Debriefing for Match 11.28: At Kansas City Wizards
Kansas City Wizards 1 : 1 D.C. United
Six Word Novel Recap
Draw makes it simple: Win out.
Media, Traditional and OtherwiseThe Washington Post, The Bog Man: "Two starting midfielders were forced to miss the final leg of this trip because of injuries. Several players and members of the coaching staff were weakened by stomach ailments. And after a half, United trailed a Kansas City Wizards team that had not lost when leading at halftime."
The Kansas City Star, Bob Luder: "As United defender Bryan Namoff met him to challenge, Johnson stopped with the ball on the right side, near the top of the D.C. penalty box. He held the ball for what seemed like at least five seconds before centering a sharp pass to Sealy streaking in just outside the box. Sealy struck the ball with his right foot and sent a shot just inside the left post, cleanly beating goalkeeper Troy Perkins."
The Examiner, Criag Stouffer: "That held until the 56th minute, when Marc Burch found Gomez at the top of the Wizards' box. Gomez turned quickly and got off a shot before defender Tyson Wahl could close him down. His shot sailed past diving keeper Kevin Hartman and inside the left post for the equalizer."
UnitedMania, Mike Martin: "United now has a five point lead over New England, Houston and Chivas USA with only two league games remaining, both at home to Chicago and Columbus. However, Chivas USA now has an opportunity to run the table and win the Supporters Shield with 4 games remaining, provided United doesn't get maximum points from their last two matches."
MLSNet.com, Bob Rusert:" A midfield battle formed again as it had midway through the first half but the impassioned play did not. "
Booked for Dissent / Screaming Eagles Podcast, Dave Lifton: "...the dullest game of the season..."
Down the By Line, M: "As for the game itself, it wasn't the greatest performance from the Wizards, but it was enough to get part of the job done. The Wizards came out slow early, and DC almost made them pay a few times, but El Gato, Kevin Hartman, proved tonight why he was brought in to take Bo's place. Bo doesn't make all the saves that Hartman made tonight, and the Wizards likely lose this match if Bo is in net." [Note: I hold a special place in my heart for bloggers devoted to a single MLS team that use one letter for their name.]
QuarterVolley, I-66: "Well then, that was amazingly crappy wasn’t it? We didn’t necessarily look bad 44 minutes in. I felt we looked okay, but not bad. I mean, that was until Bryan Namoff had a tremendous brain fart and, with Clyde Simms 10 yards from him calling for a square ball, decided to send an errant pass back into the attacking third, sparking the Wizards counter which made the score 1-0 through Malik “I usually can’t even score on sitters in front of United’s net” Sealy of all people."
BlackDogRed, BDR: "The absence of Fred and Gros and the ankle knack of Jaime Moreno meant a middle defense of Bobby Boswell and Greg Vanney (with McTavish moved to midfield). United can win with Boswell and McTavish or Vanney and McTavish, but United cannot win silver with a back line centered with Boswell and Vanney. That the two sucked so badly on a field ten yards narrower than normal speaks as much to their disorganization as their combined lack of speed."
Fifty-Fifty Ball, Guy Franzen: "'The Kansas City Wizards prepared for tonight’s regular-season home finale by canvassing the city Thursday with thousands of free tickets for schoolchildren.' Unfortunately the doubling of the Cauldron's size, with the fifty tickets that they were able to give away to kids[the announced attendance was 14,353and I have no idea how many were given away] , was not enough to put the Wizards over the top. "
- Get Set and Go: In the recent matches against Toronto and Real Chivas, United was sluggish out of the gate. This marks the first game in a bit where United came out firing, dictating play and pushing the game around. It wasn't even United at their best, but the mentality was correct.
- Hide Your Weakness: No Fred and Gros was problematic, since that's a lot of our midfield gone, but Tom Soehn's modified box midfield was a pragmatic solution whose advantages I didn't understand. With Simms and the rest of the team ailing from food poisoning, the formation was a steadying influence. At first, I didn't understand why United would want to slow this game down, but now that we see the full story, it makes sense as a choice. My first reaction was wrong -- Soehn did the right thing. Try and put this game in a vice and squeeze, hoping Kansas City cracks first. It would have worked had any of our opening chances gone in the net.
- Troy Perkins, Traffic and Weather on the 8s: As much as it has been said before, I still can't get enough of the way Perkins patrols the box in the air. United does let people get down the flanks and send in crosses too often, but Perkins mitigates that risk nicely.
- Christian Gomez: Saves the point with the near post goal and plays credibly as a forward for the first time I can recall where we've tried that particular experiment. Of course, it helps that he was playing as a forward who was checking back into midfield a lot, so it wasn't too much of a difference, but he still didn't come back too often or too far, which is what you might expect.
- Defense: Awkward looking is an overstatement of the display. We've written before about the Boswell/Vanney pairing (most notably in this post) and how it doesn't work. Today, we had all of that plus a Bryan Namoff is still not right. If we had true defensive depth, I'd say Namoff is a major candidate to get a game off. He's taken a few knocks, and needs some good rest for a bit. Clyde Simms and Brian Carroll helped steady the midfield, but didn't really augment the back third that much. Boswell was slow, Vanney was slow, and Burch was caught out too often.
- Ben Olsen: He just didn't have enough on Friday night. I'm totally willing to give him a pass for this game, but we do have to acknowledge that for most of the second half he found real difficulty getting into space.
- TV Production: I'm going to take a guess on this, since I don't actually know these things, but it seems like Comcast was getting their feed from Kansas City's regular broadcast crew, and augmenting it with one sideline camera. Usually, even on the road, the game looks better than that. Dave Johnson remains one of the better home announcers, and he seems to genuinely like Thomas Rongren, but I feel that Rongren is, shall I say, a bit too much of a homer. Perhaps the penalty should have been given to Emilio when he was hauled down in the box, but there's no way Gomez deserved a penalty. The replay showed clearly that Gomez had a fistful of his marker's shorts in his hand, and I'm pretty sure that when they both got up from the turf, Gomez said "Machine Wash Warm, Tumble Dry Low".
- Emilio: Now that I've complained about the TV production, let me say that the shots of Ryan Pore delivering double forearms to Emilio's chest told a great story. Teams are really collapsing on him, hacking him, pushing him, and while he was getting some of that attention, I'm sure he'll be getting more. Especially as he plays better than average defenses in the playoffs, or if not talented defenses, he'll be playing against backs with no scruples (rhymes with Bay Peeps).
Man of the Match
None assigned. Game too ugly to give a MotM award for.
+1 for the season entering the game. +1 for Emilio not getting a borderline penalty, +1 for some good attacking soccer in the first half, -1 for some cynical fouls that didn't get cards, -1 for some ugly play on our half of the field. No change overall, +1 for the season.
Final ThoughtsAt first, I was on-board with the "no excuses for that ugly a game" mentality, but over the weekend I changed my mind. There were some damn good excuses. The problem with excuses is that too often they are wallpapering over more fundamental problems. While Burch has been a revelation at left back, it is primarily for his non-defensive responsibilities. Namoff is not playing as well as he was earlier this season, neither Boswell nor Vanney seems capable of utterly marking someone out of a game, and I like Devon MacTavish just fine but wouldn't want to rely on him to be the focal point of a backline. I get the sense that the pieces to a really good defense are there, but I don't know how they fit together. I'm not sure Tom Soehn does either, which is fine for right now, but come playoff time you need to know who your Best XI are, and use them.
Otherwise, I think the excuses hold water. Tired, Sick, travel-weary: Those all explain much for the game we saw. But they can only explain that one game. The Chicago game still matters heavily for the Supporter's Shield, and I have every expectation we'll try and go for it. However, even if the Shield is in doubt, I would not be surprised to see Soehn sacrifice the Columbus game to the reserves. Home field is only a point away right now, and we could have it well in the bag by then, and I could see Soehn making the decision that getting everyone fresh and ready for the playoffs is a legitimate choice. While I wouldn't like it, I wouldn't call him an idiot either. Many of you have made your thoughts clear - If the Cup Final is at RFK, it needs to be a home game. I still disagree, but that's a matter of opinion, not soccer fact or lore or absolute truth.