05 March 2008

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.

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At 05 March, 2008 11:55, Blogger thumpjosh said...

ben olsen is class. he and steve ralston are two of my heros. just hard-nosed workers that quietly do the dirty jobs. i've not understood why olsen hasn't played a bigger role in the MNT. he just seems like a centering (in the buddhist sense) factor for any team.

At 05 March, 2008 14:18, Blogger QJA said...


What you're saying right here is the hot truth. I think that with so many offseason changes and tweaks to the squad, we DC fans would do well to keep our expectations in check, especially as the squad is still settling in with itself.

At 05 March, 2008 19:19, Blogger Catherine-Lucia said...

All of the posted is true, but can we agree that our defense is gonna ROCK?!

At 05 March, 2008 23:58, Anonymous Goose said...

Seeing as how we've all seen them play roughly zero minutes together, I don't think we're in any position to agree to that....


At 06 March, 2008 09:21, Blogger D said...

Catherine-Lucia: I hope you are right, but until we see them, I think I'm with goose on this one. I'm a bit worried. -- D

At 06 March, 2008 16:16, Blogger Catherine-Lucia said...

I guess you are right, but having seen them play individually (not together but yes individually), I think they will be really good.

At 06 March, 2008 20:12, Blogger Shatz... said...

I'm with you on #3, as I was one of those who was saying early on that United has seemed to revise their objectives this year.

I might even be as bold as to say that United will probably not win the Shield this year. But Marcelo Gallardo gives us a distinct advantage over every other team in MLS when it comes down to international competitions. And that's why he's here.

At 06 March, 2008 20:15, Blogger Catherine-Lucia said...

I agree with Shatz. We will *destroy* internationally, but the domestic stuff may be a bit clumsy for us.


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