposed to happen in our league. Maybe this is the way the league works," is unsettling. Piotr, the PKs were legitimate, and RSL was looking dangerous anyways.
  3. Pointless Posession: Posession is a good thing. And DC was excelling at finding ways of stringing long passes together. The problem was that these passes, especially in the second half, had little purpose to them. In the 70th minute, I seem to recall a bit of posessions where DC had about 15 consecutive touches on the ball, starting in the RSL offensive third. Sadly, the last three were back passes, culminating in Perkins booting the ball seventy yards and over to the home side.

Man of the Match

You can't be serious.

Moreno vs. Kreis

A lone bright spot, as Jamie nets one and Jason get none. Kreis 106; Moreno 104.

Final Thoughts

It probably won't surprise you to learn that while a game is going on, I am mentally composing blog post material in my head. So you'll have to take my word on this, but the phrase "RSL in this loss draw looks more dangerous than I recally seeing them in any other game" was in my notes. And it was true: RSL played well.

Naturally, the flip side of this is that DC played horribly. I don't think it's true. Soccer is not a zero-sum game, when one team plays well only at the expense of another. Sometimes you see two poor teams out on the pitch, sometimes you see two teams in very good form both doing great things out there. Saturday night we saw a team executing a game plan decently (Real Salt Lake) and another team playing average MLS soccer, but not horribly bad. Were they a step slow? Yes. But they weren't as sluggish as I recall from other games (including a few wins).

My largest complaint wasn't with technical execution, but in terms of tactics. DC seemed to be taken aback by the long balls, despite the fact that RSL couldn't execute a cross from the wings. The long balls down the middle were being handled, the ones on the flanks ultimately seemed to be less dangerous than they appeared. However, it was enough for DC to make the formation change, and suddenly RSL found movement in the midfield much easier. The Wilson for Adu sub would have hurt not just for the PKs, but simply because we no longer had numbers to continue a fairly strong presence we had most of the game.

All that said, this is not the end of the world. It is a loss after a tie, and now we're in the all-star break. DC can either let these last two results fester and get under their skin, in which case we may see a string of poor performances when they get back. Or DC can use this for amnesia, and focus only on finishing out the season. I hope it is the latter. Blank the slate, and finish it out.

The Value of Occasionally Staying Silent

I will make it good how you dare, with what you
dare, and when you dare. Do me right, or I will
protest your cowardice.
- Benedick, Much Ado About Nothing, Act V, Scene 1

Before we get on to the painful debrief that is the Real Salt Lake game, a quick note to say that the Lord of the Wing got in touch with us over the weekend. As you can see from his comment here, he was rather complimentary of DC's play in the Celtic friendly, and let us know that the reason he never took us up on the wager was a bit of PC trouble. Which makes us quite glad we never used the quote above after we didn't hear back from him, since that would have been embarrassing. Anyways, much credit to LOTW for taking some time to get in touch with us, and I'm glad to see Celtic open their season with a most righteous victory. I mean, to talk about honor, this is a man who is paying off on a wager he never made! Impressive. We salute you sir, and proudly add a permanent link on sidebar. Honor. Glory.

Sadly, to answer his question, the most recent defeat is the second defeat for DC this year, not the first, but more about that later. Glad to see that our side made an impression on the jaded psyche across the Atlantic Ocean. While I agree that friendlies like this really don't say much about the relative level of play between the SPL and MLS, it certainly made us feel better, didn't it? And if it made some people in Scotland and Ireland take a little note of us, well, so much the better.

29 July 2006

First Impression - RSL 2 : 1 DC UNITED

The natural reaction thing to say is that somehow the ref gave this game to Salt Lake. Or perhaps to think that Real Salt Lake got lucky. While both explanations are comforting, neither is true. The penalties awarded to Real Salt Lake were plausible. The first penalty was completley legitimate, and the second was a borderline call that I can understand why it was made. You can't say that Referee Abbey Okulaja was insane on the second call, as Wilson's tackle, at real speed, looked to have both missed the ball and impeded the attacker while in the box. That's a penalty.

The next natural reaction will be to scapegoat John Wilson. Okay, I can understand that, but it also isn't quite the truth. See, all of this stems from the idea that DC can't be beaten, but can give the game away. You don't want to give credit to another team for playing well. Yet for pretty much the entire game, Real Salt Lake played DC well. Good enough to win? Debatable. Good enough to have earned a draw? Certainly. It wasn't a case of DC playing poorly either. United probably had an average game out there, while RSL played a good one. Sometimes, the other team has just as much right as the team you root for.

Is this how you want to go into the all-star break? Well, why not. Several others have noted how DC was saying the right things before games, but not playing up for them. I think DC Sundevil and BlackDogRed made those points in relation to the Chicago game. Well, tack on this game as well. DC played an average game, but average, even for a team with this talent, won't make the win automatic. A valuable lesson.

28 July 2006

Match 11.21 Preview: At Real Salt Lake

Match #: 11.21

Opponent: Real Salt Lake

Real Salt Lake, 4-10-5, 17 pts, 6th in West Conference, 12th in MLS
DC United, 13-1-6, 45 pts, 1st in East Conference , 1st in MLS


Previous Meeting: Real Salt Lake 1 : 3 DC United (DCenters Remembers)

Suggested Pregame Music: According to Real Salt Lake, Toto's "Africa". According to DC United, Talking Heads' "Crosseyed and Painless"

The Stakes: Wow, all that kerfluffle from Brandenton earlier in the season seems to have died away, hasn't it? All-in-all, that's probably a good thing. Ellinger and Nowak have enough to occupy their minds without being distracted by continuing a petty war of words (now for fans, go right ahead. I would be disappointed in RSL's fans if there wasn't at least one chant about the matter Saturday night.)

For DC United, this is a game where a strong performance might settle some butterflies after Chicago took it to them last week. The stakes for DC a question of where their playoff placement will be.

For Real Salt Lake, things are looking a bit more ugly. Their Front Office is abusing their supporters, their coach is a mess and should be fired, and their players seem to be constantly adjusting to one injury or another. I honestly think that the best thing for RSL right now is for DC to destroy them by three or four goals, get Ellinger fired, and perhaps a Gansler or Mo Johnston can come in, start building a better team, and earn some hope for their suffering fans before the season begins. (Though for Mo, I can imagine that might seem a bit tedious at this point)

As QuarterVolley (see below for link) points out, this is also a nice Kreis v. Moreno showdown. Provided that Dave Lifton is incorrect, and Jamie is uninjured. IF he is carrying an injury, that's a different matter.

Things I'd like to see: Rest for Moreno, perhaps another 45 minute outing for Christian Gomez. I know that might cost us points, but with those players not getting an all-star break like most of the league, it could help. They've earned a breather.

Previews from the DCUniverse: QuarterVolley, DCSunDevil

Expected Yield: 2.5 points.

D's Location: Sofa sofa sofa.

Last Words: Saint Mark.

Dissent against Dcenters

Over at On the Pitch, there's a rather nice post about this site and some of the commentary we try to bring. Rather than let this go to our heads, we've decided that we'd seek out someone who was upset with us. So as a way of balancing the books, I present to you 116street Soccer, where Z. Ryan Jackson has a slightly different view of a topic we've written about recently. They don't name the DCenters, but given the Chivas reference (and I'm pretty sure we're one of the few places advocating Chivas USA in this matter) I bet they're talking about us. Which is fine. Like so many things, I'm not even sure that they're wrong, in so far as it doesn't directly contradict with something else I wrote. We're wrong from time to time. In fact, I should put together a "I was wrong on..." post at some point. Keeping us honest here.

Preview for RSL-DCU in a bit (I have a 50% copy in draft right now.)

Just what is Bruce up to?

Just as I'm thinking to myself that it'd be interesting to ponder about what Arena plans to do up in Red Bull land, I come across a piece by Ian Plenderleith on the very same. It looks like Arena is bringing in some DC United (and UVA) alumni to his staff at his new club. One of the complaints heard about him in the wake of the World Cup was that he had a preference for surrounding himself with yes-men. On the face of it, it seems he could be doing the same up in New Jersey. I agree with Ian that how much latitude his Austrian bosses give him, and whether Arena's vision for success matches theirs, will be a bigger factor in determinig his success.

The MLS fan in me hopes he can turn the herd in his charge around, since a succesful New York club would be good for the league. Right? That's the conventional wisdom and there's no reason to challenge that line of thinking. The Red Bulls are so below mediocre that its not really a rivalry anymore, despite them paying for their fans to come down to RFK on opening day.

Whatever Bruce concocts, Nowak and the team are up to the challenge.

#99 in SI

Sticking to his one-every-ten-years appearance in Sports Illustrated, Jaime Moreno is featured in the "Pop Culture Grid" in the latest isssue. Found on BigSoccer.

Jumping the Gun

It is between one and three games too early for stories like this to start appearing in the media. (But you've been doing it for about three weeks... Yes, but we're irresonponsible fan boys on the internet, it's fine when we do it.) I'd prefer that responsible publications (and yes, snarky folks, that includes MLSNet) hold off until after the all-star break. Yet the questions are starting to bubble to the surface, as years like 1998 and 1999 are tenatively invoked. So let's put things in perspective. DC United has 12 games remaining. Let's just say, for the sake of argument, they pull a straight .500 record for the remainder and go 4-4-4. Currently United's is getting 2.25 ppg, and that would represent a fall off to 1.33 ppg for a final record of 17-5-10, 61 points. Would that be a historic, dominating team? Perhaps not. But at the beginning of the season, would you have taken it? Damn right I would.

We can't argue yet as to whether this is one of the greatest regular season teams of all time. Quite simply put, we won't know for at least another eight games. And don't get me wrong, I want to see this United team enter history as one of the great MLS teams of all-time. But just a reminder: Let's not cry in our beer if they just finish as a pretty damn good team. That's all I wanted at the beginning of the season, and as a fan, our expectations should be maintained to that standard, not reevaluated higher. I don't demand history, just quality. The fact that DC has pretty much sewn that up means I'm curious to see how much my expectations are exceeded by. That's a great situation. This team should not be considered a disappointment if they are not the second coming of 1998. That we can ask the question is a joy. But let us not presume the answer yet.

27 July 2006

A World Power (In Somewhat Small Print)

SI.COM mentions DC United in the same breath as PSV Eindhoven, Valencia, Real Madrid, and FC Porto. Even they are somewhat surprised to find that they mean it. Scroll down to "Honorable Mentions".

And yes, the HT goes to BS on this one.

Half-formed -baked -edited Post

The Bill Simmons-Spurs Thing: I've been getting a surprising about of search traffic on Bill Simmons' selection of Tottenham Hotspur, and our Pick an MLS Team for Bill Simmons article. Having now read the phrase "it says something about the state of the American game" on some EPL blog (and I'd cite it if I could find it again) this makes it even more important for Bill to declare an MLS team preference. On that note...

Several commenters wrote in to say that since Bill is, after all, the [Boston] Sports Guy, that his choice is pretty obviously the Revolution. Perhaps. There's a lot of hometown loyalty that I can This is not Bob Bradley... or is it?understand there. Still, there are problems with the Revs that I don't think make them the ideal choice. As pointed out by my wife, there's the head-coach comedy value. There is nothing remotely funny about Steve Nicol. Not a bit. Bob Bradley at least has an (unearned) nickname of Cheatin' Bob around here, and also looks a bit like the Giant from Twin Peaks. So CD Chivas wins that battle.

Commenter Kinney also pointed out that this could create the first great MLS Celebrity rivalry between Drew Carey and Bill Simmons. It's a Disney Civil War! ABC-Family against ESPN! Who will win? (Of course, noted pimp Wayne Brady would certainly defect to Simmons side, if just because he couldn't stand another hoedown. Plus, the image of Landon Donovan being confronted by the phrase "Is Wayne Brady going to have to choke a bitch?" is just too wonderful. It must happen! All of that is lost if Bill were to support the Revs.)

Forget Happy Hour, Think Ecstatic Ninety Minutes: Went to the DC Sports Blogger happy hour (hosted by Mr. Mottram or Mr. Irrelevant) last night. Nice group of people out there. I think MLS fans expect that fans of other sports are just dismissive of MLS. I don't think that is the case. So to all sports fans that are curious about DC United, I urge you to check out a game. No, it isn't World Cup quality. But neither is it the dreary affair of poor quality that it is sometimes portrayed as. Keep an open mind. If MLS can win fans of sport over to its cause, maybe not as "MLS is my favorite sport" but "MLS is certainly a legitimate sport that I will pay attention to" then a major hurdle will be cleared. I think it is completely achievable. I have some thoughts on that... but I have to figure them out in a more coherent way than this post.

The other bonus of going out for drinks is that I missed what was apparently a dreadfully dull Everton-Crew matchup. Hm.

Whither? Did the Sporting Rogue say goodbye, and did I miss it? J. Michael's place seems to have gone off-line, and that makes me sad.

26 July 2006

These Are America's Questions

I'm conflicted about This is American Soccer. At times, I want to cheer Adam Spangler to the heavens, as I think he has sharply expressed an opinion that needs to be shouted to everyone associated with US Soccer / MLS / SUM. At other times, he exudes too much of the "I'm too smart and hip for this room" attitude while writing things that seem to be insightful, yet turn out to be nothing more than bland platitudes.

In his "Shooting Fish in a Barrel" post, both attitudes crystallize and decide to duke it out in my head. Rather than just moan with a headache, I think I'll vent about it here.

Adam starts by saying that much of the advice given out to date is bland and/or cliched:

ESPN the Magazine shines a light into the darkness, letting the US MNT know what it needs to do in order to compete on the international level: "deal with pressure" "play to strengths" "nurse a lead" "own the back line" "adapt and adjust" and "play with style." Genius. I thought we could use a little real world advice, a little comment on specifics that I can't find anywhere.

A noble goal, and one I agree with. Too often a goal for a team is stated as a tactic. The issue is not whether to Deal With Pressure... but how? So bonus points to Adam for delving beyond the obvious. Adam then makes big promises on what he's planning to offer:

After trolling the vast seas for wisdom, here are my sure-fire changes. This all starts with the organization, from the suits down to the coaches and players. There needs to be a major attitude adjustment.

Okay, great premise, but instead of following through on what needs to be done, he goes on an commits the same errors he blasts ESPN for. The How is abandoned simply in favor of the What:

We need more players in Europe. With all due respect to the MLS, if we enter South Africa with an equal distribution of MLS and European players, we will fail again...If our players aren't good enough to make a first-tier team, then let them eat cake with the second and third-tier teams.

We need some goals...We have targets and speedsters, ball handlers and play makers, but not someone who can do it all...

...We need an offense, so we can score goals. US Soccer always seems to fall back on its athleticism....We could use a full-court press, a fast break mitigated with a half-court offense. Lets risk a thin defense, count on our athleticism to get us back in time and yield some goals. Please, something besides run it down the flank and send a prayer into the box.

We need an international schedule...US Soccer needs to take the list from this year's final 32 teams and make sure we get a meaningful game with every one of them, preferably on foreign soil.

We need to accept MLS as a developmental league...Example: Freddy Adu. He should have been playing 90 minutes in the MLS from day one, and the second he turns 18, he should bolt for Europe. Tony Kornheiser, soccer savant he is not, even gets this one right.

Of Adam's five major points, only two are real concrete suggestions, which I rephrase as "Move away from athleticism to an offensive system" and "Treat MLS as a developmental league." I'm not even sure I agree with those points, but at least they are real strategies. The three other arguments: "Play in Europe", "Get a Goal Scorer", "Get International Competition" -- they're just as easy to say as "Play with style." It's not that the goal is bad, but I'm not sure that this is a revelation to anyone. Adam thinks more people should play in Europe, even if it is for second or third division teams. Fine. But with work permit issues abounding, how do you get those players in Europe? I'm not sure. But if you're going to demand it, you should at least think about how to do it. As for "Get a goal scorer" -- again, how do you propose that US Soccer bring that about? Will the system change do it? Adam seems to imply that it will, but I'm not sure. Again, without debating the merits of the goal, the issue here is how do you accomplish such a worthy objective. Ditto in international competition. Having listened to the Sunil Gulati conference call on Bruce (thanks Dave) you can tell that there are obstacles in scheduling European competition on FIFA fixture dates since they have Euro-qualifying. Copa Americas is again on the table. I still hold a soft-spot for the Confederations Cup (which starts with winning the Gold Cup). If Adam were to endorse any measures here, it would helpimmeasurablent immesurable.

Now, it so happens that there are other issues where Adam does make a case, and I disagree or agree with it. I think he's right on that we can't just focus on conditioning and athleticism. Word. I think he's absolutley wrong about MLS, and intensley wrong about Freddy Adu (specifically, if we treated Adu as Spangler recommends, I think he would have failed, lost confidence, and become as has-been. Piotr Nowak has done an incredible job in bringing Adu around to a point where he may not be a great Pele type star, but I have no doubt he will be a major player for the US and perhaps for some La Liga or EPL team.) But if nothing else, at least Adam makes a case there.

And that's what I'd like to see more of: Make the case. Even if I think you are wrong, at least you will have offered concrete steps which are implementable actions, not platonic ideals. Why and What are great places to start, but recommend the How. That's the challenge for all of US Soccer at this point.

Stay the Course...a Thousand Points of Smoke Bombs...Stay the Course

Jack Bell at the New York Times looks at DC United's off-season moves, and thinks Hey, this "Don't Panic" strategy has worked out pretty well for them. He's right. But you already knew that. And if you really want to stretch your mind, is Piotr Nowak positioning himself for an eventual move to the USMNT (not this time, but maybe next time?) Consider all the hullabaloo about the coach needing to understand American soccer and American soccer players, and then put this quote next to it:

“I’ve found the young Americans we have are very intelligent players,” said Nowak, who will coach the M.L.S. All-Star team (which will include seven of his players) against Chelsea of England on Aug. 5 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.

Piotr is certainly honest in his opinions, but it does send out a nice little submessage of "By the way Mr. Gulati, I get it. So if things with Mr. K don't work out, or you're wondering about things for 2012, give me a call."

25 July 2006

Quaranta Gets Time Off

There are times when you read an article in the media, and you are naturally curious, but none-the-less at the same time you don't want to know. Just because whatever the reason, it is going to be a sad one. So whatever Q needs to deal with, the DCenters wishes him strength, and hope for a speedy return to the squad.

The Dangers of Control-H, and the Third Carnival of American Soccer

The deadline is tomorrow, and the posts are due over at the Fool's Prerogative.

Speaking of the Americanization of the Beautiful game, I'm reading the reissue of Kuper's Football Against the Enemy. Of course, since this is the USA, they reprinted it as Soccer Against the Enemy and replaced all references to football with soccer. All of them. Which is amusing when Kuper is seeming to use phrases like "American Soccer Quarterback" or "American soccer running back." Oops.

New team, same old curse

First post! Dan Loney examines what happens when someone switches from DC United to the Metrostars, like da Bruce is about to do. Not mentioned in the article, but Mark Lisi almost escaped the curse by kissing his Metros jersey in his debut with them at RFK. But Mark Lisi is still a Metrostar, I mean Red Bull, so the curse continues.



The DCenters today announced the signing of Record as I Am star and Bolivian International Oscar Merida to its blog staff. Manager D announced the signing at the Crystal City Sports Pub in front of buffalo chicken tender-lunching government contractors this morning. "To have a writer with the talent of Oscar sign with the DCenters represents a major step forward for this blog. To our fans, I think it shows the commitment we have to covering DC United, despite occasionally hectic work schedules that were decreasing our posting frequency. Not only will he add a great voice to The DCenters, but he has the technical prowess that made his soccerblogs.net one of the key tools to understanding world-wide soccer commentary."

Appearing with D, Oscar took a few moments to discuss the signing with reporter(s) and Sports Pub wait staff, saying "I'm extremely flattered and think this move is an opportunity no one could reasonably pass up. When the Bruce Arena of DC United bloggers calls you up from obscurity, how do you refuse? I hope to be the Bobby Convey of DCenters, prowling on the wings with my arms waving in the air."

Not all seemed too thrilled with the news. LA Galaxy General Manager Alexi Lalas said that this was yet another example of the favorable treatment afforded DC United blog writers, and that he had planned for this contingency long ago. "The SuperBlog...er, Jewel of MLS blogging must be in LA." He refused to deny rumors that he was attempting to sign Glenn Reynolds, Ariana Huffington, Mickey Kaus, Kos, and the kid that writes ThinkSecret to an LA group soccer blog.

Manager D indicated that this may not be the last signing either. "As our plural title shows, The DCenters was always meant to be a group blog. If there are DC fans out there interested in joining us, we'd be happy to offer them a trial. We can offer a built-in readership, a chance to hone your skills without the pressure of having to carry a blog by yourself, and a friendly environment. Interested writers who might be interested in doing at least a post a week should email us at TheDCenters AT Gmail DOT Com. We'll get in touch and see if we can work something out with you."

Seattle Matt Gets His Game

Commenter Seattle Matt sent me the email announcing the Real Madrid - DC United exhibition in Seattle. Some are annoyed that DC is flying out to the west coast, but are trying to reconcile it as "in the interest of MLS." I'm not sure that I buy that it is a sales demo, given that the Sounders are a pretty decently supported team out there, but if nothing else, it gives Pacific Northwest DC expats a chance to see our beloved team, so I can't begrudge them that. Yes, I kind of have the same feeling about this match that I had about the last time a team traveled for a friendly against Real Madrid, but not quite as intense.

So to Seattle Matt and our other PacNW bretheren, I wish you well on the game. Enjoy it. As for DC fans in other parts of the country, I don't think we need to place too much stock in this game. Yes, Piotr will probably go out and try to win it, but he was willing to alternate players against Celtic, I have no doubt it won't be our Best XI taking the pitch against Real Madrid. Plus, if there's one thing DC United is good at, it's beating teams that overpay for foreign talent only to fail to win a championship.

Quick MLS-style Press Release Note: D has announced a posting at noon today that will have a significant impact on the future of The DCenters. Check back then.

24 July 2006

Pick an MLS Team for Bill Simmons

Long time readers of this blog, and people whom I've managed to bore in person, know that I am a Spurs supporter. So I was pleasantly surprised to see that "Sports Guy" Bill Simmons has selected Tottenham as his EPL team of choice, and for reasons uncomfortably similar to many of my own. This, of course, means that it is more difficult for people to come over in the future, but hey, I'll take it.

The problem is that Bill doesn't seem to have an MLS team. And there's a word for Americans who support an EPL side without enjoying the domestic product. So I say to all of us, let us select an MLS side for Mr. Simmons. After all, it's coming from one of his Spurs-supporting American brethren, how can he refuse?

Okay, so let's knock out a few teams for Mr. Simmons. He can't support DC United, because we are the ultimate bandwagon team right now. New York is gone because, well, they're New York, and we have all heard (many, many times) that Mr. Simmons roots for the Sox. A few other teams we can dismiss since they're simply not good enough: Real Salt Lake, Columbus, and Kansas City I don't think that the panache or the desired geographic cache for our globe-trotting Bill.

That leaves us with a manageable list. In the spirit of Mr. Simmons' article on the matter, here's how they finish:

7) Colorado Rapids: A better team than I expected this year, without a lot of fanfare, so that's going well for them. Still, the name "Rapids" would just invite way too many incontinence jokes for Bill's cadre of first name friends, so that, combined with the disturbing looking mascot, rules them out.

6) LA Galaxy: Despite current events, this team is also too much of a bandwagon team given their past success. Plus they have Landon Donovan, who as we know is personally in a feud with ESPN. It would be like Shane McMahon rooting for The Rock...

5) FC Dallas: On the plus side, they play interesting soccer, have somewhat classy kits, and the name "Pizza Hut Park" appeals to pretty much every sports-writer I know. On the other hand, you got to have confidence in yourself, and a team that went from "Burn" to "FC" ain't going to win many cred points among the street-savvy crew.

4) Chicago Fire: Since the word "Fire" shows up in 30% of all pop-music, and 60% of REM songs, the culture references are a big plus. Great tradition, original name, ethnic ties to their city, classy kit, this could be a great choice for Bill. Yet we feel that this team has to be a coastal one. Not that Bill must root for a coastal team, but it seems in-line with a man who can root for the Clippers and the Celtics.

3) Houston Dynamo: See above, and add the carpetbagger label, they're done.

2) New England Revolution: Really, the joy of making minutemen references while discussing porn actresses falls apart with the realization that this is the team that will emulate his Red Sox, only without the actually breaking through thing. Bill's karma in getting teams to break-though has to be focused on Spurs right now, I don't want him devoting any of it to the Revs.

1) CD Chivas USA: Okay, this has to be the choice. Crazy fans. Great atmosphere. Good stadium to catch a game, and we know he's out there anyway. Add in the incongruity of one of the whitest people in print rooting for a supposedly "ethnic" team, and that can't be beat. The kits are a bit of a problem, but this is a guy who rooted for the Patriots in the 80s, so that can be overcome. Team is looking good, but everyone else hates them. Great rivalry with the Galaxy, and Chivas will still be considered the newcomer for a few years. Bill Simmons, time for you to join Legion 1908. This will provide you a source of material for columns into the next century, and allow you never to be called a Europoseur.

Now, all I have to do is get him to read this, and then agree with me.

Shield Pace Update: Through 11.20

There was a request for an update on this, and if there is one thing I am, it is semi-responsive. What has happened to the Supporter's Shield pace over the last 10 games, and for DC United?

Not shut out through 26 games. Unbeaten in the last 14. All of that has earned DC United, in its quest for the Supporter's Shield, a grand total of... 3 games. That's it. If DC goes 0-2-1 in its next three games, it will find itself exactly on Supporter's Shield Pace. Which isn't bad, but that's the sum total of the margin that DC has earned through 20 games so far. At 5 points above Shield Pace, DC is easily in a better position than anyone else. But the previous high water mark was Kansas City at 3 points (Week 3) and by Week 7 they had fallen off pace. Now they're 18 points out of the picture, and the DCenters is calling them out of the Supporter's Shield Hunt. Here's the picture:

That's actually one of the nice things about this model. The pace is, strictly speaking, the rate at which you have to earn points so that no matter how well other teams do, you end up on top. You can finish below pace and still win, but the model says you can't finish above pace and not take the shield. However, let's pretend for a moment that if you reach a point where you fall far enough below pace that you can't possibly make it back, then all you have to worry about are the play-offs. Given DC's performance this year, this may be the case. In fact, it is possible that both DC and another team (at this point, FC Dallas) could finish above pace, which would mean we'd need to set the bar higher, but until that happens we'll stay at 2ppg.

Mathematically, Kansas City is still in the hunt, but the model says they can't do it. Even if they win all their remaining games, someone else will be better and take the shield. In case you were wondering, here were the teams eliminated from Shield Hunt based on pace, and the result that did it to them.:

Los Angeles Galaxy, Game 14, NYRB 2 : 1 LA, June 17, 2006. Yes, the New York Red Bulls knocked LA out of the shield hunt first of all, thanks to Jean Philippe Peguero. That the first team out is the MLS Cup Defender is a little sad. Perhaps Sampson did have to go.
Real Salt Lake, Game 15, RSL 0 : 0 CHIVAS USA, July 4, 2006. This must burn, since Chivas didn't even have the decency to beat their expansion cohort-mates. Instead, the draw was enough to drop RSL past the point of no return.
New York Red Bulls, Game 16, FCD 2 : 1 NYRB, July 8, 2006. A month after taking out LA, New York is taken down under the management Richie Williams.
Columbus Crew, Game 16, HOU 1 : 1 CLB, July 4, 2006. Again, you can't draw your way to the Supporter's Shield.
Kansas City Wizards, Game 18, KC 2 : 3 HOU, July 15, 2006. Houston took their second scalp, as Brian Ching's insurance goal was enough to put Kansas City, which had looked so promising early on, out of the picture.
Chicago Fire, Game 18, CHI 1 : 1 DCU, July 22, 2006. That's right, Chicago deserved the win in this game, but the draw knocked them far enough off pace that they can't come back. I shouldn't take delight in that, but I do.
Chivas USA, Game 19, CHV 3 : 3 COL, July 20, 2006. If anyone is going to go out in a draw where six goals are scored, it will be Chivas.
New England Revolution, Game 19, HOU 1 : 1 NE, July 22, 2006. It shocks me that we can project New England being out of the picture before the all-star game, but the draw with Houston dropped them to 13 points off of pace with 12 games remaining. The model says they are done, and Houston has claimed another victim.

Still Alive:
Colorado Rapids: -9 pts through 17 games
Houston Dynamo: -5 pts thorugh 18 games
FC Dallas: -2 pts through 19 games
DC United: +5 pts through 20 games.

Only four teams left to challenge for the Supporter's Shield, and only one from the Eastern Conference. Still, there's a lot of time left. And while the model says that Chivas and New England are out of it, really all that means is that they can't ever make it to the point where they know that if they keep doing what they've been doing, they can't lose it. So it's not really over for them yet.

23 July 2006

Debriefing for Match 11.20: At Chicago Fire


Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Times, Bob Hurst: "We're lucky that we got the one point." -- And I'm wondering... where is Mr. Haydon?
The Washington Post, Jack McCarthy: "United managed just one shot on goal through the first 64 minutes, but earned ample penalties including yellow cards on four players."
MLSNet, Jack Daniel Chavez: "...the turning point came when Pause was sent off in the second half for a silly caution. He had received a booking in the first half for a hard tackle, one of many in the opening 45 minutes that had a playoff-type feel."
Chicago Sun-Time, Len Ziehm: "Nate Jaqua, the only Fire player selected to play for the Major League Soccer All-Stars in their Aug. 5 match against English powerhouse Chelsea, didn't even crack his team's starting 11 Saturday night in a 1-1 draw against powerhouse D.C. United."
Chicago Tribune, Jack McCarthy: Okay, wait a minute. How can Jack McCarthy be special to both the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post. Don't you have to pick one for "Special" to be used, even if the articles differ. I mean, it's really not that special if two papers have it. Yes, full credit for writing two articles, but is this okay in the media? For fun, see how the slant changes from one article to the next. Fascinating. Jack McCarthy, for picking up two paychecks at one game, the DCenters salutes you.
BlackDogRed: "Best point of the year...I have an abundant heart. I am more than capable of joyously hating Chicago." -- He's right in a specific schadenfreude sort of way.

The Good

  1. The Emotional Bobby Boswell: Boswell, as a rookie and through most of this season, seemed to be someone who was decent in the backline, but not particularly vocal or willing to step up. Against Chicago, we saw him yelling at Bryan Namoff for not stepping up on the offside trap, and getting into C.J. Brown's face defending his team. I like this. Boswell, if he can control these factors in his game, is starting to mature not just as a classy defender, but a potential leader of this team in a few years.
  2. One Point: Chicago was ready for DC. To get one point on the road in this game was a success, even with the man advantage. Take it, and get out of town.
  3. Freddy Adu, Legal Eagle: Yes, Logan Pause was delaying play. But it was Freddy Adu that drew the red card by throwing the ball into Pause's arms. In some ways, this was the true revenge and counterpoint for the Gomez-Brown incident in the playoffs. There, it was our side that was pulled into an unnecessary red. This time, it was Freddy making Logan look as bad as possible right in front of the Referee Kevin Stott. Well done lad.

The Bad

  1. The Emotional Ben Olsen: Yes, while I credit Boswell above, I'm taking Ben to task. The issue with Ben isn't a matter of him standing up for his team, but the fact that he really seems to be living emotionally on the edge. We know he'll fight for his side, but I'm starting to worry about him getting booked for dissent each game, or a reckless foul. Get him some Bene Gesserit priestesses to harness that anger.
  2. Facundo Erpen, Cardiac Kid: When Dave and Garth are talking about it, it is no longer just a blogger mouthing off. Again, it's the just random moments of poor execution that are killing us here. It's like he mentally checks out for a bit. That can't keep happening. At some point, it will burn him.
  3. Settle Down Y'all: United players should start to expect the hacking, grabbing, hard tackling style from most of their opponents from here on out. They shouldn't let it distract them, but rather play through it. If someone is always marking you closely, you know what to do. Play the ball quickly into space, and then use your speed. Don't start getting whiny about it. That won't help.

Man of the Match

Alecko got the goal, but Bobby Boswell gets Man of the Match for some tough defesive play.

Final Thoughts

This is one of the few games this year where I'm willing to say that the scoreline flattered DC United. Chicago had the better of this game, even being down a man. Escaping with a tie should come as no comfort to United...

That being said, I am glad this game came when it did. This game was a chilling reminder that while DC is better than most of the league, any team can take it to them on any night. That DC was able to see that lesson without dropping all the points is a good thing. You can always talk about having respect for other teams, but you need to feel it on the pitch. Columbus wasn't doing that for DC, but Chicago certainly did.

18 July 2006

Bruce Back for Bulls.

He deserves our respect. But not our pity.

So Bruce Arena is the new coach of the New York Red Bulls. According to the RBNY press release, he takes control on August 12. Which means his first game is August 16 against, yes, DC United.

However, that game is in the Meadowlands. RBNY doesn't visit RFK until September. So let's talk about that. How do you react to Bruce coming back?

First, no booing him in the introductions. I'm serious. He deserves an ovation for his work here. Now, after they announce the team and coaches, you can root like hell against him. And yes, that means tossing insults and razzing Bruce just like any other player or Metro/RBNY coach once the whistle is blown until the end of the game. During that time, he's on the other side. But when he's introduced, give him a heartfelt cheer. He's earned it. And think of it as a way to say goodbye.

17 July 2006

MLS All Stars: The Right Picks

Yes, I'm a homer. And so is, I imagine, our head coach. That being said, I can't disagree with his choices for the all-star game. Freddy Adu has had one hell of a year, and pairing him with Josh Gros has been nothing but money for DC. As for Bobby Boswell, in addition to having a solid season to follow his strong rookie outing, he also adds the entire "Yeah, everytime European teams come to the USA, I get a goal" mystique to the team. So Nowak's selections of those DC players don't make me feel embarrassed one tiny bit. In fact, Nowak did a great thing by not picking even more. Ben Olsen and Brian Carroll have both had great years in the center of the midfield, but Pablo Matroeni is probably the correct choice. Piotr also passed by Alecko Eskandarian to pick Brian Ching and Nate Jaqua, and that seems like the right idea.

The fact that Don Garber would then add Alecko the mix is too perfect. Now, I'm not convinced that this team has all the chemistry and compensating abilities to be a better match-up against Chelsea than DC United's Best XI, but it does correct some of the difficulties seen when only the top XI were named. For one thing, there's a second holding midfielder. In my book, that qualifies as, oh, say, a little important.

The only choice I disagree with is Joe Cannon. I think there were a couple of other options to have used there, and Cannon is debatable. Sala comes to mind, for one. Yes, he's tailed off recently, but I feel like he did enough truly excellent work to have merited Nowak's choice.

Still, I like to see so many of the black and red rewarded for what has been an excellent first half of the season. I wouldn't even mind if Piotr decided not to play a few of them (Boz's knee) but just let them enjoy the bench.

16 July 2006

The Line Between Fantasy and Reality

We'll get to a full debrief of the Crew-DC game debrief tomorrow, but first a quick view of how bad things are getting for Crew fans. On my way to the game, I saw a few of the Columbus faithful sporting their home colors. Certainly there could be a few McBride jerseys, or perhaps Buddle or Gaven could be worn proudly on the back of a faithful Crew fan. But folks, see what depths the Columbus fans have fallen to:

Sorry about the image quality, but yes, that's a Crew fan, in an MLS Crew jersey, wearing a "RONALDINO (sic) #10" kit. Now, I'm not an expert on fan jersey ettiquette / psychology, but I imagine that when you start hallucinating that players from your Eurpoean Champions fantasy team are playing for you local club team, then things must be bad.

At this point, Hunt Park's faithful should start wearing their Beckham #7 jerseys and "Jose +10" banners in the belief that perhaps the Adidas fantasy express will somehow send an army of undead soccer players out to save their season. That could be fun.

And just in case your were wondering, and I'm sure you weren't, but in case you were... No, he never did.

15 July 2006

Keep It Coming

The Far Post has announced they are shifting from World Cup Coverage to MLS coverage. They were good for many, many laughs during the World Cup, and while they refer to DC United as "beloved" I still expect some very brutal, and very funny, comments to be directed at DC United when circumstances warrant. Good.

14 July 2006

For You, The War Is Over

Good bye Bruce. As I've written before, I'm in no hurry to disparage the fairly significant contributions you have made to US Soccer and the US National Program in particular. But it was time for both to move on. I'm glad you realize this, and I wish you all the luck in the world, provided you don't start coaching RBNY.

And, in case other people are forgetting to say it, let me also add this:


Match 11.19 Preview: Columbus Crew

Match #: 11.19

Opponent: Columbus Crew, Final MLS Matchup

DC United, 12-1-5, 41 pts, 1st in East Conference , 1st in MLS
Columbus Crew, 4-7-6, 18 pts, 5th in East Conference, 9th in MLS (tie - Los Angeles)

TV: 7/15/06, Comcast SportsNet, 7:30PM

Previous Meeting: Columbus Crew 0 : 1 DC United (DCenters Debriefing)

Suggested Pregame Music: Bastille Day - Rush (Okay, that makes more sense today, but hey...)

The Stakes: DC United, despite the triumph over the Celtic B Preseason Squad, is still looking to reestablish some form in MLS. Listen over at the SE Podcast to the press conferences, and you can tell Piotr Nowak is concerned about the heat and how DCU will hold up under it. A goal a game may get us through the next few games, but won't bode well for the rest of the season. And I want the historic season. So this game represents a chance to right things at home before heading back out on the road for a bit.

Coach Sigi Schmid has called out the Crew ahead of Saturday's game. What is it with Columbus officials going public ahead of games against us? Of course, it hasn't mattered yet this year, but you have to wonder about the timing.

Now, just one more thing. When a DC United blog starts talking about a historic season, well, I'm obviously biased. But check out the Kyle McCarthy at US Soccer Players who is beginning to raise the same ideas... Hmm... Of course, many more wins are needed, but the thought is out there.

Previews from the DCUniverse: Quarter Volley, DC Sun Devil, Poplar Point Perspective

Expected Yield: 2.5 points. Yes, the risk of overconfidence exists for this game, and there may be some emotional valley after the high of Wednesday night. Still, Piotr knows that just as much as I do, and I expect a workmanlike, if not fantastic, win on the pitch.

D's Location: RFK, Regular Seats

Last Words: Mike Edmonds and Larry Ward

13 July 2006

Debriefing for Match 11.A: Celtic FC


Media, Traditional and Otherwise

Mid-Atlantic Soccer Report, Jimmy LaRoue: "An in-form Celtic likely would have had a tough time against a sharp and cohesive United side..."
The Washington Times, Steve Silver: "...Boswell's goal was only one of many theatrics displayed by United last night."
The Washington Post, Dan Steinberg: "D.C. United's overwhelming 4-0 victory, highlighted by Freddy Adu's first-half goal and Jamil Walker's strike early in the second, will still go down as another international benchmark for MLS's best-known franchise."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "...the Black-and-Red were hardly generous hosts as they dismantled a Celtic FC 4-0 in a comprehensive performance from start to finish."
The Daily Record, James Traynor: "Celtic's first match on their US tour ended in defeat and ignominy."
DC SunDevil: "The fact that our reserve team, basically the guys who finished the match, could handle the ball and control the match that well against European players, even in their preseason form, astounds me."
QuarterVolley: "4-0 is nice, but it's not all that big a deal."
We Call It Soccer: "I just experienced a panacea cure for World Cup hangover. I wish I could prescribe it. But let's just say the drug has a very limited distribution."
Celtic Talk: "...The hoops crash stateside-Keevins did warn us- to a stronger,more energetic DC United by four goals to nil. this tour has seen Celtic consistently achieve the nil, but have no plans yet to add it to the clubs name."
The Lord of the Wing: "Right I know some players were playing there 1st games but the majority played all last week and I tell you one thing they didn’t look any better than they did in Poland." -- Good thing you never took me up on that wager, eh?

The Good

  1. The Extended Family: Everyone has the same point. It may not have been Celtic's Best XI, but it wasn't DC's best XI either. Still, by the end of the game, DC had players who hadn't seen a bit of first team action out on the pitch. There was a brilliant, funny moment in the 88th minute, when DC won its last corner, and as all the DC players moved into position to crash the net, it suddenly became apparent they weren't sure who should take the corner. Yet this team was still running with Celtic. Wow. Do I think the bench is really that deep right now? No. But they were up for this game.
  2. The Moose: This is the first time he's had enough time to impress me, and he did. Fast, nimble... A year of seasoning can do a lot for this kid.
  3. Nick Rimando: Good to see him back, and answering the few tests we was called upon to pass. Troy might hurt a foot, and while people might have questioned Rimando's fitness to be a starter, no one can say he isn't one of the best backup keepers in MLS.

The Bad

  1. Celtic: Look, I have an impossibly Irish first name, grew up in a Catholic family, so of course I'm going to have some fondness for the Celts. So I was quite sad to see them play so badly. Here's hoping they improve come Champion's Cup time. DC looked good, but Celtic looked much worse than they should have, even for preseason form.
  2. Pitch Alert: The baseball/soccer transition field has been much better this year, but there were signs of danger in this game. The mud isn't back yet, but balls were consistently dying once they made the infield sod. Maybe it's the kind of thing that only shows up in wet weather at the moment. Still, there are more than a few months remaining for this team.

Man of the Match

N/A - This is a friendly. Maybe I'll give them out for USOC matches.

Final Thoughts

Celtic is a proud team, with proud supporters. Some of them were gracious last night, and some of them (typically younger) were less so. The one shouting "F*** DC United" on the Metro ride home clearly had his ego bruised in a big way by the game, and I can understand that.

The thing is, DC is a proud team to. And thinking back to when we were shelled 4-0, we responded by singing for 15 minutes throughout the stadium. I don't remember anyone loudly shoting "F** the Fire" on the train home. Maybe ruefully saying it in a muttered tone, buried in a bit of despair, but not in a way to aurally assault people.

However, many Celtic supporters were gracious fans, singing "Hail... Hail...the Celts are here..." It was only in the second half when I caught one going "Hail... Hail... to the Redskins..."

12 July 2006

First Impressions: DC United : Celtic FC


Yes, I know. Celtic is in preseason form. They were resting their internationals. Hartson didn't play. It really doesn't matter. Even in preseason, a team is looking to build on something. DC lost to Getafe in Spain earlier this year, but there were hopeful signs in that game that DC built on. Celtic has precious little. I counted three chances for Celtic all night, even after our team was pretty much comprised of players who have a combined total of about 8 mins in league matches this season. Shocking.

It feels good. Not the greatest win over international competition (will anything ever top the Interamericas Cup?) but certainly a strong one. DC was definitively the class team out on the pitch. Celtic looked like they could have lost to the Crew.

What a fun night. Fun fun fun (rainy) fun fun night.

Match 11.A Preview: Celtic FC

Match #: 11.A

Opponent: Celtic F.C., International Friendly

DC United, 12-1-5, 41 pts (2.27ppg), 1st in East Conference , 1st in MLS
Celtic F.C., In Preseason. 2005-06 Record: 28-7-3, 91 pts (2.39ppg), 1st in SPL

TV: Comcast SportsNet, 7:30PM

Previous Meeting: No previous meeting of these clubs.

Suggested Pregame Music: As much as I hate to pick Green Day, we're going with them since "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" makes a great counterpart to "You will never walk alone."

The Stakes: Celtic is in the middle of a somewhat disappointing world tour, coming off of difficult results in Poland. Fans of the Bhoys aren't particularly worried, and the results of the US tour may not count for much considering that star internationals are likely to be rested for the hoops. It won't quite be a "B" level team out there at RFK tonight, but it certainly won't be the "A" squad either. Stilian Petrov may play, and that's fine with me, since I always loved hearing his name announced when I managed Celtic in the EA FIFA Soccer '05 game.

DC is in the middle of a potentially historic MLS regular season run. Piotr Nowak is playing lip service in the Post to the idea that this is an important match:

"Of course the result matters," he said. "It's a very important game to our
franchise, and we have to treat this game with a lot of respect."

However, he indicates that he will be giving Troy Perkins the night off, and in the Times it sounds like Jamie Moreno will get a breather as well: "United's leading scorer, Jaime Moreno, said he and his teammates are looking forward to a day of rest. " This is fine by me. It's nice to feel like even with DC sending out not quite its best XI, this is still a game that will entertain and possibly result in a DC win.

Previews from the DCUniverse: DC Sun Devil, DCist

Previews from Celtic Blogs: Celtic Talk - Opposition Spotlight

Expected Yield: N/A. Anything can happen. However, I'm pulling for a DC win.

D's Location: RFK, Regular Seats

Last Words: Extreme Unction

11 July 2006

A Correction on the Winningest Team of All-Time

File under: More evidence I need an editor: Seriously, when I'm this much of an idiot, you guys should tell me. I got the games played and DC United wins numbers confused in my head when trying to figure out the winningest team of all-time. That number is 24 wins, held by DC and LA from 1998. Of course, that includes Shoot-out wins, which today we typically counts as draws. So based on that theory, moving shoot out wins to the "Draw" column, the winningest team is the LA Galaxy at 22 wins (DC would be adjusted to 17 in 1998). DC currently has 12 wins, which puts them 11 wins off the title chase. So with 14 games remaining, DC would need to rack up 11 wins in there, and that's a taller order than I was thinking. Still doable? Sure, and DC would have a record of, oh, say, 23-2-7 (76 points, 2.38ppg) which would be far and away a stunning accomplishment. But, on balance, unlikely. So unless DC keeps winning everything around them, I'll put the all-time wins watch on hold.


While I was able to keep abreast of DC United during the crazy period, one area that did suffer was my reading of other soccer blogs. So now that I'm catching up, a few notes on some other people's writing

Yesterday, I did issue an email challenge for a friendly wager over to The Lord of the Wing. At this time, I have not received a response. Then again, having read what they've written about Celtic's recent travels, perhaps they aren't too confident about their team right now (I, for one, always shiver when I see the expression "4-5-1").

A few Bruce Arena comments, since I've already weighed in. I agree with this 100%. I agree with this about 75% -- If Bruce Arena has truly lost the ability to motivate his players, why are the players the ones defending him? Of course, you could counter it is only the natural disciples, but still... However, Josh has some good points on Wynalda-Arena that are well worth noting.

Make money fast! Sell "ELLINGER OUT" T-Shirts!

This is consistent with some things that have happened to me in DC recently.

It's US Open Cup time, which means it'll be time to the play the US Open Cup Cinderalla Pool game. So go in prepared with some nice stats.

10 July 2006


An interesting thought experiment. Now that Piotr Nowak is named coach of the MLS all-star team taking on Chelsea, how do you think he'd select his players, if given the choice? I mean, let's take a look at the fan balloting (even though it counts as only 25% of the vote, and I expect that Coach/GM/Player/Media votes will change things), and imagine one possible swap at each position between the fan's choice and Piotr's DC United talent pool.

Currently, this is your MLS All-Star Team from fan voting (selected trying to roughly fill out a 3-5-2 with something other than three CAMs):

F: Ching / Ruiz

M: O'Brien - Olsen - Donovan - ????? - Dempsey (only one CDM listed so far).

D: Erpen - Pope - Conrad

GK: Sala

Now, as I look at this team, it seems... well, I can imagine Piotr not being too thrilled with it. So where would he change it? I'm guessing he'd swap out Ruiz for Moreno if he could make one change up top. In the midfield, he's going to be able to name another CDM, so let's go with Shalrie Joseph for now. Clint Dempsey doesn't strike me as a Nowak type player, but neither did Freddy Adu. I am sure that Piotr would rather have Adu or Gros on the left wing, but I could be wrong there. Let's not talk about Donovan. The defense is decent, and I can imagine that Piotr would be happy with that, though perhaps worried a bit about Pope fitting into the 3-5-2. As his keeper, I'm sure Piotr will take Sala. Nothing wrong with that, despite FC Dallas's recent performance.

Now, even with some tweaking... who do you think Piotr would rather face Chelsea with: DC United, or the MLS All Stars?

Oh, and wouldn't it be great if Piotr named RSL's Atiba Harris as a special coach's selection to the team? And Ellinger a special assistant coach? Okay, maybe not.

Debriefing for Match 11.18: At Columbus Crew


Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Mike Price: "'We scored one goal and were able to pull it out,' Nowak said. 'It was good to have Alecko back tonight.'"
MLSNet, Ryan Kuhn: "The latest win can be equally credited to a healthy Alecko Eskandarian and a tight United backline."
Mid-Atlantic Soccer Report, Walter Wheeler:"While the final whistle brought an end to the game, it certainly did not bring an end to Crew frustrations. It was just another not-really-poor, but definitely not good performance."
The Columbus Dispatch, Shawn Mitchell: "D.C. United with only 10 men is as good as, if not better than, a full-strength Columbus Crew. "
bLCKdgRd: "...I thought red, if for nothing else than for being a punkass stupid thing to do. Your team is tired, you're back from injury, you've scored a brilliant free kick, you're up 0-1 on the road in the last third of the game, and you recklessly, petulantly, impulsively, idiotically throw that elbow right in front of the ref? "

The Good

  1. Alecko Eskandarian, Hello: What a lovely strike. As the ball passed through the wall I involuntarily exclaimed "Oh my God!" and frigtened my two cats who were napping near by. 100% utter class. A great goal. Amazing.
  2. Ben Olsen, Hello: Nice to see Ben get a start, and even happier to see Nowak at least experimenting for the moment with shifting people around to give them a bit of rest. It is only going to get hotter out here the next month or so.
  3. Operation: Lockdown: The defense is not perfect. It is damn good. I have a feeling that DC is going to give opponents one or two chances a game for the rest of the season. If the opponents convert, we have scorelines like we saw against Kansas City. If not, we get used to one-nil. Fine. Whatever I think of Erpen - Boswll - Namoff - (Prideaux/Wilson), they are doing it well enough this year. Keep 'em coming.
  4. Improving Effort: Maybe it is the opponent, but I've been feeling that DC's play has deteriorated over the last few games, despite the wins. This is the first game where I feel it was a better effort this game than the one before.
  5. Tony Tony Tony: I imagine that Dave Johnson and John Harkes will be coming back, so let's give a heartfelt ovation to Tony Limarzi's work filling in. He's been a good replacement for a very good pbp-color combination. Glad to hear him call a game not on the radio for once. You did good, I enjoyed it, especially since you go to pains to announce players names correctly.

The Bad

  1. Alecko Eskandarian, Hello, I must be going: Go read the Blackdogred article referenced above where he muses about Alecko. He's got a point. That being said, I'm willing to give Alecko a pass. There are certain types of yellows and reds that are pretty unconcionable. Erpen faking being hit last year really pissed me off. Gomez's red card against Chicago was awful. Still, a retaliatory strike that wasn't particularly violent? Yeah, it was stupid. Yes, it hurt the team. I hope he never does it again. It certainly was enough to deserve the red, if only barely. But this is Alecko, and I'd rather he played with emotion than bottled it up and was less effective. Keep trying to channel the agression into your strikes, Esky. But I'm not going to put this on my "Most embarassing moments as a DC fan" list. I came to say I can not stay I must be going... to serve a one game suspension.

Moreno Watch

No goal for Jamie, who again had a game of "moments of dangerous, great at holding the ball for a bit, but overall taken out." Which is okay, since to take him out usually means Alecko, Adu, Josh, or someone is getting free. Real Salt Lake was shut out in their game, so the all-time goal scoring race remains the same: Kreis-105; Moreno 103.

Man of the Match

Defense, Defense, Defense... Congratulations to Bryan Namoff for being the best of a solid defensive crew (Troy Perkins, honorable mention.)

25 Wins Watch

18 matches played. 14 matches remain. DC needs 7 wins to be the winningest team of all time. Goddamn.

Final Thoughts

I read through the comments on the previous debriefs, and there are some interesting questions. My feeling is similar to the suggestion that against Celtic we should put out our starters for at least the first half. Then rest some of them. In particular, Gomez, Gros, and Moreno are candidates for early showers. Alecko, of course, can play the entire game. I think giving Freddy a bit of a rest might also be a good idea, so take him off around the 60 minute mark. Getting Nick Rimando a half is also a good idea. Hmmm... International Friendly week. I should be lining up a wager, shouldn't I? Wonder if The Lord of the Wing is intersted...

06 July 2006

Debriefing for Matches 11.14-11.17: Chicago Fire, Kansas City Wizards, and FC Dallas


The Good

  1. Hold On, I'm a Comin': Three games, three one-nil leads, two wins despite opponents getting chances. The DCenters believes that close wins are more indicative of quality than blowouts, and these games were good indications that DC may not dominate teams, but can consistently edge them out. As we know, Pythagorean Expectation ain't for soccer.
  2. Twelve Flippin' Points: So I'm out of things for a week, and DC racks up 12 points. That's amazing. I think we all know that DC is not playing its best ball right now. They've come down a bit since about the middle of the first quarter of the season. But they're still getting points. Stunning.
  3. The New Piotr Nowak: Last year I wrote that DC's system under Nowak was like a finely tuned sports car: When it works, no one can beat us, but any bit out of tune and suddenly DC has a very expensive problem. This year, DC's system is more like hand me down Pontiac Sunbird from the 1970s. We switch parts out, lose bits of the transmission, have some unsightly paint work on the fenders... yet we still keep getting there. Folks, we have started Devon McTavish and Dominic Mediate on the wings recently, we lost Lucio Filomeno to Argentina, Alecko, Jamil, and Brandon have been battling injuries, Christian Gomez still gets gassed at the seventy (sixty?) minute mark, Nick Rimando hasn't played a game all season... and we're the number one team in the league. How many of you thought it would play out like that? Not me, at least, not in that way. Piotr Nowak now has a system that adjusts tactically for teams (the most obvious example is the positioning of Josh Gros, but it isn't the only one). He's been willing to employ a 4-4-2. He'll move players around to see what happense (remember Aleck on the wing?). He'll play untested guys... This is good stuff, and it bodes well.
  4. Freddy Adu, a goal: Only heard it on the radio, but man was that good to finally hear. Here's to many more.

The Bad

  1. The Secret Life of Facundo Erpen: Here's what bothers me about Facundo in these last games. Yes, he has great skill. Yes, he has single handedly killed some attacks with impressive derring-do. But at least once a game, he'll lose concentration on a simply play, and suddenly things are much more interesting than they should be. Against Chicago, all he had to do was either execute a back pass to Perkins or shield a ball out of play at one point. Instead he takes a touch, finds himself under pressure, and turns the ball over. It just seems like a lapse of concentration, and a failure to make the simple, correct play. If he fixes that, he's easily one of the best defenders in the league.
  2. Erratic Offense: For the last several games, it seems like sustained pressure is something that DC has yet to be able to create. Most of the goals are off of counters. That's fine for the time being, but it means you're always playing on a slightly thinner wire.
  3. Fatigue: DC looks a bit tired. Given that we have Alecko, Santino, and Ben Olsen back, and hopefully will get Prideaux in a month, I hope that we start rotating players. Yes, that might mean Brian Carroll missing a game. I'm fine with that.

Moreno Watch

Jamie has racked up a few while I've been gone. So has Jason Kries. It's Kreis 105, Moreno 103.

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.

All-Time Win Watch

Need 8 more wins to break the LA Galaxy/DC United record of 24 wins in a season.

Final Thoughts

God it is good to be back. I was able to catch pretty much every game during hell week, but not being able to talk about it killed me.

03 July 2006

Rolling Like a River

Let's start our get back into DC United coverage mode with a quick review of the last few games. DC is winning. It's not clear, by the way, that they should be winning. But they are. Just as the Washington Metropolitan Subway System is helpless against a torrent of rain on any given day, so too is MLS against DC United. They'll put up the sandbags. They'll hack at Gomez and Moreno. They'll even give a concussion to Dominic Mediate, but somehow DC seeps through and floods the net with just a little more than they can deal with.

Right now, the second best team in MLSEast is the Kansas City Wizards. DC just completed their season series against them, and the upshot was this:

4 Wins. No Losses. No Ties.

About this time, the Red Roof Inn guy is supposed to show up and yell "Oooh! This team is hot!" At which point Ben Olsen will promptly beat him over the head with a two by four. Or is that just what I want?

Now, let's be clear. The last win against Kansas City was not necessarily a game I think DC should have gotten the win with. Listening on the radio to the game, it sounded like Kansas City had more and better chances against DC, and DC's goals came on the counter twice, or an own goal once. That's a little lucky.

Now, there are some will come out with the sport's cliche of "Good teams make their own luck." Well, that's crap. Luck does play a role in the outcome of a game. However, the outcome of a season features all of that evening out. And the thing about luck is that it isn't really a bank account you debit against. Every game is a clean slate on the books of The Lady. Even after the coin has come up heads twenty times in a row, the odds of it coming down heads on the next toss are still 50% (provided your team is not managed by Tom Stoppard). We've gotten some lucky wins. Last Wednesday at Kansas City was one of them. This team probably hasn't truly earned all 35 of its points. Off hand, I can think of three games that probably should have been draws but luck tipped the balance. But even if you change those wins to draws, DC is still in front of MLS with 29 points. Luck is real. But the skill on the field is real as well.

There's going to be a lot of talk about how the next five games in July will be the ultimate test for DC. What people will point to is four of five league matches on the road: At FC Dallas, At Columbus, Home for Columbus, At Chicago, At Real Salt Lake. There may be some truth to that, but I feel for some of these people that even if DC were to get 15 points, there would still be another test. And that's fine. The thing about MLS is that there is always one more challenge, up until the playoffs. But in terms of evaluating this team's regular season, I feel that June's opponents were of a higher quality, and with the exception of the draw against LA, the results exceeded my expectations.

What's the point of all this? I wrote previously that at some point we'd have to start thinking about history. Now I'm willing to say it. This DC United team has a legitimate shot to finish as one of the greatest Regular Season teams of all times. It's still in a race, but we should be thinking about this team in comparison to the 1998's DC United, the 1998 LA Galaxy, and the 2005 San Jose Earthquakes. It just happens that the regular season has some meaning now. And that matters to me. To put this in perspective, DC needs nine wins in the second half of its season to be the winningest team in MLS history. That's what I want. Really. Yes, I know some will think I'm jinxing this team by bringing it up. And it's not like the three teams cited above show much hope for the playoffs (Combined: 0 MLS Cups). It doesn't matter. Worrying about luck (see above) is for wusses. Are you a DC fan or not? Then if you are, you know that we spit fate in the eye, insult his mother, and then flip him the bird while walking under a ladder. This is about the regular season, and making a mark. I know the playoffs set everything back to zero. But right now, in the games I'm watching, I want to see nine more wins. If this team is to be jinxed, I did it a long time ago. So let's go for broke. Nine more wins, and at least 29 more points. Do you think it can happen?

He's Alive!!!

Yes folks, it finally seems to be over in terms of the awfulness that was driving me away from you. But like any good romantic comedy, I have struggled through the airport security in order to desperately run to the gate in order for us to reconnect... and talk about soccer. Oh yes.

There is a ton of news to get to, so let's get at it. Today. I've missed you all. Our topics for scheduled for discussion are: DC on a win streak; Nowak as all-star coach; Mike and the Mechanics of Moving Freddy to Chelsea; and Facundo Erpen, heart attack in a can. Lots to get to.

And folks, it wasn't you, it was me. Apparently, I needed to find myself. And it turns out that a frickin' seventy hour work week was how The Powers That Be decided it should happen. Don't they know there's some soccer going on?