07 May 2007

Debriefing for Match 12.05: CD Chivas USA

D.C. United 2 : 1 CD Chivas USA

Six Word Novel Recap

Must win ugly before winning pretty.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

Flickr Photoset, Kyle Guftasson.

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "At a little after 4 o'clock yesterday, early in the second half of D.C. United's fifth match of a disconcerting MLS season, Christian Gomez volleyed a 12-yard shot into the left corner to provide a lead -- not just any lead, but United's first against league competition since the playoff opener last October."
The Washington Times, John Haydon: "Rookie forward Guy-Roland Kpene was given his first start, and midfielder Justin Moose made his second start this season in place of injured Brazilian midfielder Fred. Kpene, who later was substituted by Emilio, rewarded Soehn by earning an assist on United's first goal. "
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "United subsequently displayed more of the fluid passing and pacey approach play their fans have been waiting to see, and were rewarded when second-half substitute Kasali Yinka Casal was brought down by Lawson Vaughn after touching a Josh Gros pass past the Chivas defender just inside the penalty area."
UnitedMania, Jimmy LaRoue: "United needed an alert performance from goalkeeper Troy Perkins, and it got one, as he had an eight saves and was early off his line to thwart other potential opportunities, though his distribution needs work."
LA Times, Grahame L. Jones: "Another defensive miscue in the 64th minute led to the second D.C. goal. With Chivas right back Alex Zotinca momentarily caught up field, central defender Lawson Vaughn had to defend the lively Kasali Yinka Casal and did so in rudimentary fashion by kicking him in the groin."
BlackDogRed: "United is not good at the moment. I shouldn't have to mine my encouragement from a 24 year old reserve who just got his work permit. I shouldn't be worried that United is one Brian Namoff knee-knack from thorough defensive comedy. I shouldn't be wondering if Gomez' slump (despite the goal) is just athletic cycles not contract disgruntlement. I shouldn't be calculating, on May Freaking 6, the points United will need to make a playoff system I consider an abomination."
Poplar Point Perspective: "Perkins was great. He was not at fault on the lone goal."
QuarterVolley, I-66: "I admit that when Chivas pulled one back, I had visions of a 2-2 draw forcing themselves into my conscience. The four minutes of stoppage didn't really help that. A year ago I felt confident with a one goal lead, and this season things are a little different. I should say things were a little different. Yesterday's victory, grabbing a lead and holding on, even if by the skin of our teeth and a Troy Perkins point blank save of a header, goes a long way toward regaining confidence, both of the team and of its fans."
The Offside: CD Chivas USA: "It is time for Preki today and their current showing against DC should be reason enough to get rid of Preki. The team is in disarray; they are making bad penalties and just not playing." [Woah there big guy! I think you are more than a bit premature on that one. I'm all for passionate fans demanding excellence, but that's just silly]
Sideline Views, Luis Beuno: "The offense wasn't clicking, and it wasn't because Amado Guevara was nowhere near RFK. "

The Good

  1. They're the Kids in America (A Wo-oh!): Rookies Casal and Kpene both had games that went beyond promising. They were, in fact, quality contributors, and higher praise for players so young in the career I can not think of. Casal was excellent on the ball, and Kpene showed a doggedness that was inspiring in an attacking player. Second year player Justin Moose also showed moments of excellence and made perfect runs that you'd like to see on the flank.
  2. Getting a Lead: Long time since we've seen that in a regular season game. And proof that the kids on the Soccer Show are right - This team is built to play with a lead and the nurture it.
  3. Facundo Erpen refocuses: He was outright burned on one play that I saw. Caught out of position on the United right flank, he tried to scissor kick a through ball which got by him, forcing Carroll over to mark his man. That being said, his positioning and play were much better.
  4. The long campaign: There's a lot being said about Tommy Soehn benching people for performance. I don't think it's all that, but rather Soehn is truly adopting a season-long view for this year, trying to do his best to keep everyone's minutes limited and to keep players, especially forwards, somewhat fresh. Emilio was on the bench today, and Jamie went the full 90. Fine. If United makes the playoffs, this will certainly pay dividends.
  5. Kevin Stott: After the debacle of Terry Vaughn on Thursday, perhaps anything would look good, but aside form a mysterious incident involving Namoff late in the game, I had little problem with the performance of Stott and the ARs. He was perhaps a bit overgenerous with the advantage calls when he should have pulled a play back, but it worked both ways on that factor. Decent officiating, and kinda sad that such a performance lands you in "the good" for a game, but there you have it.
  6. Positioning with Troy Perkins: How many worrying headers and shots were handled because Perkins knew exactly where he had to be? I counted three. Add to that his free kick save where his first step betrayed him before recovering to the near post, and he had as solid a game as I've seen from him.

The Bad

  1. Christian Gomez: Gomez had an awkward game, several times sending incomprehensible passes to other players. Yes, the goal felt good, but the light didn't seem to turn on after that strike, as he again may some poor turnovers.
  2. Moosetakes: Justing Moose had a classic "great/awful" game, as he was slicing through the Chivas attack on the wing with some key runs, but a poor shot/pass to Olsen on the far post squandered an early opportunity. Not only that, he had the kind of mistakes that we're all familiar with because we make them. You know that time when you want to make a short pass with tight marking, so you don't want to put too much on the ball so you're teammate can handle it easily? So you go for the delicate pass, and the ball travels about 18 inches, stops, and the defender steps up and takes it the other way? I've done that so often, and he did it last night. Frustrating, especially when other aspects of his game were so good.
  3. Countering your own counterattack: United several times had options to swiftly counter, but unless things seem to break perfectly they pulled the ball back and were content to try and break down the defense. Primarily Olsen, but also Moreno, contributed to this. Rarely will everything be perfect, and sometimes setting up possession is the right thing to do, but it happened so often that it seemed the fear of making a mistake was motivating the team more than the desire to put a ball in the net.
  4. Speed is not everything: Josh Gros is a gritty, fast player. Unfortunately, gritty and fast players can also get beat, and Josh was on the goal we gave up.
  5. That was brilliant. Now, please, never do it again: Erpen with a bicycle backpass thirty yards to Perkins? Maybe I'm naive, but my heart was in my mouth for the duration of that sequence.

Man of the Match

Want to see a keeper play an excellent game and not get the clean sheet? Troy Perkins was easily the man of the match. He kept United in the game, kept the one goal lead safe at 1-0, and then sealed the deal. Merit awards to Casal and Kpene, but Perkins more than anyone turned this game into three points.

Final Thoughts

Normally I watch some or all the replay before writing these, but I haven't this time so I'm operating mainly from memory here. Still, teams must win games ugly. Ugly wins, and ugly football, are stepping stones to winning with style. So I'll take it. I'm not thrilled about a two week break, just when momentum is starting, before the match in Toronto. This league can not get to 16 teams fast enough in order to make scheduling a smoother situation. At the same time, Fred will have some days to get healthy and won't face an immediate demand for his return.

I am still concerned about depth on the backline. Our solution to moving to a 4-4-2 has been moving Josh Gros, not bringing up a new defender. Yes, I know McTavish is hurt, but even that doesn't reassure me. I still think it's telling. I think the wings are starting to develop, the depth at forward is there, and anything after Christian Gomez, even playing as he is, would be a step down in the #10 role. But I am worried by the backline. I just don't see the options.

Did you ever see the movie Kind Hearts and Coronets? It's an old film (1949) where the main character has to assassinate pretty much everyone ahead of him in order to inherit a major title. So he sets out to take them out, one at a time. I feel like, if we're lucky, that's how we've set up this season. It's time to start moving through the entire league, from back to front, one at a time, starting in Toronto in two weeks. A win there, and we have some space between us and the absolute bottom. Then we overtake the next team. And the next. And we keep grinding until there's no one left. Write the list down, and cross them off. It's a interesting feeling of focus, rather than playing King of the Mountain. Let's do it.

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At 07 May, 2007 10:39, Blogger Kali said...


I missed the second half. Glad you guys got a win though!

At 07 May, 2007 11:01, Blogger Eric said...

Let's just hope we don't leave our confession in the locker room at half time of the final after coming back from a 2-0 deficit.

At 07 May, 2007 11:12, Anonymous haveyouseenlucky said...

Thanks for helping me keep up with this team until I actually move down there in the fall.

It's all but impossible to see these games in NJ.

At 07 May, 2007 11:58, Blogger I-66 said...

Fire Preki? Yeah, and fire Mo Johnston too while you're at it. He hasn't even won a game yet! Who cares if it's the first season for that team?! Fire Mo and Preki, and hire a freaking goat to walk the touchline for Chivas.

A win is a win is a win. I just hope the match in Toronto is better than what happened the last time we had a 2 week break.

At 07 May, 2007 13:11, Anonymous Skippy said...

Gomez and Moreno had the goals, but I was somewhat disappointed in both of them. This blog mentioned some disappointment in Gomez, but I thought the performace of Moose, Kpene and the other young guys really highlighted the difference. They were chasing down long passes and balls that got away from them. Some of the veteran players, like Gomez were not. I don't mean to be too hard on Gomez, but one instance really sticks in my mind - an overshot pass the went out for a goal kick. It really looked like he could have tracked it down and kept it in play. True, he would have been by the corner and there was a defender nearby, but I feel like you have to take those chances sometimes, maybe beat a defender and cross it in, maybe it goes out for a corner, who knows? Gros seemed to be the only veteran player intent on chasing down lost balls.
Having said that, the younger guys certainly didn't have the finishing abilities of Gomez or Moreno - particularly with Moreno and what I can only call an "Elder Statesman" of a penalty kick.
This is a long "comment," but I didn't see it mentioned elsewhere - the ball was given away in the middle third far too often for my taste. Passing was more fluid this game, but at times, it seemed a little shoddy.
I'm happy with the win, now let us never speak of it again.
P.S. Personally, I won't be content with D.C. United's backline until they have a couple clean sheets under their belt.

At 07 May, 2007 15:27, Blogger Ray said...

So, if it is to be Kind Hearts, who is Alec Guiness? It can't be Soehn.

At 07 May, 2007 15:36, Anonymous Bill Urban said...


the struggle continues. the highlights on MLSnet are very good in terms for breaking down Galindo's goal. Gros gets beaten, but the expected cover from Boswell never materializes; he just sort of stands there and watches.

United are playing 4-4-2, but they're not really playing a flat back four. Can't imagine that's by design. Perhaps a little break will allow Soehn to tighten a few things up in back...

At 07 May, 2007 15:47, Blogger D said...

Kali: Not a week to be missing the second half of games apparently.

Eric: Hah! Well said.

Lucky: It's a pleasure

I-66: Yeah, I thought the opinion there was way over-the-top.

Skippy:I didn't see Gomez quit on any plays, but that's not to say it didn't happen, it was just that my opinion could have been elsewhere. Not sure what to make of it, honestly. He just wasn't sharp at all.

Ray: Excellent question. You need someone versatile who's willing to dress up in silly outfits. Boswell comes to mind... Olsen probably.

Bill: I should really take a look at that. It may be that Boswell was marking someone and didn't want to leave him, thereby recreating his mistake in the Chivas game. But until I watch it, I have no idea. In real time, it was a bit obscured from me in the far corner of the field, so Gros getting beat was the thing that stood out.

At 07 May, 2007 23:42, Anonymous diego r. said...

I think something that many people (including myself) forget is that there are a lot of new players on this team this season. Emilio, Fred, Casal, and Kpene are brand new. Moose, DeRoux, and McTavish played very sparingly last season. The head coach is also completely new. This team needs a little time to come together (and yes, another defender).

For comparative purposes, New England started its first five games last year 2-2-1 and ended up going to penalty kicks for the MLS Championship. I think chasing the league could be good for DC United. D's right - let's pick off the other teams one by one - we are a team with something to prove


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