4 Non Factors to the 2008 Season
With Harbor View a scant few days away, it is already time for some to start previewing United's season. Perhaps we will do a post on that subject closer to kickoff. For now, I want to talk about what won't be happening next year, and so I give you 4 things that won't be important to next year:
1) Ben Olsen, Goalscorer: If you're looking for another year of Olsen at 7 and 7, you are likely to be disappointed. But that would be because you're expecting too much. Ben can have a perfectly fantastic year at 2 goals and 3 assists, especially since it is more likely that he won't be starting every game on the wing. Key things to watch will be minutes and games started, as well as where he plays. I can imagine him, early in his recovery, to come back and primarily be used to provide steady leadership (and a few important fouls at midfield) to lock a game down. That's what we will look to from Ben Olsen. Goals will be a bonus, but should not be relied upon.
2) Emilio, 20+ Goals: Luci had a ton of goals last year, but I think his tally this year is likely to be closer to 15 than 20. There are a few reasons, the most obvious being that teams are going to spend more effort denying him service and trying to mark out the league MVP. He will be a target. But there's another reason, which is that the nature of the attack will be different. I get the sense that while Gomez was willing to go for goal when the chips were down, he was more comfortable as a playmaker during the run of play. Gallardo strikes me as a bit more selfish, probably in a good way. He'll get you the ball, but he expects to get it back as well. Jamie Moreno will also go for goal a bit more frequently than he did last year, and Franco Niell (aka Frank O'Neal) will also want to get his chances in on the keeper. Emilio had only one assist in league play last year, but I expect to see many more this season as defenses collapse upon him, but he gets the ball out to others.
3) United's 2006-2007 Mid-season Surges Will Not Happen: I'm not going to say there won't be back-to-back-to-back Supporter's Shields parties. I don't think it is likely, but it's not impossible for a number of reasons (the predominant one being that I'm not sure that the average talent on the field for other teams in the East is more competitive, I think you can make a case that while some teams have improved, the better teams may regress. There's only so much blood even Steve Nicol can get from a stone.) But I think Ives, and the people at United Mania, and others are right when they say things like this: "The changes weren't just about winning a fifth MLS Cup; they also were done to bolster the club's chances of securing hardware in one of the various international tournaments D.C. will be competing in this year." And part of that will be working out how to actually keep the teams legs during some heavily congested periods. If United does somehow win the Supporter's Shield, it will be in a run at the end of the season.
4) Gallardo is not the key to everything: I know, I'm saying our designated player, the player who replaced Christian Gomez, is not the most integral factor to our success. But I truly believe that this team has enough talent even around Gallardo in other players that the attack is not what concerns me. The key will be the development of a cohesive keeper and center back chemistry. United, when undone last year, was undone by defense rather than offense. The offense in the Chicago playoff matches, the Superliga games, and the CONCACAF Champions Cup did enough to at least give a chance for United to advance. The best chance? Probably not, but it certainly did enough. It was defensive lapses that undid us. So while United could be average to awesome in its attack depending on Gallardo, the defense could be anywhere from awful to decent, and that is far more key to our success than anything else.