21 May 2007

Debriefing for Match 12.06: At Toronto FC

Toronto FC 2 : 1 D.C. United

Six Word Novel Recap

Good, but who have you beaten?

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "United's triumph was not accomplished with the grace and elegance that has been glaringly absent for much of this promising MLS season."
The Toronto Sun, Lance Hornby: "The first Toronto goal came on a broken play in the 44th minute, a shot by Maurice Edu that hit Alecko Eskandarian and kept bouncing until the latter righted himself, found the ball at his feet with no one around and drove in his first of the season."
Toronto Star, Morgan Cambell: "Down a goal seven minutes into the second half, DC's Cristian Gomez took a free kick that hooked in front of the goal and bounced off the back of Toronto defender Kevin Goldthwaite's head and into the net...DC pressed later in the second half striker Luciano – one of two Brazilian standouts DC signed this winter – brushed against Toronto defender Marvell Wynne. Luciano collapsed and grabbed his calf, wincing and writhing, but recovered soon after the referee awarded a penalty kick."
Toronto Star, Morgan Cambell: "'It's a bit of a monkey off my back,' says Eskandarian, who played four seasons with DC. 'I would rather get the three points and the win but I tried to do my part today. It felt good to get the goal but it's bittersweet.'"
UnitedMania, Mike Martin: "
DC didn't play their best by any stretch of the imagination, but they managed to survive giving up the first goal of the game for the fifth time in six matches this season with a strong second half comeback."
MLSNet, Mark Polishuk: "TFC weren't looking sharp at the start of the half either. After jumping out to a 1-0 lead on Alecko Eskandarian's strike in the 44th minute, Toronto FC looked overmatched by a resurgent D.C. squad early in the second half."
MLSNet, Mark Polishuk: "After the first half, United trailed 1-0 and were scuffling on offense with only one shot. But United managed seven shots in the second half and controlled the pace of play."
MLSNet, Mark Polishuk (yes, three articles): "But after Moreno's goal, Toronto had a brief offensive flurry in an attempt to tie the game. The best chance came in the 85th minute, when Ronnie O'Brien's hard shot from the right side was stopped by Perkins. Toronto managed two shots in stoppage time, but one was stopped and the other flew over the net.
QuarterVolley, I-66: "DC United took a bland and uninspired 45 minutes of first half soccer culminating in an Alecko Eskandarian goal and a 1-0 deficit and came back looking like a different team in the next 45 minutes to win 2-1. "
The Far Post: "United’s backline continued its Prostitute Method of Defendingtm."
The Edgell Supporters: "Moreno has shown that he should come in to the game after the 60th because that is when he likes to actually start playing."
An American's View..., Brian Garrison: "Considering how well Kpene has done in the last few matches, I would like to see him up front with Emilio."
BlackDogRed: "It's entirely possible to overestimate the importance of United's win over Toronto Saturday. It's entirely possible to underestimate the importance of United's win over Toronto Saturday.
Toronto MLS FC: "DC have stolen 6 points this year on highly dubious late penalties awarded by incompetent officials. With all their trophies, DC are truly becoming the Juventus of MLS." (Note: Them's fighting words!)
Mistake by the Lake: "We lost the battle for the central midfield in the second half. Edu and Robinson were scrambling more than creating and too often balls played wide to O’Brien and Welsh lead to them looking awfully isolated."
The Offside: Toronto FC: "How dominated were we for 90% of this game? If I had to say, I’d say 'pretty dominated'. Sure, we lost, and sure, the two goals were unfortunate, but it could have been 10-1 if DC had gotten the bright idea to get into the penalty area at some point in the first half."
FCTO: "Despite the lame D.C. United dive, and our unfortunate loss, TFC supporters proved yet again that we are die-hard fans, and will not relent our encouragement regardless of the environment before us, or the score on the board."

The Good

  1. If It's Broke, Fix it: Is Tom Soehn a better manager than Piotr Nowak? I don't know, but I do know this - Tom is willing to try anything to win a game, and Piotr at times gave you the feeling he'd rather be Correct than Winning. Soehn has definately shown that he's willing to pull the trigger on all sorts of changes in order to get the best he can out of a player. Now, at some point, I think Soehn will manage us right out of a game, but ultimately his decisions will get us more points than they will cost us.
  2. Long Distribution: I mentioned this in the first impressions, but if there's one skill set that United has shown this year, it's the ability to distribute with better results through the air. Emilio got a clear chance in on the keeper after a ridiculous kick from Troy Perkins. United in the final thirty minutes was consistently finding players around the box directly from midfield. It was pretty.
  3. Second Half Purpose: If you're down a goal and in hostile territory, this is how I want my team to respond. United realized they had to create chances, which they did. The goals fell out in the manner that they did, but they created enough chances to earn those goals.
  4. Fred: He crosses, he breaks people down on the dribble, he fights for the ball... When was the last time you actually felt that United might have one of the better wingers in the league? You'd have to go back before Ernie Stewart. Well before, probably.
  5. Midfielder Moreno: Jamie was somewhat invisible up-top, but at least he pulled the trigger on a shot. Moving into the midfield, Jamie was excellent, checking back and defending in depth. Plus, his penalty finish was crisp and superb. While it's nice to outthink and outwit the keeper, it's great to know that Moreno can still put it out of reach even when the keeper guesses right.
  6. Baldomero Toledo: Cries of anguish from TFC fans aside, Baldomero Toledo was an excellent official. I do not feel that he showed favoritism, and TFC was fouling often enough that they deserved every caution they got. You know that when Terry Vaughn gifted us a draw, I still called him out. Toledo, on the other hand, was excellent.

The Bad

  1. The Penalty: Since the "First Impressions" post, I've looked at that play probably more than any other, and I have to now concede that the howls of indignation have some merit. Not full merit, but a little. From the replays, what I can make out is that Emilio has the ball, and he cuts it back. Before he reaches it, there is some contact with Wynne, and Emilio goes down. As I look at it, it seems clear to me that Wynne does make contact with Emilio, and that the penalty is earned. That being said, I can't explain Emilio's reaction. Was he selling it? Probably. Did he need to? I don't think so, and that's what troubles me. The Penalty was the correct decision, but embellishment on Emilio's part is going to result in fewer calls later in the season, even when they are legitimate. If you'll recall last season, there was a long stretch where United wasn't getting penalty calls, and part of it was, I think, a perhaps subconscious attempt by officials to atone for some earlier soft penalties. And I'd rather have the calls later than earlier.
  2. First Half Urgency: While I love the possession game, sometimes I feel like United feels the main reason they are out there is to string a bunch of passes together in midfield. It isn't like Arsenal, where they're passing to create the perfect goal, but even worse, they're passing just for the sake of passing. Please! If you're on the ball, think of ideas that gain your team something other than seven more seconds in the time of possession column.
  3. BMO Pitch: It's not the hardness or the way your cleats grab it, but it did seem that the pitch accentuated, to a ridiculous degree, any spin that was on the ball. Changes of direction off the bounce were exaggerated to bizarre angles. Ugly looking.
  4. Olsen: After I've given him a lot of credit, in this match he was pretty much invisible. It could have been worse.
  5. Josh Gros: You can complain about ball-watching on the goal United surrendered, but Josh Gros was at fault for not putting Toronto offside. He was looking down the line, and had to know that he was the line as the others had pushed up, but he never made the move. Perhaps that's an instinctive thing that comes as he plays the left back position more often, but it cost us.
  6. The Long Throw: Both Chivas and Toronto have caused DC problems with long throws into the box. DC, on the other hand, doesn't attempt such plays, and may not even have anyone capable of it. It's a weakness, clearly identifiable at this point, and since DC doesn't seem to have anyone to execute it, you wonder how they can train to defend it. Something to keep an eye on.

Man of the Match

Certificate of Merit to Kpene, whom is justifiably lauded in other blogs, and to Erpen, who while other have noted the red card danger he was in, Erpen none-the-less had a pretty good defensive game without any major gaffes. However, Bryan Namoff is the man of the match, as he had an excellent defensive game and was forced into multiple key tackles.

Final Thoughts

Out of the cellar is nice, but do you really believe United is back? Me neither. What's more, United's next few games won't really reassure me either, but could reinforce every doubt I have about this team. Houston is struggling, but the game will be tough, and a win wouldn't really prove all that much. Follow that with a game against struggling Los Angeles. Even if DC rattles off six more straight points, I don't know if I'd believe that this team is elite again. Strangely, the next major test is in June against the Red Bulls. And there's a lot of time for DC to trip up again on the way there.

Still, the fatalism is gone. We may be in for a long, tough season, but that's at least better than a long, catastrophic season. What's more, you can see a lot of pieces. Which is why I want to say something about this year that needs to be said. But that'll be in a post tomorrow. For today, I'm just happy we're above one point-per-game. We're not respectable, but we're no longer an embarrassment.

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4 Comments:

At 21 May, 2007 15:50, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are dead on with your L. Emilio comments. There was contact, enough to legitimize the call. Emilio did not need to flail around. He is going to start drawing yellows for diving. Uggh.

Marc

 
At 21 May, 2007 16:49, Blogger I-66 said...

He's already drawn a yellow for diving this season, I think against Chivas. I'm not sure but it was definitely at home.

Let it not go forgotten that Wynne also pulled the jersey. That's more than enough in almost any situation, regardless of whether Emilio flails like he did.

 
At 21 May, 2007 18:15, Blogger Kinney said...

He got a yellow against NE for the exact same play that Moreno got a PK from. I think both calls were bad.

 
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