14 April 2008

Debriefing for Match 13.03: At Real Salt LAke

Real Salt Lake 4 : 0 D.C. United

Six Word Novel Recap

It's as bad as it looked.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "...instead of showing depth and versatility, United offered another dreary performance at Rice-Eccles Stadium and was embarrassed by Real Salt Lake, 4-0, in front of 13,193 observers.
The Desert News, James Edwards: "RSL prevailed by scoring twice in the opening 20 minutes and then twice more in the closing 15 minutes. "
The Salt Lake Tribune, Michael Lewis: "Beckerman scored twice, while strikers Fabian Espindola and Robbie Findley each added a goal as RSL handed United its worst loss in nearly four years, and its first 4-0 defeat in nearly seven. "
MLSNet, John Coon: "...in the 19th minute Kovalenko found Fabian Espindola with a long booming lob which he plunked down inside the box. Espindola controlled the ball and fired at the net from a sideways angle and his shot barreled past both Gonzalo Peralta and Carvallo and created a 2-0 lead for RSL. Kovalenko's performance seems all the more remarkable considering he was almost scratched from the starting lineup because of back spasms."
MLSNet, Scott McAlliste: "'We still have a long way to go,' said Soehn. 'It's unacceptable to go down like we did tonight. I constantly question the character of teams, and that character gets challenged not only from the first 11, but it's challenged through the whole roster.'"
UnitedMania, Chris Webb: "There was plenty of blame to go around from the bad field surface to the misjudging of bounces all night long and Real Salt Lake was simply waiting in the weeds for United to make the mistakes they made all night long. "
DCSportsBox, Abram Fox: "United coach Tom Soehn inserted forward Santino Quaranta in place of Marc Burch for the second half in hopes of generating more offense to no avail. Rather, it was a Real Salt Lake second half sub who guaranteed the game’s outcome."
Behind the Badge, Doug Hicks: "Not our best effort tonight, to be sure. Kyle Beckerman scored twice and United suffered its worst defeat in regular season League play since a 1-5 loss in Dallas on July 24, 2004." [Note: You know it's bad when they sub Doug Hicks in for The Management]
The Edgell Supporters: "The Ben Cup may have already been put out of reach for another year. This is disgusting to me. My namesake cup, against one of the worst teams in the MLS, how could I go wrong?" [Note: The Ben Cup is now a more worthwhile trophy than the Atlantic Cup.]
Booked for Dissent, Dave Lifton: "I’m not going to lose too much sleep tonight over this result. Just like last year, it’s pretty clear that Tom Soehn wasn’t taking this game too seriously, or else he wouldn’t have put out the lineup he did..."
Fighting Talker, Aaron Stollar: "...the United brass made the decision that it was acceptable for the team to lose this match...It does no one any good to have MLS teams 'take nights off' like DC did on Saturday. One hoped that would stay in the NBA..."
AYL Soccer, Aaron Bentley: "DC’s locker room was somber. When asked if playing so many games in the last few days had anything to do with his team’s loss, Jaime Moreno, stated, 'We don’t want to look for excuses.' He went on to say that today RSL proved it was hungrier for the win and that his team needed to prepare better."
RSLFM, FM: "And as has been adequately detailed elsewhere, this opponent can in no way be confused with DC United playing at full strength. They were noticeably lacking in terms of both fitness & roster selection."
The Fullback Files, Fullback: "Okay, I get that the 3-back system has been working pretty well as of late, but I've got a couple of questions. One--why was Mediate one of the back three? I get that we're making him a utility wide-man, and I can see him playing fullback, but why wouldn't you play Mediate on the wing with McTavish in the back? Not that Mediate made that many mistakes--I'm just curious. On to question two. Why go with the three backs when the surface encourages pump-and-dump over the top stuff? I understand the need to rest folks due to fixture congestion, but wouldn't Martinez' speed have been pretty helpful back there?"
DCUMD, Shatz: "This game was ugly, but I wouldn't necessarily call it a predictor of anything else that will happen this year. This is the second game this year where the offense has been anemic, but I'm not counting on that happening very often. Just like a lot of other people, I was expecting DC to come up soft in this game, but I'm also expecting them to shoot out of the gates against Columbus on Thursday. In fact, I'll go so far as to predict that Thursday's match will be the start of yet another early season DC United sprint into first place and a considerable lead ahead of the rest of the Eastern Conference."
Poplar Point Perspective, JCM: "Oh, holy shit! This was the worst performance by a DC United team since the 4-0 shellacking in the playoffs by Chicago in 2005. There was nothing redeeming about it. Nothing" [Note: Sometimes I avoid expletives. After Saturday? Not so much.]
BLCKDGRD, BDR: "My bigger fear? The team has no personality, no defining spirit: can the loss of Ben Olsen be over-estimated?"
RSL Malcontent, Donk: "...This game could have been much worse for DC..."
The Offside - D.C. United, jon: "BOOOOOOO."
The Far Post, Thaddeus Byron Aloysius Dopenhopper: "D.C. United announced today that Real Salt Lake will sponsor their jersey for all games played in the state of Utah. 'They totally own us in Utah,' explained United’s management 'so we thought we might as well get something for it.'" [Note: It's funny because it hurts.]

The Good

  1. Dema Kovalenko: C'mon, you know when we let him go that there would come a day. It just happened to be Saturday.
  2. Getting Rest: I don't argue the decision to give Gallardo, Martinez, Wells, and even to some degree Quaranta a breather. I wonder if he had to do it all at once, but hey, this is something we'll have to get used to. Rotation will be important especially later in the season, so let's get used to the bitter taste of that medicine right now.
  3. The end of RES?: Everytime I see that stadium, I think of My Cousin Vinnie... "The two Utes..."

The Bad

  1. Tactical Disaster: As I wrote in the First Impressions, I have no problem with key starters resting. I do have a problem thinking that Dyachenko is a one for one swap with Gallardo, or that Mediate is a one for one swap with Martinez. There is a time to blame players, but this one really feels like it falls at the feet of the coaching staff's decisions. Players are supposed to be the ones that decide the game, but there's no excuse handicapping them. I want to write a seperate post about something this game also illustrated, but I'll summarize it this way: You system is not your formation. Formations are tactical, systems strategic. Confusing the two results in games like we saw Saturday.
  2. Backline Organization: You can choose to excuse Carvallo the individual goals. That's fine. But the backline also looked woefully disorganized, which is not. Whether the key force on the backline is Martinez or Wells (or the byplay of the two combined), it is clear that someone was not in command. And that is inexcusable.
  3. Gonzalo P | Gonzalo M: From commenter RKE in the First Impressions post: "Martinez is the quieter Gonzalo, but he's essential. Those two work so well together, making up for each other's weakness. Paralta was only half there without him." Agreed 100%.
  4. "Burn the Tapes": I'm hearing this, even from people who I respect (or whose podcasts I respect, as the case may be.) This is a game worth getting mad over, if only so we don't pretend it didn't happen and do this again. Which we might. Not even next year, or at the end of the season, but in a few months when the schedule congestion accelerates. This is a warning shot fired directly across the bow.

Officiating Watch

It wasn't a poorly officiated match, but it wasn't a particularly good one either. I have two problems: Center official Richard Heron was inconsistent in his foul calling, and I got the sense that he was harsher on RSL than on United. I'm not about to let an official off the hook for calling things our way. His decision to award no extra time at the end of the game, simply to save United some embarrassment, is not in keeping with the laws of the game. I'm not saying it's likely, but if RSL is in a tiebreaker situation to make the playoffs with someone, and it comes to goal differential, might they have wanted another three minutes or so.

The more defensible call was the yellow to Rod Dyachenko, which I thought could have been a red. As I looked at it in real time, I think Rod was trying to play the ball, but it looked like both a "serious foul play" and potentially "violent conduct," both a player could be sent off for. The caution was given for a "tackle from behind" rather than what it really was -- a kick in the head. Looking at the Advice to Referees, my guess is that Richard Heron judged the foul to be "reckless" (12.3) but I would seriously have considered sending Dyachenko off under 12.33 for a serious foul play. His boot was very, very high.

Likert Scale Grade: 3 - Fair

Man of the Match

N/A. Merit awards to Fred and Clyde. Your goat is Tom Soehn.

Adjusted Results

No adjustment, though one could see a way clear to adding a fifth RSL goal if one wanted to. Still, I think the four they got is fair enough, and the duck egg for United stands. To date, United has an adjusted record of 1-2-0 with 5GF and 8GA for a -3 GD

Final Thoughts

This is not a game to pretend did not happen. This is a game to get angry about. Not because there wasn't a reason to throw the game, as Lifton or Stollar might argue. I can get that. But rather we should be angry because of our failure to learn. As much as we disparage formations like the 4-5-1, they have their use, and perhaps Saturday night made have made sense. Let our substitutes try and grind out a game. Fine. But what we did instead was put them in a situation where they were destined to be embarrassed. And that's a lesson we should not forget. It was a betrayal of our players. For the rest of this note, I turn it over to Howard Beale: "Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. All I know is that first you've got to get mad."

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At 14 April, 2008 11:17, Blogger Doug said...

Another possible explanation for this game was for Soehn to kick his reserves in their collective backsides to realize how much they need to work to have a hope of making the first squad. Although you think losing to Richmond would've already given them that hint.... or perhaps I'm being too generous to Soehn.

At 14 April, 2008 11:54, Anonymous Bootsy said...

I agree entirely with the post, but I want to emphasize something in it that's at the core of why I feel so horrible about this result: it's like we didn't learn a thing from our last match there. We sent out reserve players and set them up to fail, because their organization was vulnerable to exactly the kind of match RSL plays on that pitch -- in fact, exactly the kind of match RSL played against us there last year.

At 14 April, 2008 12:10, Blogger Jeffrey said...

I agree that Soen is the goat. I thought he pulled all the right strings agianst Pachuca but laid an egg on this one. It's not only that we were playing three in the back while our starters were being rested; in my opinion, playing three in the back on turf is always a bad idea. Turf rewards teams for moving quickly through open spaces and punishes teams who try to sneak through crowded areas. Playing three in the back left way to much space, whereas RSL was able to clog the middle and take advantage every time the turf caused one of our guys to take a heavy touch.

At 14 April, 2008 13:11, Anonymous Skippy said...

So, what's the word on Benny, anyway? Not that he's a magic cure for all the problems, but all this talk about subs has got me to thinking. Starting with, "If you don't have Gallardo, who plays central midfield?" My answer was Ben Olsen, probably. And that only set off more questions.
"Who do you take out when Olsen comes back?" I have to assume that its either McTavish or Simms and probably McTavish given that Simms has been pretty damn good and seems play that defensive mid position pretty well. But either way, it seems somewhat of a shame to me because I like a lot of what I have seen from both players.
Which brings me to another question, probably too early to answer, "What is/are United's goals for the season?" Is United looking for trophies or is this a rebuilding year? I know, they're not so cut and dry, but I would think it would affect the starting 11 that we see week-in and week-out or perhaps a rotation instead of a constant 11?
Anyway, I know I'm not supposed to ignore the game, but everything has already been said to my satisfaction.


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