30 April 2007

Patience, Within Limits (or, Now is NOT the Time to Fire Tom Soehn)

Given the disappointing start to the season, it's only natural that fans start to vent. Hell, I feel it to, so while I don't agree with the Fire Soehn crowd, I can understand the feelings. Expectations were high, results have been preposterous. When Dave Lifton is comparing things to 2000 (instead of 1996) you know the mood is sour out there. As Bob Dylan says, it doesn't take a weatherman to know Air Quality Index is poor.

Still, we pride ourselves on a certain degree of rationality (or perhaps naivety), so let me explain where I'm at right now.

There comes a time when one should fire a coach. Holding on to a poor coach for too long can be a disastrous move. We've seen this in our own history, and we see it elsewhere in the league right now. Still, there is such a thing, even in MLS, as getting rid of a coach prematurely. To help make up my mind, I've put together a checklist of criteria I use when evaluating if a coach should go. Here are the key points, and then I will apply them to our situation:

  1. Has the coach permanently lost the team? A team that just doesn't put stock into their coach means you either change the team, or change the coach. One of those is feasible.
  2. Is the coach consistently outsmarted? Even if the coach has the ear of the team, it makes little difference if what he tells them to do will always be ineffective from week to week.
  3. Is the coach adapting and improving when things are bad? There's a time to stay the course, but even if you know what you want to do, and it isn't showing up on the pitch, you need to adapt to get results. The line between persistent and obtuse can be thing.
  4. Is the team performing better or worse as time goes on? Changes made in training or personnel must show up in better results on the field, or they are useless.
  5. Is there a better option out there? If you're going to change the coach, you better have a strategy for what comes next.
  6. Are there mitigating circumstances, such as injuries, that might mean we're not seeing a true reflection of the performance of the team? Look, sometimes you're just unlucky, and it is stupid to make a huge change just because the breaks aren't going your way.
  7. Do we really have an accurate picture of how the team is performing? Similar to #6 above,but more of a caution about the danger of small sample sizes.
Based on the answers to the questions above, I would then summarize with the big question: Do you believe it is unlikely that this team will perform at an acceptable level in the future?

Applying these criteria to Tom Soehn, let's see what we come up with. I don't think Soehn has lost the team. The team is frustrated, but more with themselves that with Soehn from what I can (imperfectly) tell. Yes, they are underperforming to their talent level. But sometimes that's the fault of the manager, and sometimes it is the players. Right now I lean toward the majority (but not all) of the problems being player performance related, and not on the manager.

Second, he has been out-coached in two of his games so far. Coloardo and Kansas City both clearly gameplanned better than United. From what I saw in Columbus, I don't think Sigi outcoached Soehn, but I can hardly argue the opposite either. I also think Soehn gameplanned Olimpia and Chivas fairly well. That makes four decent coaching performances, two poor ones, and one draw. Is it worrisome that Onalfo and Clavijo both outsmarted United? Yes, but I don't think we're at the point where we can say that Soehn is consistently outcoached by his peers. It has happened, but three regular season games does not make me convinced it is a pattern. The next four to six games could change my mind on that.

Soehn is adapting, and while I don't think it is definitive it looks as though he's making small tactical changes. The big question is whether he is adapting enough to put the team in a chance to succeed. The calls for a 4-4-2 argue that the team would be better positioned and more apt to success if he had more in the back, but the big problem is less bad marking and more poor distribution. If you reorganize your formation, is it likely that this will suddenly get better, or will the unfamiliar positioning make things worse? I honestly feel that for the next few weeks, we're stuck in the 3-5-2. Certainly a problem, and if fault can be made it is that the 3-5-2 has shown cracks for most of a year now. Not adapting sooner is a problem, but I'm not sure that the instant switch is the answer. Okay, that was weak, let me state it stronger: Switching to a 4-4-2 would be disastrous for this team (Kinney may well disagree based on his excellent First Impressions post from Saturday night).

Is the team performing better or worse? I'd say, overall, worse than when we started the season, but we're comparing apples and oranges and I'd need a few more games to get a real sense.

There are no good options out there, unless you want to bring Rongren in from the Color commentary position. So, um, no then. Similarly, there are no mitigating circumstances. The only injury of note has been Clyde Simms, and while Carroll is getting heat, one injury is not enough for me to say the team is in trouble, even if it were to Gomez or Moreno. You have to be able to lose one player and still succeed, even a key player, because of the way in which this league works.

Finally, do we really have a good picture? Probably not, but we're certainly on the way. Three more games would be enough to truly evaluate these questions, but it would take at least six league games to make a decision. I honestly feel like all my answers are preliminary and still require more evidence. Firing Soehn now would be premature, and potentially a complete catastrophe. Yes, it looks bad. I admit that. Do I understand the Fire Soehn calls? Sure, I can't fault people for that feeling. I just think that we're hurting as fans, and we want to lash out at something, and the first year head coach is an inviting target. Still, I don't think the factual case supports the reaction. Even if I change my mind in three games, I don't think I'll regret waiting. For now... Patience.

Oh, and by the way, at least one blog thought it might start off poorly for us... check out our "Tom Soehn" headlines from back in the day... Now we just need the turnaround to happen (and waiting until July as we did may be waiting too long)

Labels: ,

Debriefing for Match 12.03: At Columbus Crew

Columbus Crew 1 : 0 D.C. United

Six Word Novel Recap

The summer: Days longer, Nights depressing.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "...the Crew secured a 1-0 victory before 13,572 shelter-seeking spectators to leave United (0-3) with its worst start since the inaugural campaign in 1996 and the longest regular season losing streak (six, dating from last year) in club history."
MLSNet, Nathan Linton: "...the tie was broken as Ngwenya found some room down the left wing in transition and laid the ball back for Hendrickson at the spot. Hendrickson's initial effort was cleared away from the goalmouth by Devon McTavish, but the Crew defender was able to gather the rebound and bury the ball in the lower left corner of the net..."
Poplar Point Perspective: "Is it time to blow this thing up?"
United Mania Blog: "The BlackMaroon-and-Red is a team on a downward spiral. Coach Soehn better find a solution quickly"
Harv's World: "Devon McTavish started and played well. He did what I think Soehn (and myself) were expecting. Just play solid defense, nothing flashy, stay at home."
Hunt Park Insider, Matt Bernhardt: "The game was interrupted for a lightning delay for about 20 minutes in the 84th minute as fans scurried for the exits - or at least a dry patch of stadium. After the rains cleared, the teams resumed play for the last 6 minutes of regulation time - although neither team had a significant opportunity to change the scoreline."
Soccer Insider, Steve Goff: "BEN OLSEN[:] I felt like defensively we were much better, and that's a positive out of this thing. It's just important we go forward. I thought the defense played with more of a chip on its shoulder and we were pretty compact for the most part... TROY PERKINS[:] Once again, I've got to make a [bleeping] save. It's as simple as that. There's nothing else to say."

The Good

  1. Boswell, Namoff, and McTavish for Erpen: Devon McTavish was decent, Bobby Boswell more agressive in his tackling, and the back line was acceptable, though hardly facing a true test in Columbus. However, if this level of play repeats in the New England game, things will feel a bit better.
  2. Justin Moose: In his last appearence, I thought he was jobbed in the assessments of his performance. Coming into the middle for this game, he played decently.
  3. Tactical Moves: Something to consider for the still nascent "Fire Soehn" movement - His tactical changes seemed to be the correct ones. United was able to move the ball through midfield, only to have attacks whimper out in the final third.

The Bad

  1. Brian Carroll: These giveaways are killers. When you give the ball up from the backline, you typically at least have your defense back and marking people so that if nothing else, the turnover doesn't quite catch you out of position. When you give up the ball a few yards from the center circle, players are running up the field, and the time it takes to turn around can be a killer.
  2. Subdued Attack: We should be able to score goals. Any clean sheet is a disappointment, especially one where we were actually able to move the ball around. Yes, I know Sigi can pack it in with the best of them. Doesn't matter, this team should be creating chances, especially down a goal.
  3. Frustration breeds frustration: I don't put much stock in form, but I do believe that losing can become a habit, as players become more upset about results. You can shake off a loss or two, but three losses and you mind can start to fray. I think the relative quick turnaround of games (Thursday and Sunday) helps United, because any time to start thinking about how badly things are going will help no one.
  4. How was the play Mrs. Lincoln?: Yes, I went to the theater on Saturday night, and TiVoed the game. Very disappointed that SportsNite delayed the game even father, and cut off the end. Caught the replay on MLSNet, but man... Oh, and by the way, the RSC's Coriolanus is completely overrated. Sure, he's a great warrior, but his method of starting a counter-attack seems to involve giving speeches to his fellow soldiers, covering himself in his enemies' blood, and then talking about how much he hates the common people. Not a fan favorite. TRADE FOR PERICLES! (Hamlet just dithers over the ball debating whether to shoot or not... kind of like Jamie Moreno at times)

Man of the Match


Final Thoughts

There are no final thoughts, only intermediary thoughts which require discussion. Let's at least point out the main subjects:
  1. How do we evaluate Tom Soehn?
  2. Why is this team faltering?
  3. Is DC bad, or has MLS gotten better? (Quick answer, of course, is "Yes")
  4. Can we turn this around?
All of this should be touched on as we post this week.

Labels: , , , ,

28 April 2007

First Impressions - Columbus Crew 1 : 0 DC United

Forget the six word novel preview, we can sum up that game in one word, ugly. The past couple of games United has been playing ugly but made the other team look real good. The Crew didn't look good doing it, but still strolled away with three points. I don't really know what to say about this game, or this season for that matter. After this debacle I doubt United makes the playoffs. Please, please, please prove me wrong United.

Sohen started the same formation with different people. Sohen got the same result with different people. Now I am not saying its the formation, I seriously think we can win with a 3-5-2. I think it might be easier with a 4-4-2, but at this point DC's problems are more than just tactical. Gomez, Carroll, Boswell, and Perkins are not delivering like they were last year. Not all of them are horrible (though Carroll is getting close), but that is the spine of DC United and all of them are under performing. Moreno has been invisible. Fred showed flashes of brillance but always came up short of delivering, just like someone else that played that position last year. The list goes on, but like I said earlier, I really just don't know what to say that will be of any help.

Labels: , , ,

27 April 2007

Match Briefing for 12.03: At Columbus Crew

Match #: 12.03

Columbus Crew
3pts, 2GF, 2GA, 0GD
5th place Eastern Conference
9th place MLS

Six Word Novel Preview: Can DC United get a ****ing point?

TV: MLS DirectKick, 7:30PM (ET), CSN (Delayed), 8:30PM (ET)

Radio: WMET 1160AM

Previous Meeting: First meeting of season

The Stakes: DC United needs to prove the first two results were an aberration. Columbus needs to back up close games with more points. As of right now this is a battle of the bottom feeders, can one team show enough that they should be considered playoff contenders?

Previews from the DCUniverse: QuarterVolley, Ben Olsen's Beard, EDIT: Goff's Preview

The DCenter Team's Location: D - At the Kennedy Center. Kinney - Kitty O'Sheas.
Oscar - TBD.

Expectations: Tie. DC hasn't proven anything since dropping their first two matches of the regular season. Columbus has tied anyone and everyone, but is missing their main striker. I would love a win, but being rational, I am expecting a disappointing tie.

What to look for? I would like to see better midfield control and more organization in the back. United should be able to get a goal or two, even against a stingy Crew defense. The question will be how do they handle Columbus' speed up top?

Make sure to figure out United's formation when they start out. There have been some hints of a 4-4-2, so look at Josh Gros to see if he is playing further back than usual. Hopefully Fred will see some more time, I don't know how comfortable he is on the wing but hopefully DC didn't put him on the team to be a substitute. Rumors have McTavish starting in place of Erpen, lets see if the DCU brain trust are right to think they have enough defensive depth.

Labels: , , ,

An Expert View on the Columbus Crew

This year, the first time D.C. United plays a team, we're trying to arrange interviews with experts on the local scene to help us understand the sports scene better. With Columbus, we weren't sure who we should ask for, so we just wrote the Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism to supply us with an expert or two. There seemed to be some miscommunication between us, but after the civil servants were directed to the Columbus Crew "One Nation, Sod 'em all" website, they promised to send two people right over. Ah, here comes someone now!

What's happening?

Um… well, this is a surprise. Greg Oden, Ohio State star, future top draft pick, it's a pleasure to welcome you to the DCenters. I had no idea you were a fan of the Columbus Crew.

The what now?

The Columbus Crew… the soccer team?

They said you wanted an expert on Columbus sports. And I'm it baby. All Columbus cares about is me and Tressel.

But you're not even going to be in Columbus next year. You've declared for the draft.

But people will remember me from Ohio State. I was unforgettable. People know my name. Names are important. Especially four letter names. That's why Pele was so good. Four letters. The british soccer player who was the original drummer for the Beatles? Four letters. And the Columbus coach… Sigi? Four letters. Names matter. Anyone on DC have a four letter name?

Well, Fred, of couse. And if names are so important, then why does your
USA Basketball profile identify you in the title bar as Kobe Bryant?

That's just because I'm training to be the next Kobe. Four letters. You can tell a lot about how teams will do from their training. In fact, I bet you I can determine who will win this soccer game just from training. Where did Columbus train this off-season.

California and North Carolina I think.

There's a lot of winning done in those states. Now how about the team you like, what are they called, the DC United?

Yes, well, DC United trained in Florida for most of the preseason –



Go on… you were saying…

Yes, DC trained in Florida --

-- Let's not talk about Florida. Okay. Maybe you should talk to the other guy they sent over.

Other guy?


Oh dear…

That's right, David Hodo, the Construction Worker for the greatest band of all time. Four letters in "Oden," four letters in "Hodo," and four letters in Y-M-C-A! When talking about Columbus, you have to use four letter words!

I think we've learned about as much as we're going to learn here. Thanks to both of you for coming by --

In the Navy…

Yes, you can sail the seven seas!

In the Navy…

Yes, you can live a life of ease!


Oh, for fuck's sake, who let Sigi in? And you're a landlocked state... and where'd Greg get that hat? Whatever... we'll have the Match Briefing up in the next day or so. My thanks to Greg, David, and to the Indian Chief and the Sailor, wherever they are.

Labels: ,

26 April 2007

Well, Let's Test That Defensive Depth Theory, Shall We?

ERPEN OUT, MCTAVISH IN: John Haydon in the Times reports that Devon McTavish is likely to get the nod over Facundo Erpen for the right back position in the game against Columbus. Now, long-time readers will know defensive depth has been a worry of ours since the off-season (especially after the trade of Prideaux). And just as long as we've been worried about it, DC management has insisted they felt things were fine. Admittedly, McTavish wasn't on our radar at all as a depth option, but it is an interesting move. He's shown decently in his appearances this year, but being a full time outside back is a different situation than shifting into it later in the game. This will be the first test of the management contention that they have enough defense on the bench. That makes for close observation in terms of season long significance.

WE PAY FOR OUR TEAM: I understand what Anthony Francavilla's writing about in The Georgetown Voice, but at the same time I can't stand the idea of buying tickets based on the personnel of another team. It's like the pre-playoff Wizards always advertising games based on when Shaq came to town, or the Caps telling us we had to come out to see Messier or Lindros or something. If I want to see international quality, I don't need to wait for a team with a Designated Player signing, I can see Bolivian International Jamie Moreno, Argentinian Christian Gomez, Jamaican Stephen DeRoux, and Brazilian Luciano Emilio at any game I choose. The only time I will pay just to see someone from another team is when Real Salt Lake shows up, just so I can see if Ellinger cries after he gets fired.

ADU - "I BOUGHT INTO MY OWN HYPE": Huh. Interesting.

Labels: , , , , , ,

25 April 2007

Introducting The Freezer...

Anyone can write a power-poll where the strengths of various teams are debated. But only a select few can do the opposite, and rank the weakest things in US Soccer. Introducing the US Soccer Fragility Index, or as we call it around here, the Freezer. We're going to try and update you on the most fragile, weakest, and most uncertain things in US Soccer on a regular basis. We're still working out the kinks, and we're more than open to your input on the matter. Think of it as an "Anti-Power Poll", the kryptonite to the World Soccer Rankings, an excuse to call-out more than just one or two items with a Yellow Card/Red Card segment.

Labels: ,

Addition Through Adderly

WELCOME THE NEW NICK: Steve Goff reports that forward Nicholas Adderly is signed. I imagine this is something you probably won't notice this year unless you attend reserve games, which we certainly intend to do. If we see anything of interest, we'll let you know. Look, this is a shot that if it pays dividends, it'll be in a year or two, and if it doesn't? Well, that's why you have the reserve league.

BRADLEY - "MORENO MUST IGNITE": Jeff Bradley at MLSNet sez: "show me a good D.C. team, I'll show you a productive Jaime Moreno." Well, true as far as it goes, but we'll see. Moreno doesn't have the tear up the league for us to be successful. Productive, sure, but "all-star forward" - mebbe not.

UPCOMING ON DCENTERS: We're trying to get an expert to come in on Thursday or Friday for the Columbus game, and we'll have a game briefing on Friday or Saturday morning. Also, I'm working on a new feature that I hope will be somewhat cool, and I hope to have a version up either today or tomorrow.

Labels: , , , ,

24 April 2007

My problem with Facundo Erpen

Impressions linger long after they should fade away. The first memorable moment I have of Facundo Erpen was his ridiculous fake dive he executed against New England. It sort of soured me on him early, but some excellent tackles and solid defense in the 2005-2006 seasons steadied the nerves. He can defend. He has decent speed. He typically executed high risk maneuvers very well. Yet there were still troublesome signs. There was the traditional Facundo Erpen Blunder, one free with every game. There were also problems with his composure, something I was reminded of recently watching Lunch with D.C. United.

All of this wouldn't matter a whit if I felt that Facundo was evolving as a player. And yet... Yet I can't feel like that case can be made. I expect players to consistently evolve and get better. They may not gain athletic ability, or see some decline in their raw physical skills, but you expect them to be smarter, wiser, and more clever as they gain experience.

Consider the difference between 2005 Bobby Boswell and 2006 Bobby Boswell. Consider the difference between even 2004 Jamie Moreno and Christian Gomez and 2006 Jamie Moreno and Christian Gomez. They progress, they change, they don't play the same way they did year after year. My problem is Facundo Erpen is that after his original adjustment period, I don't feel like he's progressed. Maybe some of that is positioning on the Left Back-Right Back switch that occurred. But I don't feel like it. The last new thing Facundo Erpen showed me was that shot from distance he took against New York last year. Other than that, it's been same-old, same-old. He doesn't seem to have gotten wiser, or played smarter. I can accept that all players go through slumps. That's fine. But what I want to see from Facu is some sense that he's learning all the time. I don't see it. Do you?

Labels: , ,

Tributes and Trials

Your morning news summary...

DC UNITED MAROON JERSEY: United will be wearing maroon jerseys in support of Virginia Tech on Saturday, the first game United has played since the shootings. United announced they will then sell the jerseys with all proceeds donated to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund.

I PASS, LIKE NIGHT, FROM LAND TO LAND: A sad story on the demise of USL's Virginia Beach Mariners.

ON CRITICISM: Aaron Stollar responds, noting some of the things we said.

Labels: , , , , ,

23 April 2007

The Price of Loyalty, The Duty of Fandom

What's the point of being a fan?

I can't really answer the question, and I tend to believe the question has no answer. If you get something out of being a fan for a particular team, that's enough for me. I have personal reasons why I support a given team. For DC United, my place of residence, the culture of support, the frequent examples of enjoyable soccer, a sense of a decency and integrity... all of those things feed the reasons why I support this team as opposed to another. Others may have different lists, or different priorities.

The next question I find a little more interesting: As fans, what should our behavior be? What are the limits of support?

I bring this up because of Aaron Stollar's match report on the Kansas City - United game. Aaron has taken some hits, both on Large Message Boards and even in our comments when we reacted to his article. Essentially, the most frequently leveled charge is that he's bailing on the team in a rough patch. I can see how some people come to that interpretation, and as a good follower of modern literary theory I agree that authorial intent doesn't matter, but I'm not going to say that Aaron is less of a fan for what he said, even though I think his analysis is flawed. The fact is, you can't determine what kind of a fan someone is based on what they write, or even how they feel.

Here's my feeling on the matter. At the stadium, from the first whistle to the final whistle, I will cheer and support my team. That's my part of the bargain. And that word "team" is even a fuzzy concept. You'll hear people spout aphorisms like "No player is larger than the team." Well, sure, but what exactly does that tell you? Is the team then the sum of its players and management? Is there some platonic ideal of the team that we owe allegiance to, that not even the front office or the players really comprise? Personally, I tend towards that interpretation: There is a team in my head that I am supporting that may have nothing to do with what is on the field or is being managed.

And what is that team? One built around three co-equal principles.

  1. A team that works to win championships.
  2. A team that plays enjoyable soccer.
  3. A team that acts with integrity and dignity.

Can I say of DC United that it always exemplifies these principles? No, I can not. But I can say that more often then not it overlaps these ideals, and to that end I can feel that my support is not wasted. But if I felt that this team had abandoned those objectives for something else: whether winning ugly or dishonestly, or not caring about winning compared to bottom-line calculations, or by treating its fans like cattle, then I could walk away form this team. Really, I could. In a moment. There are limits which, fortunate me, we have not come close to. But loyalty should be circumscribed by something. I'm not going to root for an organization I don't share a vision with just because it's my organization due to an accident of geography.

Note that even if this team fails to win championships, I will support this team if the effort to winning is apparent. But I also recognize that to win championships occasionally calls for changes: In the players, in the management, in the executives, in the fans... whatever. And writing about the need for changes, when perceived, does not, in my mind, make you less of a fan. In fact, if one were to ignore such things I would argue you are less of a fan. Blindly supporting mediocrity is a stupid position, and counter-productive to a successful franchise at any level. I know we all have grandiose associations with unrequited love, but once you get out of high school you realize how stupid unrequited love is, A.E. Housman poetry aside.

In general, I'm not going to pass judgment on who is a truer fan. I think that such judgments are tacky, clique-building exercises that reflect a certain degree of immaturity. As long as you call yourself a fan, and have some idea why you're a fan, that's good enough for me. Now, does that mean that overly-cynical and pessimistic people can't be jerks (and I'm not talking about Aaron here at all, but rather the guy sitting two rows behind me looking at the pitch and yelling how everyone is crap at the top of his lungs.) Nope, he's still a fan, he's just also an unpleasant dick. The two aren't mutually exclusive. Aaron's criticism is constructive, so he is not a dick. It's clear that his objectives are for the success of the team. So he's a fan as well, and just as good as any other.

Labels: , ,

20 April 2007

If they did Director DVDs of Public Service Announcements

"Hi, I'm Landon Donovan.

Don't discriminate.

Especially against privileged white children whose parents buy them top quality soccer gear.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go take a leak on the pitch at the Estadio Jalisco.

What? Why's everyone looking at me?"

FURTHER THOUGHTS: I just don't get this PSA. Human Right #2 is "Don't Discriminate." Does that even make sense. Is it the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights - "All people are endowed with the right to not discriminate." Huh? A right is the same thing as an imperative command? And why #2? Is #1 the right to be immune from criticism about your performance overseas? What the hell?

In case you're curious, the second right enumerated in the preamble to the UN Universal declaration is "Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people." Just so you know.

You know what? I think this is a more positive message about human rights. Let me get my credit card out.

Labels: ,

There is Nothing Wrong With United That Can Not Be Fixed By What Is Right With United

Aaron Stollar at the Screaming Eagles site lays down the challenge, and I applaud his willingness to be definitive even as I'm about to say he's wrong:

As it stands right now, DC United has one of the worst defenses I have witnessed in MLS. And, more importantly, I have no idea how they are going to fix it without making some kind of deal very quickly.

Aaron suggests that Brian Carroll should be shopped around, a deal that would probably make at least one other person happy.

Speaking for the defense, Mike Martin at UnitedMania (which, by the way, now has a functioning blog that I'm planning to read regularly) goes with a different approach:

Apparently, it’s never too early to panic for United fans and media...if you look at those goals, there’s no reason to believe the system is at fault. DC had players in the right positions for coverage in every situation, they just didn’t do their jobs.
Personally, I tend to agree with Martin on this one: the system isn't at fault, but the players are. That being said, I wonder if this is the best system to maximize the potential of this team. I also think that Martin's proposed solution is rather self-fulfilling: If they win a few games, they'll have the confidence to win more. Tough to argue with that, but what if they keep losing?

Do not be fooled by BlackDogRed not devoting himself 100% to soccer, the man poses provocative questions:

I don't think it an accident, btw, that Carroll and Gros have regressed - they were Nowak's creations: maybe they're reverting to their natural level rather than slumping.
He tends to be on the side of "The system is wrong" but I think he's actually pointed out something he never intended -- This is not Nowak's team, and it is not Nowak's system. The problem is that the players haven't fully grasped that, and to the extent they still try to play Nowak's game things will go poorly.

Let me explain: Under Nowak the 3-5-2 was played as 3 defenders, 2 holding midfielders, two wingers roaming back and forth to various degrees around Gomez, and the Jamie withdrawn and Esky up top. Under Soehn, it is superficially the same, but practically different. The 3 defenders have only one holding midfielder in front of them, then a new line of four midfielders with Moreno coming back and Emilio up top. To oversimplify, it's a 3-1-4-2 as opposed to a 3-2-3-2. The biggest challenge is the way in which the ball is distributed. Under the Nowak system, you could play directly up the line and kick it in to Gomez, or play through either holding midfielder and run through the middle. Under Soehn, the distribution should not rely as heavily on the holding midfielders, and the play needs to reach the wings faster and usually not a direct aerial pass up the line. You can play either short passes to the wing player, who can send it back to the holding mid, or long aerial passes that switch the field to another midfielder, or have Gomez track back and kick the ball wide for an attack down the flank.

Given the number of frustrating turnovers in midfield, I think this is the area where we will see. Erpen is playing precisely as he did last year, which causes its own frustration (and I'll talk about that later). Boswell is under-performing in the way in which he lets players get by him, but I think he will remember how to step up and disrupt oncoming attackers. But the real problem has been the poor play of the passing. They haven't figured out how to play those aerial diagonal balls to the midfield on a consistent basis. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it is neatly picked off by the opposing midfield. Gomez isn't adjusting to his role either, insisting on playing as though he has two players directly behind him rather than one. Positionally, that's putting Carroll (or Simms) into a bind when the ball quickly comes the other way though the middle. If Gomez kicks the ball wide to DeRoux/Moose/Fred/Olsen/Gros (or whatever), then you have better cover (provided Erpen and Namoff remain positioned and aren't pushing too high.) And Carroll, when called on to distribute himself, is playing as though he has another holding mid around him when he doesn't. He's under more pressure in this system, and hasn't quite dealt with it. Carroll should be getting balls down the sides into space, but instead is either passing back to sending a short pass to Gomez (who is quickly marked).

To my mind, this can all be fixed. Now, the issue is that it may not seem the fastest way to fix it (as opposed to four in the back, or swapping Erpen back to the left behind Gros, or whatever). But this is Tom Soehn's team, and I think he deserves a little more time to experiment on making things happen. How much? Well, one more week should indicate if this system is salvageable and improving, or needs to be reexamined totally. I don't think the plan is the same. It's a new plan that falls into trouble when played like the old one.

Labels: , ,

Damn that television!

TAPE DELAY: CSN announces that next week's Crew-United game will be shown on a delayed basis to allow the Wizz enough time to lose game 3 of their playoff series against Cleveland. So if you're tuning in, plan to tune in at 8:30PM. And who does the radio calls of the Wizz when Dave Johnson is doing TV for United?

TSN REVIEW: Eric, while you're dispensing out yellow cards, how about one to ESPN for their promise of the offside line technology. As far as I can tell, the new offside technology consists of you playing Win, Lose, or Draw with the telestrator and Tommy Smyth taking the role of Bert Convy. Otherwise, another enjoyable game to catch as a neutral, even with Columbus deciding to take minutes 45-70 off for siesta. And was ESPN getting a percentage from Buck-a-Brat night, given how often they mentioned it? I have to say that the three man booth worked reasonably well, and Tommy Smyth wasn't nearly as intrusive as certain people feared. He kept his own personality in check and fit neatly. IF this keeps up, I think TNS will gain ratings because the games are proving enjoyable to watch.

Plus, not that we wish bad things to happen to anyone, but could Andy Herron's elbow have leveled a nicer guy than Jay Heaps? Yes, if you must know, part of me considered it a win-win development. Look, sometimes I'm not very pure. I accept that.

Labels: , , , ,

19 April 2007

Communication Between Players (or, it isn't "Hello Llama!")

I've been struggling with a post for most of the day, and I abandoned it when I read this Washington Post article on bilingual soccer instruction. I should confess that I don't speak Spanish. For over a month I was confused why Telefutura advertisements kept saying (I thought) "Hello Llama!" whenever a phone number appeared. So I'm pleased to see how bilingual soccer is not just a way of coaches communicating with high-school students in a tongue that makes them comfortable, but also helps facilitate English assimilation:

Washington-Lee's passing drill last week was already under way when Morotaya, who arrived late, finished stretching. He approached Carrasquillo to ask for permission to join one of the teams in the drill.

"Estoy listo," Morotaya said.

"Okay," Carrasquillo responded. "Now tell me in English."

Morotaya paused, took a breath and said, "I'm ready."

"When I'm talking to Luis . . . I'll ask him something and he'll start to say it in Spanish," Carrasquillo said. "I'll say, 'I don't speak Spanish.' And he knows when I do that, I want it in English. I do it to counterbalance."

And I'm very pleased to see that this works both ways:

Stephen Dunlap, the captain, says it helps the team come together. He takes advanced Spanish classes in school, so when he goes out to eat with Latino teammates, he orders in Spanish. And the Latino players enjoy a few laughs at Dunlap's expense when he makes mistakes in their tongue.

This entire article is just a fascinating read. As I've said before, I love the atmosphere within soccer for its diversity of culture, language, and expression. That such things are taking root within the area at all levels should please everyone. This seems like a great win-win situation for all of us.

Labels: , ,

...Because "Revolution Mutiny: a Clash" wasn't nearly as hopeful

TNS! TNS! Thursday Night Soccer, and I'm looking forward to it. Strange, most neutral games, even the ABC/ESPN ones, weren't something I cared a great deal about (usually because I had to leave at half-time to get out to the DCU tailgate.) That's something nice about Thursday Night Soccer I hadn't anticipated, the fact that it allows me to take in MLS games as a neutral devoid of any other soccer context. Makes it easier to enjoy. On a side note, headline writers in New England are clever for fitting three team names into a four word sentence, but are they accurate, or even sensible?

CHARM CITY, STRANGE CITY: Baltimore, as rumored in Goff's Blog, gets wing of a chance to see united play. Honestly, if it happens then I'm not too upset (better there than Seattle again). I can make it up I-95 to a game, even from NoVa. And the Ravens seem interested:

"We'd be very interested in hosting a game or games," Mannion said. "The key issue centers on the field surface, but I think the size of the stadium is perfect. We can house 30,000 in the lower bowl and 8,000 on the club level, which creates the intimate environment soccer fans are used to."
The thing about Charm City is that it adds a weak isospin of +1/2 to the ball. My only hope to avoid a complete nerd label is that no one figures out what I meant by that.

TRIBUTE: I missed this story yesterday, but wanted to highlight it now. I never heard of Scott Alexander when I grew up in MoCo, but this article makes it clear just how loved he was. He was a Steelers fan, and a soccer man, two things that I respect. And good on DCU for doing something for this event.

Labels: , , , , ,

18 April 2007

Putting My Dignity Where My Mouth Is

ON THE LINE: There's a longer post that needs to be written here, but I want to make one thing clear: This is not a lost season. We're two games in, and I believe that the ship of so much cliched fame can be righted. People are drawing comparisons to 2000, both inside and out of the D.C. United fanbase, but there's a different between now and then. In 2000, there was a sense that the we had the answer and the world wasn't cooperating. This year, I get the sense from Tom Soehn that he's willing to adapt, to change, to fiddle until he finds the right answer. That's a much more sensible and realistic approach, and if it continues then I think things will get turned around.

To that end, I may have done something rather foolish. I'm entering into a blog wager with New York supporter The Kin of Fish. Either based on the results of the Atlantic Cup or the Eastern Conference (Fish's choice), loser has to wear the kit of the winner and post the photo on their blog. Yes, I know New York signed Angel, but I would point out that, in MLS at least, Emilio has two goals while the Designated Players have none. That's good enough for me. And let's face it, I'm taking the bigger risk. Have you seen what people do to cans of red bull in Lot 8? Yup, that's right. If I lose, honor permits me to do no less than wear this to a tailgate. God have mercy on us all.

PROGRESS IS NOT ONE POST: Everyone who chimed in on yesterday's post, my thanks for a thought provoking discussion. Let's just say that one of the hardest things for me is coming to terms with the idea that I'm not as pure as I pretend. Not to get all ABC after-school special on you, but yeah. While I have no problems with taunting as a general concept, it does occur to me that saying "Landon Donovan is a pussy" (which I, and many others, have said more than once) may be demeaning to people other than Landon Donovan. It's something I need to think about, since I don't exactly know where I draw my own line. I don't have a problem with "Fuck you Ref!" as a chant, although I think it is overused (it should be reserved for calls that are bad, not for any call against United.) But, yeah, I need to think about it. In other notes, Andrea over at Sideline Views makes some observations, and David Keyes noted his earlier thoughts, which I had not read, over at Culture of Soccer. Also, the subject of Walter Tull came up, and for those that don't know his story, I highly recommend learning about a great man.

Labels: , ,

17 April 2007

Progress is not a Constant

Warning: Personal views that are vaguely political about to be expressed. If that's the kind of thing you have no interest in, then move on and we'll have more strictly soccer related stuff later. Thank you.

Thanks to DuNord, I recently read the David James Guardian article where he wonders "If one in 10 people are gay, where are all the gay Premiership stars?" The fact that I read this article the same day the Washington Nationals were honoring Jackie Robinson for integrating baseball (thanks to a rain-out on Sunday) sort of made the point more immediate. In the major US team sports, there aren't any openly gay athletes. And yet, it statistically likely there are gay players in each of the sports, and probably one or two on D.C. United or any other roster in MLS.

The reason I bring this up is that one of the things I love about soccer in this country is the diversity it brings to both the field and the stands. But I can't help feeling that if an MLS player were to come out of the closet, it would not be well received. I'm not talking about Tim Hardaway-type comments on the matter. Still, my guess is that MLS executives, well-aware of the Jim Rome type meme that "Soccer is for Wusses or hooligans," would feel uncomfortable with the perception an openly gay player would bring. The slurs used against gay men along the lines that they're effeminate are the same accusations that are flung against soccer in some corners of the USA. I think that there would be a certain degree of discomfort from the suits. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope I'd be wrong.

Further, there's a lot of casual homophobia used by fans and supporters around the league. I love my fellow fans, but it is the one area I find most upsetting about our behavior. Even in jest, this kind of behavior is wrong. I'm sure that people that flung epithets at Jackie Robinson didn't all think of themselves as racist. "Just part of the game, trying to rattle him." Wrong then. Wrong now. But I think that's what we would see, and I include even some of my fellow DC supporters in that category.

In many ways, soccer presents such a great positive view of our society at its naive melting-pot best, so it saddens me that I can't imagine we could support diversity in sexual orientation.

There are those who will argue that it simply doesn't matter today what someone's orientation is. I wish I could agree, but given the number of hits this blog gets for "Bobby Boswell relationship status" or "Devon McTavish girlfriend" or "Steve Rammel married?" (all of which were in the past week) I can't agree. Who you're with is part of who you are. I casually drop references to my wife in this blog, and can only imagine what it would be like if I felt the need to hide my relationship in even the most casual way. People do care, as part of that strange nexus of celebrity and sports that even MLS operates in.

Not that any gay players in MLS, and I'm sure there are many like there are in all sports, read this blog, but I want to say to them: I'm sorry you feel, that life makes you feel, like you have to keep things quiet. I truly am. If any of you come out, regardless of what team you're on, I hope all of us would be supportive and not use it as an excuse to make "jokes" about another team. Just something I'm thinking about in the days after Jackie Robinson day.

Labels: ,

Cup of Coffee and a Newspaper

With two weeks until the next game, I think we'll have some time to explore multiple issues on this site. Which is nice. Here's the quick news for the morning before I delve into other topics...

FORMATION CHANGES? Goff reports that the United brass see problems in the defense. That being said, the final graf is not reassuring:

"At the end of the day, you shouldn't give up four goals in our house -- it can't happen -- and it's not the result of not planning or not signing any defenders in the offseason," Kasper said. "We think Devon is going to take off and John is still a very solid sub, in our mind. Will we, at some point, feel the need to sign another defender? Quite possibly so."
In short, there are problems, and we have bandaids, but we think we may have missed the boat.

Personally, I maintain that the 3-5-2, when properly executed, can still work for this team with its current personnel. That being said, there's a thin margin of error there, as we have seen, and while the 3-5-2 can work, you have to wonder if another formation wouldn't give United a better chance of performing well. To his credit, I believe that Tom Soehn feels like he has to give all of his players the best chance to succeed that he can for every game, and if he feels that a 3-5-2 given him a 50% chance to win, and a 4-4-2 gave him a 70% chance, he'd flip in a heartbeat (please excuse the oversimplification of tactics).

LATE REVIEWS: QuarterVolley - "This is unacceptable."

COLUMBUS JUST GOT HARDER TO BEAT: Yes, this would make them better. I imagine this guy feels like his beat just got a bit more fun to follow.

Labels: , , , , ,


Like pretty much everyone in the Washington, DC area, all of us know people who attended or have family at Virginia Tech. Several of my coworkers had to explain to me what a hokie was, and were amused at my disbelief a few years ago. The Washington Nationals had a moment of silence last night to remember those affected by what has been an awful scene. Yesterday was the first of what will be several sad days in the future for that community, a community with rich roots in the DC Area. Our thoughts are with Blacksburg today.


16 April 2007

Even in Obscenity Filled Chanting, There is Such a Thing as Common Courtesy

I don't often criticize the United supporters. So it is with some reluctance I do so now. Kids, when Mayor Fenty was talking during the pregame, it was childish and petulant to start a "Where's our stadium?" chant. If it had been Anthony Williams, I would have been okay with it. Williams by 2006 opening day had a record of promising stadium deals and then disappearing for a year. Fenty does not, and he should have been accorded something other than what he got from the Barra and the Eagles. Personally, I fall in the "people deserve respect until they prove otherwise" camp, and Fenty still deserved some manners.

That being said, the Ballou High School Senior Knights Marching Band put in a good performance, and I kinda dug people in the stands drumming along with 'em.

Labels: , , ,

Debriefing for Match 12.02: Kansas City Wizards


Six Word Novel Recap

Two weeks to get it right.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "The Kansas City Wizards tore apart United's defense for three first-half goals, including a pair in the first eight minutes, and claimed a 4-2 victory last night..."
The Washington Times, John Haydon: "The game started off fast with three goals in the first 11 minutes -- two by Kansas City. The Wizards -- playing in their season opener -- clearly looked like the fresher of the two teams. "
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "...the real backbreaker came in first-half injury time. After working their way back into the match with well-taken goals from Luciano Emilio and Christian Gomez, United surrendered possession deep in their own end and Eddie Johnson was on hand to restore K.C.'s advantage and kill the home side's hard-won momentum."
Ben Olsen's Beard: "Things like websites devoted to defenders and nicknames on the back of jerseys become a lot less humorous and necessary when you can't seem to stop anyone from scoring on you."
BlackDogRed: "
Maybe staying mysteriously entranced to a formation United doesn't have the personnel to play isn't such a good idea."
Soccer Insider, Steve Goff: "
What happened to Brian Carroll?...This team is not good right now."
An American's View..., Brian Garrison: "Two weeks and we will see if Coach Soehn can make any adjustments for the current problems. It took United six matches last season to give up 6 goals, this year, we did it in two. Something needs to be re-tooled."
Down the Byline: "Eddie Johnson showed the type of player he can be tonight, he was strong on the ball, fast, attacking players, beating players one on one, passing well, and finishing."
The Offside: Kansas City Wizards: "Eddie Johnson has now doubled his assist total from last season and is one off his total number of goals."

The Good

  1. Luciano Goal Streak: They go in the net. That's fine with me.
  2. Fred: Here's what I saw from Fred on Saturday night that makes me hopeful -- On at least two occasions, he fought through some tight marking to keep possession and manufacture offense. That's good stuff right there. However, that's not a skill as important to a wing player as it is to a more centrally located midfielder. Which Fred is, and so concerns about wing depth remain.
  3. Midfield possession: Much improved from last week, though you wouldn't think to know it. Players were making smart runs, checking back to balls, and generally playing with space better. There was improvement there which was masked by results. What we can't do yet is switch the ball from the defensive wing to the opposing midfield wing. Those long, aerial balls were neatly picked off, and they're usually low percentage passes. Let's not try that for a bit.
  4. Moreno/Gomez/Emilio: Worked much better as a team this game. I see people are giving Moreno some crap, but he was tracking back quite a bit to move things forward. Personally, I thought this was an average, and therefore good, game from Jamie.

The Bad

  1. Defense: The backline seems to have forgotten how to play to their own strengths. Either Namoff or Erpen can play dangerously high, not both at the same time. Boswell needs to keep attackers in front of him, but took too many chances at around 25 yards out (to his credit, his last ten minutes seemed to recognize this. To his detriment, this was after Eddie Johnson left the game.) Erpen was awkward and still can't distribute. He's at his best when he positions more centally and forces players out to the wing, where he can deal with them. When he's as far to the flank as he was, he can let people in behind him. We'll not talk about slipping, since that's just one-of-those-things, but the positioning for the entire line was ridiculous. Yes, Perkins should have saved the first goal. He probably should have stopped one other as well, the only one he gets a pass on is the fourth. And when you're excusing the keeper for one of four, that's not a good place to be.
  2. 3-5-2: Interesting fact: If you interpret that as a math equation, you get -4, the precise number of goals we allowed. I think I was wrong about this and everyone else in the world was right: We can't play this formation until we get our fundamentals back. Time to think about some changes, be it Wilson, Gros, or McTavish.
  3. Execution, Execution, Execution: In my mind, the outcome of every game depends on four things: Talent, Effort, Execution, and Luck. United has the talent, and I don't think I saw any players out there lolly-gagging or not giving it their all. The effort was there as well. However, they didn't execute. I wanted clean passing, especially in the rain, and we didn't get it. Execution depends on things like positioning and focus, both of which would come and go with the wind. We were a bit unlucky, but no more so than any other team. And if execution is a problem, that's to me a bit of comfort, since execution can be improved through coaching. Mr. Soehn, it's time for an early test of your abilities to get a team together.

Man of the Match


Final Thoughts

Longtime readers of this blog know that I think the primary goal of the regular season is the Supporter's Shield. We also know that it takes somewhere between 1.9 and 2.0 points a game to win the Supporter's Shield, and to be safe we usually think of it at 2 points a game. What that means is that each loss must be offset by two consecutive wins to be competitive to ensure that trophy. With these first two losses, United must now win its next four games in order to be on something resembling a Supporter's Shield pace. That's May 19th, over a month away. As such, there will be at least a one month moratorium on any thoughts of United being one of the better teams in the league right now. We can reevaluate at that point, but right now United must show something.

There are other things we should talk about, but with two weeks we'll have plenty of time. In two weeks I hope we'll see a crisper, stronger team. If not, this could be a long, mediocre (or worse) season. It's not time to panic, but it's naive not be concerned.

Labels: , , , , ,

14 April 2007

First Impressions - DC United 2 : 4 Kansas City Wizards

There are games that you lose and you should shake it off and get on to the next match. There are other games you lose that call for serious introspection. This is one of those games. Kansas City was faster, smarter, and better than United for most of the match. Yes, United created their chances, but they were punished for every mistake they made. There was a time when you could make mistakes in an MLS game and not be savaged. That time ended after 2004.

Kansas City went at United, and even after we equalized I never got the sense that we were ready to push up to another gear and finish the game strong. The defense was bad on all three points. Erpen was turned around so often he should change his number to 33 1/3. Boswell was abused by Eddie Johnson in the air consistently. Namoff was playing most the game in the midfield, because what we really needed to play was a 2-6-2. The midfield was better, but not stellar. Technically, the team had more difficulty on their own turf than the Wizards did, making me wonder about their spikes.

Two games into the season and we're talking about soul searching? Yes, because a loss on the road to the Crew next week and suddenly United is looking like a ship that has sprung a leak. Doubt feeds on doubt, success breeds success. United is on the verge of being set adrift in a morass of uncertainty unless they put forth an effort that makes it clear that things can be righted. It's never to early to ask if you're fit to wear the shirt.

Full debriefing hopefully no later than Monday.

Labels: , , ,

Match Briefing for 12.02: Kansas City Wizards

Match #: 12.02

Kansas City Wizards
0pts, 0GF, 0GA, 0GD
4th place Eastern Conference
10th place MLS

Six Word Novel Preview: If you have control, you win.

TV: Fox Soccer Channel, 7:30PM (ET)

Radio: WMET 1160AM

Previous Meeting: First meeting of season

The Stakes: Two rookie head coaches with different things on the line. Tom Soehn isn't facing a must-win, but a failure to take three points may start some whispering. United looked much too vulnerable in their opener on the road, no matter how many reasons there were for it. Curt Onalfo is still getting a handle on his squad and may be thinking of how he'll eventually fit a new acquisition into the lineup after this game.

Previews from the DCUniverse: QuarterVolley, An American's View..., Ben Olsen's Beard,

The DCenter Team's Location: D - At Game. Kinney - TBD. Oscar - TBD.

Expectations: United has been saying all the right things. I want three points, and a strong, dominating performance. Coasting with a win is not going to make things better.

What to look for? Signing Marnelli signals that Kansas City was well-aware of their biggest problem: A lack of playmaking. There's talent up top other than Eddie Johnson, and any MLS defense plays better than its parts when one part is Jimmy Conrad.

The big thing I want to see is crisp passing. Simple passes are fine, provided they aren't to the opposition. United has had time enough to figure out how their team members will move, now show me the possession . I also don't want to see everything running the same direction through the midfield. Luciano is not your only option up top.

Labels: , ,

13 April 2007

An Expert View on the Kansas City Wizards

Thanks to the DCenter's partnership with the RAND Corporation's joint venture with the Fforde Motor Company on Fictional Realization and Imaginotransference, the DCenters is pleased to bring you an interview with someone who knows more about our upcoming opponent than we do.

Harry Potter is a famed wizard having spent six years of advanced study at Hogwarts (NCAA Div 1) and a sports legend himself in the sport of Quidditch (rumors of his first cap for the England team are unsubstantiated.) As a Wizard, he bring his unique insight into tomorrow's game to The DCenters.

Harry, welcome to the blog.

It's a pleasure to be here. While Quidditch is my first love, I'm a big fan of football as well. I've been a Charlton Athletic supporter since I became aware of the sport, and have always wondered if Cory Gibbs is related to your Joe Gibbs.

Um, no. Anyways, I'm a little surprised that at one point you were associated with the New England Revolution. Why on earth would a Wizard associate with that team?

Well, I was actually under instructions from the Order of the Phoenix. I had to go undercover, and Dumbledore once said the best place to hide a stick was in a forest. We had information that Brad Feldman might be a Death Eater based on some of the things he had said. It turned out he was just an homer who wasn't aware of the things that were coming out of his mouth.

That makes sense. Anyways, this is Kansas City's first game of the season. Josh Wolff is gone to 1860 Munich. What can they do to replace that offense?

Many muggles don't know this, but Kansas City has many magical elements. Eric Kronberg is part giant, and is the half-brother to Rubeus Hagrid. And they have the magical substance known to the wizarding world as Victorine, a rare element that is magical in and of itself. Pure victorine is very rare, and when sufficiently concentrated can manifest itself as a central midfielder. It is said that beings of pure Victorine can not lose. At least, that's what Snape was teaching in Potions when I was a third year student.

Does anything worry you about the league?

Well, we're all worried about He-Who-Is-Not-To-Be-Named.


No, I can say "Voldemort." I mean that being of cruelty that delights in torture. He used to play in DC, but is now with New York.

DC...now with the Bulls... you don't mean Dema Kovalenko, do you?

A DEMAntor! Expecto Patronum!

Hey There.

Um... You're my patronus?

That's right. You need a Grown-Ass Man if you want to face down Snape and the rest of the death eaters in the final book of your series. I've been so busy trying to figure out how to keep you alive I haven't been able to concentrate on scoring in a national team game for months.

But... I thought my patronus took the form of my dad...



I have something to tell you. After this interview. We done here?

Yeah, I suppose we're done. Thanks Harry, and thanks Eddie. Much appreciated.

Labels: ,

Lost My Shape, Trying to Act Casual

KC-EVE: Woo! The day before a game, and that means there's a lot to get to. We got a match briefing to write, see if we can find a special guest, catch up on the news.... Yeah.

THURSDAY NIGHT'S DEBUT - PRETTY GOOD: Caught the debut of Thursday night soccer last night, and was entertained. FC Dallas and LA played a game that was enjoyable to watch for a neutral, if not particularly skilled. If every game is as enjoyable as last night's, then I think ESPN should get a nice return on their money. A few notes though:

  1. Famous Daves: Kill the Dave O'Brien voice-over, it sucks. That being said, Dave called a mediocre game last night. Probably his best call since he started. I think the problem with Dave is that he feels the play-by-play role should be a voice of authority on behalf of the game. That allows the color guy to be the voice representing the players. I think Dave lacked knowledge and credibility when he started to take on that persona: It would have been interesting if he had taken a different track and learned the game publicly, allowing new viewers someone to identify with. Instead, he felt he had to be The Voice of the Man. You'll note that Dave never talks about "learning something new" but rather tells you facts. I'd like to see him talk about more of the former, even if it stuff we already know.
  2. Graphics: If you have this fancy new offside marker, use it. LA had an offside call in the final four minutes go against them right at the death, and they seemed upset about it. Would have been a natural time to take a look. The thing is, you need to go right to that replay and get back to the game. I feel like perhaps that technology takes time to cue it up, which probably renders it useless for anything but half-time recaps.
  3. Officiating: Terry Vaughn called a decent first hour, then swallowed his whistle. MLS Refs need to dish out yellows for persistent infringement. Yes, I know that Ben Olsen would get some of those. Doesn't matter, the laws exist for a reason. You can't just feel like you have control of a game, you need to keep it. That being said, the opening 60 minutes was officiated decently, and I agree with the PK given to FCD.

IDIOT WATCH: Thanks for the 2-nil win over Atlanta, you Charm City Asshat. Oh, and your point might have been stronger if you noted the success of the Blast in MISL the past few years, but you probably can't even keep track of that.

FAR REACHING INTERVIEWS: If you missed the ThroughBall interview with (as DuNord says) fellow freak Mark McClure of the Far Post, you should read it. Mark comes off very well, and Josh allows him to shine quite nicely. Good stuff.

THE IRONY OF "THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME...": MLSNet Water-carrier Dave Lifton on DC United returning home. Key graf:

Soehn agrees with that assessment. "I could see blank stares, and you don't often see that with our guys. You hit a stretch of two weeks of traveling and sleeping in different beds, and it just wears on you. You miss your family, you miss your home. All that goes away fast once you get back."

Labels: , ,

12 April 2007

Troy Perkins is a Person of Interest

Having now seen the phrases "a suspect Troy Perkins", "unsteady", and "possibly exposed" too many places to count now, plus multiple replays of the goal he let in against Chivas, does anyone else think this is reaching the point of stupidity? Yes, there were two goals scored against him in the Colorado game. Was he to blame for either? Was his positioning bad? Was he missing saves he should have gotten to? Did he fail to control the box when that was called for?

As far as I could tell, he had an acceptable, though perhaps not phenomenal game, against Colorado. He neither over- nor under-performed expectations. He made some key saves. He snagged some crosses out of the air. He had one mistake which led to him bopping a cross out for a corner. Am I missing something? Or is everyone looking at one highlight clip and a box score and drawing conclusions for which there is little evidence? I shall let the people decide.


Making minimum wages is no picnic

Does anyone not think that the MLS developmental salary is too low? I think we're all in agreement on that one. From the league's perspective, a low starting salary hedges them against overpaying for players. Those who pan out, ala Gros, Perkins, Boswell get pay raises and stay with the team. Those who don't, leave to play for the Railhawks, and the front office hasn't invested gobs of cash in them, so the loss is minimal. But the value of an MLS salary is in the eye of the beholder.

For some guys, and there is no shortage of them in the States, its enough to just have a chance to play soccer professionally, with maybe a shot at making it either in the league or moving on to Europe. These are the guys living 5 to a house with no TV and just a hunger to be on the field.

To be fair, they just moved in last week, and it's been a busy few weeks for United, and there's a furniture-shopping outing planned, possibly as soon as tomorrow, which I might live-blog, which might be the first live-blog ever for an MLS group-house furniture-shopping outing. But as of right now, the guys still haven't bought beds, so they're mostly sleeping on the floor, which is what I did when I got my first apartment right out of college, so I can sympathize.

The flip side to that coin, is that some people decide that an MLS salary is too low for them.

The former Clifton High School and Seton Hall standout was selected in the 2007 MLS Supplemental Draft by the Columbus Crew and played well enough to receive a contract offer. The only problem is that the offer was for a developmental contract, worth just $12,900, a figure Niziolek determined was impossible to live on so far from home.

Instead of training and preparing for another season, Teddy Niziolek is stuck in limbo without a team. But that's his choice, so while you can complain that developemental salaries are low, you can't argue that they're artificially low or that players are forced to accept them.

With a large brush...

ADMINISTRIVIA: Sorry for taking the day off yesterday. Tuesday was a much busier day than I expected, and actually involved me going and trying to do some original fact-finding. It didn't seem like much happened yesterday, other than Josh Gros getting cleared to play, that was worth noting. Although BobbyBoswell.Com Live Tonight on Comcast should be fun.

NO, IT'S NOT ABOUT THE GOALS: The normally sensible Paul Gardner writes that with so few goals in MLS Opening weekend it made the game more boring - "the key to livening up the game is goal scoring." I honestly didn't feel that opening weekend was uninteresting. Chivas-Toronto was an interesting game, and despite the result of Houston-LA, there was enough action (and some great chances in the opening 20 minutes) that I enjoyed it. I'm told that New York - Columbus, a game I would have picked for a snooze-fest, was also fairly enjoyable despite the nil-nil result. If there's a problem, it's that announcers don't quite know how to call a game to accentuate the action that exists. I'm not saying that every back-heel in the center circle should be called "world-class" but when you see a player break down another player in an individual battle, that is an exciting moment if called correctly. Dave Johnson does a pretty good job of this, you'll often here phrases along the lines of "with a neat little move to get by..." which helps you realize some of the small, yet ongoing moments, that make this game fun to watch.

DUTY! HONOR! SOCCER! BLOGGING! Courtesy of DuNord, I was interested in Andrea Canales's comments on the Eric Wynalda-Fulham USA story. Ultimately? This sucks.

Look, at the DCenters, I don't think any of us have any formal journalism training other than reading Poynter. We do, however, try to comport ourselves honorably in our interviews and occasional news gathering forays. I've talked to players before, but I don't use their comments unless they know that I'm writing for a blog and they're on the record. If I'm told things off the record, they stay off the record though it may color my editorial perception of matters. And this has happened more than once, though not all the time. We have a 2 source rule in place on most stories, though if we've worked with a source in the past and they've shown themselves reliable we may just go with one.

Since we've had the chance to talk to Boris Flores, Jamie O'Connor, Jay Needham, and Jay Nolly, we've always tried to do the right thing in those interviews. And yet, one incident like this and Steve Goff has a lesson: "Don't Ever Talk To a Blogger!" Yes, I'm aware that this was meant partially tongue-in-cheek since Goff himself has a blog, but it was probably also semi-serious, since Goff is also a legitimate reporter for a Big Paper. It sucks. I'd like to think that in our interactions, and Lifton, and other great blogs around this site have shown that we can be responsible in our interactions.

Labels: , , ,