23 July 2007

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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At 23 July, 2007 12:23, Blogger Sean said...

I'm glad we sounded good on TV. One of the best moments of being traveling support was how the team reacted to us. Before and after the game, the entire team came over towards us, looked up, and clapped.

Even better was after United gave up the first goal, I saw a player (I believe Emilio) talk to someone and then point up at the traveling support. Maybe this is fan romanticism, and maybe he was just pointing at Perkins or something, but in my heart I want to believe he was pointing out that we were singing for them, even though they just gave up a goal.

At 23 July, 2007 22:11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, D.

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