04 May 2007

Debriefing for Match 12.04: New England Revolution

D.C. United 1 : 1 New England Revolution

Six Word Novel Recap

Can a small spark ignite fire?

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "D.C. United benched its most accomplished player and a veteran midfielder. It changed playing formation and had a man advantage for more than 30 minutes. It had two glorious scoring chances in the closing minute."
The Washington Times, John Haydon: "After three consecutive defeats, Soehn had no alternative but to shake up his lineup. He did so by benching Moreno, United's all-time leading goal scorer, and giving Jamaican striker Nicholas Addlery his first start."
The Examiner, Craig Stouffer: "United (0-3-1) started the game with Moreno and Brian Carroll on the sideline and in a 4-4-2 formation in place of the team’s usual 3-5-2 setup.But after an impassioned first half of play, D.C. came out of halftime flat and fell behind 30 seconds later when Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph sent a looping ball over the top to Taylor Twellman, whose shot forced a great deflection from Troy Perkins but landed right at the feet of Andy Dorman."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "With momentum on their side and a home crowd rejuvenated by Jaime Moreno's 106th career goal in the 50th minute, United took a stranglehold on the match thanks to the ejection of Shalrie Joseph - but their search for the game-winner was fruitless and the home side had to settle for a draw."
The Boston Globe, Frank Dell'Apa: "The Revolution disputed calls and non-calls of referee Terry Vaughn, who struggled with positioning and control of the match."
MLSNet, Jordan Brown: "'It was a 50-50 ball and we were shoulder to shoulder,' New England defender James Riley said of the penalty awarded to Jaime Moreno and United just minutes after Dorman's strike. Referee Terry Vaughn judged that Riley knocked Moreno to the turf inside the penalty area. 'He probably weighs three times as much as me,' said Riley. 'Afterwards, he winked at me. He knew he dove.'"
MLSNet, Charles Boehm (again!): "Perkins had ranged out of his box to take possession and impatiently waved his team forward before lumping a high, deep ball into the Revs box that set off an extended sequence of havoc. Reis' initial punch failed to clear and when the ball fell to Moreno on the right side, he lifted a delicate cross that Olsen met with a leaping header that caromed off the crossbar as RFK emitted a collective groan. Then seconds later, Namoff clipped another cross into the danger area and Emilio outleaped two defenders to nod a spinning effort towards the far corner of the goal - but Reis shuttled to his right to make a stunning one-handed block at full stretch."
QuarterVolley, I-66: "I came away from last night's 1-1 draw against New England feeling a little better. We held onto the ball, passed it well, and generated some chances... But then I got home and it hit me. DC United hasn't scored a goal in the run of play in 236 minutes. "
Poplar Point Perspective: "All in all, a better effort, but three points were there to be had on this night."
An American's View..., Brian Garrison: "I did see a much better defensive effort, the best of the MLS season. I saw Erpen do his usual "gaff" but he did it in a situation that didn't really cause any harm. I did see Troy position himself better, but his distribution at the beginning of the match was awful and he was responsible for several give-aways, simply because he passed the ball to Namoff when Namoff shouldn't have received the ball in the first place."
Ben Olsen's Beard: "Say what you will about Wynalda, but he's right, we didn't really do much to adjust to win the game (that was at times, seemingly handed to us). What can we take away from this? A point. That's what."
Blue Blooded Journo: "I can't bail fellow supporters out of jail every time they do something threatening to a ref. The 'put Micheal Kennedy in a rack until he grows to four feet' incident pretty much drained my bank account."

The Good

  1. If It's Broke, Fix it: Tom Soehn's changes to a 4-4-2, benching of Moreno and Carroll, and insistence on effort paid dividends. I was expecting the first time that United switched to a 4-4-2 to see a much more discombobulated organization, but United looked better. I was wrong when I thought that the cost it would take to make the switch might be too high. It worked well, especially when...
  2. Long Distribution from the Back: I can't remember the last time United was able to play so many balls long up to the forwards to start an attack. In the first half, even Perkins picked out Addlery and Emilio on more than one occasion. Yes, Garrison is right that Perkins short and medium distribution was off, but his long game was great. Similarly, Moreno is sent on his run to gain (I can't say "earn") the penalty on a good long ball from Boswell. That's twice this year we've seen Boswell play Moreno through, and it marks an improvement in his game, and in the abilities of the team as a whole.
  3. Playing with Purpose: United's possession in the first half was excellent in that it actually managed to convert to goal scoring options. What made it better was that the plays were coming from all sorts of different angles, some through the middle, some down the flank, and Fred's and Olsen's shots from distance were fine with me. Those shots made the defense react differently, creating better chances to carry the ball into the box.
  4. The Draw: You can say all you want about United being up a man for half-an-hour and not getting the win. It would bother me too if I felt like United had simply shut down. But they did press, and work, and create chances, and that it remained a draw says less about United and more about luck and Matt Reis. United played well enough to get three points before Joseph's red card. As I wrote yesterday, I think that red card actually hurt United, since the Revs suddenly were much more cohesive in defense than they had been to that point. New England through everything behind the ball, and the space available to United simply wasn't there anymore. I know that some are saying we were "fortunate" to get the PK and the red card, but I honestly felt that United would have scored even without that intervention.
  5. Deportment: New England fans will no doubt disagree, but I didn't see a single dive in the game from a United player. Yes, players can go down in the box without either a penalty or a dive. It can happen, and it happened twice. Moreno was taken shoulder to shoulder with enough force to cause him to lose his footing, a clean tackle but also not a dive. Same situation with Emilio later in the game. On top of that, let's talk about Olsen after Joseph's tackle. Ben didn't roll around on the ground like a child whose balloon just popped at the County Fair. He got right back on his feet. Yes, he made the card gesture, which is probably a no-no, because it was a tackle worthy of a caution. I think even he was surprised that Vaughn showed red. Regardless, United played with class throughout the game. I should also point out that Matt Reis may have to come off my blacklist, since he played a controlled game even when leaving his line to punch out balls. He wasn't nearly as reckless as in years past, even when presented with the opportunity.
  6. Perkins Gets a Boost: Troy Perkins finally makes a save that an average MLS starting keeper would have been excused for missing. His save on Twellman's header in the first half wasn't just important for Perkins getting between the ball and the goal, but for managing to catch the ball and not give up the deflections that have killed us so many times. Now please, everyone, SHUT UP ABOUT THE CHIVAS GAME. Thank you.
  7. Jamie Moreno: I know he wasn't happy to play only a half, but it was the right choice. He took a difficult shot in the moments after New England scored, before the penalty, which showed me he was in the game. He didn't infuriate me at any point in this game, and I think he played better and will hopefully continue with some freshness on Sunday against Chivas. If you've been listening to the Soccer Show at UnitedMania, one of the points they've made is that Jamie is a "90 minute a week" player. I think they're right, and we still have another 45 available.

The Bad

  1. Terry Vaughn: As noted, he was awful. Kinney's comment in First Impressions jives with my own thoughts: several light or phantom fouls were given at midfield to New England. Moreno did not deserve the penalty, but Gomez did. Emilio was booked for getting yelled at. Joseph did not deserve a red card, but had earned a caution. And Ben should have gotten one as well for making the "give him a card" gesture. This game was utterly inhibited by Vaughn's presence, to detriment of both New England and DC.
  2. Wide is Out: Eric Wynalda did have this right: United didn't play to the wings enough in the final half-hour. Whether people weren't making those runs because the balls would never be played there, or the ball was never played there because no one was making the run is a chicken and egg situation that should be resolved. Still, Eric, some advice...
  3. The Rule of 3: Eric, I can't believe I'm about to type this, but... "Thank god Tommy Smyth is the voice of reason in the ESPN booth." Look, sometimes you're right, and sometimes you are wrong (that Joseph would have gotten a pat on the back in the EPL for his tackle on Olsen was an overstatement that defied belief. It was a cautionable tackle.) The problem is that even when you're right, you love the soapbox so much you can't get down. From now on, you should only be allowed to repeat any given point three times. It means you'll be wrong less frequently, and when you're right you won't get tiresome and boorish by yelling for the seventh time about Sharlie Joseph being allowed to go to Scotland. At some point, Eric, even you have to know when to SHUT UP.
  4. Lapse: Boswell was ridiculously out of position on the goal surrendered to New England. Not sure what the hell was going on there. Erpen's gaffe was something he made up for without causing much of a panic. One minute, and you're down a goal. It hurt, but didn't you feel like it was bound to happen?
  5. Christian Gomez: For all the passion that other players showed, I haven't sensed that Christian has been up for a game since the CONCACAF Champion's Cup.

Man of the Match

I'm going to give one. Certificates of Merit to Addlery, who played well if not overly effectively in his first start, Simms who was a force on the right flank at times, and Fred who caused all sorts of problems. Still, the Man of the Match was Tom Soehn, who showed that it is possible to undertake major changes without inducing a panic. That's a difficult proposition.

Final Thoughts

I'm not going to whine about luck. It balances out over a season. Still, the fact is that United one crossbar away from three points, even with an excellent performance from Matt Reis. If United plays as well for the rest of the season as they played in the opening forty-five minutes, then I do not doubt for a moment that this team will make the playoffs. No doubt whatsoever. Of course, that's a big "If" to open that sentence. It'll be put to the test against Chivas, who will test our defense (Guevara or not) and will require precision to break down. But unless you have completely been sucked into the maw of hopelessness and depression, you must have noticed what a better game this was for our team. An unqualified success? No. But I am more hopeful now than I have been since before the season started. Really. Evaluate performances, not results, and you should agree. This team can improve more, but this team has already improved to a point where you should not feel like things are lost.

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At 04 May, 2007 10:47, Anonymous Bill Urban said...

4. Lapse: Boswell was ridiculously out of position on the goal surrendered to New England. Not sure what the hell was going on there. Erpen's gaffe was something he made up for without causing much of a panic. One minute, and you're down a goal. It hurt, but didn't you feel like it was bound to happen?

Nail, head, etc.

Boswell, like Ben Olsen, is far too frequently given a free pass by United supporters when it comes to making mistakes.

The comments on Goff's blog make for sobering reading, with one shining light calling out Gros for "not marking his man" when the Revs scored.

A back four is a zonal system. The zone in between Erpen and Gros was meant to be filled by Boswell. In the first minute of the second half, he went walkabout.


Erpen's play in this match, both on the carpet and in the air, was far superior to Boswell's.

At 04 May, 2007 12:16, Anonymous matt w said...

I was really surprised to see Erpen start, and really glad to see him play well. The man's a pro.

What struck me was that United had possession about 70% of the time, seemed like, played solid defense (barring that awful start to the second half) and were solid in midfield, but just couldn't finish. That was the story of the second half of last season, and something that I thought the off-season acquisitions were supposed to solve.

Nevertheless, I was much cheered by last night's performance. There were quite a few positives the team can take away from that game. Here's to three points on Sunday.

At 04 May, 2007 12:31, Blogger The Manly Ferry said...

I thought I'd add my ramblings to the proceedings. Even if you think the soccer stuff is bunk, I assure you, the Marathon Taverna is a little slice of wonderful.

At 04 May, 2007 12:32, Blogger The Manly Ferry said...

Whoops. Helps if I provide a link to my ramblings. Clearly, I lost the Marathon last night.

At 04 May, 2007 13:34, Anonymous DCUinCT said...

I suppose I come to your site first since I almost always read what I've been thinking already, just more eloquently put.
That said, I'll echo the point about the point.
(Nerd voice) At this range of the table the scale is not ratio.
That is, the difference between 0 and 1 point is a lot bigger than between 1 and 2, 2, and 3, 12 and 13, etc. right now. Getting anything is a big accomplishment when you've lost 3. Especially when the play deserved it. Now they can start to build on the belief that they are a decent side (not an "instant champion" or "clear favorite") that can continue to play well and improve.
With solid defense continuing to avoid mistakes (there's always room for improvement), get some life in the offense (Hello, Christian?), and the wins will come. NE is a very decent side and a point after the way DC was playing is solid first step.

At 04 May, 2007 15:10, Blogger D said...

Bill: You're right, and I'm one of those that occasionally issues the free pass. I know it, and I try to watch for it.

Matt W: Erpen's starting surprised me as well, but I have to say he performed well last night. He took his benching in stride. Will Jamie do the same?

Man Ferry: Your ramblings are always welcome here, and wonderful to read at both your sites.

DCU in CT: Correct and concise. This was a step. Not a turning of the corner, just a step.


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