29 August 2007

The Supporter's Shield Pace Report: August 29, 2007

We've had a few calls (including one today) for an update on the race for the Supporter's Shield, and since we haven't looked at things since May it seems like a good time to do so. We'll start with a league wide look, and then look at the implications for DC United towards the end of this post. For those that aren't familiar with this concept, we essentially envisioned a "pace team" that average 1.9 points-per-game in its results, and then map all the other teams against them. 1.9 was selected since any team since the elimination of the shootout that averaged 1.9 ppg would have won the supporter's shield. In fact, teams have won the shield with less ppg, as in 2004 when Columbus took the shield with only 1.63ppg. However, that's not a safe rate of return, as New England's 2005 return of 1.84ppg probably would have been good enough in any other year, but they lost out to San Jose's blistering 2.0ppg.

Okay, so here's how the teams have played out the season so far. Each week we check their point total against the pace team, and it maps out like this (click for larger view):

No team is on the pace right now, but some are clearly closer than others. D.C. United leads the pack, they're only 1 point off of the pace team through 21 games. There's also some pretty clear grouping in terms of the remaining teams. Given how difficult it is to sustain pace, a team that's the same number of points off the pace as another team but has played more games is probably in better shape than their supposed equal. Therefore, here are the top teams contending for the Supporter's Shield right now, in order:

  1. DC United (-1 pt with 21 Games Played [GP])
  2. New England Revolution (-2 pts with 23GP)
  3. CD Chivas USA (-2 pts with 21 GP)
  4. FC Dallas (-4 pts with 21 GP)
  5. Houston Dynamo (-6 pts with 23 GP)
For me, Chivas is perhaps the big surprise to see their name up here, but that's how it plays out. There are also a few teams that would require a tremendous run of results in the end of the season to make it, but are still at least remotely possible. New York at -9 pts though 22 GP and Kansas City with -10 pts through 22GP could conceivably put it together, but it would be difficult. The rest of the teams must pin their hopes the MLS Cup or a Superliga finish to get international play next year.

So how will it play out? Just for kicks, here are the remaining schedules for the top 5 contending teams, with bolded games being matches against other top 5 teams that could really affect the race:

D.C. United: @FCD, @CHV, NE, RSL, @CHI, TFC, @KC, CHI, CLB
New England Revolution: @DCU, FCD, @NY, COL, @CHI, CLB, @TFC
F.C. Dallas: DCU, TFC, @NE, CHI, @LA, HOU, @CLB, CHV, KC
Houston Dynamo: KC, RSL, @LA, @FCD, LA, RSL, @CHV

The big point staring us in the face is how large the next three games loom for United in the quest for the shield. All three have the potential to really set put things in United's favor, or put them in a spot where they are chasing the field without any six point swing games. Same deal for New England. The strength of schedule in the other games is comparable for pretty much all the teams, with perhaps New England having the most difficult and Houston having perhaps the easiest (although they have the most ground to make up of the top 5 right now). No one is running away with things yet. United can also go into the next three games and not be devestated by a draw in any one of them. Right now, draws hurt United less than the other five teams given that United is on top. 5 of 9 points from the next three games would probably be good enough to maintain United as a strong competitor. However, a quick losing streak would really hurt.

So what are we saying? I'm saying that right now the next three consecutive games have larger implications then you might think, especially that Chivas game. United's road gets much easier after that, but will it be easier to maintain their position, or easier to get back atop the table? That'll be the big question. Every game matters.

Labels: , , , , , ,

28 August 2007

The Freezer for August 28th 2007

The US Soccer Fragility Index, known as the Freezer, is the anti-power poll. Each week, Oscar, Kinney, and D have a frank discussion over email and chat to rank the most feeble, the most tenuous, and the overall weakest things in US Soccer. It's the second most feared list in US Soccer behind 101 Ways to Ruin a Team by Alexi Lalas.

Beckham showed he has more grit than smart, but at least he showed up for his team. That is more than one of his teammates can say. This week in there are six names in the Freezer associated with the Galaxy. It might be a little harsh, but considering how badly they are embarrassing the league we don't think it is completely uncalled for.

Note: The Freezer is a collaborative effort of the DCenters. Kinney just posted it this week. We all wrote the thing.

27 August 2007

Debriefing for Match 12.20: At Toronto FC

Toronto FC 0 : 1 D.C. United

Six Word Novel Recap

Toronto's still scoreless, but Fred isn't.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Toronto Star, Morgan Campbell: "The guy in the Toronto FC jersey didn't look too out of place seated among reporters at the news conference following Toronto's 1-0 loss to D.C. United last night. Cover the soccer beat awhile and you'll learn some reporters advertise their biases. But the moment he opened his mouth he blew his cover.
"Excuse me, sir," he said to Toronto head coach Mo Johnston. "I'm a Canadian resident. I'm a forward. I can hel-,"
"Next question!" Johnston said, dismissing the man with a wave of his right hand as staff escorted him from the room."
The Globe and Mail, Larry Millson: "That is seven games without a goal and eight without a victory. It makes a run at a playoff spot in the final eight games of the season just that much more unlikely although Toronto entered the game six points away from the final playoff spot."
The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "With three regulars back home and another on the bench, United (12-6-3, 39 points) received an early goal from Brazilian midfielder Fred, an outstanding performance by goalkeeper Troy Perkins and a gritty defensive effort to secure its fifth straight league victory and keep pace with Eastern Conference leader New England (12-5-6, 42)."
MLSNet, Mark Polishuk: "In spite of being outshot 12-5 by Toronto, D.C. managed to capitalize on its lone shot of the first half and extend the club's winning streak to five games. United improved to 10-0-1 this season when scoring first."
BlackDogRed, BDR: "I thoroughly agree with Soehn and management that of the three games in this road trip, this was the game to sit the injured. In the race for both Supporters and, barring that, home field in playoffs, Dallas and Chivas are six point games, and while yes, yes it did disrespect Toronto, if one of these games could be stolen with both the team's scorer and team's heart left behind in DC, this was it."
Poplar Point Perspective: "Can we end the Dyachenko experiment for 2007? Unimaginative, uninspired, and unskillful. And Addlery was completely unable to control the passes he was given, passes Moreno and Emilio are able to handle regularly. I don't understand why Kpene was not give the start over either of these options."
The Edgell Supporters: "This was the funniest game I have ever seen. It was stressful until Fred put his shot away and then it just became laughable. It looked liked a contest to see which team could give the ball away more. I have never seen so many balls passed to someone or something out of bounds. Terrible, sloppy play. Slide tackles that didn't even come close to the ball. I swear one time a sliding Toronto player came up short on the ball and continued to scoot along the turf to get to the ball. The Edgell Supporters were literally laughing out loud during most of the match. Toronto even broke the most minutes without a goal record previously belonging to RSL. Congratulations."

The Good

  1. Three Points: United went in, got all three points, and got out. That is something that they didn't do earlier in the season. Nothing spectacular, but nothing horrible, an early goal, and solid defense. I will take it. It won't be nearly as easy against Dallas or Chivas but hopefully they can do it there too.
  2. Depth?: This was a game where DC didn't play great but didn't start Moreno, Olsen, Gros, Boswell, or Emilio. That shows a lot of depth and apart from a few moments I don't think that I ever really noticed it. United wasn't playing well, but I have seen them play like that with everybody healthy and starting, so it wasn't that big of a drop off. It wasn't the best game for some of the people filling in, but it could have been much worse.
  3. Traveling Support: With all the talk about Toronto supporters it was good to see a nice large traveling contingent of La Norte, Barra Brava, and Screaming Eagles. I don't know how many were there but the FSC commentators said there were 100 of you guys. I am thinking you were just loud enough to be considered 100 Toronto fans.

The Bad

  1. Forward Depth: The Addlery/Dyachenko combo did not work out so well. It was just ugly for a large part of the first half. There are some rumors that DC is trying to trade for some forward depth. I am not sure how wise this is due to locker room culture and continuity, but there is no question that it is now United's shallowest position.
  2. Dictating the Game: United was resting a bunch of people with knocks and didn't have it's top 11 playing but still allowed Toronto way too much possession. United needs to do better dictating the play in away matches. Toronto's anemic offenses may not have scored on DC, but if United takes an early lead in Dallas or LA, they probably won't be able to bunker their way to victory.
  3. Canadian Ref: I don't know his name and I really don't care. I don't even care that he is Canadian because I think it was more incompetence than favoritism. He just didn't get any of the small (or large) fouls off the ball or after the whistle was blown. Brennan should be fined for his shin to the back of Gomez's head. I don't really know how the ref missed that one, but by that time I wasn't surprised.

Man of the Match

Perkins. Fred had the goal and the defense did well to make sure he didn't have too much to do, but when he was called on, he was up to the challenge.

Karma Bank

I really don't know how these things are supposed to work. +1 for Fred's goal. +1 putting up with Toronto's fouling, -1 for some ugly soccer. +1 for the game. Don't know where that leaves us for the season.

Final Thoughts

It was an ugly game but United got what they wanted. Playing without Benny or Emilio was going to be tough, and it was a tough game. Hopefully with everybody ready to go they can get some points at Dallas and LA before coming back and facing a rested New England in a match at RFK that will have huge standing ramifications.

Quote of the Day

I will be getting to the Toronto Debrief presently, I just thought I would share this quote from Juan Pablo Angel with my fellow DC United fans. Hattip to Du Nord.
Angel looks back with satisfaction at his first four months in North America. "It has been terrific. I have enjoyed every single minute of my new life over here," he says. "The team is not the best in the league, and might even be considered one of the poortest, but in general everything is fine."

Labels: , , , ,

The Etcheverry-Gomez Fan Debate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labels: , , ,

23 August 2007

The Best XI from the First XI

Who wants to play a game with me? Okay, here are the rules: Put together a functioning side using one player from each season of DC United's history. Each year can only be used once (and must be used once.) No player can appear more than once. And believe me, this game can get hard. In some cases you have to search for a good player to put in a position, and in some cases you know you are neglecting someone. You may not even be picking the best player on the team in a given year, but you've got to make them all fit...I'm sure one of you might be able to do better than this (and perhaps you have, but I didn't find your Big Soccer post in a google search), but I think I have a decent side, 4-4-2 diamond.

Keeper: Nick Rimando, from 2002. I know, Perkins was the keeper of the year last year, and Garlick was pretty good for United. And the 2002 season was one we don't exactly brag about when we brag about our history. But I think this is a decent choice. People forget just how many shots Rimando faced that year. Yes, he let in a lot of goals that year, but he also made a ton of saves, more than at any other point in his career with United. And his save percentage was not terribly different that year than in any other year of his career.

Left Back: Jeff Agoos, from 1998. You can probably quibble with this choice, especially given that this probably wasn't Goose's best year, or close to it. Still, right now, he's the choice I would make for that position.

Center Back: Ryan Nelsen from 2004. Christian Gomez was the catalyst for the MLS Cup run of 2004, but Nelsen anchored the defense. One wonders if he hadn't been suspended for the Eastern Conference Final if it would have been as exciting as it was. This is the performance that punched his ticket to England. One of the best we've had.

Center Back: Eddie Pope from 2001. Had to have Eddie, it was pretty much a given. But the question was when I could flip him in? This was a decent year for Eddie defensively, and picking him from the 2001 year meant I could spend a few of those inaugural seasons on some firepower.

Right Back: Brian Namoff from 2003. Again, a difficult choice to make, and Brian really hasn't excelled until after 2006 at this position, but I needed someone from 2003, and this seemed the best bet, a year that saw him set the tone for eventually getting everyday duty in 2004.

Defensive Midfield: Richie Williams from 2000. If I'm taking the infamous Midget of Death, I want him in the year he committed 68 fouls. That should slow 'em up.

Right Midfield: Ben Olsen from 1999. His second year in the league converted on the promise of the first. Here's the thing. I though Ben couldn't play on the outside any more, that he just didn't have the speed. He's not as fast as he was in 1999, but he's still got it. That's really, really amazing.

Left Midfield: Dema Kovalenko from 2005. Williams and Kovalenko? Tasty. Seriously, options here were difficult, since Left Midfield seems to be the position of eternal promise. Adu? Convey? Neither spoke to me for this team. Dema? I have to keep people happy, especially the ladies.

Center Midfield: Christian Gomez from 2006. You have two choices: Etch or Gomito. For me, I'll take the MLS MVP performance from 2006 that Gomez put in, and trade the 5 more assists I would have gotten from a peak Diablo for the four more goals that Christian provided.

Forward: Jaime Moreno from 1997. If you're going to take a Jaime, why not the year he had the scoring title? This works for me.

Forward: Raul Diaz Arce from 1996. He had 100 shots that season, 49 on goal, and 23 that went by the keeper. That's just killer. I'll take it.

By year...
1996 - F RDA
1997 - F Moreno
1998 - D Agoos
1999 - M Olsen
2000 - M Williams
2001 - D Pope
2002 - GK Rimando
2003 - D Namoff
2004 - D Nelsen
2005 - M Kovalenko
2006 - M Gomez

Wish I could fit in: Etcheverry, Harkes, Lassiter, Llamosa... stupid rules that I enforced on myself... Maybe you can do it.

Labels: ,

C'mon... Extend that logic just a little farther... you can do it...

Keith W last night sent in a comment alerting us to a new Marc Fisher column. At first, I expected this column would utterly destroy whatever buzz I had from last night's lovely and satisfying win. Something about how Poplar Point should not be developed, and that DC United should find some existing part of town near MLK Ave and Howard Road. Instead, I find him meditating on the DC baseball stadium, and on whether it will create true economic growth for the city. Some choice quotes:

...there is nothing automatic about sparking the economic development that stadium proponents cite as the justification for public investment in a ballpark...Sports stadiums can't solve social ills. But they can serve as anchors for retail, entertainment, office and residential development that boosts a city's tax base, enlivens its streets and thereby lifts all, or at least many, boats...Other cities plopped stadiums downtown and hoped for the best. For Washington to do better, it must make certain that developers provide amenities to make the new neighborhood worth visiting and that team owners do their part to make going to a game an experience worth repeating.

Wow... if only someone would offer the city exactly such a plan as the one Fisher is describing, I bet he'd leap at the chance to endorse it.

Labels: ,

Debriefing for Match 12.20: New York Red Bulls

D.C. United 3 : 1 New York Red Bulls


Six Word Novel Recap

Record is a comma, not period.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "Moreno's historic strike came on a night when United (11-6-3) scored twice in the first eight minutes, endured New York's intense pressure and Juan Pablo Angel's goal midway through the half, then secured its fourth consecutive MLS victory to move within three points of first-place New England in the Eastern Conference."
The Washington Times, John Haydon: "Moreno's moment came after United striker Luciano Emilio was tripped in the box by Red Bulls defender Hunter Freeman. Referee Ricardo Salazar awarded a penalty kick, and immediately the crowd roared. Moreno said he initially asked Emilio whether he wanted to take the spot kick, but Olsen pressured him to take the shot. 'I didn't want to score on a penalty to be honest with you, but Benny told me to take it and get it over with,' Moreno said."
The Examiner, Craig Stouffer: "With less than six minutes played, New York goalkeeper Ronald Waterreus spilled United midfielder Fred’s shot, the loose ball promptly cleaned up by Ben Olsen to put the home team ahead, 1-0. Barely two minutes later Olsen worked a combination with Moreno on the right side of the box, his cross at from the end line deflecting off the foot of New York defender Chris Leitch and falling perfectly for Christian Gomez to nod in at the far post and double D.C.’s lead."
The Herald News, Ives Galarcep: "There are no skeletons or ghosts or witches visible at RFK Stadium but that hasn't stopped it from being a house of horrors for the Red Bulls..."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "Moreno's historic achievement would have been almost inconceivable to most observers just a few short seasons ago, when the Bolivian star was debilitated by a series of injuries that placed his career in serious jeopardy."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "The result stretches D.C.'s league winning streak to four games, vaults the Black-and-Red ahead of New York for sole possession of second place, and ensures that the Atlantic Cup trophy will remain in the nation's capital for yet another season."
MLSNet, Chris Snear: " The Red Bulls certainly missed Claudio Reyna's ability to hold the ball and control the tempo of the match in the midfield."
United Mania, Mike Martin: "Olsen beat everyone to the lose ball for the finish to give United the lead in the sixth minute...DC extended their lead a mere two minutes later as Olsen turned provider this time. The Red Bulls Chris Leitch took a poor touch and Olsen stripped him of the ball to burst down to the endline and launch a cross in front of the goal where United’s Christian Gomez hurled himself into the bouncing ball to nod it into the net for a 2-0 lead before ten minutes had been played. New York pulled one back midway through the first half as Marc Burch slipped while attempting to cut back on Juan Pablo Angel. Angel was able to slip the ball forward to Dane Richards in the area. Perkins rashly came out and took a swipe at the ball, but only succeeded in bringing down Richards for a penalty kick."
An American's View, Brian Garrison: "Now that was a pretty good match to watch. We had drama, scoring, a record and a trophy. Not a bad night out at the ol' ball park."
BlackDogRed, BDR: "Simms has earned holding, and with Gomez up top and Fred and Olsen on wings, that's United's best midfield. Fred is going to tear this league up - defenders are already giving him to much space in deference already, yards of space in fear."
Sideline Views, Luis Bueno: "It's a somewhat memorable accomplishment but it will be broken sooner rather than later. Taylor Twellman has 85 career goals right now...I'm not trying to take anything away from Moreno. His accomplishment is grand. I just think there needs to be some perspective about what this record means."
Soccer by Ives, Ives Galarcep: "
This hasn't been a good day for the Red Bulls' fullbacks. Freeman and Leitch have been at fault in all three goals. Shouldn't be too much of a surprise with Fred and Olsen on the wings for DC.

The Good

  1. 109: It does feel good to see Jaime finally reach the mark. The importance isn't just the record, but the fact that Jaime hasn't really ever received his due from people that haven't been biased towards him (like me) or haven't played with him. Man was a legitimate MLS MVP candidate in 2004, but didn't even win comeback player of the year. If you look at the MLS Awards page, you only see Jaime Moreno's name once -- his 1997 golden boot performance. Something that wasn't voted on, or conferred upon him, it was something he took through performance alone. That's what Luis misses in his quote below: Sure, Moreno's record, whatever he finally puts it at, will fall. And probably within a few years. But once again, simply because of his performance on the field, he has earned the right to stand above and alone. That's the true significance: It is a legitimizing moment for a career that has far too often not gotten its due from people who never wore black and red.
  2. Balance, Metaphorically: You can get goals from hard work. You can get goals from clever skill. United got goals using both, stretching up some beautiful passing, but finishing through sheer doggedness. The first goal was Troy Perkins connecting on a long pass (which will probably only encourage him...) and Fred using some great skills to get in on the keeper, but the finish was simply determination with Olsen crashing the net. The second goal isn't so much about Olsen's assist, but the high pressure and tackle he applied previously to take the ball away in New York's defensive third. The third goal's penalty was earned thanks to the mythical back-heel, and it was a pretty little move to spring Emilio free. Nice to see all of that.
  3. Clyde Simms: The starting midfielder job is his.
  4. Troy Perkins: First, kudos to Clint Mathis for his opportunism in sending in a free kick when Troy was well out of position still trying to organize the defense. But bigger Kudos to Troy to flying back and extinguishing the last gasp from New York to dream of salvaging a point.
  5. Fred: The goatee looks silly. The skills do not.

The Bad

  1. Dane Richards: There was a moment when Richards sent a knee in a hard challenge into Moreno, and then acted indignant when whistled for the foul, repeatedly making the "get up, quit diving" motion with his hand. There is no question it was a foul, and while it may not have been as hard as Moreno reacted to it, it was still very clear. Dane, you fouled the dude. It's okay, but don't act like Ricardo Salazar was sold a bill of goods. That's just a young punk move to refuse to accept responsibility. Moreno is a legend, you not so much yet. Yes, you have world-class speed, but I'd hate to think you only had medium-sized village attitude.
  2. Balance, Literally: Both Burch and Namoff had awkward moments keeping their footing, and in both cases DC had to react fast to maintain any sort of defensive shape (and gave up a penalty in the first.) I've saw enough falling down in the first home game of the season, I don't want to see more. Yes, I know it's always over the infield, but perhaps we need to change spikes at the half or something.

Man of the Match

Ben Olsen. One goal, one assist, and one stern command to tell Jaime to go up and take the damn spot kick. Good night. Merit awards to Vanney (other than the back header), Simms, Moreno, Fred, and Gomez. Demerit to Burch for that one sequence (otherwise a decent game, and kind of fun to watch our left back attempt a neat one-two and break into the box).

Karma Bank

Here's how I figure it. +3 entering the game, but there's a -1 for the fortunate deflection off of Olsen's cross to Moreno's head. Both penalties were legit, so no movement there. I'm almost tempted to add -1 for not having to deal with either Kovalenko or Reyna, but I think not. So let's say -1 for the match, leaving us at +2 for the year.

Final Thoughts

These things are frickin' long to write. I almost forget what I want to talk about when I reach here. Okay, but here's what I have to say.

Let's talk about the rebuilding year thing. I have maintained that this was a rebuilding year, that this team still had holes they had to plug on defense if they wanted to really be elite. I maintain that I was right, since I always maintained one could rebuild but still be competitive. That being said, I have to wonder if I was also wrong. Not entirely, but perhaps the rebuilding just wasn't a year long period, perhaps it was only a 2/3rds of the season period. The emergence of Burch and McTavish make the backline situation much better, almost even a positive. With options of Namoff, McTavish, Boswell, Vanney, Burch... that's at least stable, if not particularly deep. Then again, in MLS, who is?

For the Boswell thing, I still don't quite get it. Again, as I thought after the Columbus game, there were times in this game when I would have liked to have seen his influence on the back. That being said, Moreno and Emilio have both been sat for a bit as part of Soehn's plans, and Boswell certainly doesn't deserve special treatment in that area. I just don't see what he has done to lose his job, especially after that encouraging performance against LA in league play. I also haven't seen enough from Vanney or McTavish to make me think that either had done enough to displace him. But I don't see practices, so I'm more than willing to entertain the idea that I am missing something.

Tonight, I got a result I really wanted. It feels good. Now I can dispense with the parochialism of irrational grudges, and return to wondering if this team can somehow defend the Supporter's Shield. Given the tightness of the table, it's still easy to fall away, but only now do I feel comfortable saying they can challenge. Let's hope that isn't the kiss of death. But if they play against teams the way the played last night, especially (and doubtfully) on the road, then this team has a lot to say for it.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

22 August 2007

First Impressions - DC United 3 :1 New York Red Bulls



A good game. A game where United was the better side for the entire match, and even when we surrendered the chance against play, or fell down stupidly, or gave the ball away, the team hustled back. Yes, I know McTavish's Burch (Corrected, see comments) fell down and it led to a penalty, but the fact that the team got back quick may have saved Perkins from being the last defender and picking up a red card (especially if Richards had taken a touch toward the goal.)

There was a lot of good in this game. A lot of good. Simms is cementing that defensive midfield spot as his more and more every game. While I think Boswell might have contributed to a more settled situation on some Red Bull attacks, and Vanney at one point nearly headed a ball over Perkins in an '05 Boswell imitation, I have to admit that Tommy Soehn may have the right idea in rotating the defense, and letting 'em ride after three clean sheets. There's always going to be some chances the other team gets, the question is how many, and of what quality. The frequency of Red Bull attacks didn't seem excessive, and the quality was limited at all times by some good marking from McTavish.

You man of the match should probably be Ben Olsen. But with the perfect way of capping a game I really wanted, you man of the decade is Jaime Moreno. Debrief tomorrow.

Labels: , , , ,

Everyone likes some good HEED ARMY

I received an update from our friends at The Heed Army on the Official Unibound Premier League team of the DCenters, Gateshead F.C. (yes, the birthplace of former DC United head coach Ray Hudson). I actually got this email a little over a week ago, just after we disposed of LA in a certain someone's MLS debut, and since then Gateshead have neatly disposed of Eastwood town with a tidy 3-1 away result. So to give you the update, please welcome Davie from the Heed Army:

Hello to all the DC United and Footballs across the pond, first of all I’d like to say a big well done for winning against Beckhams LA Galaxy. Just goes to show one player doesn’t make a team!!!! Although he is rather good.

Gateshead’s Unibond Premier league season is just around the corner and the Heed Army are expecting a good season from our boys. There has been a few comings and goings in the playing squad as with any team in the close season, but the return of Gateshead Legend Steve Bowey from York City (pictured - right). Bowey’s return has made the midfield a real danger zone for any opposing team, add that with another new signing of former Newcastle United midfielder Jamie Mcclen.

With Bowey attacking flair and Mcclens tenacity, Gateshead’s passing game will surly rise to another level.
Gateshead also splashed the cash this summer by singing Graeme Armstrong From Dunston Fed for a reported £5000, not a great amount but at Gateshead ‘s a big transfer fee. Armstrong (pictured) has scored over 83 goals in 3 seasons at Dunston and will sure find the back of the net for ther Heed Army. Our Pre-season started well with a win away to Morpeth town, but a week later Gateshead suffered a 5-0 defeat away to Conf North Side Harrogate Town. Sadly the next Friendly’s away to Newcastle Benfield and to Hampton & Richmond end in the Heed Army being beat 2-0 and 1-0.

Yet Against a Newcastle United XI which had first team member Shola Amiobe and Ablert Luque in there starting line up, Gateshead Matched and out played for much of the first half. 3-3 was the final score Davie Southern, Jamie Harwood and Graeme Armstrong all netted for The Heed. The Newcastle United game was a great night and it was Paul Thompsons Testimonial Game after 10 years of great service for Gateshead.

Paul is 8 goals away from becoming Gateshead all time goal scorer. Yet Gateshead players don’t get the same kind of money that Premier league players get, he gave half the gate money away to a charity for a little girl Tilly Lockey who lost her hands to meningitis, A great gesture from a great player and man.

A new addition to the Heed Army Blog is Heed Army Blog TV, we hope to show Gateshead FC fans enjoying the games and having a good sing at the match. We start our season away to Eastwood town On Sat the 18th, The Heed Army have a full coach traveling down to give our boy’s the support they deserve. Hopefully it will be the start of a great season for Gateshead and the Heed Army!
All the best and Heed Army to all!!!!!!!

- Davie from the Heed Army Blog!!

Labels: ,

Wednesday Coffee May Cause Headaches


: The big news is tonight's rubber match against New York. A win or a draw sees United retain the Atlantic Cup again, a loss and it heads north, and once reaching the turnpike may start to corrode with exposure to the air. Of course, people are talking up the playoff implications, and trying to see the big picture. Not me. For whatever reason, I'm taking an entirely parochial view about this game. I want New York to be destroyed in our stadium, and if we have to play in a such a way that we're exhausted for the remainder of the season and miss the playoffs, well, it would almost be worth it. Normally I'm totally a big picture kind of guy, but today I woke up in a foul mood, so let it be noted.

Steve Goff reports that Josh Gros may be done for the year:
Gros said after Saturday's game that he has had between 15 and 20 concussions since high school. Most have been Grade I, or mild, but the fact that contact with the ball is triggering problems has alarmed the club.

I think we've all learned the hard way that concussions are a tricky business, and should not be messed with. If the alternative is shutting him down for the year or risking his career, then it is time for Josh to stretch out on the couch with an eye-pillow, scented candles, and the music of Jean Michel Jarre. Don't mess around with concussions. Team ramifications be damned on this one.

MORE ON REPRESENTATION: Over at Pitch Invasion, Max J has given us an addendum and response on what we wrote yesterday regarding MLS Represent campaign. I think part of our disagreement stems from the way we approached listening to this material. Max decided to evaluate this entire thing as a marketing tool with respect to getting good music. I simply went directly to the DC United site and said "Oh, Bad Brains did DCU. Perfect." Then I listened to DC song only, and thought that the song was decent. Part of this is probably genre expectations. The music for Bad Brains (that weird funky punk sound) was always more interesting than the lyrics (rare exceptions, usually in the more dub nuanced songs). But the delivery of lyrics and music felt right in line with what I expected. Not transcendent, but wonderful.

Then I listened to other bands, usually with a perspective of "Would I trade my team's song for theirs?" The answer was no. This was a purely parochial thing. Is Max wrong in his impressions overall? Probably not, but my expectations were met, probably due to how I approached the entire exercise. Now, if MLS puts a team in Montreal simply because they want The Arcade Fire to record a track, then the entire thing will have gotten much too silly.

LATER TODAY: We should write a RBNY preview, and we should also check in with the Official Unibond Premier League Team of the DCenters. They have an update. The army is marching.

Labels: , , , ,

21 August 2007

True Stories

Two of them, both about the MLS Represent Campaign.

Around mid-May, I got an email (which I do not have permission to reprint) asking what references a cool indie rocker should use when writing a song about United, in a purely "hypothetical" sense. I wrote back with a few thoughts, and then I included this paragraph:

Depends on the sound of the particular kickass indie rocker too. Of course, I assume this isn't Calexico, but you know you'd probably play with different things for different sounds. If it were a Bad Brains type group, I think you could do a lot with referencing supporters culture. If it were more of a slowcore or alt-country group, I think you'd focus more on the concept of level of play.

Now, of course most of you have seen that Adidas has the new "Represent" campaign up and running, and who wrote United's song? Bad Brains, just as I was kind of hoping for when I wrote my original response. It may not be the greatest song, or even the greatest Bad Brains song, but it's real and authentic in a way that few corporately promoted anthems can be. It is very, very DC (yes, I know they decamped for New York. That just added to the mystique, see?). I started listening to them right around my freshman year of high school, paying attention only after someone passed me a copy of the Kick Out the Jams Rollins/Bad Brains cover (that I was also listening to the KLF/JAMMs/Space/Timelords/K Foundation/and other names Cauty and Drummond recorded under probably won't surprise you.) Needless to say, it was part of my personal high school soundtrack, which is probably the most influential music you will have for the rest of your life. So just the fact that Bad Brains is doing the DC United song, and doing a decent job of it, makes me almost giggly. In a hardcore (don't email me) sort of way.

As for the other true story, there used to be a record shop in Fredericksburg called the Blue Dog. When I would visit my future in-laws, I always made a point to drop in there, and I'm depressed it has since closed down. They had a staff to whom you could just rattle off a list of music you enjoyed and they'd find some bands you'd never heard of that would meet your fancy perfectly. It was the place I first heard Radio 4, among other groups, simply because I said I wanted something that sounded like The Fall meets Luna by way of Flock of Seagulls. Yes, you could get away with talking like that. Anyways, the only time they ever failed me was when they recommended The Rapture's album "Echoes." It was the only time I ever resold an album they had recommended. Squeaky, grating, pseudo-New Wave that never coalesced into anything remotely resembling something I could enjoy. Of course, guess who Adidas found for the Red Bulls song? My friends, that's a vindication of taste.

IN OTHER PLACES... Max J thinks the entire thing doesn't work. It's possible that nostalgia is overwhelming sense for me here.

Labels: , ,

20 August 2007

Debriefing for Match 12.19: At Columbus Crew

Columbus Crew 0 : 2 D.C. United

Six Word Novel Recap

Emilio takes ball, wallet, from Hendrickson.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Columbus Dispatch, Shawn Mitchell: "United did not play its finest but still handed the Crew a 2-0 loss...Brazilian midfielder Fred struck in the 52nd minute, and 11 minutes later Luciano Emilio scored for a league-leading 14th time."
The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "In the 52nd minute, Christian Gomez nodded Bryan Namoff's cross off the left post, collected the stray ball and had his second attempt blocked. The ball caromed toward the top of the penalty area, where Fred blasted a 17-yard one-timer into the upper right side for his third goal of the season."
The Washington Times, Joe Reedy: "United took advantage of a Columbus lapse for its second goal. After Ezra Hendrickson intercepted a pass by Fred near the penalty area, he tried to clear it in the opposite direction. Then Emilio, who easily put it past Hesmer just outside the goal area..."
MLSNet, Nathan Linton: "Both United head coach Tom Soehn and Crew boss Sigi Schmid said that much of the play in the first half favored the Crew."
MLSNet, Nathan Linton: "...the Crew started to press over the final half-hour. Schelotto had a free kick barely miss four teammates in the box in the 69th minute before being punched away by United 'keeper Troy Perkins. Then three minutes later Perkins saved a goal again after Columbus midfielder Duncan Oughton hustled to the ball, colliding with the right post but pulling the ball back across the face of goal. Perkins scrambled to control the ball and nearly carried across the line before hurling it back out, but referee Richard Heron ruled that Alejandro Moreno fouled Perkins..."
BlackDogRed, BDR: "I am taking nothing away from this game but three points, admittedly on the road, against a mediocre team in hideous kits. S'better than losing, s'better than tieing, it's the minimum requirement after Wednesday's shoepuke, but ultimately it's just a win against crappy yellow team."
Poplar Point Perspective: "Gomez looked better than he has in a month."
The Edgell Supporters: "Simms is an upgrade at defensive mid because of his distribution (not always perfect but better than Carroll) and his ability to shut a lot of stuff down coming through midfield. I hate to say this because of what it means, but we did not really miss Boswell tonight..."
Six Yards North, QJA: "Fred is magical...It wasn't just his strike, which opened the scoreboard as well as United's attack. It was Fred's urgency, which ensured positive movement up the pitch; it was his persistence, which ensured focused, dynamic attack on goal; and it was his thrilling movement on the ball, which ensured that the audience was at the edge of their seats and that the Crew were at the edge of their collective wits. Simply put, United is better as a team when Fred is on the field."
The Offside: Columbus Crew, Scott: "We moved the ball well against them, we came forward often and with intent, but we never really looked that much like scoring. I was particularly impressed with Hejduk’s runs down the right side, the guy never gives up. The second half was largely a different story altogether..."

The Good

  1. Second Half Revival: That first half was an utterly disheartening bit of soccer. Neither team looked particularly good, but the Crew overall looked less bad. The second half was a different story, but I'm not sure what caused it. Was United playing that much better before the goal? Maybe, but after Fred broke the deadlock, they certainly established control of the game. Chicken and Egg a bit there. They went on to do very well until they packed it in for the final 13 or so minutes.
  2. Tackling: One frustrating thing of this season was United not showing enough bite in their tackles, something that they seem to be reversing. This game United had more fouls, but that's largely because they were disrupting play as much as possible in midfield.
  3. Fight for the shirt: A loss is frustrating, but a loss when the team never has it together? Infuriating. This was somehow not the opposite, but the contrapositive you will. The team never was in sync, but they were fighting through it. There were giveaways, but the team was rallying back to fight for the ball. Luciano Emilio's goal was all about not giving up on the play, pressuring Ezra Hendrickson into turning the ball the wrong way. I'll take that.

The Bad

  1. TV: Had to watch the game on MLS Live, which came through fine for me but subjected me to ads for Fort Rapids, Ohio's largest indoor waterpark. DO NOT WANT. (That being said, the pbp/color combination in Columbus is much better than most local teams. Credit where it is due.)
  2. Backline shuffle: The Edgell Supporters didn't miss Boswell, but I think I did, especially in that opening twenty minutes. One thing Boswell does well is play the sweeper role, tidying up some ugly moments in the back by getting the ball out of the box. Given the number of low balls on the ground that Hejduk sent through that missed everyone, I think Boswell deals with those fairly well. He's even better at getting that tall head of his to sloppy aerial balls in the box, clearing them out of the box (sometimes right to an attacker, but hey, better there than around the six yard area.) Burch had a tough game, Vanney was acceptable but not stunning, and Namoff had his hands full. Given that United's central defense was a bit put together, I'm surprised Columbus didn't try to come down the middle more. Part of that was Clyde Simms, but the other part is that Columbus loves dealing the ball wide to Frankie and playing the soccer equivalent of Plinko with his

Man of the Match

Fred. Six Yards North has this right, he did an awful lot on the ball to earn that goal. The return of Gomez was nice, and Moreno is playing better now than I can remember, so special merit awards to them. Also merit awards to Emilio, Mediate, Simms, and Perkins.

Karma Bank

Interesting night karma wise...

+1 for the post denying Gomez, -1 for the fortunate series of rebounds that led to Fred finding the shot in stride. +1 for Emilio's persistence in tracking down that second goal. +1 for Perkins making sure of the clean sheet even if he had been fouled, -1 for conceding so much of the opening half but escaping without a goal. +1 for the game, +3 for the season... so we're still owed.

Final Thoughts

While I'm thrilled at the result, I can't help but feel that if Columbus had put away an early chance that we might be looking at a 1-nil loss coming out of Ohio. Still, this win is important. Finishing off August with wins in league play is huge for this team, as September starts with three games in eight days against good teams (At Dallas, At Chivas, Home to the Revs). United will drop some points in those games, but stockpiling results now helps.

The other good news is checking the standings. Not the race for the supporter's shield, which I still want, but rather my bet with The Kin of Fish. Tied with New York and a game in hand... a much better scenario than at the start of the season. If we can finish off August, things will look much better there. Frankly, I've had enough pain this season, I don't need to be heading into Lot 8 in RBNY colors. C'mon United, my physical well being is in your hands.

Labels: , , ,

17 August 2007

We're so petty, oh so petty

The past few days, I was on business travel in another MLS city. I did, however, pack my united jerseys on the off hope I could make it to a sports bar playing Telefutura at 10PM Eastern on Wednesday night. Alas, it was not to be.

Now, I confront a dilemma. I'm not going to take the "well, that's one less fixture to worry about for congestion" silver lining. It just doesn't work for me. I wanted the Superliga, especially the inaugural Superliga. I wanted just another MLS first for DC United to carve into their cane (which, given the number of notches it has already, probably shouldn't be used for walking support at all.) And part of me still does, which leads me to this psychological dilemma: Should I root for Pachuca, or the Galaxy? Part of me wants to root for Pachuca, simply for the fact that I want United to preserve its chance to be the first MLS team to win the Superliga. That's a horribly small-minded approach, but I can't deny it. This despite the kind words various Galaxy fans have given to United when United when play in Sudamericana, or CCC, or the like. I just want that opportunity again, and it kills me that it might not happen.

On the other hand, I think the Mexican teams kind of laughed their way through this event, and want them to take it more seriously next go-round. Having an MLS side come out on top helps that situation. I know certain people have made excuses about preseason form for the Mexican teams, but those excuses hold exactly as much weight for their teams as it did for ours in the CONCACAF Champions Cup: Namely, not very much anymore. So I want the LA Galaxy to win it out, and thus make everyone take this tournament more seriously next go round.

So, in short, I'm approaching this whole Superliga final from a very selfish place. Which I'm okay with. I still don't know who to support. Do I give in to pettiness of one sort, or pettiness of the other? No idea.

Labels: , ,

15 August 2007

United Force: La Barra Brava

The Washington Post has a great article on La Barra Brava in today's Style section written by David Montgomery. Every DC United fan, loud or quiet, young or old, black or red, should read it. There are also accompanying photos and video that you should check out, especially the photo montage with Barra narrative. The coverage is very well done and clearly shows how soccer supporters groups are different from traditional U.S. fans. The things I take for granted at DC United games, such as the drums, flags, seating, and singing throughout the game are seen as novelties by Mr. Montgomery, which reminded me just how different United games are.

The article shows the beginnings of La Barra Brava, including how important Kevin Payne was to the atmosphere we take for granted. It talks about some of the larger characters in the group with lots of quotes, and also has positive quotes from people outside the Barra that deal with them on a regular basis. Mr. Montgomery shows how the Barra has morphed from a South American supporters group to a melting pot of beggars for good soccer. The best quote of the article is:

"The Barra Brava works how America is supposed to work," says Conner, a recreation coordinator for Culpeper County, Va. "It's a great melting pot. We have 27 different nationalities there now. We have guys from Africa, we have guys from Europe, and South America, which is obviously our roots that we want to hold on to. What we want to be is the standard for American hard-core support."

To end let me just say kudos to Mr. Montgomery. Whenever newspapers run articles about subjects I am familiar with I can usually find some mistakes or glaring omissions, even in quality papers such as The Washington Post. This article had none of that, I had some minor quibbling with a couple of lines, but they probably say more about me than the writing. Plus, even though I hang out at bars with Barra members, sit right next to them, and always try to get their cheers going this article had little bits of information that even I didn't know. For example,

Someone holds up two of artist Terry's big white cardboard cutouts. One is a beer, the other is a man: Beer Man. It's a signal to Pow, who's been selling beer in RFK since 1980, to come on down.

I never knew that it was an actual signal to the beer man; I just thought it was a funny poster that somebody brought with them every game. Though it explains why I haven't heard any of the "Where is the Beer Men" chants in while.

Labels: , , ,

14 August 2007

Match Briefing for 12.C.04: Los Angeles Galaxy, Superliga Semis

Match #: 12.C.04

Los Angeles Galaxy

Six Word Novel Preview: Inaugural tournament final appearance is possible.

TV: TeleFutura, TV Azteca, MLSLIVE.tv, 10PM

Radio: None

Previous Meeting: 1-0 DC Win. Weren't you there? Here is The DCenters Debrief.

The Stakes: United travels to the Home Depot center to fight for a spot in the Superliga finals. DC Had the weekend to rest, while LA sandwiched a loss to the Revolution since playing at RFK last Thursday. Beckham has announced he will definitely play, will we have Gomez starting

Previews from the DCUniverse: Soccer Insider, more as we see them...

Previews from the LALALand:
I think they're too busy dissecting Beck's injury

Expectations: I fully expect DC to win this game. Watching LA against New England, the team had little spark and seemed very out of sorts. Landon made some dangerous runs, but couldn't do it all himself. Will Beckham + Donovan be enough to get an LA victory? I doubt it. Both Gomez and Moreno practiced with the team, but haven't seen a lot of minutes lately which means they'll be rusty, more so Gomito.

What to look for?
  1. Beckham's Ankle - seriously, you won't be able to miss it. Not sure if Telefutura will turn into BSPNDeportes, but for you non-bilinguals at least you can tune out the announcers. Becks says he can play a half, and might start. He had some dangerous passes and setup some dangerous plays last Thursday, so he can be a factor.

  2. Moreno's Passing - When he's involved in the attack and clicking with the other attackers, DC can string possession together and fabricate some lovely runs and passes. There was a hint of this in the second half of last weeks game, but if we want to score the first goals, he'll have to be involved.

  3. Killer Instincts - Its such a cliche, but we'll have to finish the few chances we get. That means no more skying the ball over the cross bar in some bizarre homage to the memory of Earnie Stewart. The narrowed field that Yallop installed at the HDC will limit the space United's players have to work with, so they'll have to move the ball quicker, make faster decision, and make runs to anticipate a pass if they want to be effective.

Labels: , , ,

The Freezer for August 14th 2007

The US Soccer Fragility Index, known as the Freezer, is the anti-power poll. Each week, Oscar, Kinney, and D have a frank discussion over email and chat to rank the most feeble, the most tenuous, and the overall weakest things in US Soccer. It's the second most feared list in US Soccer behind 101 Ways to Over Promote a Single Player in A Team Sport by ESPN Sports Publishing. Yes, that is the same most feared list ahead of last week's freezer, because if anything it was worse.

Beckham played his first MLS game but LA dropped 6 points during the week. Colorado stuns Houston and the rest of the MLS world, while Dallas shows some grit in battling back against the Crew. This week in the Freezer everybody was reshuffled and Becks moved up, but his team and his general manager moved down, while a teammate and donor moved into the freezer.

Note: The Freezer is a collaborative effort of the DCenters. Kinney just posted it this week. We all wrote the thing.

Labels: ,

Early Adapters

Over the weekend, my wife brought a Poplar Point-related letter in the Outlook section of the Post to my attention, and it's a great one. From a Ward 8 resident, the last two paragraphs are incredibly powerful, so I want to quote them here:

Support by the mayor's office for a soccer-specific stadium at Poplar Point would not jeopardize the expansive site's developmental emphasis on residential, retail and parkland. Instead, it would secure a major partner as an early catalyst for success. It also would preserve the relationship between the District and D.C. United, as thousands of Washingtonians who follow the team would prefer that games were not played in Virginia or suburban Baltimore.

Ward 8 residents who have supported D.C. United's interests in the area are rightfully concerned that the opportunity for a jointly funded, large-scale project, arguably the tipping point for neighborhood revitalization efforts, has been mismanaged by a freshman mayor.

Now, I'm not going to pretend that I know somehow that this letter is emblematic of the Ward 8 feelings toward DC United. But from what I know of the newspaper biz, they like to find letters that are representative of the opinions they get from their readers. So reading this letter indicates to me that they received others like it, and found that this was the most representative. Could they have gotten letters opposed to the stadium deal? Almost certainly, but probably if there were significant numbers of them we'd be reading those letters instead.

That we're reading this letter is a tribute to two things: the passion of the United supporters in Ward 8, and the success DC United has had in reaching out to the community. A positive development, even as we're dealing in uncertain times. Keep the faith all.

Labels: , ,

13 August 2007

Monday Morning Coffee

USA v. Mexico Cancelled: Steven Goff reports that US v. Mexico at Azteca is off. It is to be replaced by US v. Brazil at Chicago's Soldier Field. Quite a replacement match.

Boswell Helps ESPN Out Bobby Boswell decided to give some good advice to ESPN at practice on Friday. Some strong stuff there that many fans, myself included think is 100% correct. ESPN's MLS broadcasts are horrible and something needs to be done to fix the problem. Bobby adds to his comments in a similar but slightly less antagonistic manner on his blog.

Ted Takes SportTalk to Task: Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals was at the game on Thursday. As he was driving there he was listening to to SportsTalk 980. Apparently, he didn't like what he was hearing. He slams the Sports Reporters for their narrow minded approach to soccer. I couldn't agree more, but I wouldn't have even known about this if he hadn't blogged about it. Because really, who listens to 980?

Opening Weekend for the EPL: I don't know how many of you out there care but there were some nice matches this weekend. It was a good mix of some big upsets and some expected results. As for the Americans playing, the goalkeepers did well, the field players, not so much.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

12 August 2007

Debriefing for 12.18: Los Angeles Galaxy

DC United 1 : 0 Los Angeles Galaxy

Six Word Novel Recap

Beckham played, United won, Everybody happy.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "The English superstar, whose first appearance in a league match had been delayed by an ankle injury, entered in the 72nd minute and provided a couple of his trademark passes in a losing cause, a 1-0 defeat to D.C. United before 46,686 spectators, including England Manager Steve McClaren."
The Washington Post, Michael Wilbon: "Beckham did that last night, put 46,686 fannies in RFK Stadium, which is five grand more than ever watched the Nationals at RFK this season."
The Washington Post, Katie Carrera: "Beckham entered the game in the 72nd minute, to a loud and mixed reaction. Some fans booed him, but most cheered."
The Washington Times, John Hayden: "While Beckham sat on the bench there was plenty of action on the field. In the 27th minute United's Luciano Emilio scored a stunning goal from 25 yards out. Galaxy goalie Joe Cannon got his hands on the ball, but the shot was much too powerful. Emilio notched his league-leading 13th goal of the season."
The Los Angeles Times, Grahame Jones: "Beckham seemed to enjoy it all and was laughing with Cobi Jones on the Galaxy bench, perhaps amused by a huge sign that read: "We Sing Better Than Your Wife."
The Guardian, Saptarshi Ray: "'I've supported DC United for years but something like this has never happened before," said Robert Park, 27, one of the many thousands of Washington regulars sporting a Beckham shirt. "He's the biggest name I've ever seen so I had to get a shirt with his name on.'"
US Soccer Players Association, Ian Plenderleith: "It was just like watching England at RFK Stadium last night. There was David Beckham in the middle of the field, in a white shirt, playing long balls up to a struggling forward line in a desperate but ultimately failed and unimaginative attempt to claw back a 1-0 deficit. To make him feel even more at home, it was raining too."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "On a night when David Beckham made his debut in Major League Soccer, it was Luciano Emilio's goal that proved to be the difference as D.C. United defeated a 10-man Los Angeles Galaxy 1-0 on MLS Primetime Thursday before a sold-out RFK Stadium."
Six Yards North, QJA: "Emilio's strike sent the crowd into raptures. It was so unexpected: all season long he's played the poacher, finding the odd ball in the box and slotting it home easily. This was the first taste of Emilio long distance, and it was very, very sweet."
Poplar Point Perspective: "United's red card luck continues. This makes three of four where United is up 1-0 and is the beneficiary of an opponent's red card. Two of three they have won the game 1-0 and one 1-1 tie. This will not continue. Combine this with DC's recent run of futility near the goal and it could go bad for United if they can't muster the second goal on a semi regular basis."
BlckDgRd, BDR: "If MLS becomes the league where fat and washed-up Ronaldos come to make one last paycheck, if MLS becomes a league of fat and washed-up foreign mercenaries first rather than a league that develops American soccer players, Beckham is a minus."
The Offside: DC United, Max: "This, by the way, is a point that needs thinking about. The trend of late, the New England win aside, seems to have been “Well, we could have scored (x goals), but it just wasn’t there tonight.” A couple of times and that’s a good if irksome sign of progress. After a while it just becomes ridiculous lack of killer instinct up top. It’s hard to place a lot of blame on the players tonight because of the rain and turf, but at some point soon, if not already, the shanking and pretty passing leading nowhere are going to be the reasons for a loss."
The Offside: LA Galaxy, Laurie: "David Beckham’s MLS debut! (I have to put that first. If I didn’t, it would violate some unspoken law of the universe and I would end up in Galaxy blogger hell. And Eric Wynalda would be there, talking incessantly. And Tommy Smyth would be there too, saying “Onion bag. Onion bag. Onion bag…” over and over and over. No thanks. Beckham comes first.)"
Center Holds It, Jeff Bull: "To return to the first kiss analogy, consider Beckham an intriguingly deep and tender kiss…while the rest of the Galaxy amounts to a rough, mildly painful groping of our collective breasts."
Screaming Eagles Podcast, Administrator: "I didn't stay for the Galaxy press conference so that I could talk to the DC players, but I left all the quotes about him from the other reporters in their in case you're interested, and Eric, Aaron and I do get into a lot of that in our discussion of the game."
Ted's Take, Ted Leonsis: "It started to pour and as it really picked up in volume, the fans started to scream and cheer. DC United fans are true fans and they packed the parking lots before and after the game, hooting and hollering."

The Good

  1. Attacking Soccer: United came out and attacked Los Angeles. They had good possesion soccer with dangerous penetrating runs. About three different times they put together long uninterupted passing sequences. United wanted this one in and played like it until they scored. Once they scored they continued to play attacking soccer but seemed to take their foot off the accelerator.
  2. Defense: United bent but didn't break. After all the goals Donovan has scored at RFK, keeping a clean sheet is impressive. Kudos to the back line and Perkins for their second consecutive shutout.
  3. Crowd: More pro DC than I had hoped. Still not perfect but better than I thought it was going to be. I couldn't tell if there were more cheers or boos for Beckham, which was good. Hopefully some of the people will be back. Or at least check this blog to get their United fix, right?

The Bad

  1. Finishing: Pure and simple, United needs to learn how to finish. The game should have been over before Beckham even stepped onto the field. But because United hasn't been able to finish well (NE game excepting) the Galaxy had a chance to steal some points. Which bring us to problem number 2.
  2. Killing Off the Game: I litterally forgot the Gals were down to ten men when I was watching the last ten minutes of the game. United played some amazing possesion ball in the first half but when they really needed it most they were in a defensive shell and just booting the ball upfield. Kill off the game, don't bunker and wait for Beckham or Donovan to kill you.

Man of the Match

Luciano Emilio. He scored the game winner and nobody else really out played him.

Karma Bank

+1 for Emilio's goal. -1 for United's missed chances. -1 for LA's missed chances, -1 for bunkering against 10 men, -2 for McTavish's NFL defending, +2 for Martino's "tackle", which leaves us -1 for the game and +2 for the season.

Final Thoughts

So much has already been said I don't really know what to say. I loved having RFK full and loud. We need to do that again sometime. I brought 16 friends most of whom had been to at least one game before. About half of them helped me start some chants in 327. Another one bought a DC United shirt to represent. Hopefully everyone else brought some friends and had a great time as well.

Labels: , , , ,

09 August 2007

First Impressions - DC United 1 : 0 LA Galaxy

Okay, so let's say that of the 45,000 people that went to see the game, 20,000 were there for Beckham. I think it's safe to assume that at least 25,000 were casual United fans to begin with who also came out for this one. Fair? Good. Let's talk about those 20,000 fans that came first and foremost for Sir Becks-a-lot.

They saw a pretty good game, even in the rain. More importantly, they saw a good United game. I missed most of the first half because of work related obligations, but it was there on the TiVo, and United had a good first half. They had a good second half. They created some great chances (and if Fred and Moreno hadn't decided to reenact the forward styling of Chris Albright and kept the shots lower, they would have had more goals.) But the moment that convinced me we minted some new fans was around the 55th minute when Fred took the ball at midfield and neatly spun around two markers to get free. There was a roar. The entire stadium saw a bit of midfield play, saw some real skill, and it went right to the limbic system. I'd say that moment alone might have minted a hundred or so new fans to United. That's a good thing.

And while the Beckham circus can be a tedious thing, let's remember that he did bring those people to this game, and in a few years they could well be die hard supporters who feel only mildly embarrassed about why they came to their first game. That's a good thing. United came out, won the game, won with some nice flair, and earned some respect. And you may not like to say it, but Beckham helped.

I should also point out a few things about ESPN. Kudos to Tommy Smythe for acknowledging the longtime support of the fans we've had when Eric and DOB were insisting that the place was raucous only for Beckham. And Kudos to David Beckham for saying more nice things about United in his post-game interview than Eric and DOB managed the entire telecast.

And most of all, kudos to United. Sure, I am mildly annoyed at the missed chances, but two clean sheets in a row is nothing to sneeze at. The defense, especially in the first half, deserves a lot of credit. Boswell marked Donovan the way we'd been hoping Boswell would play all year. Namoff and Burch looked good, and Josh Gros was just as much of a menace as Fred, and I mean that in a good way. For me, the Man of the Match is Troy Perkins, who stood tall when he had to, and slid in clean when he had to. I also liked seeing him get angry during one of the few defensive lapses (and while he may look like an 8 year old complaining about his sister tagging along to the neighborhood sand lot game, I wouldn't have wanted to be the one he was yelling at.)

Now just tell me that Ben Olsen is okay after what looked like a hamstring strain, and tell me will finish more of those nice chances, and I will be a truly happy man.

God I love this team some days.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Match Briefing for 12.18: Los Angeles Galaxy

Match #: 12.18

Los Angeles Galaxy

Six Word Novel Preview: 45,000 in RFK, I can't wait.


Radio: WMET 1160AM

Previous Meeting: 0-0 Tie. Here is The DCenters Debrief.

The Stakes: Recently, LA has come to RFK and made it Home Depot Center East. In fact, I think the last time that DC United won a game against the Gals here there was no Home Depot Center. This one will be in front of a capacity crowd. This one will be for pride.

Previews from the DCUniverse: Poplar Point Perspective
Previews from the LALALand:
LA Galaxy Offside Blog

Expectations: I expect an ugly loss because that what they have given United the past couple of years. Though, I think there is a very good chance that United step up, say "no more" and win the game. The Galaxy are a horrible team that won't make the playoffs and are probably worse than last year's Galaxy that were also a horrible team that didn't make the playoffs. However, you can't discount Landon Donovan in an MLS game. It seems DC fans are second only to Mexicans in bringing out the best in him. After bringing a bunch of friends to last year's debacle and expecting a win, I am not going to be as optimistic this time around.

What to look for?

  1. Beckham's Attire - I think it is basically assured that he won't be starting. But will he suit up and have a go for 15 or 10 minutes. Good money says no, but you never know. Frankly, I think he is a liability to the Galaxy at this point so I hope I see him on the field. That and the people that all bought tickets from me will be happier.

  2. Donovan's Desire - He is the killer. But will he have a killer instinct this game? I don't know, but it is the question of the night.

  3. No GoMo? - From the latest reports it looks like Gomez will stay out of this game and Moreno most likely won't start. I am hoping that Jamie gets in and scores a goal in front of 45,000 people, but if he is not healed enough I would rather have him healthy and scoring down the stretch. DC United needs to respond to this like it did against New England and run a tired LA into the ground.

  4. Fred - Fred could line up in three different positions tonight. I am hoping to see him in Gomez's spot if Christian can't go. That would keep the backline the same and leave Gros to run the wing, while giving us a better option in the middle of the park than Dyachenko. But where he goes will dictate the rest of the formation.
  5. United fans - Hopefully there will be lots of DC fans there and less Beckham fans. The United to Beckham fan ratio will be interesting to see. I don't really mind if they shriek for Becks, I mind that they cheer for DC. I will be bringing it loud in the 300 section tonight and am hoping some other Barra and Eagle transplants get the noise going. I have never seen a sold out soccer game at RFK, I am hoping for a loud raucous crowd.

Labels: , , ,

08 August 2007

The History of the Moment

Thursday's game has every chance of being a very important match in the history of MLS. An event that will cap the first 12 years of Major League Soccer's existence, and finally after a long wait validate the worth of an impressive soccer career. No, not Beckham. I mean, of course, that Jaime Moreno may well become the all-time leading scorer in the history of the league.

You may have forgotten that Moreno is that close to MLS History. Unlike certain other sports that have had long drawn out chases of the record books, MLS hasn't really made a big deal of Moreno. Part of this is that Jason only set the all-time mark last year, so it hasn't been around that long. Part of it is that whatever number Moreno ends with will likely be surpassed within a few seasons yet again. Part of it is that Moreno has played sparingly between Copa call-ups and a few nagging injuries. And perhaps part of it is that Moreno has scored only three goals this season, all from the penalty spot and is in the endgame of his career. But if he scores, no matter how it happens, on Thursday or whenever, it should be still be honored. The game should pause, briefly, to acknowledge the moment. It is a testament to a player that never quite earned the Player of the Year accolades he deserved (that 2004 award to Guevara looking more and more suspect as time wears on). It is a testament to a league that has a history that extends before the Designated Player rules were developed. And if it should happen Thursday, on National Television, then that is the right time.

Finally, you probably haven't noticed, but I haven't been posting much recently. There always seems to be a one month period in the summer when work conspires against me, and right now this is that moment. Fortunately, Kinney and Oscar have things covered. I hope to resume my normal duties as soon as I can. Along those lines, I won't be at the game on Thursday, since I'll likely be on travel for my job. At least I know that someone else will have that ticket.

Labels: ,

07 August 2007

The Freezer for August 7th 2007

The US Soccer Fragility Index, known as the Freezer, is the anti-power poll. Each week, Oscar, Kinney, and D have a frank discussion over email and chat to rank the most feeble, the most tenuous, and the overall weakest things in US Soccer. It's the second most feared list in US Soccer behind 101 Ways to Over Promote a Single Player in A Team Sport by ESPN Sports Publishing.

The news on everybody lips is Mr. Beckham's ankle. This is a bit overblown, but reflects badly upon both David and MLS nonetheless. This week in the Freezer the lower ranks were reshuffled and the fallout from Beckham's injury is felt.

Note: The Freezer is a collaborative effort of the DCenters. Kinney just posted it this week. We all wrote the thing.

Labels: ,

06 August 2007

Debriefing for 12.17: At New England Revolution

New England Revolution 0 : 3 D.C. United

Six Word Novel Recap

Mr. Reis, you just got burned.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "How unlikely was this result? United (8-6-3) had scored just two goals in its previous seven away games, had not enjoyed a multi-goal effort on the road since mid-May and was facing a New England team (9-4-6) unbeaten in its past five outings."
Boston Globe, Frank Dell'Apa: "The Revolution sustained their worst home defeat at Gillette Stadium in a 3-0 loss to D.C. United yesterday and lost central defender Michael Parkhurst (right knee hyperextension) for at least one game."
MLSNet, Kyle McCarthy: "United took a surprising lead in the 22nd minute after Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis fumbled a Clyde Simms shot and left the rebound for Josh Gros to finish. Luciano Emilio doubled the advantage in the 31st minute from Guy Roland-Kpene's defense-splitting feed before hitting for his second in the 76th minute off a one-two from a quick free kick."
Six Yards North, QJA: "Can we label Marc Burch a success now, please? The guy's a real asset in the back. He's got all the touch, pace, vision, and service of a quality left-footed forward while maintaining competent defense."
Poplar Point Perspective: "Moreno still is suffering from a failure to make quick decisions which I think are directly related to how he is feeling. The healthier he feels, the more decisive he is. He seems to hold the ball much longer when he is not 100%. Today he was dispossessed a lot after dribbling into trouble."
BlckDgRd, BDR: "If I'm the coach, Vanney doesn't see the field again until and unless someone on the backline cards out, gets injured, or dramatically sucks."
Screaming Eagles Podcast, Administrator: "In all of our other dominating performances (NY, Colorado, Chicago), we were at home facing teams either missing players and/or going through a bad spell. Here, we were on the road against the conference leaders, who hadn't lost in five games, and outplayed them to a man."

The Good

  1. Hustle: United won the 50-50 balls in the midfield. Remember how annoying it was when United used to play the 3-5-2 and then lose the midfield to a team playing a 4-4-2? That’s what happened to the Revs this game. It sure is nice to be on the other end of that. United had defenders getting forward, wingers playing end to end, and central midfielders getting stuck in. Oh, and Gros got a goal on hustle alone. Always nice to show the youngins why you never give up on a play.
  2. Depth: United didn't start Moreno, Gomez, Fred, Carroll, or Vanney and they won 3-0 against the best team in the East. I will say that United has officially gotten its depth back. Some of those players people are calling to stay on the bench, which valid or not, still shows that United's roster is looking good right now. Burch looks like a beast a left-back and Kpene had his best game since his first game. If United can stay healthy they will be a serious force in the second half of the season.
  3. Finishing: We have been bemoaning the lack of finishing from United as of late. They found their touch today. Gros gets a typical Gros goal. Emilio put away both of his one-on-ones with a very good goalkeeper and is now tied with Eddie Johnson in the golden boot race. Here is hoping he keeps his finishing touch.

The Bad

  1. Fouls: This was an ugly game. It was almost to be expected because New England was playing DC United and most of those games have been foulfests. This one just fit the pattern I guess. The ref did an alright job by jobbing both teams equally and calling a fairly consistent match, but it did little to prevent the animosity expressing itself on the field. New England were the bigger offenders but United didn't hesitate to foul either. It was a really chippy match that could have gotten very ugly. One of those matches where I was very glad that our A-Mid was less important to our team than their D-Mid was to their team, no offense Rod.
  2. Injuries: Speaking of bad fouls, did I mention that Jay Heaps is a hack. That hit he put on Jamie was disgraceful. I am not sure if that or the missed shot started Moreno's back hurting, but an injured Jamie is not good for United no matter how it happens. I didn't think that Moreno should have come into the match when he did, but I did expect to see him, so I can't really complain that he got injured. Goff is reporting that he came out with back spasms, lets hope that gets better quickly and doesn't nag him the rest of the season

Man of the Match

I don't really know who to go with. I don't think Gros did enough to win this other than score. But the only other person I would give it to is Emilio who scored twice. I think I am going to give it to Josh. It isn't often you can change the face of a game by pure hustle but he did it yesterday, and should be rewarded for it.

Karma Bank

+1 for Gros' hustle. +1 for Emilio's finishing. That gives us +2 for the game and +3 for the season.

Final Thoughts

This was one of those games where United came out and showed what type of team they are capable of being. This is what they have to live up to for the rest of the season. They have been too inconsistent this season to win any hardware. If they want to bring home a trophy then they need keep up this level of play.

That said they needed this game badly and had every excuse to write it off. But they came in, showed some determination, and got the job done. I hope that they can build on this going into a stretch where they have important, but winnable games coming up. I alluded to this in the First Impressions post but I think I will expound upon it here.

8/9 LA @ Estadio RFK: Big game for United as they get to show their stuff on ESPN. Normally I don't think United would care too much about this but it is against LA and they have made RFK Home Depot Center East the past few years. I for one, want that to stop.

8/15 @ LA: Superliga knock-out game that looks to be more and more important as the Superliga does better and better. I am hoping that United lays the smack-down on LA in this game as the Gals will be playing their third game in seven days.

8/18 @ Columbus: A 6 point game in the Eastern Conference standings. This will be against a team that is looking better all the time, in an away game, and United's fourth game in two weeks. These are the games that good teams win.

8/22 Jersey @ Estadio RFK: Enough said.

8/25 @ Toronto: Another 6 point game in the Eastern Conference standings. Like the Columbus game this will be against a team that is looking better all the time, in an away game, and even worse, United's sixth game in three weeks. But these are the type of games that good teams win.

Labels: , , ,