08 April 2008

Debriefing for Match 13.02: Toronto FC

D.C. United 4 : 1 Toronto FC

Six Word Novel Recap

History and Passion beat just passion.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Times, John Haydon: "D.C. United vented its frustration against Toronto FC, Major League Soccer's worst team last season, in a 4-1 win..."
The Washington Post, Steven Goff: "Santino Quaranta was exceptional in his first start since returning to the club, high-priced playmaker Marcelo Gallardo scored his first goal and Jaime Moreno returned from a nearly month-long absence to add another strike. And because the result was barely in doubt after Kevin Harmse's red card left Toronto shorthanded for the final 68 minutes, Soehn was able to remove three starters in the second half and rest them for Wednesday's second leg of the Champions' Cup semifinals..."
CBC Sports: "Maurice Edu salvaged a touch of pride with a late goal off a nice header to make it 4-1."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "United came out with attacking intent right from the opening whistle and were rewarded almost instantly as Luciano Emilio grabbed his team's first league goal of 2008 with less than two minutes gone."
Behind the Badge, The Management: "...good, solid first MLS win for the team tonight. Obviously, Toronto had to deal with an early red card, but the guys managed the game well."
UnitedMania, Chris Webb: "After that initial burst United had a few more chances to put away the visitors but didn't convert. Toronto FC then managed to get themselves into the match putting together a few minutes of bothersome possession that resulted in a number of dangerous chances that Zach Wells did well to save. First was a point blank header from six yards out from Jeff Cunningham in the 15th minute and in the 18th minute he dove to his left to stop a well struck 30 yard free kick from Jim Brennan."
DCist, Matt Borque: "United Coach Tom Soehn inserted Moreno for defender Marc Burch. The move paid off, as United's midfield combined with more fluidity; at one point they strung 29 passes together. Their success in the midfield afforded them more confidence as they pushed forward, and in the 52nd, they used their swagger (along with their man advantage) to tally their third goal."
Off-Wing Opinion, Kris Herrell: "Moreno scored …. wait for it….. from open play, to make it 4-0. Wells showed his Pachuca positioning to give up a late goal, but the results were not in danger."
DC Sports Box, Abram Fox: "More importantly than adding to D.C.’s already-lengthy lead, Moreno showed no ill effects from the strained hamstring that sidelined him earlier in the season while demonstrating the ball-handling skills that make him so valuable."
Bleacher Report, Tim Yu: "Talk about two different cities moving in two different directions."
Fighting Talker, Aaron Stollar: "Now, let’s not take away from what was a very good United performance, but Toronto was unbelievably bad at the back."
DCUMD, Shatz: "If 'steals' was a stat category in soccer like it is in basketball, Simms would probably lead the league. Had a few dangerous shots too." [Note: While I agree with the sentiment, what usually impresses me about Simms are his choices. He knows when to step up, and when to try and contain his marker. Taking the pass the other way is nice, but it sucks if you miss and suddenly red shirts are pouring into the box.]
The Edgell Supporters: "Niell lost his position on the depth chart to Quaranta. Not just because Quaranta got the start, but because Quaranta did some holding and creating, and Niell still isn't pulling the trigger. I'm still rooting for Niell to do something though. "
QuarterVolley, I-66: "Saturday’s win may not have been perfect, as I really would have liked to maintain the clean sheet, but I don’t think we need to split that hair in particular. A three goal victory, whether it’s 3-0, 4-1, or 5-2 is something to smile about, and smile I am."
The Fullback Files: "Giving up that late goal sucked, but TFC deserved at least a goal. They were fairly wasteful with some good chances, and our defense allowed far too much to get through to Wells for my comfort, particularly when we went up a man"
An American's View..., Brian Garrison: "If we play against Pachuca, they way we played against Toronto FC, we stand a much better chance of climbing out of that hole and making it to the CONCACAF Champions Cup finals, but we still have work to do."
BLCKDGRD, BDR: "Gallardo needs deliver passes faster, both in release and pace, but he sees the field and makes terrific passes into space. Assuming it's still just a matter of learning his teammates (and visa versa), Gallardo will be able to distribute into space and onto runs. Got the goal-monkey off his back, not that it was an issue yet."
Mistake by the Lake, StillKicking: "Forgive me, but I do not have the heart to go through Saturday's 4-1 loss to DC United with what passes for full analysis around here. If John Carver is a coach with a sense of decency he would not allow his players to watch a replay of this game. Best to treat it as a game already forgotten."
The Offside: Toronto FC, Nicholas: "The Lowly reds would have been further behind the 8 ball if it was not for the great play of Sutton. ( That is the only positive in the game)"
Joe Soccer Fan: "A red card to Harmse for a bap rep! The foul was undisciplined, but considering he was straight-armed on the play, I didn't think it warranted a sending off." [Note: This is probably not the same JoeSoccerFan most of you know around here. It's a different one.]

The Good

  1. Win the Easy Way: I'm not saying we're going to beat Pachuca because we rested our starters after getting an early lead. I'm just saying that I'm glad we were able to do so, and then did it. United has, on occasion, played down to its competition. They did not do so in this match, and that's important.
  2. Spreading the Honors: Everyone who should score, other than Niell, does score. And at least Niell gets an assist, though I agree with everyone who wonders why he won't shoot the damn ball. Winning is nice, but if it were two goals from McTavish, one from Simms, and one from Martinez, it wouldn't be as reassuring as when your goal scorers tally.
  3. Crowd: Good noise. Very good noise.
  4. Mr. Wells: Yes, he couldn't keep the clean sheet. But far more important was his save on Jeff Cunningham in the 20th minute. That was not, as I think some said, a ball headed at him. Close to him? Yes, but not at him. And Cunningham got the ball down, forcing Wells to get low and dive to his right quickly. He did it. A save he should make, but not an easy save. Call it a save of moderate difficulty. But I've seen softer goals given up.

The Bad

  1. Unpowered Play: Everyone is absolutely correct in that the worst stretch for United was the first ten minutes after they went up a man. Part of this might be explained by Toronto suddenly realizing that they had been giving far too much space to United by not simply covering their men, and once they started gambling a little more, it payed off. Part of it was also, I think, a bit of complacency.
  2. The Transitioning Sixth: There are a few areas where everyone knows an errant pass is bad. The defensive third is often cited. However, I think it's almost as bad to have an errant pass in the attacking half of the middle third. At this point, players are starting to join an attack and make runs, the transition is really in play. An errant pass here, as opposed to the attacking third, and there isn't as much space for recovery. And it is here that United is still not as smart with the ball as I would prefer. They got away with some balls simply because Toronto was playing well off the man in this area, but this is the same area where Pachuce will tighten their marking, and potentially be deadly on a counter.

Officiating Watch

First, let me say that I feel, contra the TFC blogs, that center ref Mark Geiger did nothing wrong with the sending off of Kevin Harmse in the first half. It was a dangerous tackle, with the studs over the ball and into the shin at an angle that could cause significant injury, and a tackle which has been a point of focus on the international level. If you read this blog (and even if you don't agree all the time, you should be reading every day), you know that there seems to be two issues that consistently cause wonder in MLS officiating circles - the tendency to ignore the international standards, and the focus on man management. The red card is consistent with international standards. Now, you might argue that a yellow and a stern lecture was more appropriate. And that would also have been a completely legitimate decision by Mr. Geiger. However, Mark Geiger does not have the reputation of the Brian Hall, and you don't earn respect without having established yourself over time. Given that he'd already issued one yellow, I think the red was the right move. The game could have been outside of all management shortly, and he did the right thing. Hell, he could have given a few more cautions to both teams, but overall I am not displeased with this effort.

Kyle McCarthy gets this exactly right in his column this week. He notes that the zero tolerance policy is a positive thing for MLS:

In the long term, it’s a gain. The new policy could mean one less impulsive challenge. It could mean a little extra space for those flair players in midfield. It could mean an extra split second of hesitation or doubt before lunging in with a careless tackle. It could mean one less severe injury.

In fact, it reminds me of something that I saw on For the Integrity of Soccer. When Landon Donovan was asked why he jaws at the officials, he responded (paraphrasing here) "Because they let me." Similarly, when you start allowing dangerous tackles of the borderline variety, you shouldn't be surprised when things get worse and more frequent. For a long time, I felt that MLS officials looked upon US Center Backs and thought "Well, they're physical, so let's call it looser." But that is a disservice to the game, especially for a center back who might harbor thoughts of an international career. They lose technique to power, a dangerous tradeoff at any position.

What worries me is that to be truly effective, this standard should be, must be, maintained for the entire season. If it is just to send a message early in the season, I can tell you that MLS players are smart enough to figure out they can get away with more in July. If called consistently, this is the right move for the league to make.

Man of the Match

Santino Quaranta. To answer a question, all is still not forgiven. But if he's playing close to this well in August, then yes, all is fine. And really, I can't ask for a better performance. One thing I really liked was how well he's seeing the field right now. I can recall thinking "Hey, Tino's got skills" in the past at moments. I don't recall thinking "Hey, Tino is really anticipating the game well." And that is a huge surprise.

Adjusted Results

I don't think either team was overly hurt by poor calls or luck tonight. Sure, there was that one crossbar that Toronto hit, but that's a low percentage shot at best, so I don't think we adjust the score for that one. Similarly, Emilio's shot off the crossbar resulted in a goal anyways, so I think the final score is the right one. 4-1 stands. Taking into account the previous game (where we adjusted by adding a goal to both Kansas City and United), and United has an adjusted record of 1-1-0 with 5GF and 4GA for a +1GD

Final Thoughts

United did all that we could ask for them to do in this game. That is pleasing. And yes, we're all on edge about Pachuca, simply because the task is enormous. But after the Kansas City and Pachuca games, I was ready to close to book on the CONCACAF Chamion's Cup. Any hope of advancement seemed a very long shot indeed. Now they're still difficult odds, but surmountable ones. Pachuca will not give United the time DC had, but United showed good passing that didn't rely on the amount of time as well. If United can find the same positions off the ball as they did against Toronto, and play as quickly or quicker with accuracy, then I think United has a shot. Not a long shot, not a sure thing... Call it a struggle. But doable in a way I wasn't feeling long ago.

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5 Comments:

At 08 April, 2008 13:15, Anonymous BigKris said...

Great write-up, D. In particular, great job on the officiating watch, where I agree entirely with your take on this foul specifically and on the desirability of MLS refs following this up with a consistently lower tolerance for rough play.

I got one teensy bone to pick with you. I can't believe you still haven't made peace with 'Tino. Not only is does his play demonstrate that he's turned himself around, but the boy's swallowed a hell of a lot of pride to continuously say how he wants to do the right thing and make it up to the fans and yadda yadda. Embrace him already.

 
At 08 April, 2008 17:23, Blogger Sean said...

What we're seeing in MLS officiating is a whole lot of courage. What I've loved about the two big red cards this week, Lorentowitz in the NE-CHI game and the Toronto FC red is that the CR's did not hesitate, especially with the Lorentowitz red.

Card came right out of the pocket and was brandished with all of the confidence of a yellow. MLS refs are showing they WILL make that call, when, in their opinion, it is warranted, and that's a good thing for the players and for the league.

 
At 08 April, 2008 19:01, Blogger Landru said...

I agree with every word you say, except for that whole MotM thing. And anything concerning that individual. I'll be hunting you down Wednesday for a little halftime talk about that one, dood. Of course, I will not be mentioning that individual's name, because you're a really good guy and you don't deserve to be sprayed with rage spittle.

Yeah, I know. I root for the shirt.

 
At 08 April, 2008 19:58, Blogger Shatz... said...

I also agree with the breakdown of the officiating. Seemed to me like a red to Harmse and a yellow to Burch was a pretty fair result.

I gotta give you credit. Everytime I write a match report on DCUMD, I wonder which line D is going to use in his debriefing, and I haven't once guessed correctly.

 
At 09 April, 2008 08:45, Anonymous Jeremy said...

I appreciate your analysis of the reds being consistent with international standards.

Of course, you failed to mention that those international standards never apply to US teams when we are in international venues. I give you the Pachuca game last week as item number 1, and the entire world cup as item number 2.

That said, if fouls get called this tight all year, I will change my opinion.

 

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