06 September 2007

Retrospective: When did it go right?

A smarter blogger would wait until after this weekend before doing any sort of seasonal analysis. Why not let the important games this weekend play out before we make any assumptions? But, well, if there's a word I live by, it is premature. So let's breakdown the season to date, and see if we can identify potential turning points. That's the purpose of this post, and in a later post (soon, I promise. Yes, I've been deluged with real life work, but I owe you guys some quality analysis) we'll look at why things might have turned when they did.

For our starting point, let's take the pace graph, which we are all familiar with right now. However, I've just isolated United's performance, in an attempt to look at the variations we see. To my eyes, there are four distinct phases to this season. The early slide, the stabilizing games, another set of poor results around the all-star break, and the most recent run of results. Here's how it looks (click to enlarge):

So, to summarize, the season started badly, but then something happened to change things and United started getting results. However, around the all-star break, United dropped off again, until starting a run against New England and reeling off a few results. Why is this?

Of course, the conventional wisdom says this is obvious. The first turn around was around the time of the Chivas game earlier in the year, which is about shortly before United switched over to the 4-4-2. The second turnaround was United starting a new slide, with the At Houston, Dallas, and At New York matches. What was going on then? The simple answer might be "Moreno's injury and the Copa America" but do you have another theory? Finally, was it simply Moreno returning to the line-up that started the most recent run, or is there something else? I have some theories, but let's hear yours...

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At 06 September, 2007 11:38, Blogger Bob said...

I don't think you can pin-point specific events to explain the four trends you identify. I would say the first half of the season DC was inconsistent - varying from average to not very good. Now DC is playing very good soccer. I think there are several explanations for this gradual transformation:

1) Perkins re-gaining his confidence after giving up the soft goal against Chivas Guadalarja.
2) Olsen adjusting to a new position.
3) Soehn and players getting comfortble with one another.
4) Fred adjusting to new league and playing in the summer.
5) The emergence of Burch on the back line.
6) Soehn finding the right mix of players in the back.
7) Simms over Carroll.

At 06 September, 2007 12:33, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I credit lessons learned last season, as at this time last year, we were fatigued and sloppy.

Nowak played his starters until they were worn, and weary. And he remained inflexible to tactical or player changes. It did not take a rocket scientist to figure out how DC United was going to play against you last year.

Fast forward to this season, and ask yourself, can you predict exactly what Soehn is going to do, which players are going to start, what kind of defense and attack will we have...?

DC is far less predictable, and you cannot beat us, by simply beating up on "Mo and Go" (like in the latter half of 2006)...


At 06 September, 2007 12:53, Anonymous matt w said...

1. Switching Fred to the left, putting Ben on the right, and Clyde in back seems to have worked wonders. We have a solid midfield again, and this has allowed some creativity along the wings rather than pushing everything through our two a-mids.

2. Emilio scores goals. And when he doesn't, the goals still come from somewhere.

3. The back line has been solid since, alas, trading Erpfu.

4. The subs haven't hurt us. And Soehn has been getting rest for everyone except maybe Perkins.

5. Speaking of, Perkins of late is a flat-out stud.

At 06 September, 2007 13:41, Blogger Bob said...

Mo and Go - love it.

At 06 September, 2007 14:20, Blogger EdTheRed said...

Burch cracking the starting lineup at left back. I'm serious. Look at our record since then (what, one loss, six wins?). Burch's pinpoint long-distance passing means that United can now punish teams that push up into midfield and try to neutralize Gomez as a playmaker.

Without two d-mids behind him like he had in the 3-5-2, Gomez was being taken out of his game way too easily. Enter Burch, at around the same time that Benny and Jaime get back from the Copa and Fred gets comfortable on the wing...and now teams that try to play us "The Chicago Way" (high, rough pressure in the midfield to neutralize our skill players) are routinely punished.

For example, vs. Dallas, the second and third goals were the direct result of crosses from Burch - on the second one, Gomez looked up from his spot just outside the box on the right, and instead of sending a square ball to the center of the top of the box, where Dallas' defenders were concentrated, he swung the ball back out to the left to Burch, who returned the favor by sending a pacy, swerving cross back into the box that Gbandi (?) could only clear weakly right back to Gomez, who nearly tore the cover off the ball in putting into the back of the net.

Add in the fact that Vanney, for all his lack of pace, has cut down on the number of brainfarts-per-game coming out of the central defense, and you've got a nice United run.

At 06 September, 2007 14:28, Blogger D said...

All: Good stuff all the way around. Bob, I especially agree with you on 2,4, and 5, and think they combine in an interesting way. The key is Burch...

Matt:I think you definitely come closest to explaining how United reversed their fortune earlier in the year, and at least planted the seed for the most recent run.

Ed: I think you're closest to what I'm thinking for the last five or so games. The key to the most recent run is Marc Burch, a situation that surprises me, but I think it logically plays out, and there's some interesting data (to me at least) that supports that theory.

At 06 September, 2007 14:34, Blogger EdTheRed said...

Oh yeah, I forgot Clyde "Muthaf***in'" Simms. I'm telling you, that Simms is a bad mutha...

*shut your mouth!*

But I'm talkin' bout Simms!

*and we can dig it!*

Basically, same deal as Burch - Simms has been much better with his distribution out of the back than Carroll this year. See Benny's first goal against Dallas: Clyde heads Sala's poor clearance right to Benny, who catches Sala out of position. Boom! Crucial early road goal.

United is something sick like 17-2-3 when Clyde starts, btw (something like that - I'm too lazy to look it up).

At 06 September, 2007 17:21, Blogger Jeffrey said...

A couple of things have generally been present when things were going well and absent when things were going poorly, but the only two that have an almost perfect correlation seem to be:

1. Benny igniting the offense (by his own admission, he played poorly in the second NY and Houston games, and he was at CDM during the April slide), and

2. Perkins playing well.

Other things that seem to help, though their effect doesn't appear to be as strong as the first two factors, are:

3. Simms over Carroll (though the "righting of the ship" occurred with Carroll),

4. Jaime in the lineup (though the draw against NE that helped turn things around happened with Jaime on the bench, and he was was on the field during the April slide), and

5. Burch over Gros at LB (though the first recovery occurred with Gros at LB).

So, basically, I agree with everyone else. I also think that a large share of the credit for this squad beginning to look like a championship-caliber team needs to go to guys who were afterthoughts at the beginning of the season but have really stepped up, such as Simms, Burch, and McTavish. And we should also acknowledge that Vanney has been pretty good.

At 06 September, 2007 18:20, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But, well, if there's a word I live by, it is premature."

i feel sorry for your girlfriend or wife.

At 16 September, 2007 19:48, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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