30 July 2007

Debriefing for 12.D.01: Aguilas de America

D.C. United 1 : 0 Club America

Six Word Novel Recap

Did enough to make one goal stand.

Photo Gallery

...From Kyle Guftason

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "With a 1-0-1 record, United is tied with Houston for first place in Group B and will visit the Dynamo in its first-round finale Wednesday."
UnitedMania, Jimmy LaRoue: "Yet even as America couldn’t muster a single shot on goal, United had numerous opportunities to score more, but did not, something Soehn said can’t happen against Houston in the last match of Group B play Wednesday."
The Washington Times, John Hayden: "United peppered the opposition all evening, finally giving its nervous fans a win on the back of Rod Dyachenko's early strike. It was a nail-biting victory, though, considering United's recent habit of blowing leads."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "Dyachenko ran onto an astute headed layoff from Christian Gomez and lashed home his second goal of the season in the 12th minute, giving United the perfect start and quieting the substantial contingent of America fans among those in attendance."
DCSundevil: "Marc Burch, IMHO, has staked his claim to the left back position. Over his last few starts, he has shown that he can hang with the rest of the guys and not get burned. Having him in a back line of Namoff, Boswell, & Vanney might do us well down the stretch in the MLS season."
The Edgell Supporters: "The first half was excellent. We controlled the game and we were constantly dangerous. We won the loose balls. Gomez looked much better in this match than he has in quite some time. Maybe that is due to the space he was given to work with, or maybe he just wanted it a little more. He certainly looked like he wanted a goal."
QuarterVolley, I-66: "It was good to see DC United hold onto a lead after going up a man this time, though still somewhat disconcerting that they were unable to put America away."
BobbyBoswell.Com, Bobby Boswell: "I think we’re starting to get our fight back, our bite. It feels a lot better. It’s good to finally get an early goal and not let them score one. It shows us, and everyone, that we can get it done with just scoring one."

The Good

  1. The Rod Dyachenko Goal: Another pretty goal, from great buildup to catch the America defense and goalkeeper going the wrong way. Unlike Emilio, Rod buried the one chance he got all night off a blistering first time strike.
  2. Mark Burch: I don't recall having a defender who's such an asset to our attack since Jeff Agoos was here. He came up from the back very well, sent in some dangerous crosses (please teach Josh how you do this), and also switched the attack well.
  3. Killing the Game: The second half was all about possession, and United showed it could play keep away with any team. It made it a bit boring to watch at times, but you could tell the players did not want a repeat of Wednesdays game, and they managed to keep America without a serious threat on goal.
  4. The Return of the Namoff: Woot! Let's hope he gets in game shape right quick.

The Bad

  1. The Chippiness: The referee for this game started well, but let the America players get away with a lot of chippy fouls and aggressive tackles. You'd think that an early red card would establish control over the match, but he seemed to let it slip as the game wore on.
  2. Emilio's Finishing: or lack thereof. We're learning he's a streaky finisher, but we need him to bury the chances he gets. On one of his opportunities, he took an extra step that let the defense recover, instead of hitting it early.
  3. Gomez's knock: related to #1 above but the crack he took to his ear seemed to take him out of the match. Hopefully, its nothing serious.
  4. The Scheduling of the game: Why didn't we play Houston first, so that the key games to decide this would not be MEX-MEX and USA-USA matchups?

Man of the Match

Tough to say, but my vote is for Rod, since he scored. Its the easiest MotM to give.

Karma Bank

Is this a separate Karma pool? +1 for the Red card, -1 for Gomez's shot off the crossbar. Lets call it even.

Final Thoughts

This game saw a return of United's possession game under less than ideal circumstances. Burch has show he can hang at this level, which can alleviate some concerns about our defensive depth. Somehow, with Houston's help, we find ourselves in first place, although I don't think any rational analysis of the teams in our group would conclude with us as the best in form at the moment. I'm liking the SupeLiga, its been a welcome relief from the tedium that the MLS season can be at this point in the summer.

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29 July 2007

First Impressions - DC United 1 : 0 Club America

If you read some of the other blogs, you'll notice many comments after the Morelia game of "You could feel the equalizer coming for Morelia..." This game, superficially, had the same look. United got an early goal, saw the opposition pick up a red, and for about five minutes even United looked a bit unsettled, as if they were saying to themselves "here we go again..." Yet, after that first five minutes, they settled down, and slowly and inexorably killed the game. After the 60th minute I felt certain United was in complete control of the match. They played football that might have seemed a tad boring, but was exhilarating from the perspective of watching one team shut another down. Club America had only two shots the entire match, and Perkins didn't need to make a save on either. United just dominated, and I felt that the game was going to be won. Yes, even after Emilio missed two shots from close range. Even after Boswell missed his headers. While the Morelia equalizer was unlucky, America grabbing a draw would have been Faustian in the depths of its tragedy. This was a good, solid win.

There's a lot of good to see in this game, but part of it must be balanced against two things: America not looking particularly threatening when they went forward, and the entire "They're in preseason form" thing. Still, United in preseason form during the CCC was better looking than either Morelia or America, so that's something as well. United got a good win tonight. If Houston holds on to the lead they have now, then United will need at least a draw to be sure of advancing to the next round. Works for me.

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27 July 2007

Washington Post Live: Kevin Payne Interview

This is a really good interview done right before the Morelia game. Thanks to The Dude for putting this up on the YouTubes.

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Criteria for Evaluating the Proposals at Poplar Point

Yes, we're taking a lot of time to discuss the stadium debate. The reason is two-fold: First, a soccer specific stadium is the most important outstanding issue relating to DC United's longterm viability, and the second is that the entire issue of stadiums and pro-sports is an area which has recently become poisonous in civic debate.

It has always been my hope that the stadium proposal and deal would address both concerns. Sites like Field of Schemes are important reading because you can easily see the legalized blackmail that many owners use to line their wallets while billing the city. And it always tempting to adopt an attitude of "Sure, they're owners are a bunch of crooks, but ours are different!" So even while we revel in the newfound support some of the city council, let's take another fresh look at the stadium debate, and some ways of evaluating it.

Basic Premise: Poplar Point will be developed in some manner.

There are those who oppose the stadium plan simply because they oppose any development that doesn't reserve the Poplar Point area to 100% parkland. You can put Marc Fisher in that group, since he believes all development should be in the Howard Road area (never mind that Howard Road development isn't as viable without development at Poplar Point as well). Also add in the folks at Save Anacostia Park.

In a related bin are those that oppose anything other than their concept of development. You can put most of the people from DC Indymedia in that group, since they believe that anything other than either parkland or 100% low income housing units would be gentrification and therefore an extension of the racist war on the poor being led by oil executives who desire a war with Iran.

Neither of these sides will win. While their objections seem to be against the soccer stadium, and the convenient "Billionaires who crush the poor," the fact is that Fenty is not reconsidering developing Poplar Point, he's only reconsidering the form that development will take. The stadium plan was the most visible form of that development, but if another plan takes precedence that has no stadium component, you can imagine that these same forces will exchange the epithets of "Billionaire Stadium Developers" for "Billionaire Big Box Retailers" or "Billionaire Condo Land Barons" or some other argument. This argument is lost no matter what direction the city chooses.

The most recent Nakamura article notes that Fenty wants development, and wants the tax base that comes with it:

the emphasis will be on housing and retail, the sources said. Administration officials will consider proposals over the next two months and probably will choose a developer by the end of the year, sources said.

Housing plus Retail equals a prospect which will likely be unacceptable to any of the organizations and people linked to above.

So what are the qualifying criteria?

Any proposed development plan is going to have to meet a certain set of criteria in order to qualify for the award from the city. These criteria include:

  • Preservation of Parkland: No matter who is selected for development, a minimum set aside for parkland is going to be established, probably around the 50 70 (see comments) acre mark. United's plan will meet this minimum, but probably not exceed it. The only advantage that United would gain is the manner in which the parkland would be integrated into the development. Any developer who could reach 100acres might see an advantage in the consideration of their plans.
  • Affordable Housing: I don't have good statistics for the overall affordable housing situation in DC, but the numbers I can find indicate that the DC Housing Authority has at least 9,000 low-rent housing units and 12,000 Housing Choice Voucher Units (formerly the Section 8 program). Using that as a proxy for the affordable housing inventory of DC, I think the city would be looking for at least a 3% increase in the affordable housing stock, which is just over 600 units. The MacFarlane plan probably does benefit in comparison here, since it offers at least 1,200 units (and maybe more, though I don't think I can say that for certain.)
  • Revenue Generation through Retail: All sides of the development debate are looking for increased revenue from businesses and retail development. Any plan with a hope of winning will have to show that it can generate this revenue.
  • Revenue Generation through Employment: Any plan will have to show that it can create permanent jobs in the area, at least 1,000. Furthermore, at least some portion of these jobs will need to be targeted to Ward 8 residents.
Differentiating Criteria.

The items identified above are just the minimums to get in the door and be considered as a reasonable proposal for the area. You can reasonably expect that pretty much every plan will meet these minimums. What will get one plan selected will be on the other stuff it offers, the ability to surpass the minimums. Let's look at these:

  • Housing: The MacFarlane plan, as we indicated, shows an ability to go beyond the minimums for affordable rental and ownership. I would think that any plan with at least 1,000 units of affordable, low-income housing would earn a certain degree of preference. If a plan doesn't have this, it may be more revenue generating from the point of view of a developer, but is almost certainly the kind of gentrification that Ward 8 residents have a right to fear.
  • Minority Ownership: Again, not required, but certainly a step in the right direction. The MacFarlane plan has minority ownership, which should earn it some consideration.
  • Subsidy and Infrastructure Investment: One of the major issues is the "$200 million" in subsidies that the MacFarlane plan calls for. Now, certain infrastructure costs are going to be made regardless of which plan is chosen. Sewer system upgrades, especially environmentally sensitive drainage plans, will cost money to the city. However, the issue of tax benefits is one where the MacFarlane plan will likely find itself needing to negotiate with the city. I get the sense that a total package of $200 million is too high, but haven't yet seen a breakdown of how that number was determined. I've asked for it from multiple sources, but no one seems to be able to determine it. We need to understand that breakdown in order to understand what is likely to be required no matter which plan is selected, and to understand where potential points of negotiation are likely to be found.
  • Risk in Development: Anyone can generate a plan to create development, but if that development fails due to under capitalization or poor planning and execution, then neither the city, nor the developer, nor Ward 8 will benefit. The MacFarlane plan excels in this area, since it offers excellent history and previous development experience combined with strong financial analysis on how to make the development succeed. Note that this might not have been true with the previous ownership group.
  • Opportunity to Ward 8: We know that United has made this a focus of their planning, in terms of identifying housing and employment opportunities solely for the existing Ward 8 residents. It's not clear that any other proposals would show such fidelity other than pure tokenism. If the mayor elects to ignore this facet, he would engender additional opposition on the city council, since council members would have to wonder if the concerns of their constituents would be taken seriously in future development or if they would be subordinate to the desires of the Mayor's office. I imagine this is a concern that other city council representatives have to look at. If the Mayor feels that the concerns of Ward 8 aren't as valid as his own personal concerns, one wonders if the concerns of any particular resident would be taken seriously.
I still am not opposed to the city looking at other proposals, and I think United needs to make the case that their proposal is the best. If the city is looking for a bare minimum deal, based solely on the first set of criteria, then I doubt that the United plan would be selected. However, I believe that choice would be short sighted, and be a missed opportunity for the city. I want United to make a proposal that shows they are the best deal for everyone, and I think they are truly looking to make that case.

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26 July 2007

Stadium Political Fight: Fenty vs. Barry, Brown, and Gray

Did I see this coming? No. From WUSA Channel 9's Bruce Johnson's Blog:

Former four term DC Mayor Marion Barry is taking on the new popular (he won every precinct) Mayor Adrian Fenty in the fight to develop Poplar Point in Southeast. Barry backs new DC United owner Victor McFarland, the San Francisco developer who thought he had a deal with the previous Tony Williams administration...

Barry told me by phone today "He's (Fenty) going to lose this one because any developer he chooses will have to come before the DC Council for approval". The Ward Eight Councilman who represents the Poplar point area added that "McFarland held 30 to 40 community meetings on this and he (Fenty)didn't attend a single one".

At large DC Councilman Kwame Brown heads the powerful economic development committee and he is siding with Barry. Word is Chairman Vincent Gray is also lining up against Fenty.

Now, we've long been talking about the importance of doing the right things in Ward 8, and the fact that MacFarlane is getting some support from the local politicians helps matters. And they have been doing the legwork for a long time (see this post from 2005). I don't think a public fight is going to help the situation though. The stadium will have to go through a competitive bidding process. However, there's nothing to say that the recommendations of local representatives shouldn't be considered as part of that process.

ADDENDUM: Usually the problem in NIMBYism. This seems to be just the opposite. The local representatives want the deal, and the central government does not. What do you call that?

SECOND ADDENDUM: While I don't see much good coming out of a fight between the City Council and the Mayor's office, it is possible that this is just a shot across the bow. Now there may be behind-the-scenes meetings with Gray, Barry, Brown and Fenty. If nothing else, it will help define how bids for Poplar Point could be judged. And the terms of that debate are important. This also shows how important the work Kevin Payne and associated were doing two years ago was. You must be part of the community. The community needs to know it can trust you, and you need to sometimes trust the community. Heartwarming, in a strange way.

THIRD ADDENDUM: This is Kinney. I am just popping in to say that it looks like Brown might not be completely on board after all. Marion Barry and he "have some more talking to do."

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Debriefing for 12.C.01: Monarcas Morelia

D.C. United 1 : 1 Monarcas Morelia

Six Word Novel Recap

Finally, the artificial infield costs us.

Photo Gallery

...From Kyle Guftason

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "Gomez swerved a 28-yard shot around the wall and just inside the right post to give United the lead. But with Morelia creating little of substance and forced to resort to chippy tactics, including an undetected cheap shot to Fred at midfield, D.C. could not pull away."
UnitedMania, Mark Martin: "United failed to extend their lead despite the lion’s share of the play in the first half. The closest United came was a lovely play started by Fred out wide on the left. He played a perfect ball deep into the box to Dyachenko, who promptly laid off a perfect square pass to Emilio to finish into the open net. Unfortunately, the turf gremlins had other ideas and Emilio’s effort was swept well over the goal as the ball leaped up at the last moment."
The Washington Times, Mark Medina: "Martinez eventually paid back United with a goal from the corner of the penalty box in the 79th minute. The ball sailed high into the left corner of the net as United goalie Troy Perkins had trouble tracking the ball. His dive fell substantially short."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "Tempers erupted in the 55th minute when Landin and Bobby Boswell clashed near midfield. The Mexican looked to have fouled United's center back first and Boswell kicked out in response, but the hot-heated Landin upped the ante by shoving his adversary...After an interminable delay in which the referee consulted both the nearby linesman and fourth official Alex Prus, he finally produced a straight red card for Landin and a caution for Boswell as the RFK crowd roared its approval."
BlkDgRd, BDR: "I can't blame lack of effort or lack of will or lack of heart, but once the infield stole Emilio's sitter, once Fred one-timed his sitter over the bar, who didn't know the game would end up tied? (And Craigqatar called it at half-time, over Harps, before Fred's gack.)"
An American's View..., Brian Garrison: "DC United let their fans down tonight. "
QuarterVolley, I-66: "All things considered, with a backline of Gros, Boswell, McTavish, and Burch, 3 of whom we never would have thought would be in defensive starting positions at the beginning of the season, the defense performed admirably."
BobbyBoswell.Com, Bobby Boswell: "I just stepped in to win the ball and he got a hold of me, in a spot that no man likes to be gotten a hold of. And maybe I overreacted a bit but the ref didn’t’ call it and he was going to be going the other way so I did my best to stop him and maybe I kicked him a little harder than people would have liked."

The Good

  1. The Christian Gomez Free Kick: That was a pretty goal. As a rule, set piece goals can't be considered for Goal of the Week/Month/Year honors, but if there were an award just for goals from dead ball situations, I'd have to put that one on my list. The perfect amount of curve to swerve around the wall and then just tuck inside the near post.
  2. Many Flavors: There are games you draw 1-1 because you just aren't creating a lot of good attacking moments. This was not one of those games. We made some good, really good chances. And as much as the Big Soccer Hive Mind is complaining about United forcing balls down the middle, it isn't true at all. We came in from the flank, down the middle, had a few chances from corners... United was opportunistic in the way it created its chances.
  3. Fight for the Shirt: In the last game, I complained about how easily United was beaten to aerial 50-50 balls. This game was much better, with United really imposing themselves when they got into tight quarters. Much better on that front. In that sense, I completely disagree with Brian Garrison above and anyone that opens up their review questioning United's heart. They had heart. They just, at the same time, aren't as good as you think they are.

The Bad

  1. The RFK Infield: It cost us the match. I know there were other chances, but that one was by far the easiest to convert, and it didn't happen. That it has taken until the third year of cohabitation for a match to really cost us is probably a blessing, but it had to happen at some point, and now it did.
  2. Referee Courtney Campbell: Miserable. Utterly miserable, and utterly biased officiating. This is worse than Abbey, because Abbey's mistakes are usually against both sides. However, the standard for a foul in the run of play was tilted completely to Morelia for the match, as if Campbell felt he had to atone for allowing the early free kick goal to United.
  3. Bobby Boswell and Nuts of Doom: Bobby, it wasn't how hard you kicked him, but where that kick was heading. I would have given you a straight red. That being said, while BDR is upset with your play, I thought your presence on the back line was fairly decent last night.
  4. Pass the ball like you're playing against someone: Too frequently, again, United seems to pass the ball as if the opposition won't attempt to step up and take the ball the other way. The passes make complete sense if you're only looking at black shirts, but there are two teams on the field.
  5. Rod Dyachenko: Trading a first round pick to get him back from Toronto was a bad deal. Mo Johnston fleeced us. Yes, I don't even think first round picks are worth that much unless it is the overall number one or two. We still overpaid.

Man of the Match


Karma Bank

If I was tracking the Karma Bank through Superliga, this would have been a huge game to tally. It would have been +1 for Gomez's free kick, +1 for the non-call on Fred getting clocked, +2 for the turf spoiling Emilio's sitter, -1 for the shot off the post, -1 for Bobby not getting ejected. If I were keeping track.

Final Thoughts

Your perception of this game depends on your perception of United. If you think this is a truly elite team in MLS, then you should be furious about this match. If, like me, you think they're an average team, then you can walk away from this match and curse the poor luck we saw. While United's level of play won't win many games against Houston, or even Club America on Sunday, it was still better than Morelia, and the draw was unfortunate in the fact that United was good at controlling the ball, and getting the ball back. The fact that they were whistled for some of the smallest bumps didn't help matters, but they played through it. I'm disappointed, but not murderous. Kinney and Oscar may disagree.

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25 July 2007

First Impressions - DC United 1 : 1 Monarcas Morelia


Ryan Zimmerman is shaded slightly to second base, but now in his second season he's still prepared when the weak roller starts running up the third base line. It's not hit hard enough to turn the double play, but he knows he's going to first base. He'll have to hurry though. Charging the ball, he takes it barehanded just inside the foul line. His momentum carries him into foul territory as he torques his body, foot planting where the dirt and grass come together. The force of this unnatural twist tears at the grass, his arm snapping around as he makes the throw across his body to Robert Fick. There's a snapping noise as the ball finds the first baseman's mitt, the runner out by a step. Ryan nods to himself as the side is retired, heading back to the dugout only to pause and dig some of the dirt and grass out of his cleats.


The ball is perfectly angled, too far for the first defender to lunge to his right, but just not too far for Rod Dyachenko to take it and accelerate across the box. Out of the corner of his, he spies Emilio making a run to the far post, and there's just one defender to beat if he can get the pass there. As soon as it leaves his foot, he knows he pulled it off. Right in stride for Emilio, the two converging in smooth lines taking dead aim at one point, as if guided by some AEGIS radar system. Then, just as the ball reaches Emilio's foot, the ball hops slightly. Emilio's shin clangs awkwardly into the ball, the shot skies above the cross bar. It shouldn't matter, they're up a goal, but the second would have been pretty. Better make do with the one goal lead. Sure, they've been playing well, but there's a chance Monarcas Morelia might catch them on the counter, or some ridiculous volley from distance. One more will be needed, but there's still time.

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Match Briefing for 12.C.01: Monarcas Morelia

Match #: 12.C.01

Monarcas Morelia

Six Word Novel Preview: First Superliga game, we need points.

TV: TeleFutra/TV Azteca, 8PM

Radio: WMET 1160AM

Previous Meeting: First meeting ever in a competitive match.

The Stakes: The stakes really depend on what the Superliga becomes in the future. Right now, the tournament is in its first year and a lot of people are writing it off. I think this is a mistake. This tournament could eventually supplant either the CCC or the Interliga, or both. SUM is obviously throwing a lot of money at this and wants it to succeed. There are many sub-plots to this tournament that might make it very interesting in the years to come, the most important being the US/Mexico rivalry. This rivalry has never really extended into club matches, but the Superliga could change that.

I know many fans won't care about the Superliga until it does become a big tournament (if it ever does) but remember that DC United has always been about winning things first. Payne is a big proponent of the Superliga and I think he really wants United to show well. They basically have to beat Morelia to do that as both America, and away to Houston are probably harder matches and only the top two in each group advance. To put it simply, this game will set the stage for the rest of DC's tournament.

Previews from the DCUniverse: DC United Offside Blog, An American's View, The Edgell Supporters
Previews from the Moreliaworld:

Previews Updated as we find Oscar to translate them

Expectations: Basically anything can happen. I am hoping that Morelia fans are saying "But it was our pre-season" this time tomorrow, but I don't know if that will be the case. Frankly, I just don't know enough about Morelia to answer this. If DC United was clicking and hard charging I would probably expect a win, but they aren't. Morelia on the other hand is in pre-season, how important do they see these games being? If Morelia takes the tournament seriously then a tie is probably the most likely outcome, though a DC loss is definitely a large possibility. If they decide to take the New England Rev route to international matches then I think United can get the three points. Somehow I think they will care a bit more than Steve Nicol, hopefully United will be up for the test.

What to look for?

  1. Starting Line-up - Moreno, Kpene, and Namoff are all still sidelined with injuries. The line up Soehn trots out will tell us a lot about how United is going to play. Will Fred be out wide or used as a withdrawn forward? Will Olsen take the d-mid spot or go out wide? Who will the starting defenders be?

  2. Morelia's Fitness - How does Morelia come out at the beginning of the game? Are they ready to play or do they let United get into a rhythm? Also, look to see if any of the Monarchs tire late. Hopefully there will be a bunch of them, but I am not counting on it.

  3. DC Defense - I think all United fans need to watch out for defensive lapses. They have been a bit to frequent of late. If they occur early in the game you should probably hope United scores a bunch.

  4. Gomez! - Christian has flourished against teams that don't man mark him with their d-mid. This takes two things, a decent d-mid and a scouting report. Let's hope Morelia is lacking at least one of those.

  5. Mexican fans - Hopefully there will be lots of Morelia fans there. The real fan attraction is against America this weekend, but a good showing of Morelia fans on a weekday will be a nice bonus. I never like opposing fans in Estadio RFK but they are the reason SUM has put this tournament together. The idea is to show them MLS sides that compete (or destroy?) their Mexican clubs, and then maybe, just maybe they will come out an watch MLS games a bit more. This is what is needed, MLS shouldn't pander, it should showcase its quality.

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Wednesday Afternoon Coffee Break

Superliga Arrives: There wasn't too much early buzz because of a certain superstar, but there are lots of good previews that you should check out. Unfortunately, the official Superliga site needs some work. The first matches were yesterday with LA beating Pachuca in a surprise upset and Dallas tying Chivas. DC United plays Morelia at 8:00 EST tonight while Houston takes on Club America at 10:00 EST.

Designated Player Clearance: Completely missed this but Grant Wahl reports that designated players signed half-way through this season, i.e. Beckham and Blanco, will only count $200,000 towards their team's salary cap.

Goff Chat: Steven Goff had a nice little chat with the fans this afternoon. No real new news, but fun stuff that you should check out. He seems to stand by the more depressing version of the Poplar Point talks that the Washington Post reported on last week.

Adu to Benfica:
According to multiple sources, MLS and Benfica have worked out a deal to send Adu to Portugal for 2 million dollars. The amount is a little light considering Adu's U-20 World Cup performance, but I think Freddy needs to move on. The only hold-up seems to be Adu and Benfica agreeing to "personal terms." I don't know what that entails but I am hoping they get it figured out. Remember that DC United will receive a $200,000 allocation if he leaves before the end of the season. If Adu stays until the end of the season United only gets a draft pick.

Drew Carey on Letterman: Mr. Price is Right spent almost all of his time talking about soccer.

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The Freezer for July 24th 2007

The US Soccer Fragility Index, known as the Freezer, is the anti-power poll. Each week, Oscar, Kinney, and D have a frank discussion over email and chat to rank the most feeble, the most tenuous, and the overall weakest things in US Soccer. It's the second most feared list in US Soccer behind 101 Beckham Voyeur Tips by Dave O'Brien

Interestingly enough, it was a very good week for Soccer in the United States but that success highlighted the problems that currently plague the sport. This week in the Freezer soccer players moved up and out while a bunch of organizations moved down into the cold. DC United moves back into the freezer after an ugly July, as does BSPN and another maligned group that was doing pretty decent before this past weekend.

Note: The Freezer is a collaborative effort of the DCenters. Kinney just posted it this week. We all wrote the thing.

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24 July 2007

The Stadium Deal is Not Dead, and DC United is Not Moving (Yet)

I want to revisit the stadium debate, because I think that there's a lot of stuff people are assuming that may not be factual. I think the impulse is to believe that the stadium negotiations are dead in all but name, but it isn't the case. I've tried to get someone at DC United to go on record with me, but they're declining public comment. However, I was able to learn that things are not as bleak as they look for keeping DC United in DC. Let's ask the typical three questions we like to use around here: "What do we know? What do we think? What does it mean?"

In addition to the articles we linked yesterday, The Examiner contained this quote:

“Our position is pretty clear: We want to be in the District. We want to be in Ward 8 at Poplar Point,” Payne said. “Until somebody tells us no, that the district doesn’t want us here, we’re going to continue down the path that we’re going down.”
That matches with the information I'm getting. D.C. United is, as far as I know, not abandoning the Poplar Point plan, nor is the city. While Nakamura characterized the negotiations as stalled, the word is that communications are still open between DCU and the mayor's office, and there is still a sense that a stadium deal could happen. That's all pretty factual at this point.

Now, that's all that I know for sure, but let's venture into the realm of conjecture. First, I get the sense that United and MacFarlane's people were somewhat blindsided by the Nakamura article. Nakamura specifically cites government sources on anonymity. This story did not come out of DC United's management, it came from the District, and without knowing who the sources are, we also don't know if they might have their own agendas. Which is fine, but is at least something to keep in mind. Still, let's take everything at face value. Is there a way to read things that isn't the doom and gloom so many fans feel? Sure there is, and I don't think you'd be a Pollyanna to read things in that light.

The city wants to look at alternative proposals. While United may be disappointed in this (and I haven't asked them about that) I am not. Maybe Mayor Williams was willing to just cut a deal with United, but Mayor Fenty is not, and a fan of good government should applaud that willingness. Now, Nakamura writes that "A soccer stadium still could be part of the mix but is not a top priority, the sources said." Okay, this again should not taken as a surprise. If the DC Government is looking at alternative bids, then giving any sort of advance endorsement to any proposal would make the examination process meaningless. In fact, worse than that, it might open the government up to charges that the examination process was a sham and unfair, and who knows about potential litigation in that scenario? No, the DC government must look at each proposal and give each proposal the chance to explain why it is the best value for the city and the residents of Ward 8.

So right now, the city is in a situation where it can't seriously advance negotiations on any proposal, especially the MacFarlane proposal. So negotiations may be "stalled," but they'd have to be equally stalled for all parties for the proposal process to be in any manner considered fair. And make no mistake, United is still part of that proposal process.

So what does it mean? It means that if United wants a stadium in Poplar Point, they have to advance a proposal that provides the best value for the city. That doesn't necessarily mean cheapest, or the one that creates the most revenue. Issues of risk in delivering and fairness to the residents of Ward 8 also have value, and I think United's proposal would excel in those areas. However, they have to make the case.

If United can't make that case, or if the District ultimately decides to go elsewhere, then United will have to move somewhere else. That's simple. DC United, as successful and attended as it is, is simply not profitable right now. Their overhead for rent is too high, and their revenue streams are compromised by the RFK deal. The phrase "threatening" to leave the city is overblown. United needs to do something to become financially viable, and if the District doesn't have an option in the city, then they have to go elsewhere. Very simple math there.

So, step away from the ledge. This isn't over kids.

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23 July 2007

The Best Alternatives of Mice and Men

Of course, a major story over the weekend is the stadium situation. David Nakamura in The Post:

Negotiations to build a soccer stadium for D.C. United in Southeast Washington have collapsed, leading District officials to pursue other options for the site and team officials to threaten to move the franchise out of the city, government sources said yesterday.
Which is a bit overdramatic, considering:
A soccer stadium still could be part of the mix but is not a top priority, the sources said.
And this report from the Express:
But the deal isn't dead yet and talks will continue this week, WTOP reports. The city may seek alternative proposals on how to redevelop Poplar Point, part of a larger stretch of waterfront parkland that is set for transfer to local control from the federal government this fall.

Regardless, let's try and put this in perspective. First, the city should look at other alternatives. Failure to do so would be a breach of the public trust. So I'm not about to get all bothered by the city wanting to take a look at other options. Really, I'm not. Yes, I know some people feel "betrayed" because the city "invited" United to look at Poplar Point, but a deal for the city must make sense. And let's look at this report a bit more closely:

...the negotiations stalled over the financial terms. Although United offered to pay for the $150 million stadium, it asked for about $200 million in city subsidies, including roads, tax incentives and the right to develop additional land, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations were private.

Okay, now let's consider this. Two-hundred million dollars is, not to be flip about it, a lot of money. I'm very curious to see what the details of that number are. The question is whether that's the real cost or not. To put it another way, any other development proposal is going to require infrastructure improvements in roads and sewers. How much is that? I'm sure the other proposals may try and obtain tax incentives. How much will they cost? In short, it's possible that other proposals may have the same concepts, but the values will change. It doesn't seem unreasonable that other proposals may call for $100M or $150M in similar arrangements. Which would make the marginal cost to the city of the stadium between $100M and $50M. That's still a lot of money, and United would have to put forward a case that the reduced risk or increased benefits of the United stadium plan is worth it.

To me, that seems like a negotiation. The city can, and should, and must examine its alternatives. DC United can, and should, and must examine its alternatives as well. What's amusing in the verbage here is the idea of "threatening to move out of the city," which is silly. We know that, long-term, United can not be profitable with 20-30K crowds in a 60K stadium where they do not control other lines of revenue. This is not the NFL, or MLB, where owners are rich and act poor. We know that while MLS isn't hemorrhaging cash anymore, it's not a profitable venture by a long-shot. United must be profitable, and if that means moving the team, then that's what it takes. Survival overrides the desire to see the stadium in the city in that case.

Am I mad at the city for this? No, I'm not. I want a soccer stadium, but I can't in good conscience ask for the city to take a deal where they get fleeced. At the same time, I don't think that's the deal being advances (but I'd have to see the details of that $200M number to be sure.)

Everyone, the city and D.C. United, should look at their alternatives. Only then can both sides understand what a equitable negotiated solution should look like. This is how it goes.

PS: This kind of shit does not help matters (HT: Capital Punishment) While I am truly glad to see baseball back in DC, it has to be recognized that the baseball deal between MLB and Williams has poisoned the air. This sort of thing from the new baseball ownership doesn't help the situation. It is frusturating. Very frusturating. That being said, I still like Manny Acta.

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Debriefing for 12.16: At New York Red Bulls

New York Red Bulls 1 : 0 D.C. United

Six Word Novel Recap

Home is where the heart is.

First Impressions

Sorry for getting these out a bit late. I was trying to make meatless meatballs last night during the game. Using something called Bulgur, a form of wheat product. Stay with me, this is all relevant. Anyways, the recipe was all wrong, doomed from the start. Not enough binding egg for the amount of Bulgur, under seasoned, and the damn things wouldn't stay together when you tried to brown them before adding the tomato juice. I did the best I could, throwing in another beaten egg, adding a bit of kosher salt and more diced onion, packing down the bulgur with all my force into the 2 tablespoon measure I had. I managed to get something vaguely respectable out of the pan by the time everything was said and done.

The problem with most vegetarian cookbooks is that they insist you'll never miss the meat. It just isn't true, but what I ended up with was more than edible, it was actually decent. It wasn't the real thing though, and in comparison to a honest to goodness meatball. My last minute improvisations had saved the dish somewhat. Still, when all was said and done, I felt like I had missed something. It wasn't quite there, not quite right, and it had been flawed at the beginning.

This is all true, and I think the parallels just made me feel overly annoyed at the game I saw. Now that a little time has passed, I feel bet

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "On another maddening day of unfulfilled attacking soccer, United again failed to take advantage of its chances Sunday and dropped a 1-0 decision to the New York Red Bulls before 14,705 at Giants Stadium."
NY Daily News, Michael Lewis: "Wolyniec connected for the lone goal in a 1-0 victory that ended a seven-game winless home streak vs. United (0-5-2). The Red Bulls were 1-12-4 overall against D.C. dating back to July 2004."
The Staten Island Advance, Frank Giase: "The goal was typical Wolyniec -- timely, opportunistic and a nice finish. Claudio Reyna took a restart 40 yards out on the right. He drove the ball to the left side of the box where Jozy Altidore outleaped a defender to head the ball in front of the net. Wolyniec, running right to left, sent a glancing header into the right side of the net for his third goal of the season -- all game-winners."
The Washington Times, Denis Gorman:"In the 38th minute, Boswell beat Conway with a header that bounced off the near side of the post. In the 56th minute, Conway stopped a close-in blast from United's Nicholas Addlery. Christian Gomez had an empty net two minutes later, but his drive was cleared at the top of the goal."
MLSNet, Doug McIntyre: "'We have no excuses,' Soehn said afterward. 'Whether we were shorthanded or not, it doesn't matter. The guys that are out there have an opportunity and we need to do better.'"
MLSNet, Dylan Butler: "As for any significance about beating D.C., a team that he once coached to the MLS Cup title, Arena doesn't see it. 'I know nothing about that stuff,' he said. 'The significance for us is the three points, whether it's D.C. United or the Clifton Pirates.'"
Six Yards North, QJA: "I excuse Fred for his red card. I hold him absolutely blameless. The referees missed some blatant jersey pulling, blatant even for a free kick into the box, and then Red Bulls got indignant when they discovered that Fred was a little ticked. The red was harsh, even -- there was very little contact and Fred had an honest view of the ball. Shoddy refereeing and a really unfortunate series of events for Fred. Dane Richards is shameless."
MetroFanatic: "Our 'favorite' referee, Abbey Okulaja, did not call an obvious penalty kick when Altidore was taken down in the box."
BlckDgRd, BDR: "At least United didn't lose this game by quitting. The first half effort stunk, Metros thoroughly outworking United. I can deal with outplayed, but outworked is inexcusable, and it's to United's credit that they outworked Metros in the second. "


The Good

  1. Fred actually playing a 4-5-1: I hate the 4-5-1, but the reason I hate it is that too often players seem to think that a 4-5-1 is a deterministic approach for where they should be. When attacking, the 4-5-1 should be making use of the wings and center midfield in a stylish and enjoyable manner. The ball comes up to Emilio, who should lay it back either to Gomez or spread it around the wing. The other players surge forward, and suddenly where only one player seemed to be attacking you have at least three making a run while one other determines where the ball should go. That's actually something we saw a little of in this match. Too little of it, but it was there, and it was nice to see that 4-5-1 wasn't just an excuse to play back and counter, but actually to set up an attacking sequence.
  2. The rally point: BDR touched on this. United against Houston seemed content to lost 1-nil. Here they pressed for the equalizer, and pressed hard. That meant that they gave away a few countering opportunities (nicely snuffed out by Perkins sliding outside of the 16) but didn't seem happy with the loss.
  3. Boswell finding his spot: In the opening five minutes, things were rather painful for United as New York was storming towards the net. As much grief as we've given Bobby Boswell (and he earns more for allowing the header which sent in Wolyniec) his ability to take up a sweeper role and clear the ball out of the box (and not directly too an opposing player) saved United in those opening minutes. Credit where it is due.
  4. The Comcast SportsNet Audio Philharmonic Orchestra: Man, I'm sure it was the way CSN spread out the microphones, but the United traveling support sounded very, very good. Now, I'm not going to say that New York's fans were quiet, as I said, it was probably the audio setup, but it was really nice to hear the United fans sing the entire match despite the scoreline.

The Bad

  1. Fred taking the red: I know, his shirts had literally (in the true meaning of that word, which means it really happened) been torn asunder by some of the muggings given to him, and he was frustrated. It didn't matter, he should have been smarter than to take that red card on a hasty tackle at midfield that wasn't necessary. A disappointing move.
  2. Upper Body Strength: I wonder about this, because we seem to have difficulty winning balls where upper body strength is needed. 50-50 balls that come into the feet are things we can take advantage of, but anything at midfield with two players posting up on each other and it seems like United loses the ball 75% of the time. Shoulder to shoulder tackles are also good at knocking United players off the ball, more so than other teams. Again, below the waist, United is impressive. Hmmmm... Perhaps I should rephrase that last sentence. On the other hand... nah.
  3. Abbey Okulaja: Sometimes both sets of fans will be mad at a referee and it is because the referee has done a good job of not letting either team get away with anything. Sometimes both sides will be mad at a ref because he somehow managed to job both of them. While this wasn't Abbey's worst every performance, it was still pretty awful and gave plenty for both Red Bull and United fans to be annoyed with.

Man of the Match


Karma Bank

-1 for getting away with the penalty on Altidore, +1 for not getting the penalty for the mugging on Fred in the box, +1 for some nice attacking soccer on the road and for the joy of watching Boswell attempting a bicycle, +1 for having to deal with Altidore's antics the rest of the game, -1 for failing to finish our chance. That leaves us +1 for the game, and +1 for the season. We're owed again.

Final Thoughts

Nick asked in the comments if this team is in danger of missing the playoffs. Quick answer? Yes, they are. I think it would take some bad luck, as I think this team is a playoff team, but it is still possible.

United, as I wrote last week, does not feel like a Champion team. This is largely because the level of play is MLS is better than it has been for a few years, and United only looks like a Championship team when all is going well. Only championships don't come to teams when all is well, teams have to win when things are out of sorts, and that hasn't happened. Even the 2004 run relied on players like Ezra Hendrickson stepping in when Ryan Nielsen was out, and I don't see much of that right now. Could United win a championship? Sure, but they'd be very fortunate to do so.

Right now, when United doesn't have their best players on the field, it's not that they are bad, but that they are... pale in comparison to the real thing. They are the meatless meatballs I made last night, requiring tinkering and improvisation and guesswork, and at their best only a decent substitute (and at their worst a vaguely unpalatable mess.)

I've stated before that this season is a rebuilding season, but I was wrong. Perhaps it would have been more accurate to say that this year should have been a rebuilding season, but it is clear that United's executives want to make a push for a title. I don't agree with that move when it comes at the expense of future development, but there you go.

What will kill this team are the points they've dropped against teams they should have beaten. Three against Salt Lake. Three against Columbus. Two against Dallas. Perhaps even one more here. That nine points, which a truly dominant team takes. We are not a dominant team. And with expectations adjusted accordingly, I think we should evaluate as such.

Which is why I'm not as frustrated by this game as perhaps others are. I know, it's a deep rival, but United did make chances for themselves. That's all I could ask for given our line-up, and ultimately if I'm unsatisfied, it's more because of fate than skill. The team played acceptably. While the coaching staff can invoke the "No excuses" line, this team isn't good enough that such criticism seems valid. No Excuses belongs to good teams, not mediocre ones. And a mediocre team has excuses. I think our fans, and our staff, think that this team is a better team in comparison to MLS than it is. We need to get beyond that, and start evaluating realistically.

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21 July 2007

Match Briefing For 12.16: NY Red Bulls

Match #: 12.16

NY Red Bulls
24 pts, 25GF, 21GA, +4 0 GD
3rd place Eastern Conference, 6th place MLS

Six Word Novel Preview: Midpoint test of depth, please pass...

TV: Telefutura, Comcast Sports Net (5:00PM), MLSLive.TV

Radio: WMET 1160AM

Previous Meeting: June 10th, 4-2 United win at RFK.

The Stakes: United has had a horrible July, accumulating just one win, two losses, and a tie in four games. The team now faces a very crowded schedule which will test the team's depth from top to bottom. New York begins a five game home stand and also wants to recapture the form it had at the beginning of the regular season. Both teams need to find the rhythm and pace to carry them to the playoffs.

Previews from the DCUniverse: Six Yards North, The Offside - DC United, Quarter Volley
Previews from the Metroverse: The Offside - NY

Expectations: I'm bracing myself for disappointment, not because New York is such a formidable opponent, but the team's lack of mental focus and constantly shuffling defense have taken us out of games too often this month. Dema might return to the NY lineup this week, and if he's there, DC's midfielders will have their work cut out for them. If we start the half playing quickly and possessing the ball, that will be a good sign.

What to look for?
  • Get of the bench - Tom Soehn might as well use a Boggle board to figure out his lineup. The following players are out through Injury or Suspension, Ben Olsen (mysterious Yellow Card accumulation), Jaime Moreno (hamstring), Bryan Namoff (hamstring), Justin Moose (hernia), and Guy-roland Kpene (hamstring).
  • Paging Christian Gomez - Please play like Jaime played last week, we really need it. I honestly thought the addition of Fred and Emilio would prevent defenses from solely focusing on our #10, freeing him up to direct the attack and get involved more, but its seems he's taken himself out of games to compensate.
  • Who's attacking us? Altidore returns to the Red Bull attack, but will be without Juan Pablo Angel who is suspended with a red card. Altidore will be a handful for Boswell and Vanney to mark.
  • Our first hardware - a second victory here would give us the Atlantic Cup. Unlike previous years these two teams will only meet 3 times during the regular season.
My Predicted Lienup
........................... Perkins

Mctavish ... Boswell ... Vanney ... Gross

Fred ...... Gomez ...... Carroll .... Mediate

................. Emilio .......... Addlery

Oscar's Prediction?
  • 1-1 tie, goals by Altidore and Emilio. Perkins will channel Nick Rimando a few times during the match, but not as badly as last week.

20 July 2007

"Soccer Has Overtaken Hockey" - Mike Wilbon Codifies the Conventional Wisdom

Look, you may be annoyed at the mainstream coverage of MLS and US Soccer as anyone, but you have to accept certain misunderstandings. By now, we must realize that the David Beckham story is a story that's really about the LA Galaxy and not MLS as a whole. It's a big LA Galaxy story, don't get me wrong, but it really speaks to what's happening in LA more than what's happening in the other cities. On World Soccer Daily yesterday, there was an interesting exchange where Grant Wahl (I think it was) described the difference between Tim Leiweke and the philosophy of Don Garber regarding youth players and how to build the league. The simplified argument was the Leiweke believes that foreign talent is the key to building MLS, and Garber believes in domestic talent. So Beckham is really not indicative of the league as a whole, only LA's philosophy.

Still, given that the issue is confused, there is an interesting argument advanced in Mike Wilbon's column today in the Post (emphasis added):

Beckham's appearance here, Aug. 9 against D.C. United, could easily sell out. But will it change anything fundamentally? Soccer has already surpassed hockey on the American sports landscape. But bringing a past-his-prime star to lure casual fans not only isn't new, it failed miserably 22 years ago when the NASL went belly-up.

Say what you will about Wilbon, he is a reliable gauge of where the conventional sports media's mindset will be or is at a given moment. We know that this isn't the same as the NASL. We know that Beckham isn't here to save soccer. But even Wilbon concedes that the imprint of soccer is more significant, even without Beckham, than it was a few years ago. Now, his statement that soccer has overtaken hockey must be viewed in a larger context: Hockey has self-destructed to some degree by pursuing a gawdawful TV deal and with the lockout of a few years ago. And Wilbon may be unconsciously biased by the fact that MLS (and Champions League) is an ESPN property while hockey is not. Certainly I imagine this guy (or perhaps even this guy, and certainly this guy here [/THEISMAN]) would disagree with Wilbon's characterization. So let's not pat ourselves on the back yet. Still, for all the complaints about the mainstream media, it is changing. Take heart, the wisdom will move slowly in our direction. We know that the concerns are overblown and wrong, and since that is the case as those questions are answered, we'll see more movement after that. Hope, not fear, my friends.

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Rumors of Juan Sebastian Veron to DC

Sideline Views is trumpeting the translation of an article in Clarin where Veron supposedly states that he'd going to play for either DC United or Estudiantes in the upcoming season. This is not the first time this story has come out, but it is the first at least semi-reputable story. Max Rosenthal of Pitch Invasion and The Offside: DC United had emailed me about this over three weeks ago, and at the time I thought it was unlikely. The idea that Veron, who loves Estudiantes, would come to DC seemed far fetched. To be honest, it still does. This seems at least somewhat like a negotiating ploy. I'm sure DC would love to have him, even at 32 he's a very talented player for the midfield, but I would imagine it seems like what they refer to in negotiating classes as a Best Alternative to a Negotiated Outcome, saying that he can go elsewhere if Estudiantes doesn't give him what he wants (like, say, at least partial ownership of the club.) If it happens, it also creates some interesting maneuvering in DC's lineups, and doesn't address our backline. So right now, I'm a bit skeptical that this would come to pass, but I figure you should know.

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MLS All Stars, some thoughts

My (probably overly long) match report to our friends in Scotland and the associated environs on the MLS All-Star game can be found over at The Lord of the Wing. I sent it in just after midnight, and notice now that perhaps I tend to ramble. So be it. Editing is not my strong suit. I tried to watch the game from the Celtic perspective, a difficult task given that Celtic was third on the list of game calling priorities behind the David Beckham and then the MLS Side. Still, to summarize, a few thoughts:

  • Celtic was not in season form, a fact that most let them down dealing with the pressing physical pressure applied by the MLS back line and Ricardo Clark.
  • Juan Toja may be the MLS MVP this season. Not Angel, not Emilio, not DeRo... Toja.
  • Stephen Pressley can deal with crosses dispassionately as a foreman at a crucifix factory, but would foul a nun if she ran at him.
  • Shalrie Joseph would have been a good fit for Celtic.
  • If given a choice between Jamil Walker and Kenny Miller, Miller was the right choice. Dude has wheels and skill.
  • Aiden McGeady is a nice player. I liked what I saw from him. Showed real guts in actually taking on the MLS wings and defense.
  • Comment from Anonymous K on last night, "DCU was in much better form in pre-season (in the CCC) than Celtic." That seems right to me, but DCU had to be since they were playing in games with stuff on the line. We'll see how Celtic does when Champions League starts up.
  • Eddie Johnson is more creative, and less of a one-trick pony, than I recall from any point in his career. Sure, he didn't get on the scoreline, but he showed a great ability to set up other players. Has he always had that, and I never noticed it until now?
Anyways, I'm tired, but there is stuff to get to. I got a great email about ESPN that I'd like to share with you. I don't agree with all of it, but it is damn thought provoking. We'll get to that today or on Monday. Plus: We have a match soon against Red Bull New York. That should be a good one.

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19 July 2007

First, again: United takes SUM U17 Cup

Commence insufferable bragging.

When it comes to MLS teams winning something for the first time, DC United keeps seeming to be the first to do it. First MLS Cup, of course, was ours. First MLS team to win a US Open Cup? Yeah, we did that in 1996. First MLS team to win a US Open Cup? Same year, also giving us the first double. First MLS team to win a CONCACAF Champions Cup? 1998, DC United. First reserve title? 2004. Now we can add the First MLS Team to win the SUM U17 Cup. See, that "Tradition" banner is not just a reminder of history, it is also prophecy.

Of course, we still need to be the first MLS team to win the Superliga, and the first team to win the Copa Sudamericana. So there's work to be done. Gentlemen, look to the youth, and be inspired, and reminded.

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Moose hernia repaired

There's been some speculation about why Moose hasn't played in our last games. Today, DC United reports that the second-year midfielder underwent successsful surgery to repair hernias on his left and right abdominal walls. His full recovery is expected in 2 to 3 weeks. Justin has made seven appearances and four starts this season, and had begun to establish himself as an excellent substitution when United needed hustle and spark in the midfield. Let's hope his recovery is as quick as predicted - no one else has stepped up in this role yet this season.


The MLS All Star Game is now On Par with the NFL

I mean, of course, that no one, even hardcore fans of the sport, really cares about the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, and response to this year's festivities in Denver seems more muted than normal. See, we're just like the big sports now!

I think there are two things driving the sense of malaise with which we greet the hoops. First, as wonderful as the 4-nil thrashing of Celtic by DC United was last year, it confirmed a fact long suspected. This is too early for Celtic to be in form, and given how well Celtic would later show in the Champions League, it's clear that a month later for that friendly and the score line would have been much changed. Most of the fans in MLS now accept this, and while the phrase "MLS versus the world" pulls at the heartstrings, it just isn't true. This is the MLS All Stars against preseason, unfit Celtic. Celtic Manager Gordon Strachan is more interested in getting his players into form and fitness than in a result, giving them a run out. We all know this by now, so the sense that this proves anything, win or lose, is lost. When Chelsea came, this wasn't clear yet, but I think we know it now. The argument is settled, the game is meaningless as a test of MLS's standard of play, even of its elite players. Yes, this even applies if the MLS all-stars lose (and they may well lose tonight, simply because it is difficult to figure out a thrown together team). But we know the test in either result is meaningless. That was the one thing that perhaps kept our interest in recent years, and it is gone now.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, international fatigue. The arrival of David Beckham and its attendant press has pretty much dampened the enthusiasm of US fans for the international media. There was a time (a year ago) when international contacts with MLS of any sort were rare moments, punctuation marks of excitement. Now we've had long, rambling, tedious paragraphs since the announcement of Mr. Beckham to LA, and I think many of us don't care. What's worse than being ignored by establishment soccer media? Having them pay attention to you, and then the double insult of having them use the LA Galaxy as representative of MLS, a comparison that is as fair as judging the entire Premiership by Watford last season (okay, that's not quite fair... Charlton then. We'll reserve Watford for RSL). This game no longer provides the rare excitement of seeing the world. We've had the world crammed down our throat for months now, and discovered we didn't like it. It tasted like boiled pork.

So, while I will watch the MLS All-Star Game tonight, I don't have the same enthusiasm for it that I once had, and for the first time I yearn for the old Conference format. And yes, I'll be happy to Celtic run out there tonight. My upbringing (present religious affiliation or lack thereof notwithstanding) predisposes me to support Celtic, and I was thrilled to see them last season, but I will not be partisan in this match. I can hopefully enjoy it as a neutral, which I will. But the huge excitement is not there, it is Celtic, it is the MLS all-stars, and it's a game on TV.

So... whatever. Hail hail-- and blah blah.

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18 July 2007

The Freezer for July 17th 2007

The US Soccer Fragility Index, known as the Freezer, is the anti-power poll. Each week, Oscar, Kinney, and D have a frank discussion over email and chat to rank the most feeble, the most tenuous, and the overall weakest things in US Soccer. It's the second most feared list in US Soccer behind 101 Ways to Rehab an Ankle Injury by David Beckham.

This week in the Freezer we make a few small adjustments. DC United gets put on notice, as does a certain striker with high expectations.

Note: The Freezer is a collaborative effort of the DCenters. Kinney just posted it this week. We all wrote the thing.

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Wednesday High Priced Latte Coffee

U-17 PROGRAM ROLLING: The DC United U17 program is in the SUM U17 Championship game after defeating the LA Galaxy U17s. There they face the Kansas City Wizards. Click on the link for a nice picture of Etch talking to the lads. the U17 program and Youth Academies are something we're trying to learn more about (we've asked for an interview with John Maessner, and will let you know if we ever get it.)

CHRISTIAN GOMEZ WILL NOT START FOR MLS ALL STARS: Fine with me. We'll talk a bit about the all-star game, and we may be sending some thoughts over to our friends at The Lord of the Wing, since we'll be able to see the game and they won't.

NEW QUAKES CORPORATE SPONSOR IS BAD IDEA JEANS: The idea that San Jose may be announced as an expansion city without a stadium plan in place strikes me as incredibly foolish. There's a whole lot of risk and downside to this idea, and I'm not comfortable with it at all. Get the Quakes back, sure, but put them in an environment to be viable, or don't bring them back at all.

FREEZER FROZEN: I know we were supposed to get the Freezer out to you yesterday. I'm hoping for today, but I'm a bit swamped with Other Life Matters at the moment. You are all eligible for a full refund of your monthly fees.

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17 July 2007

The DCenters Interview with the Washington Times, Director's Cut

Below is a copy of an interview between myself and The Washington Times' Tim Lemke on the DC United stadium deal, some of which was quoted in the article we linked to earlier today. For various absurd legal reasons, I will be summarizing Tim's questions but printing my answers in full. Yes, I know, that's silly, but that's the nature of Corporate America these days.

Tim notes that DC United asked fans to write to Mayor Fenty and the DC Council to express frustration with the lack of movement on the stadium issue. He asks if I wrote in, and do I share that frustration?

United has since asked that people send their correspondence to them directly, so as not to overwhelm the Mayor's office, which I have done. If there's frustration, it is from the sense that United and its fans have been paying their dues for years now. Every year Mayor Williams, and this year Mayor Fenty, would come out an opening day and talk about helping us get a home of our own, and a season would pass and we'd still be no closer. That's frusturating year after year, especially when you structures going up near Potomac Avenue.

Tim asks what we think of the plan. He also asks if we want the city ti decide to move forward with the team's plan, or do we understand the city's desire to finalize a plan of their own?

I love the plan DC United has presented, and not just from a soccer fan perspective. Asking for rational thinking in sports is probably as difficult as asking for rational thinking in politics, but what I love about the plan United has put out is that it shows a different way of integrating professional sports into civic life. This isn't a case of a sports monopoly trying to extort public monies from the city. The United plan shows they're willing to pay for the land and stadium development, and it is a good-faith effort to provide the city return on its investment, to provide Ward 8 residents with housing, jobs, and expanded civic opportunities, and to provide the fans of United a home we can take pride in.

The city certainly needs to look at other proposals. I understand that. The AWC plan is another proposal the city should examine, but having looked at it myself it doesn't offer the same opportunity to the city and especially the residents of Ward 8 that the United plan does.

Tim asks how impatient we are to see a new stadium.

We've waited 12 years for our own stadium, and during that time DC United has been a strong participant in the DC community. This team, its fans, and I think the city as a whole deserve to give DC United a home that matches its performance competitively and the work it has done within the DC Community.

Tim asks how important a new soccer specific stadium is.

In terms of long-term viability, it's essential. The overhead costs of a nearly 60,000 seat stadium are huge, and the revenue from amenities and parking, which don't go to the team really, could show that soccer is a profitable industry in the United States. United's willing to make a fair deal to the city for these things. United needs a home, not merely a shelter.

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Tuesday Coffee is Bitter

IT'S GETTING HOT IN HERE, IT MUST BE FRED: Steve Goff with a profile of Fred, which is a nice little morsel of reading.

...it was clear to those around him that he needed time to adjust to not only United's style and MLS's demands, but to a new way of life. His wife's arrival was delayed by visa issues, and he did not take well to the cold weather in preseason in Washington and in several of the early international and league matches. "He's cold at our team meetings in the air conditioning," Coach Tom Soehn said with a laugh.

I am still a Fred believer (or rather, a "da Silva" believer since I wasn't one of those who thought he should get the first name on the jersey just yet). However, one wonders how he feels as of today, and I get the sense that this article might have been written before the Dallas game, given that Goff is on vacation. But that's me being overly demanding. How he feels about the 3-0 to 3-3 collapse doesn't matter that much.

FRUSTRATION STATION: Over the weekend, the Washington Times ran a piece on United's efforts to spur the stadium deal onward. The article is specifically triggered by United's recent "contact the city" message. It is interesting to note that they declined to comment for this article, but that didn't stop some other jabberjaws from chiming in:

"If there's frustration, it is from the sense that United and its fans have been paying their dues for years now," said D...who runs "The DCenters," a D.C. United fan Internet blog. "Every year Mayor [Anthony] Williams, and this year Mayor Fenty, would come out on opening day and talk about helping us get a home of our own, and a season would pass and we'd still be no closer. That's frustrating year after year, especially when you see structures going up near Potomac Avenue."

City officials stopped short of promising a stadium would be included in the city's plans for Poplar Point, but claimed to speak with D.C. United officials at least once every other week.

Wow, that D is a real prick. Why didn't he mention all the positives for the city in the plan, or talk about United's community outreach? Well, he did, and I have a complete copy of my, er, D's conversation with the reporter on this story, which I might put up as a separate post. It was clear that the real focus of the story was on the "frustration" element, so my response to that question was what was quoted. And I wasn't misquoted or anything like that, it was completley fair and transparent. Do I wish more was said about the positive things for city in the stadium proposal? Yes, but that's okay. This article is marginally supportive as a whole, putting the idea of the stadium in the forefront. Plans that don't have the stadium are the "alternative" plans, while the stadium idea should be the main plan. That's a nice thing that the DC United efforts have accomplished.

MORE DALLAS: DCist weighs in, and a look at the Leafblower photo gallery is always time well spent.

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16 July 2007

Debriefing for 12.15: F.C. Dallas

D.C. United 3 : 3 F.C. Dallas

Six Word Novel Recap

Three goals surrendered, two points missed.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Times, Mark Medina: "United scored in the eighth minute, when forward Fred crossed the ball to Moreno, who marched inside the 18-yard line on the right flank. To avoid a slide tackle from FC Dallas defender Clarence Goodson, Moreno passed to forward Luciano Emilio inside the box. Emilio tapped the ball in for the 1-0 lead. Before the end of the first half, Boswell lobbed a well-placed pass to Moreno from midfield. Moreno immediately fed Fred, who headed the ball into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead...Then came United's goal in the second half..."
The Dallas Morning News, Ryan Mink: "FC Dallas (9-6-3) rallied at RFK Stadium to earn a 3-3 tie. A flu-ridden Toja played 83 minutes before leaving the game. He recorded his first two-goal game of the season, netting FC Dallas' second goal in the 71st minute, followed by the game-tying goal on a header in the 81st minute."
The Washington Post, Steve Goff:
"D.C. United earned a point... but because of the astonishing way in which the match unfolded, the only thing for United to do afterward was accept it as a loss."
UnitedMania, Jimmy LaRoue: "Soehn rued the team’s lack of organization, but United never seemed to transition from its big lead into closing off the match."
Six Yards North, QJA: "...Perkins let us down. His form not only regressed from last week, but it regressed over the course of those ninety minutes."
The Edgell Supporters: "This felt worse than any loss I have experienced to date."
Poplar Point Perspective: "The referee was very questionable, but not the reason for the loss. He just made it easier for Dallas to come back."
QuarterVolley, I-66: "On the middle goal, you could fault Brian Carroll’s defense, or perhaps Perkins for not coming out and challenging the closing Toja. Overall, after the 3rd United goal, the hunger for victory seemingly ceased to remain." [D - I disagree with this. After the third goal, United did press for the 4th goal to regain the victory, and was better at putting pressure on Dallas. The desire was there, the discipline to maintain the lead earlier was not.]
An American's View, Brian Garrison: "I blame the four defenders. I really do. All three goals were the result of sloppy play on the side of our defense...when you have a 3-0 lead in the second half, the ref could step off the field and you should still be able to win 3-2 at the very least."
BlackDogRed, BDR: "If the problem with the defense was irreparable differences between Boswell and Erpen, if the two of them could not coexist, and the decision to trade Erpen was based on solely soccer evaluation - that Boswell is the better central defender - whoever made that evaluation should be fired. If the problem with the defense was irreparable differences between Boswell and Erpen, if the two of them could not coexist, and the decision to keep Boswell was based on marketing - he's so hunky! - whoever made that decision should be fired."
Also: Screaming Eagles Podcast

The Good

  1. Jaime Moreno: As one of those who has been advocating rotating Moreno in among the forwards, let's acknowledge that he was excellent in this game. His vision and pace were miles better than what we saw before Copa America. Here's the thing about Jaime: He can be two kinds of annoying. There's the annoying Jamie who skillfully eludes markers in the box, dancing amid the defenders but never quite pulling the trigger to score the goal. Then there's the annoying Jaime who seems disinterested for most of the game, whose passes are predictable and largely non-productive. This game saw the return of the first type of annoying Jaime, and I was never so happy to be so frusturated. Man, he can still cause problems, and it is beautiful even as you wish he would shoot the damn ball... but can he keep that up in the summer heat?
  2. Luciano Emilio: What I like about Emilio is that he scores when he should score. Open net, easy tap-in? He takes those well, and doesn't overhit the shot or try to be too complicated. In that sense, he is the perfect compliment to Moreno. You have to love that.
  3. Toja: I thought the league was starting to adapt to him. Maybe they are, but United didn't. For the first half, United handled him fairly well, forcing him to pass away when he was streaking forward, and the ball was usually errant and easily handled. The second half he was strong and confident and gutsy. A truly impressive performance.

The Bad

  1. Brian Carroll: At this point, the unwillingness to start either Olsen or Simms in the CDM role is becoming a major folly. Carroll when playing disciplined was acceptable, but he seemed unable to keep up with the pace of the game, and as a result the game got away from him. In the first half, you may have noticed Ben Olsen consistently making "settle down" type gestures to the team. Brian Carroll needed that advice more than anyone later in the game.
  2. Vanney and Boswell: The thing about Facundo Erpen is that his boneheaded plays were so spectacular in nature that the eye was naturally drawn to them. Passing it directly to another player? Erpen would do that. Bicycle backpasses? Amazingly, flashingly stupid. Here's the thing: Vanney also commits a lot of poor plays, they're just not flashy and eye catching. Easy headers into a space five yards closer to a Dallas player than a DC player? Poor communication on how to clear a ball? Failure to put his body on a player in a set piece? All things Vanney commited that are just as harmful as Erpen's play. Boswell is getting reamed by BDR above, and while I disagree with the intensity, Boswell was thoroughly pedestrian last night. Boswell is still better than Erpen was, but he shouldn't be better than Vanney is, especially given the fact that Boswell was not particularly good. He's lost some of the bite to his game.
  3. Perkins: It's already been noted that he's taken the blame for not getting to two balls and shutting down the attack, but the other aspect of the game that was troubling was his distribution, a moment epitomized when he sent a low ball about forty-five yards right to the feet of the Dallas attack.
  4. Kpene: Some are calling his play poor or lazy. To me, it seemed like he was playing as though he were afraid of reinjuring himself. It wasn't lazy, or bad, but very, very timid. I think the two hamstring injuries may have affected his mental toughness. That's something that will have to be overcome.
  5. Tim Weyland: It's not that any of his calls were particularly bad, it's that he was calling a different game for Dallas and DC, a problem that accentuated until the 80th minute. Marginal fouls were consistently given to Dallas, and were not given to DC United. It's almost as though he believed that the offside non-call resulting in United's second goal was wrong (it wasn't, look at the Dallas right back [Drew Moor?]) and shaded his calling appropriately. Which is ridiculous. The fact that United starting getting calls after the game was tied really is the kicker, as though he felt it was acceptable to remove the filter at that point. A cynically officiated match.

Man of the Match


Karma Bank

-1 for giving up three goals, since that shouldn't be allowed to happen. However, +1 for dealing with Weyland's officiating, and +1 for playing some smart, nifty passes to generate goals in the first half. +1 for the game, overall EVEN for the season.

Final Thoughts

First, I don't know why Justin Moose is in the dog house. Supposedly the management are upset about his defense, but him not even making the bench means that Soehn had limited options for trying to regain the win after the game was tied. Moose adds attacking fire, something that might have helped at the death.

Second, Soehn's ability to adjust the lineup depending on the time seems to have deserted him. If he was considering locking down the game, why not bring Simms into the match earlier? Why not add in a Burch or Mediate to the defense and push Gros up for Fred? If Soehn is upset about the way the team tactically responded to the three goal lead (you can hear him complaining about sending too many number forward on the SE Podcast) then he should also be honest enough to admit that he didn't do enough himself. It is starting to feel a little Piotr Nowak-esque in terms of the predictability of substitutions, as well as their timing (far, far too late).

Now we head into the all-star break. There's some time for some introspection. The feeling among some of you was that this team was making a run to MLS Cup. I still don't look at this team as the favorite to come out of the East, and personally I think that moves made with an idea of adding a fifth star this year are likely to make the future more untenable and also not likely to reward us with another trophy, the worst of both worlds. United's first five games after the break are a chance for them to change my mind, but that's where I am mentally.

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14 July 2007

First Impressions - DC United 3 : 3 FC Dallas

This was so close to an impressive victory. Not just starting out, but fighting through obstacles to win. And while I'm upset with referee Tim Weyland, I am much more annoyed with the fact that no team under pretty much any conditions should be giving up 3-0 leads at the 50th minute. That's ridiculous. What's more, the center of the defense seemed to be giving way, as both Boswell and Vanney took their turns at being caught out for the goals. And even then...well... I feel like I should be more angry than I am, but the team did keep going after letting Dallas in the game, and pushed for the win.

A few things are apparent. Greg Vanney has yet to prove to be an upgrade during the run of play defensively over Facundo Erpen. Second, Toja clearly has another gear for when he needs to dig deep, and that's impressive. Third, Brian Carroll's year is not getting better, given the way Dallas was able to slice through the midfield at times.

Ah, I figured out it out. I'm not angry because I'm annoyed, tense, and sad, and somehow that's monopolozing my emotions. Going to listen to some happy music, then go to bed. Maybe that'll relax me.

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