01 November 2007

Last Impressions - DC United 2 : 2 Chicago

DC United eliminated from MLS Cup Playoffs on Aggregate, 3-2

Tradition.

It was the slogan of the season, backed up on the web banner by more silver than you see in the teeth of your average Crunk performer, a tally we added to this season. It was a promise, but it was also the biting fear entering this match against Chicago, a team we've never beaten in the playoffs, a team that we've never scored upon in the playoffs, a team that dealt us one of the most humiliating defeats we've ever suffered in 2005.

I have been outside of the DC area for the last three weeks, my life turned into a series of hotel rooms, tense business meetings, and mediocre food. However, I made sure to pack a United jersey for each match, and to wear it proudly on gameday. For the first two weeks, it has not been much fun. I watched the loss to Columbus, the loss to Chicago on the road, and now tonight. Accompanied by someone who didn't understand the game, we watched the game, and with United down two goals early I envied my compatriot's naivete. "They can still come back," I was told. "So, what's this off-side thing again?"

Only, tradition is not merely about trophies (though that's a lot of it) or is it about match results. It is about watching a team I care about, and watching a team repay me with their effort on the pitch. For all the under-10 youth league soccer cliches, sometimes heart can be more rewarding than results, and for me personally this was one of those games. Even as Eric Wynalda was discussing the similarities to 2005 while the sound of the Sabers game on the TV next to us in the bar threatened to drown him out, United rallied and went down fighting. When I thought Gomez had collected our third goal, I screamed aloud, jumping up and down, only to collapse when the goal was (correctly) called back. But they kept at it, even with the disappointment.

Can I complain about the first half? Of course. Can I complain about us losing because of a misstep on the road? Yes, absolutely... But I won't. Instead, this is more personal. My ultimate complaint is that I was in Buffalo, New York on the final game of DC United's season, and I didn't say good-bye in person. For this team honored our tradition, fought valiantly, and I shall miss them. This off-season will likely see at least one of those players I saw not step onto the field again. I didn't know I wouldn't see Esky again before he was gone. Who knows how it will be this off-season? And I wish I could have had a chance to say good-bye myself.

Ironically, I return home to DC tomorrow. And while I will be glad to get off the road, I won't truly be home again until April. Good-bye to the 2007 D.C. United. Your work this season was honorable, and I was proud of you to the final minutes. I will miss you, even as I watch the MLS Cup in RFK.

24 Comments:

At 01 November, 2007 22:38, Blogger Guy Franzen said...

I knew it was much worse this year. You highlighted the reason for me. Because we played with heart, played like we wanted it, played like we deserved it...and we did.

 
At 01 November, 2007 22:44, Anonymous Anonymous said...

-It wasn't the ref.
-It wasn't the fact that Blanco is a fat, whinging, diving POS (even if he is).
-It wasn't that Chicago was trying to kill the clock at minute 15 (even if they were).
-It wasn't anything that Tom Soehn did or didn't do at any point in the last 2 weeks.
-It wasn't Eric Cunalda or ESPN
-I can't even blame this one on the Nats

We lost this game because our team didn't show up.

The horses we rode in the regular season did less than zilch in the playoffs. Lucky and Fred might as well have been in a pub in Sao Paolo. Jaime looked his age again at the worst of times. Our big time players (with the exception of a big-hearted Olsen and a fiery Gomez) did not play up to any kind of playoff standard.

Not enough production from big time players is bad, but so is too many small-time players. At the end of 90 minutes we had Nicholas Addlery, Devon McTavish, and Rod Dyachenko on the field. I wish them all the luck in the world and I hope they have great careers, but those guys wouldn't start for the Rochester Raging Rhinos. The other subs left on the bench are even worse. How did we end up with such a lack of depth?

Chicago deserved this win and it makes me sick. We were outmarked, they passed better, took advantage of their few chances, and played smarter. That's why they move on.

I wish this really had been a rebuilding year because at least it wouldn't feel like such a tease.

ugh

 
At 02 November, 2007 02:41, Blogger Sean said...

I wish the called back goal was on the MLSNet highlights. Everyone says the goal was correctly called back; obviously the crowd at the stadium disagreed. :)

This was my first season with United, d, and I met you at my first tailgate and first game. You, in probably no small part, are why I became a DCU fan and stuck with the team. It was a shame you weren't here tonight, but thank you for making a new fan feel welcome and for the blog.

 
At 02 November, 2007 08:11, Anonymous matt w said...

I feel like a friend died. Here's to '07, pure greatness bookended at both ends by something other than greatness.

 
At 02 November, 2007 08:37, Blogger I-66 said...

Had that match ended 2-0 and not 2-2, I would not feel nearly as sick as I do right now. For a moment there, we all believed that we were going to complete the comeback and send it into extra time. Bedlam does not describe what was happening in the mid-130's when it became 2-2.

Alas.

 
At 02 November, 2007 09:33, Blogger timmyc said...

Sean - if you have a chance look at the front page of the sports section in the Washington Post. I was mad that the highlight was up on mlsnet.com as well, and I was at the game and have yet to see a replay. But the amazing picture shows pretty clearly that Gomez is steering the ball down towards his feet with his forearm.

 
At 02 November, 2007 09:47, Blogger Jeffrey said...

I've avoided saying it until now because the sample size was small and I didn't want it to be true, but here it is: United in the past three years have become chokers in big games. Let's look at United's record since MLS Cup 2004 in games where they could clinch something or be eliminated:

Good results:
- 2005 CONCACAF Champions Cup vs. Harbour View (won 2-1 agg.)
- 2006 playoffs vs. Red Bulls (won 2-1 agg.)
- 2007 CONCACAF Champions Cup vs. CD Olympia Honduras (won 7-3 agg.)

Bad results:
- 2005 CONCACAF Champions Cup vs. Pumas (lost 6-1 agg.)
- 2005 Copa Sudamericana vs. Catholica (lost 3-2 agg.)
- 2005 playoffs vs. Fire (lost 4-0)
- 2005; chance to clinch home field advantage on the last game of the season vs. Metrostars (lost 3-2)
- 2006 playoffs vs. Revolution (lost 1-0)
- 2006; chance to clinch the Supporters' Shield (had several chances down the stretch, lost them all. Clinched the Supporters' Shield only due to Dallas losses)
- 2007 CONCACAF Champions Cup vs. Chivas (lost 2-1 agg.)
- 2007 Superliga vs. Houston; had a chance to clinch a second round berth with a win (lost 1-0)
- 2007 Superliga vs. LA (lost 2-0)
- 2007 Sudamericana vs. Chivas (lost 1-1 on road goals)
- 2007; chance to clinch the Supporters' Shield with a win at home vs. Chicago (tied 0-0, won the Shield only when Chivas lost)
- 2007 playoffs vs. Chicago (lost 3-2 agg.)

That's the inglorious record of the recent past: 3-12, with our only good results coming against vastly inferior teams. And that doesn't even include three ignominious exits from the Open Cup. Until recently I simply chalked it up to coincidence, but I'm really starting to believe that this team has developed a tendency to choke when the stakes are high.

Though, you are right, D: they played with heart in the second half last night.

 
At 02 November, 2007 09:51, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did it hit his hand yes? Did it matter? I'm not so sure, his arm was not very much extended, and the defender forced him into it.

It was the right call is a strange thing to say because you don't look at one call, you look at all the calls and consistency. If Marufo wanted to call all hand balls like that, we would have had a penalty kick at the end of the first half when the ball hit Razov's hand in a very similar way.

Sad loss, and you can't blame it on the refs, but they need to improve.

 
At 02 November, 2007 09:55, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, I meant Armas

 
At 02 November, 2007 10:12, Anonymous bdr said...

"Had that match ended 2-0 and not 2-2, I would not feel nearly as sick as I do right now."

I-66, I agree completely.

Glad I feel as sick as I do right now. Better heart sick than despondent.

 
At 02 November, 2007 10:47, Blogger D said...

Greetings to everyone from the airport in Buffalo... I'll try and put the debriefing together, but it may not happen depending on how I feel when I make it back to DC later today/tonight.

Guy: I don't know, I felt depressed, but at the same time I felt satisfied because at least I saw my team put it out there. It was a sense I didn't have after Columbus, or Chicago away. I missed that feeling.

Anon: I'd say correct on most of it, although I still question the 4-5-1 last week from Soehn. But you're right, Emilio and Moreno did not really have good games (Moreno was a bit better, he had some nice work that he did when moving into the final third.) And you're right, Chicago did exactly what they should to get the win. I hate them, but they did the right thing.

Sean: It was a pleasure meeting you this year, and I look forward to next season. And who knows, there may be other times we see each other.

Matt W: Well summarized. The bell curve season.

I-66: At 2-2, I was having problems remaining seated. I know exactly how it must have been. It felt... so right that we come back. And yet... crap.

Jeffrey: The point is well made. We need something of a good cup run soon, or we run the risk of becoming the New New England Revolution.

TimmyC: Good find. He gained a clear advantage from the handball.

Anon: It did matter, since his hand was not in a natural soccer position and he gained a clear advantage. The Armas situation was not so clear cut. And we burned our karma when Chicago wasn't awarded a penalty after the Perkins foul.

BDR: Well said. I'm depressed, but I'm depressed for the right reasons.

 
At 02 November, 2007 11:00, Blogger Bill-DC said...

Still scratching my head at why Soehn played Emilio and Moreno during that meaningless Crew match.

Overall I was impressed at the way he managed the club and with a year under his belt, I'm confident Soehn will have them contending again next year.

 
At 02 November, 2007 11:04, Anonymous Tolik said...

I can forgive mistakes as long as the team continues fighting. 2:0 would have been pathetic. 2:2 means that they went down fighting, and my heart is aching but in the right place.

Luchi was a shadow of himself, but critique of Fred is misplaced - he was running hard, no less then Ben.

This defense definitely needs a good skilful leader. If Nelson was still playing here...

 
At 02 November, 2007 11:17, Anonymous Skippy said...

So much to say, don't want to bore everyone with an 15 page essay.

The Call - Oh, it hurt. I imagine many of us were in the stadium and for 15 seconds it was amazing. I still think it was the wrong call. There was an awful lot of contact in the penalty area to be calling what looks to me like an incidental handball.

The Problem - I still have to say was defense. United gave up two goals when Chicago was putting 10 players behind the ball. I'm not going to second guess Tommy's choices for this game because defense has been problematic all year.

The Season - I thoroughly enjoyed it. This was a team at the beginning that this site suggested and I think many of us could have believed was in the process of being rebuilt. Through some tremendous effort and great play, they won (retained) the Supporter's Shield and almost came back from a three goal deficit in the playoffs. Honestly, I feel like the team was sort of cobbled together into a winning team. And it worked for a while. It was a lot of fun.

Next Season - Tough to say. I can imagine Tommy putting together a consistent defense that plays well together (I think the talent is there, its a matter of figuring our what works). But if Moreno retires or Gomez fades, the lack of depth in the attack could be a problem. I'll be buying season tickets though, as soon as I can scrape the money together.

The Stadium - [explitive deleted]

 
At 02 November, 2007 13:27, Blogger The Manly Ferry said...

Your bunch inspired a hostile/neutral last night. Hell of a game.

 
At 02 November, 2007 13:54, Blogger JWVariant said...

"Matt Perkins"? ;)

A loss of 2-0 would've been better than the 4-0 of a couple of years ago. 2-2 was respectable, toying with us as it does. And it does hurt *because* it was that close, because the next round, the future, was inches away. Not miles away.

DC's Front Office has some work to do, and the guys and the coaching staff need to disect the first half and figure out what went on. But United will persevere, and there's always next year.....

Now let's represent properly @ MLS Cup. RFK is still our house.

 
At 02 November, 2007 16:08, Anonymous Nick said...

I think Jeffrey is spot on. I had written a bunch of previous posts this season stating that I was very concerned about this team's legacy, and I think this final loss really put the nail in the coffin. This team (with the core remaining in tact over the past few years) is a great non-big game team, and a big-game choker. This is especially painful for us fans bc the early-year teams, although good during the non-big games as well, were so incredibly clutch in big games and won almost all of them. The contrast is striking.
Unfortunately, I don't think the legacy can be erased at this point, bc I see the make up of the team changing dramatically for next year, to the point that we will talk about it as a "new" era. Especially if Veron, Riquelme, Crespo, Shevchenko or any other DP makes their way to DC, next year will be the beginning of the _____ era.
But despite our big-game flaws, i loved this era's team as well and will remember it particularly for the brilliance of Moreno and Gomez, the stability of the defense, and the tremendous crowds.
Having said that, I want DCU to be competitive not just at the MLS level, but at the Americas level. Thus, I am ready for an overall and an infusion of a significant amount of new, young talent and a DP to try and get us to the point of being competitive enough to win games on the road in Concacaf and Sudamericana (and hopefully, Libertadores). This team has proven that it is not capable of making such a leap, and that is why I see the overhaul as being necessary. Let's get to work...

 
At 02 November, 2007 22:41, Blogger Oscar M. said...

Jeffrey: I'm glad United has put itself in position over the last 3 seasons to have shots at all those tournaments. More interesting than just having MLS + Open Cup to look forward too. Timing of the tournament and roster size also play into how well a team will play (see Superliga).

I do want to see DC start stepping up and winning those games, maybe a DP with big game experience will do the trick. Another year of experience for Soehn could help too. I expect the defense to be addressed next year. It'll be a long offseason.

 
At 03 November, 2007 09:32, Blogger bodabud8 said...

It was sad to see almost 20,000 fans cheering their hearts out for a team that only showed up for half a game. DC without a doubt has the most loyal, savvy, and vocal fans in the league. The fans gave a better effort than the team, even when we went down 2-0 you could still here BB and SE giving it their all.
Coach Soehn was put in a no win situation in that last game versus Columbus. Play the subs and he gets the "why aren't you keeping the starters sharp for the play-offs?", play the starters and he gets....we know how that ended. Soehn did a fantastic job this year, especially with Bobby "Bighead" Boswell. He got Defender of the Year, sexiest man for whatever mag that was, and started his website. His play reflected his lack on commitment to the team, Soehn rightly benched him. I believe McTavish is s better back right now than Boswell. I wouldnt be suprised if Boswell isnt with the team next year. He was ballwatching on Chicago's second goal, he was right there and did nothing. I believe he was there for the first goal also and watched.IF Boswell can get his focus back on soccer, than keep him, he's very talented. Otherwise trade him and get a solid center back.
I thought we actually looked good going back to the 3-5-2 or 3-4-3, whichever it ended up being.
I would like to see DCU concentrate more on the US Open cup and international tournaments next year, obviously the Sheild means nothing. Let's win the Open Cup, lets win the CONCACAF, let's win the SuperLiga, play the starters in all those games, give the subs some starts in the MLS games, lets get 3rd place for the season, then kick arse in the play-offs.
I will see you all on the 18th at RFK because, it is still our house!

 
At 03 November, 2007 15:05, Blogger Oscar M. said...

bodabud8: how can you say that you want the team focusing on international play next year and that the Shield means nothing. You do realize the only reason we'll play in CONCACAF next year is because we won the Supporter's Shield, no?

 
At 03 November, 2007 17:17, Blogger Keving said...

Lads

Got up on Friday morning here and the first thing i did was come here to find out the score....while i can't kid on i feel the same disappointment as you i know what it feels like.

Your reactions are of true football fans who have a passion for their team, it's something that the many naysayers in this country say the Americans will never have.

At least i know they are wrong.

You learn more about love after disappointments...dust yourself down and be proud to say

Vamos United.

Hail Hail from all at lord of the wing....

 
At 04 November, 2007 07:26, Anonymous Still Kicking said...

As a TFC fan the DC United departure leaves me with no team to pull for. So I understand the general misery. Pull it together though - you were the class of the East in 2007. The Cup at RFK must still be a bitter pill.
PS When you overhaul your team for 2008, send a cast-off to Toronto - we need depth too !

 
At 04 November, 2007 10:45, Anonymous tucksider said...

as lousy as we feel, imagine being a Chivas USA fan right now. most exciting regular-season offense in the West, held scoreless over 180 minutes -- and thrice denied by the woodwork -- against the clearly-overmatched Kansas City Wizards.

and they don't get the Shield, or international games, or anything, despite being my second favorite team to watch all year.

playoffs are a stupid way to pick a champion.

 
At 05 November, 2007 12:27, Anonymous matt w said...

Stages of grief
1. Denial. "Clearly, the better team didn't go through. The playoffs format sucks. We'd have won if Soehn had rested Luciano against Columbus."

2. Anger. "FUCK YOU, REF! Trade Boswell/Vanney/Moreno! It's all Soehn's/Garber's/Wynalda's fault!"

3. Bargaining. "I'd rather win the Supporters Shield anyway. Maybe now Payne will go get us a center back. We'll learn from this and be a better team in the clutch next year."

4. Depression. "I'll never watch soccer again. I'm done with United. How 'bout them Redskins?"

5. Acceptance. Well, I haven't gotten there yet. I'm still mired in stages 2 and 3.

 

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