First Impressions - Harbour View FC 1 : 1 D.C. United
Aggregate after first leg - D.C. United 1 : 1 Harbour View FC
As much as I said there should not be excuses for the "pre-season mentality," there certainly seemed quite a bit of rust on the United team. United showed moments of true class, and moments of out and out confusion. Things aren't right yet. The play is not there. Gallardo may have been handed the keys to the offense, but that doesn't mean the transmission is an automatic, to stretch a metaphor too far. Still, you can see some very encouraging signs, and some disturbing ones.
Let's start tactically. If I have this right, Tom Soehn entered this game remembering conditions from last year in Honduras. He did not like the field, and figured he was in for much of the same in terms of an uneven pitch. Given that Harbour View might already take a counter-attacking mentality, I imagine he decides to hedge against costly possession mistakes in midfield by playing long balls over the top, bypassing midfield or having Gallardo come back to the top of the defensive third to start the direct movement. As a strategy, I think there's something to be said for this on a tactical basis, but I can not imagine this is how we'll play all year. So to some degree, I'm discounting this game because I don't really thing we've seen the typical United game-plan. This is not who we are.
That being said, as a tactical move it worked. While MacTavish will get credit for the goal, the real story on that play was a long ball that Frank O'Neal (n&eamp; Franco Niell) tracked down and neatly pushed back to Fred. It was a nice move, showcasing a potential weapon and tactic we haven't seen much of. It worked.
The problem was the wing situation. MacTavish, despite his goal, was not particularly effective on the wing. Fred was marginally better, but Emilio was clearly having difficulty with service and space. The wings were largely ignored, and the few times United did get forward on the flanks, it was frequently Namoff and Burch who had moved into those spaces.
Defensively, I was encouraged. Wells had good command of his box and answered his tests well. You can argue that he should have left his line to punch out the corner that ultimately resulted in the late HVFC goal, but given the sheer number of bodies, I'm not convinced he could have fought his way through to the point of attack. He made a decision, and it seemed a legitimate one. I do not fault him on the goal, but I do fault the inability of Namoff or Burch to get into that scrum and clear the ball out. Still, for the most part, the center defense played well. The outside, a little less so, and there were some Erpen-esque moments of being too cute with the ball at our feet.
United is not in form, but that can not be an excuse. At best, it is a failing, and by the second leg at RFK it must be dealt with. Still, I think the quality of the field at RFK may see a different set of tactics employed, and I look forward to seeing that.
The Debrief is tomorrow.