28 February 2007

Inch by Inch

Given that the Washington Post has issued length guidelines for their stories, it seems appropriate that we do the same. Effective immediately, the following rules are implemented at the DCenters for Story Length.

  • MLS Regular Season Game Recap? 3-4 inches.
  • MLS Playoff Game Recap? 4-5 inches.
  • MLS Regular Season Game featuring DC United win? 9-10 inches.
  • USMNT International Match? 4-5 inches
  • ...Featuring Gros, Carroll, Olsen, Boswell, or Perkins? 9-10 inches.
  • Story on Alexi Lalas making overly large, grandiose, sweeping claims to his own or LA's Greatness? 3 inches, but he'll tell everyone it was about 10 inches, more than any other sports story in the history of paper and people writing things on it.
  • Story about Zach Thorton, Clint Mathis or Tony Meola eating too many baked goods? 3.1415926535... inches.
  • Visual aid to story about Zach Thorton, Clint Mathis or Tony Meola eating too many baked goods? Pie chart.
  • Long poems dedicated to Gomez, Moreno, or Etcheverry? 99 inches using iambic pentameter.
  • The problem of Euro-snobbery in the US Soccer Scene? 25.4cm to 30.48cm
  • History of the New York Red Bulls? Three squares, double-ply.
  • Alecko Eskandarian's ability to help Toronto? 1 ft. -- but only the left one.
  • The future of Bob Bradley? 4 inches (note: first in a series of [FILL IN NUMBER - SG] articles)
  • Story on DC fans conceding reputation as best in U.S. Soccer? We don't give an inch to anyone.


You need you some Freedom

The big news is the return of a top Women's Professional Soccer League for 2008, and the induction of Washington Freedom alumnus Mia Hamm into the National Soccer Hall of Fame. The problem with these ceremonies is inevitably they focus on who was left out. For the record, Marco Etcheverry should be in the Hall of Fame. But not at the expense of the two worth recipients this year.

Also, with the announcement of a scheduled 2008 launch for the new Women's league, I've decided to put up a link to the Washington Freedom over on the right. 2008 seems a long way away, but I'm anticipating the return of the Freedom. Naturally, I support our local team, and in 2008 will certainly think about how best to incorporate Freedom coverage into this blog. However, we're a DC United blog first and foremost, and that's not going to change in the near future. Still, more soccer is always good. We like soccer.

Now if we can only get Aretha to sing the national anthem at all home games...


27 February 2007


And then it happens...

It's a reasonably big deal, probably over three million dollars. Yet the deadline doesn't leave much time, everything has to be wrapped up this week. The wry voice of his boss filters over the phone, "We'll have to make a decision by Thursday night at the latest. You've been through this drill, you know what we'll need to see. Any questions?"

The various numbers and contract particulars are filtering through his head, but he knows there's one thing he has to make clear. "There's a game Thursday night at RFK. I should be there."

His boss may be suppressing laughter, it's difficult to tell over the phone. "Outdoor soccer? Already?"

And then it happens...

Nick Rimando's eyes dart around the field as Castro's shot deflects away. Only down by one, he knows they can recover if they can just find a way to regroup. Only it's not happening. He can see Botero moving into space, sees that the ball from Marioni will find him. Boswell's doesn't have the experience to contain him, it'll be up to Nick to shut it down. It's not even really a conscious decision as he moves off his line.

And then it happens...

One of the nice perks of being the president of the student run amateur theatre organization is the key to the office. Pittsburgh's bitingly cold winter has arrived two months ago, but the small room is warm and brightly lit. The computer has high-speed access, much better than the dial-up he'd get in the off-campus apartment he shares. Nobody seems to be around this weekend, no doubt in various rehearsals. He should be typing up an agenda, but instead refreshes the Yahoo! page again, to see if they've posted that DC-LA score yet.

And then it happens...

Thomas Rongren allows himself an internal smile as Eddie Pope puts United in the lead. It's a storybook ending, Bruce gets a chance to give the faithful that traveled to Florida one final thrill, and now it is his team. It'll be a good team, he has ideas, plans, tactics, and the talent to execute them. He'll be here for some time.

And then it happens...

The small digital clock reads 2:43 A.M., which is an absurd time to wake up, especially to wake up thinking about a soccer game several days off. Up 4-1, there's no chance they can blow a lead like that, right? It's not like anyone would notice if he didn't show up, and the next round is pretty much assured. No, time to focus on this deal. Get the numbers right. Prove that it is profitable. Double check the by-now overly complicated MS Excel formulas. C'mon, it's a big deal. That's it. It's the deal that's keeping him up, not that weird dream where Facundo Erpen threw an Olimpia striker down on the box right in front of the ref, who may or may not have been a giant brown bear in a yellow FIFA uniform. Maybe he should work on the deal now, get it out of the way before Thursday night. Not that it's really that important that he be there. Of course not. It's just a game, and he's just a fan. But if he can finish it now...

It happens Thursday.

Labels: ,

Nothing to See Here, Please Pass On

Steve Goff reported this morning on the lawsuit that has arisen from Hristo Stoichkov breaking the leg of an AU student during a scrimmage in 2003. Is this important? Not really. I would imagine DCU has a law firm on a nice retainer for just this sort of thing. It happens.

There are all sorts of reactions one could have, but mine is simply to note it and pass on. Do I feel anger at the kid for filing the lawsuit? Nope. Look, his leg was snapped in an absurdly reckless challenge. To me, while I know that I could get hurt while playing a game even where people are encouraged to stay on your feet, I have to admit that all reports were that Stoichkov was way over the line. Think of it as one step down from the hockey's famous "Cross Check to the Throat." Nasty, but tough to say if it was worth of a civil suit. Still, I don't have a problem with the kid for trying.

I understand that all sorts of people are going to be prone to drawing conclusions about "our litigious society" based on this, but I'm not. United/AEG should probably at least have offered to cover his medical bills, but even if they wanted to, doing so might have been viewed as an admission of culpability in future lawsuits. This will, I imagine, be settled and all involved can move onward. It was a sad, pathetic thing, and I hope the kid gets something for his pain. Not five million, but something. I really don't see this as a major story for the long term. This story doesn't deserve this many words. What happens, happens, and it means little in the big picture of things.

Labels: , ,

26 February 2007

Win where you can

D.C. United Head Coach Tom Soehn addressed the general meetings of the Screaming Eagles on Saturday. Aside from confirming that they're still looking to sign a player on the wing, that Olsen is out there to provide experience, and generally saying all the right comments, he made only one remark that drew some reprobation from the crowd. Discussing his planned use of younger and reserve players, which he indicated he wanted to use more of (and highlighting Moose, McTavish, and DeRoux), he said that the US Open Cup could be given primarily to the reserves.

Naturally, the trophy hungry audience gave this a decidedly mixed, if not negative, reaction. Personally, I feel like this is probably the correct course of action. You can't say "let's make greater use of the bench and keep the starters fresh" while at the same time maintaining that we need to win every match by playing our starters. Since we're currently in an international competition because of winning the Supporter's Shield, this means that given a choice between having starters fresh for the MLS regular season and pushing for the Shield, or winning the US Open Cup, I'd prefer the former. I know that fans of the Open Cup, and I am one, will say this devalues the Cup competition. It does. But with United involved in two other major competitions aside from the MLS regular season and the Open Cup, I don't think teams other than Houston are facing the same situation. Do I want the Dewar's Trophy? Sure I do. But on the list of potential accomplishments, it ranks just ahead of the reserve league title this year.

Labels: , ,

23 February 2007

Steve Nash offers the best take on the Beckham signing.

I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere else, but did anyone hear Phoenix Suns star Steve Nash on Pardon the Interruption yesterday? While he didn't say anything new, he did offer a coherent, MLS friendly take on the David Beckham signing:

KORNHEISER: ...Do you seriously think that David Beckham is going to make an impact in soccer in the United States?

NASH: He will make an impact because he's a huge star regardless of the sport, and he'll put soccer in every magazine and every newspaper and TV Show. You guys will be dying to have him on PTI. He'll make an impact because a lot of people will be exposed to the sport. But I really think this sport is on its way in this country regardless. I think the talent is growing, I think they've always had the grassroots, and the professional league is building soccer-only stadiums. There's a lot of money going into it, so I think soccer is here to stay. It may never be as big as the big four, but it's definitely growing, and maybe it'll be the fifth sport. Obviously, I'm a fan and a bit biased, but I think it's really on its way.

Considering the sheer number of idiotic articles we all read from non-soccer familiar individuals in the wake of the Beckham signing, Nash came out and gave a great endorsement to MLS on a pretty large sports related stage.

Labels: , , , ,

Divergence: USA != MLS

There are numerous commentators writing up their thoughts on the Olimpia-DC United first leg. Some of these soccergentsia are quietly whispering that the game, if combined with a Houston victory on their soil, could portend a watershed moment for MLS, and perhaps by extension, the USA. You heard it in the call of the game from Paul Caligiuri who talked about DCU's victory as a (paraphrasing here) measuring stick for the US game, and Marc Connolly says it outright in his column at US National Soccer Players: "It was not only a resounding moment for a very proud franchise, but also for Major League Soccer as a whole." Jeff Carlisle at ESPN also thinks that we're on the verge of a watershed moment: "...if the Dynamo can pull it off and if United advance as expected, then they will indeed be writing a new script for MLS clubs in the CCC."

Before we wrap ourselves in the American flag, I should praise Kinney for his sharp riposte to Caligiuri. After Caliguiri has spoken of the "advances for the USA," Kinney shot back at the screen, "Sure it is, with three goals from Argentinians and one from a Brazilian." It was a telling comment.

If one was inclined to overread things, and I certainly am, then one could say that DC is making a statement about the nature of MLS: "We have no desire to be a developmental league for the US National Team, we want to win." Winning is first and foremost. I've written before that I think that Freddy Adu learned a lot at DC United, but probably not as much as he wanted or could have. DC dealt with the uneasy balance of developing a young player and maintaining a winning team with an awkward compromise. When that situation became untenable, DC made the correct choice and chose to make the deal that gave them a chance to win. (Yes, I know, Freddy demanded a trade. But if DC had played Freddy in the middle more that demand might never have happened. Instead, DC always gave preference to putting team quality first. Which they should.)

On another angle... Ian Penderleith, who I have tons of respect for as a writer, rejects the idea that MLS has made progress, but instead says that the real value of the results from two days ago are that they remove the ready-made MLS Excuses for international failure on foreign soil. He even goes so far as to say "You wonder, though, if the power of auto-suggestion gives our teams a negative mindset before they even take the field." That's a hell of an argument, and I'm not sure I buy it, but I like the sound of it. I hope it is true one day.

The major point I'm trying to make here is that the results of the past week tell me that one of tensions at the heart of MLS is close to being resolved. Given a choice between developing players for the US Nats or putting out winning teams, more MLS decision makers are choosing the latter. This is the right move.

Labels: , , ,

My Game is Turnabout, which is Fair Play

We'll talk about more fall-out from the Olimpia game in a sec, but first: A proposed exhibition between USA Baseball and China couldn't happen at RFK because of a scheduled DC United match. Why do I mention this? Because there's a lot of belly-aching over how DC United is treated as a second class tenant in the place they've been longer than the baseball team. It's strangely reassuring to see that baseball had to accommodate soccer, and that everyone (at least, the baseball fans I respect [partial list only, see the sidebar]) don't seem to have a problem with this. It's... refreshing. The dog didn't bark in the night.

Labels: , ,

22 February 2007

Debriefieng for Match 12.A.01: At CD Olimpia


Six Word Novel Recap

Gomez: Definitely Awake, Alive, and Kicking.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "Concerns about D.C. United's preparedness for its CONCACAF Champions' Cup quarterfinal opener in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, last night were put to rest with several spectacular goals during a surprising 4-1 victory over Olimpia."
MLSNet, Jonathan Nierman: "As was so often the case during the 2006 MLS season, Gomez was the catalyst, urging the Black-and-Red forward with smart passes, darting runs and, of course, killer finishing."
MLSNet, Edwin Cerrato: "Just before the end of the half, Emilio silenced the Estadio Nacional crowd. Josh Gros chased down a pass in the left corner and drove a low cross into the heart of the area where Emilio ran onto it before flicking past James with a sublime backheel off the inside of his left boot. After a minute of funereal silence and the attitude of Emilio - who did not celebrate effusively - the crowd applauded its former star."
An American's View..., Brian Garrison: "The score line is really very misleading. The four goals are more of a reflection of how bad Olimpia were last night, rather than how good United was."
Quarter Volley, I-66: "As a whole, United looked to have their stuff together. They didn't appear to be a team essentially in their preseason, though there were some stretches where I felt they were in trouble while lacking in possession and the ability to clear the ball from their box."
MLS Underground: "This might go down as the greatest performance by a MLS team in Central America in the league's 11 history."

The Good

  1. Yeah, see, we're up three goals at RFK: We should just acknowledge that 4-1 is a stunning result, and that it is the single most important fact to come out of this game. Everything looks good after 4-1. Or it would if I weren't such a curmudgeonly bastard.
  2. Moving the ball on the ground: DC was able to execute small, simply passes, and send the occasional through ball to put Olimpia under pressure. They did this for much of the first twenty minutes of the game, in which I expected DC to be pinned on their side of the pitch. It didn't happen, because they were able to start to build simply possession.
  3. Emilio's Goal: With the cross slightly behind him, he played almost a back-heel flick into the goal. Honestly, if I had any doubts that he was a goal scorer, that audacious move silenced them, since that was the move only a goal scorer will think of.
  4. Defensive Shape: In the run of play, the backs plus Simms and Carroll were decent. They can even get better.
  5. Stamina: Kinney noted that this team didn't tire as readily as we thought they might. He's right. They had a lot of breath for a pre-season match.
  6. Justin Moose: Showed more in ten minutes yesterday than his entire season in the reserves. We always knew he was fast, but the crazy pull-back ball control thing? That's new...
  7. Officiating: A well officiated game, and a reminder that some referees, regardless of geography, will enforce the laws of the game. A special call-out to the Honduran AR Crew, who were rigid and impartial putting the flags up. Compared to other games played yesterday, the contrast in quality was amazing. Also, he called back-to-back illegal throw-ins. I don't think I've ever seen that, but it worked and told me that this was someone who just enforced the laws.

The Bad

  1. Mental Acuity: If there was an overall disappointment, it was that this team didn't quite look as mentally smart as I would have liked. There were too many passes reflecting a dubious decision making process. They could have played simpler. The pitch was partially to blame, as the grass seemed to jump up and interfere with the feet for attempts to send the ball long and through the air. Still, the decision making was suspect from all players, although Erpen and Simms I think were (unfairly, since they were just as much to blame as anyone) singled out for it.
  2. Wing Speed: About two weeks ago I wrote: "Olsen's speed outside particularly worries me, since a nimble opposing flank player may be able to play around him and force Ben to take an early caution." This happened last night, and could well happen all year. Ben's a tenacious, gritty player, who grew the beard back. If he's put in that position, he's going to get cards because there's no way he's giving up on his marking responsibilities, Laws or no Laws. I hate seeing him put into that situation.
  3. CD Olimpia: They can back-to-back aerial back-heel passes, but seemed to find difficult with short and mid range passes. Not to mention some blown finishes, out-of-position keepers (especially on the second for Gomez), and one chance to go in on Perkins alone that was senselessly squandered. They underwhelmed.
  4. Set Piece Transition: There's a few moments after you've defended a set piece and you're trying to adjust your shape into your traditional defense. It can be something of a physically demanding and mentally demanding moment, as you have to figure out where you should be and get there promptly. It was in one such post-set piece transition when Olimpia scored.

Man of the Match

Tips of the cap to Emilio, Namoff, Carroll, and Perkins, but your Man of the Match is Christian Gomez. In fact, that's too long of a title. He's just "The Man."

Final Thoughts

Read people's reactions to the first impressions last night: There's some good analysis in there.

I agree with many of those who write that 4-1 is misleading because it makes DC look better than they are. But still, DC looked about as good as I've seen them at this point in the preseason. They certainly looked better in terms of creativity than I remember from the C.F. Getafe match at around this time last year, especially through the first 45 minutes (remember, that game was pretty much even until the second half).

Ultimately, this game was Hopeful, after a 2006 season that ended in irony and frustration. It didn't put to rest my concerns about this team, but it did show me that while I notice the areas of concern, there is still a lot that is right with United. It's a lesson I will heed. Now go out and get those defenders and wing players.

Labels: , , , ,

DC United v. CD Olimpia Highlights

For those of you who missed the game. Here is a youtube video of some sublime goals.

Much thanks to Bigsoccer poster GreekChampion04 for getting this up.

Labels: , , ,

21 February 2007

First Impressions - CD Olimpia 1 : 4 DC United

Like last season, we'll offer more in-depth analysis with the full debrief, but first a question: "Was it just as good for you as it was for me?"

I told Lifton at the half that I was happy with what I saw when the score was 1-1. We were passing well, playing a fair amount of the game on Olimpia's end of the pitch. The team wasn't perfect, but they were playing decently. The touches weren't quite there, but you could see what it would be like when they were. United was able to systematically move the ball around the field with controlled passes, although any attempt to play the ball long over-the-top seemed somewhat adventerous. The defense held its shape in the run of play very well. Perkins was back playing air traffic control like he was at his best last year. Gomez was running the offense decently, if not perfectly. That Emilio made a classy, classy goal to put us up 2-1 felt like a nice bonus.

Then United added two more: First with Christiam Gomez finding the near post corner with a bit of help from a slow-reacting keeper, and then with Facundo Erpen's header from the corner kick. I mean... a corner-kick goal?! We only seem to get those in international games, they never come in the regular season.

This isn't to say all was perfect. It wasn't, and you can see some potential roadblocks ahead. And CD Olimpia's effort was much poorer, especially in passing during the run of play, than I expected to see from them. But for right now, congratulations to Tom Soehn, Christan Gomez, Emilio Luciano, and the entire DC United effort. For the 2007 campaign to begin this way surpassed not only my expectations, but my dreams. A nice start. No, a wonderful start. But only a start.

Labels: , , ,

Get To Know Them

First, the soccer related matters. A few new soccer related blogs are out, and have been added. Cue The Oles is the newest to our intimate family of D.C. United related blogs, and looks to be a fine addition. Welcome to the family Jeff. The Soccer Showand WV Hooligan have both been added to the general MLS Section. Check them out, as they have some nice content. (Late Update: the Port Halifax Idea Gateway looks like it'll also have some DCU related thoughts. Welcome!)

And this could quite possibly be the greatest gift to D.C. United bloggers ever: BobbyBoswell.COM will go live on 20 March. Giddy-up!

Finally, for those of you that can't get enough D in your life, ExperienceD is going live and will contain my non-soccer related writings. Self-indulgent? Oh yes.

Labels: , ,

Match Briefing for 12.A.01: At CD Olimpia

Match #: 12.A.01

Opponent: CD Olimpia (Honduras)

Six Word Novel Preview: Are we ready? We must be.

CONCACAF Champions Record: First Match of Quarterfinals
CD Olimpia - 1973, 1988 Champions
D.C. United - 1998 Champions

TV: Fox Soccer Channel, 9PM (MLS Underground with live feed)

Radio: Feed from DCUnited.COM

Previous Meeting: N/A.

The Stakes: For D.C. United, fair or unfair, this game will be the first evaluation of the Tom Soehn era, and will also be used as a referendum on the off-season maneuvers by the DC Front Office. Normally I would caution against reading too much into a game for which DC has had little time to prepare, but this is the CONCACAF Champions Cup, and the prestige of the competition matters. The key test is whether the starting XI put on the field tonight look like a team that can be competitive for the upcoming year. Yes, D.C. United continues to pursue acquisitions, but right now this is the team we have. And for the first time we'll be seeing if this is a team we can believe in.

For CD Olimpia, you have to imagine that they'll be up for this match. It would be one thing if it was just the presence of an American team, but this is an American team that took away their scoring champion. I have to believe that the strikers for Olimpia will be wanting to prove to their fans that they don't need Emilio Luciano any more, and will play hard and fast. You can hear a small allusion to this from DC Assistant Coach Chad Ashton in the most recent SE Podcast if you listen to him describing the Olimpia attack.

Previews from the DCUniverse: Washington Post, Washington Times, Soccer Insider, The Offside: DC United, An American's View..., Quarter Volley, Port Halifax Idea Gateway (other added as we see them)

Expectations: This game is unlikely to be a walk in the park for United. Yes, I know Climbing the Ladder pointed out that no MLS team has ever lost to a Honduran team. Well, no team ever beat D.C. United in the playoffs until the Chicago Fire did it. And then no team other than the Chicago Fire did it until New England did it last year. Someone ends up as the first. It could be us.

A lead coming back to RFK is great, and a non-scoreless draw would also be acceptable. Even a 2-1 deficit isn't the end of the world. All of those would be acceptable results to me, though I would certainly prefer a nice 2-0 cushion coming home. To me, the important thing is to see how well the defense plays. Scoring frequently requires timing and familiarity, and I can see where it might take a month or so to really expect that to develop, but a solid defensive effort from the back line and defensive mids is a systematic thing that shouldn't rely as heavily on individual performances. If the defense is shaky, I wouldn't be surprised if DC's 3-5-2 looked more like a 7-2-1 for most of the game. But if it can work possession away from Olimpia and move the ball down the pitch, that will bode well even if the goals don't come. That's how I will be looking at this game.

Labels: , , ,

19 February 2007

Coming Online

Commenter K thought we should update the At A Glance section on the right to reflect recent roster moves. Hey, not only that, but we also are setting up a complete at a glance for the 2007 campaign to reflect all of D.C. United's many competitions. Crazy, eh? What with a game the day after tomorrow, I figured we might as well go live.

It's funny, a year ago we were talking about the kerfluffle with Real Salt Lake during an exhibition game. Now we're getting ready for a game. In one respect, this season is already better than last.


The Whole World Is Watching. At least, they could be.

We got an email to say "Hey, MLS Underground has a live link up with FSC! Come watch the CONCACAF Champions Cup over there!" So, for those of you not heading out to a bar to catch the game, and who don't have FSC at home, you can catch it online in resolutions described as "Small and Clear" or "Full Screen and Blurry" My thanks to e-mailer Greg with the tip, who provided a direct link to the feed here.

Labels: , ,

In Denial

COVER: I don't get paid to take flak for Steve Goff, but the headline at Goal.Com of "Sarachan blasts Zidane-Fire Link" seems a bit excessive. Careful reading of Steve Goff at Soccer Insider makes it clear exactly what Goff's information is, and Sarachan's comments do not directly contradict Goff in any way. We've all (other than Miss Chatter) seen All the President's Men, and we know what a non-denial denial is.

GONE: The David Stokes Experiement is over. The Ricky Shramm Experience is relocating. Neither strikes me as particularly surprising, but I think both of them could catch on as a reservist elsewhere.

NOT FORGOTTEN: Jimmy LaRoue on the end of Matchnight, and the rebirth of UnitedMania. Congratulations on the upcoming nuptials Jimmy, and I hope you are as lucky in your choice of spouse as I have been in mine. You'll know if she starts emailing you links where a writer trashes Landycakes. That's love.

RETURN: It's been a long time, but I think I have to write a match preview this week. Wow. I'm probably going to keep the debrief format we've been working with, but the preview format is in flux. Anything you'd like to see? One of the things I'd like to do this year is write the six word novel preview and recap of every game, but I'm open to suggestions on other things.

Labels: , , , , ,

16 February 2007

Special Note to Followers on the Feed

We recently made the switch to NEW BLOGGER which is similar to Old Blogger except it has fewer transfats and allows us to label things. Which I am doing, and in the course of that you may see a bunch of old articles pop as unread. Please disregard, as I'm just trying to organize the archives before putting the label/tag searing ability on the page.


GRoK Rock

First, thanks to everyone for chiming in as I had a crisis of faith yesterday. Matchnight's sudden closing just had eerie echoes of some of my own thoughts, so it kinda got to me a bit more than it should have. I appreciate everyone's kind words, and look to continue giving you the best I can. Okay, enough sentimentality, onto the important stuff:

BANK! The big news is Troy Perkins gets Paid. It says something about this league that fundamentally I judge salaries in comparison to my own. It is a just world where the 2006 MLS Keeper of the Year makes more money than I do, and an unjust world if he doesn't. I pretty much apply that rule to most things MLS. For instance, it is an unjust world in which first year players make less money than I did my first year out of college. For one thing, I didn't make a hell of a lot, so for them to be paid worse seems ridiculous. I find that this self-centered rule of thumb works well. It certainly makes me more inclined to cut Jay Needham some slack. I know there are those who think this is a mistake. It's certainly a mistake if you think this is a long-term ability growth move. But Needham struck me as a smart guy when talking with him, and a year as a starter in USL will get him more visibility, and a better paycheck, than a year as an MLS reserve defender. If he's still in the USL a year from now, it probably is a gamble that didn't pay off, simply because the ceiling of what he can achieve is so much lower. But as a move for one year, I can't blame the guy.

KPENE SAVED, KPENE EARNED: I'm not sure what to make of this, but check out the four last comments on our admittedly brief comments on the supplemental draft. For whatever reason, Guy-Roland Kpene has a bunch of people chiming in to talk about how good he is. I can't say why, but it is interesting. It seems like friends of Kpene really want DC United to give this kid a chance, and if putting in a series of comments on a fan blog helps them do that, then by all means. As such, we are officially dubbing Guy-Roland Kpene the "DCenters Official Supplemental Hopeful of the Year." Plus, you should really check out the link from that "City" commenter. Brilliant, in a strange sort of way.

Labels: , ,

15 February 2007

In Which I Attempt to Answer the Question "Why Read The DCenters?"

This post is self-indulgent.

To be perfectly honest, I've been wondering about The DCenters and our place in this crazy soccer world recently. For about two years The DCenters had DC United related blogging mostly to itself. About a year ago, a few more DC United related blogs started to show up, and they were kindred spirits that we love. QuarterVolley, An American's View..., The Offside: DC United, these are the compatriots that made this place a lot of fun to work in. Oscar and Kinney have joined the DCenters, and their quality writing has certainly improved this place. The SoccerSphere as a whole exploded, and The DCenters was there watching it and doing its small part. Amateur-fan blogs devoted to MLS teams were popping up more and more among those general soccer or US blogs. It made me smile.

Recently the pros have gotten into a game that the amateurs were alone in. Ives went online. Fallas and Conway have been running Soccer y Futbol. Closer to home, Dan Steinberg and, oh yes, Steve Goff are turning in great United stuff. I am, of course, insanely jealous (and envious) of the fact that these guys are paid to cover the team. I'm not, and am not aware of any offers that would let me quit my existing day job so I could write blog posts on United. I have had to come to terms with the fact that for pure news coverage of United, or on MLS in general, I can't compete with these guys. They're better, faster, smarter, and have more time than I do.

With word that Matchnight is closing its virtual doors (although Viva United Mania), you can see that the pros are starting to displace some of the old haunts. Well, that's the marketplace for ya.

So I've been trying to think about what I have to offer you, the soccer fan, the DC United fan, the casual hipster, to keep you coming back here. We don't have the access or the time to compete with the pros, so what do we have? The answer is... We have Kinney, Oscar, Myself... and we have you.

When I first started getting some traffic stats, I estimate that we had maybe 30-50 regular readers. At this point I'd estimate we're somewhere in the 300-400 range. Whatever we've been doing over time, apparently we've done something right. The only thing that I know that we do is that we can offer our own opinions, our analysis, and links to the stuff we find interesting. We don't have to be objective, we can swear at times, and we can blog while sitting on the sofa eating corn chips. That's what I know we can offer. I also know what you can offer: Great comments that support us, put us in our place, or offer completely different interpretations in ways we hadn't though of. We'll still try to think through things to bring you our biased, but at least considered, opinions of what is happening. And I'm curious to know what you'd like to see more of, or less of, as the case may be. Let us know. In my heart of hearts, I believe that there is still something The DCenters has to offer to soccer world that's different from anyone else. I'd like to see that continue, in the best way it possibly can.


Needed: Defender

Steve Goff is reporting that Jay Needham left DC United to sign with Puerto Rico. Um... Given the positive impressions Needham was making, this sounds like a loss. Surely we could have made an offer better than 20K, right? Apparently not.

This isn't a crippling development, but it certainly is a sad one, and not just because we're Needham's favorite blog. All reports were coming back positive on Jay, and either Puerto Rico is overpaying for Needham, or DC misjudged its bid and the allure of playing for MLS. We wish him luck.

Labels: , , ,

Two Fundamental Questions, Part II

I want to step away from the traditional focus of this blog to talk about the US National Team coaching situation. I didn't write much about the US-Mexico match before or after the event simply because I didn't think it mattered. A win or a loss said nothing about the biggest challenge facing the United States: The World Cup. Bruce Arena's legacy should be that he has turned us into a continental power, and it was nice to see that 2-0 win maintain that impression, but the true test will be the World Cup finals. Unless we want to turn into the equivalent of Rangers supporters or boosters at certain NCAA football programs, we should not be evaluating this team, or this coach, on results against one rival, no matter how much they are despised.

Yet the victory over Mexico turned ESPN commentators, pundits, and bloggers into the Bob Bradley Appreciation Society. The evaluation of Bradley has been made on his performance in two friendlies, and I can understand the adulation. If that was all that mattered, then I agree that Bob Bradley should have that a shorter job title right now, and he should toss that word "Interim" into the stands like Bobby Convey's clothes. But all that proves to me is that Bradley has the program at the level where Bruce Arena left it. The USA is a monster in CONCACAF, but what about the 2010 World Cup and beyond? This series is two fundamental questions, and the fundamental question that people should be asking is "Which coach can take the United States from Continental power to world power?"

The answer may well be Bradley. It's possible. But when one is considering a four year campaign for the next World Cup finals, and the establishment of a structure to ensure competitive soccer in 2014, 2018, and beyond, two games is hardly a sufficient sample size.

To be fair, some Bradley advocates acknowledge this. Kent McDill writes in the Daily Herald :

He also is coaching the U-23 team that is the feeder system for the men’s national squad, giving him a great opportunity to work with the next generation of American soccer talent. Bradley will give this task his all, and he will do so without antagonizing either the U.S. Soccer Federation or Major League Soccer. He will do a solid job melding what different interests exist in the sport, including the players based in Europe with the players from the United States.

This at least gives us some sense of the sort of context that we should be viewing the head coach position. I want you to take a look at this organizational chart. Now, I have no first-hand experience, but I've read a great deal that makes it should like US Soccer is beset with competing factions and agendas. The Youth Organizations have well documented differences in agendas and approach. The professional leagues, the US Soccer Player unions, the youth organizations, the National Team, the Olympic committee, the US Soccer Board, the NCAA, Sunil Gulati... That's a lot of ducks to have in a row. Soccer United Marketing isn't even on the Org Chart, yet one should probably consider them a factor as well. What I've been convinced of is that fundamental structures in this country need to be reformed to make us a world soccer power. The Youth and lower Club systems are frequently mentioned as not ideal. However, given the apparent power of the various factions, reform is a difficult process. In order for reform to take place, it would take a concerted effort from the two most visible figures in US Soccer: the US Soccer President and the National Team Coach.

Quite simply, if Gulati and Bradley have a common vision, and a passion for that vision, of the future of the US Soccer Program as a whole, then perhaps something can be achieved. However, while Bradley enjoys working with young players and has success with them, I see little to indicate that he is interested in structural or organizational challenges, just coaching ones. That's fine and admirable, but not ideal when one is trying to change a system. Gulati probably does have a passion for those very issues, but finding someone that shares that passion with him, and adds stature to any reform movement, could be a tall order. Reports say that Klinsmann wanted greater organizational control of US Soccer. I have no problem with that impulse, but if his desires were not aligned with Gulati's than Sunil was right not to hire him. Additionally, we have no evidence that Klinsmann has the capacity to reform an organization instead of just a team, as opposed to someone like Jose Peckerman who has a demonstrated track record. Peckerman, in that respect, would have been a less risky choice.

Now, all of this being said, Bradley has done well so far. He works and plays well with others. And it is possible that perhaps his success has accrued him some political capital. If he does understand the need for organizational reform, and he shares a vision with Gulati for that reform, then by all means, let's hire the man. But if not, I have no problem with Gulati looking for someone who fits well, and who will hopefully work to take the United States beyond where it is now. We are a power in CONCACAF, but we require some work, change, and reform, from the grassroots levels upward, to become a world power. And that's the fundamental challenge.

Labels: , ,

13 February 2007

Barra interviews Will Chang

Kinney found an interview the Barra Brava did with United's new managing partner Will Chang. The interview is a must read, with insights into how the new owners are approaching the club and how they'll be managing it. Lots of tidbits here, from stadium plans to designated players.

Labels: , , ,

Two Fundamental Questions, Part I

As we are in pre-season mode, it seems like an ideal time to bring forth the basic questions. We start with DC United, and the fundamental question is this: "Is this team better now than it was at the start of the 2006 campaign?" There are other considerations, but I think no question gets at the entire situation better than that. After looking at the situation, I would have to say, at this time, the answer is "No."

To be fair, if I were to ask "Is this team better situated to compete over the next three years?" the answer would probably be different. But let's take a look at where we are right now, using what I think a reasonable assumptions and even giving the benefit of the doubt to new signings. Here's how I score it on my off-season scorecard:

The Attack: With Filomeno and Eskandarian gone, the impact of Luciano Emilio will be the all-important factor. Early returns and impressions among Those Who Know in preseason activity seem positive. It's probably safe to say that DC is treading water in this area, but I'm inclined to be optimistic, so I'll go ahead and say that this attack has upgraded and improved. There are still concerns about depth. Jamil Walker is clearly viewed as firmly a substitute and reserve. Rod Dyachenko's acquisition may say great things about potential, but I don't see him as even a poor replacement for Christian Gomez or a reliable forward option. Brad North and Ricky Schramm are both long shots to make impacts this season. Still, a trio of Moreno-Gomez-Luciano may well be more dangerous, and consistent, than Moreno-Gomez-Eskandarian was last year. I do love Esky, but we all know that he battled consistency. If Luciano Emilio can contribute more than 8 goals and 3 assists, he will surpass the combined totals of Eskandarian and Filomeno. That seems possible to me. Verdict: Upgrade.

The Flank: Gone is Freddy Adu. Domenic Mediate is still in recover mode. Young signing Kasali Yinka Casal is unlikely to be available immediately, and Steve Goff is talking about a flank pairing of Josh Gros and Ben Olsen. The good news is that this isn't a 4-1-2-1-2 formation, but the bad news is that in a 3-5-2 we're going to be running 90% of the offense through Christian Gomez. That's a lot to keep asking of the guy, even if it is successful. Olsen and Gros may be the grittiest duo in the league who'll play with tenacity and heart, but neither plays with speed while on the ball. Yes, Josh has lots of speed, but usually in recovery to defensive responsibilities. Olsen's speed outside particularly worries me, since a nimble opposing flank player may be able to play around him and force Ben to take an early caution. That doesn't bode well for being able to shut down crosses defensively. I know a lot of people were down on Freddy, but he was able to threaten offensively from the flank and should have had four more goals than he did last year. Mediate and McTavish are acceptable off the bench and I like Mediate enough that I wouldn't mind seeing him get the start on occasion. Verdict: Downgrade. Mitigating factor: Can Cassal make an impact? Can McTavish or Mediate step it up?

Defensive Midfield: Unlike a fellow blogger, I feel that Brian Carroll seems like a good option in MLS play, and Clyde Simms is no slouch himself. Add in the addition of Bryan Arguez as a developing prospect and Jeff Carroll as a potential over-achiever, and you have one of the better defensive mid-fields in the league with plenty of options for depth. Verdict: Push.

Defense - Backs and Keeper:The back three of Erpen-Boswell-Namoff return, but the big question is one of depth. Boswell and Erpen get their share of cards, and Namoff has had difficulty with injuries in past years. On the bench you're looking at Stokes, Wilson, DeRoux and Needham. Of course, while we'd love to see Needham step into making contributions immediately, I feel a bit reluctant to put that kind of pressure on him. Wilson is capable and provides some options going forward, but not inspiring. Stokes is a favorite topic of BigSoccer discussions, which is usually not a good thing in a position where you'd like dependability. DeRoux has, to date, shown me little to think that time in the first XI would be well spent on him, although you never know. Which means that I'd put your options as Wilson, Needham, and Stokes, in that order. From what I've read, Needham has impressed to-date, and maybe he is another Bobby Boswell, but that's a hell of a lot of pressure to put on the kid and I'd rather we bring him along slowly and let him develop rather than sacrifice him prematurely.

The keeper situation you knew was going to be a downgrade heading into this situation. Troy Perkins was the man, and Nick Rimando could be a starter for a lot of MLS teams. That situation was great last year, but couldn't be justified for multiple years. The backup keeper situation is, as we all know, in-flux. Perkins as our everyday starter is great, but the fear of an injury could turn us into the 2006 Columbus Crew. Verdict: Downgrade, primarily because of depth. (UPDATE: Yup, depth is certainly a problem now)

I know that this team still has all the potential in the world, and it is not infeasible for this team to outperform last year's. However, the uncertainty level is higher, the questions more pressing. Overall, it is not morning in America.

Labels: , ,

12 February 2007

Feed the Fish

CFC-DC-NO SIREE:Reports that DC United has signed a deal with Chelsea to provide developmental arenas, similar to the Arsenal-Rapids and Real-Real deals, seem to have disappeared just as quickly as they appeared. Fine by me. The reports seemed tenuous at best, and the proposed deal didn't seem like one that would be in-line with typical DC United thinking. You can still review a reference at Tribal Football, but it sounded odd to me then, and sounds odder now. "Blossoming college system" indeed.

IN THE THEATRE, THEY DON'T SAY "GOOD LUCK": Weekend reporting was sparse, but we do have Steve Goff's elegant portrayal of the Life of Luciano, which is worth reading. More amusing, but just as important, is John Haydon's identification of the people most likely to break David Beckham's legs. Josh Gros and Bryan Namoff are mentioned as possibilities, as are DCU-alums Dema Kovalenko and Mike Petke. Somewhere a sports book has to be identifying odds on the each of these. Of course, given the practice sessions, perhaps former Galaxy man (and member of Team Petke) Ugo Ihmelhu should have gotten a mention. Domenic Mediate can provide references.

NICKY, YOU'RE STILL FINE: Rimando at RBNY. Sigh. Nick, I love you, but I wish you all the success that Jamie Moreno had there.

There's a lot on my mind for this week. Let's take another look at the DC Masterplan. Let's think about it, shall we?

Labels: , , ,

07 February 2007


This is why getting Steve Goff a blog is a great thing. For the mass consumption, he can lead his stories with the schedule release, and quickly note a potential signing. In the blog, he can devote some time to it. The new prospect that he's talking about is 19-year old Yinka Casal. A Fulham reservist (and a quick google search showed mentions of him creating scoring opportunities, and not much in the way of "Yinka Casal was badly outclassed by the West Ham reserves today..."), winger, and he's young. That kinda sounds good to me. Real good. Color me intrigued.

Labels: ,

The Games We Play

Ah, the schedule is now up. Hooray. Let's skip past the "highlight games" of Beckham, Esky's return, and Adu, and see what areas of the schedule look rough. It looks like a brutal summer for our boys, as July through September will have six games a piece, and seven in July for any of our all-stars. July's competition looks to be especially difficult with games at Kansas City, at Houston on short rest, FC Dallas at home, the all-star game, at [the expected to be much improved] New York, and the two SuperLiga matches against the Mexican opponents. If we start well, we'll have to weather that stretch. If we don't start well...

Well, fortunately, Quarter Volley looks at the opening three games and feels that five points is the expectation level. That seems fair to me, but I'd be more comfortable with six, given that one of those games is at Columbus.

So, in the spirit of irresponsible blogging, and having looked at the schedule, I prematurely estimate a record of 14-8-8 for 50 points... which will put us second in the conference. Even as I type that, I feel like I'm being overly optimistic, but that's what I think I'm going to calibrate my "definition of success" to. We have an expansion team in our conference, which is nice. We have the Columbus Crew as well. That should be a decent number of points right there, even if we don't get three from every game (and I don't think we will.)

Labels: , ,

06 February 2007

On Pyhrric Victories

Hardcore DC United fans have been keeping an eye on the stadium situation Salt Lake. The results are... upsetting, at best. The State Legislature is about to pass legislation mandating a stadium in Salt Lake County (HT: Are You Loyal?). While feathers that are ruffled now will soon be soothed over, and this will all seem like an odd dream in about three years, it certainly doesn't strike me as a major PR coup for MLS, RSL, and could potentially serve as a straw-man argument for stadium opponents in DC.

Stadium dynamics now seem to boil down into one of two scenarios in modern America. Either the owner pays for the almost the entire thing himself (Jack Kent Cooke and Abe Polin in the DC Metro, Steinbrenner in New York, Jones in Dallas) or the teams use political pressure to leverage a huge subsidy leaving the city to foot most of the bill (Major League Baseball in DC, Benett in Seattle, and now Checketts in Salt Lake).

Amid these proposals are a set of "third-way" ideas being circulated, which combine stadiums, housing, and commercial development ideas. Poplar Point is one such proposal. Another similar (though with a few key differences) idea is being floated for the San Diego Chargers. These deals are not the all-or-nothing subsidies being demanded by other teams, but an attempt to find a reasonable, middle-ground where the stadium is a partial catalyst for a plan to offer the locality a real return on investment and bring about some positive benefits to the citizens already living in the area. The problem is that this idea, because it has a subsidy component, can all too easily be demagogued as "tax giveaways to the rich." I think we've all started to see that already. The idea that there could even be a situation where both the city and the stadium owners profit is completely foreign to most opponents of the stadium deals.

What's interesting is that you can expect to see a strange coalition of anti-Poplar Point people: Anti-tax-free trading libertarians, neighborhood NIMBYs, small government conservatives, and socialist/progressives concerned about income distribution. Expect that if the union of the city and DC owner Victor McFarlane continues you'll hear an argument along the lines of "When the State and Big Business agree, you know the taxpayer is getting the shaft." To be honest, being somewhat skeptical of the power of both the Free Market and the Government, I can sympathize with that argument. But I honestly believe that the plan, when advanced, will present a decent argument for a middle ground. The problem is that deals like the one going down in Sandy, Utah will make it easier for anti-stadium forces to construct horror stories. And while I am trying to be as intellectually honest as I can in monitoring the stadium debate, I don't know that the opposition will do the same.

I want a stadium. But I don't want it the way it happened in Utah. To be honest, while it would upset me if we got the stadium in that fashion, I would probably still go to games. But I would feel somewhat saddened by an opportunity lost.

Labels: , , , ,

05 February 2007

Everyone Old is New Again

Sorry I was away for a bit there. Got hammered at work. By which I mean I had a ton to do, not that I was drunk. Regardless, a week away is probably a good thing, especially since Oscar seemed to have things covered. Now I can come back knowing that I've given the front office some time, and all of our concerns from a few weeks ago are solved. Right guys? Er... What?

Okay, so the backup keeper situation isn't solved yet. Certainly that's a major concern if Perkins is hurt, but it's not causing me major palpitations. At least we've improved our wing play and attacking presence with our brand new signing... Rod Dyachenko?

Oscar, as you read, was confused about this move, noting Dyachenko's potential but wondering if he's so important, why leave him exposed? Valid questions. To me, I wonder what need was so pressing that you'd essentially draft a guy twice for it. He's too slow to play on the wing, unproven as a target forward, and an acceptable sub for Gomez at the 60th minute. In other words, while I like Rod, I don't get all starry-eyed when I hear his name. He's a fine player, but I feel like we overpaid to get him back. Add in the rumors of "Let's get Rimando back from RSL" and I have to wonder what the plan is. Sure, circumstances change, as they did with RSL after they drafted Seitz. At the same time, though, I wonder if there's a plan in place, or is DC essentially being reactive at this point? I leave for a week, but I've come back worried. Yes, I'm worried my friends.

Labels: , ,

02 February 2007

Mexico roster, DC United gets a B-

Four of the five United players make the final 20-man roster cut for next week's Mexico match. Troy Perkins is sent home, no doubt to finish some mortgage deal for a client. I'm not great at predictions so I'll throw this out to you guys. Of Boswell, Carroll, Gros, and Namoff who'll start or come on as a sub? I think Boswell is a lock, but until we see the opening line up on TV...

Labels: , , , ,

The Rod is back

Where totally on top of all the DC United news over here, honest. Which is why I can't explain how we missed news yesterday that Rod Dyachenko is packing his bags again and heading back to the greener pastures of RFK. United traded away its first pick in the 2008 SuperDraft to require from that new team in the great white north. Certainly, this move is all part of the front office's offseason roster shuffle.

Was leaving him unexposed inthe epansion draft a risky gamble that backfired on the FO? Certainly not on the scale of leaving Jason Kreis unprotected, but you have to wonder why he wasn't protected if the team ends up going "to great lengths to re-acquire him." Dyachenko showed promise in nine games and four starts last season, and could have decent shot at cracking the starting line up.

Update: Goff has the scoop on Rod's return to United.
Rod had spent about a week in Washington, staying at Bobby Boswell's place in the city, before he had to head north to report to Toronto FC training camp. He drove to Buffalo, fearful of the reaction at the border. You see, Rod is a man without a country -- sort of. He was born in Russia, grew up in Georgia, then moved to Ukraine before coming to the United States with his family and settling in Washington state, near Portland, Ore. Rod has no passport -- just a U.S. green card.

If this was all "friamente calculado" by the FO, then well played, sir, well played, indeed! Although, does this mean Rod won't be on the away roster against Toronto?

Labels: , ,