27 August 2007

The Etcheverry-Gomez Fan Debate

One of my compatriots will handle the debrief for the Toronto game. In short, my feelings were "Eh, nice enough but not good enough." So let's deal with some accusatory comments from the XI from XI post on Thursday...

Actually, comments like this one from an Anonymous poster make me happy:

My Respectometer on this blog has gone down about 50% or more. How a blog dedicated to DC United can have any best 11 and leave out Marco is Far beyond reason. Maybe you just never saw him play in the 90's but that's still no excuse. He was the primary reason for the majority of the cups this team has won. To reduce that to the number of assists in some comparison to Gomez is absurd. He is the model for what MLS what's in a DP and is the standard by which all other DC players are judged.

Now, I could hide behind the self-imposed rules of the game I had established for that post, and argue things from a marginal utility perspective. By not selecting Etch, I freed up some of the glory years to select other players at positions I knew I had holes at, and therefore while Etch might have been a better player than Gomez, the value of the team as a whole was better by getting a vintage Agoos, Moreno, and Olsen. But I'm not going to hide behind that kind of thinking. Instead, let's seriously ask the question: Who's a better playmaker, Gomez or Etcheverry?

Now, let me say that I don't think the answer to this is a matter of dogma. I can completely understand anyone who looks at that question and decides the answer is Marco Etcheverry. It's a stupid argument to even have, given that United has never really faced the question of deciding between the two. They're both great players, and Marco has an incredibly legacy at United. Look at Lifton's submission to the XI from XI game, and you'll see he cheated and decided to put them both on the field (which is the kind of cheating we can all get behind). It's a silly argument to have, but this is exactly the forum to have such a silly argument. So let's delve into the silliness:

While the commenter is right that I was not as aware of Etch as I should have been between 1996-2000 (I returned to DC in December of 2000), it's not like I haven't been watching film of those games. So I feel like I have at least some handle of what Etcheverry brought to the table at his prime. And there are certain things that Diablo no doubt does better than Gomez. Etch could play the ball around the field through the air better than anyone. 40 yards to a six inch spot? Sure, he could do that, and consistently do it. Etch also had a mean free kick.

But Gomez also has his strengths. When Gomez is at his best (as he was in 2006, and the end of 2004) he got a whole lot of people involved in the play. His ability to select the right the right pass to further an attack was better than Etcheverry. He's faster on the ball, and I think sees the field as well if not better than Marco. His direct kicks may not as good as Marco's, but they're still nasty. And here's the thing: he's done this when MLS defenses have gotten better than they were in the late 90s. The biggest ways MLS improved from 1999 to 2003 was improved team defense among almost every team. Gomez has faced more teams with better and more cohesive defensive game plans than Etcheverry did, and has still excelled. And that's the key reason I'd take Gomez over Etch right now. Sure, Etch carved up teams exceptionally well, and perhaps in ways that Gomez never has, but Etch never faced quite the same level of competition (even in that final all-star game in the mud.) And for me, right now, that's why I'd take Gomez over Etch. Yes, Etcheverry has meant more culturally to United than Gomez, but that doesn't factor into my thinking here. Do I think people are stupid for going the other way on this question? Absolutely not. But it's a fun question to ask, isn't it? And if people get upset about my choice here, well, it's all fun kids. Just enjoy it, and enjoy the feeling of being indignant. Hell, that's part of the point of these exercises.

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At 27 August, 2007 10:11, Blogger Kinney said...

I sir, am indignant. :)

That said, I don't know how you can say that Gomez is better than El Diablo in his prime. I would take Marco every time.

At 27 August, 2007 11:24, Anonymous Dave Lifton said...

I didn't "cheat." I merely found a system (Goose covering the entire left flank, as he did in '99) that allowed for the two of them to be on the field at the same time.

At 27 August, 2007 13:46, Anonymous DCUinCT said...

Kinney, I hadn't meant to be anonymous, but just fogot to put the line in. Still, your arguement doesn't hold, although the fact that you were watching only from 2000 explains a lot.

Probably the most important lesson is that you can't compare players from different era's. Pele, Maradona, etc. were amazing in there time, and would still be impressive, but their "tricks" are now more common and the skill level is better across the globe. So what Etch and others in the first few years of MLS did has to be compared to the level of play in the league and globally of the time. 10 years makes a pretty big difference in football.

At 27 August, 2007 13:47, Anonymous DCUinCT said...

Meant to address to d. Sorry.

At 27 August, 2007 15:26, Anonymous Block said...

I can see your point, the only problem I have with it is this. Gomez is so incredibly inconsistent that he's at least a tier below El Diablo, if not two tiers. When they're both at their best, yes it's close, but Marco was at his best probably 98 games out of a hundred, Gomez closer to 40.

At 27 August, 2007 23:07, Blogger Oscar M. said...

Is there a distinction between Best Playmaker and Best Playermaker with DC United?

To me, it doesn't matter. Etcheverry was shoulders above Gomez not only at the MLS level, but on the international stage as well. One year, he was a few votes behind Valderrama for top player in South America. Etchevery, in his prime, also made his teammates a lot better, see Lassiter and Conteh.

Now, if only Gomez had the foresight to get his Bolivian citizenship and get called up, we could have made a more even comparison.


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