09 April 2008

First Impressions - D.C. United 2 : 1 Pachuca C.F.

Aggregate - D.C. United 2 : 3 Pachuca C.F.
DC United Eliminated from CONCACAF Champion's Cup

That was easily one of the most entertaining and fun matches I have seen in a long time. It was a game that managed to be wonderfully entertaining for all 90 minutes, that had chances for both teams, that had key defensive plays from both back lines, that had midfield combinations that made you smile with all being right in the world. It was, quite simply, one of the best games as an entity I have seen in some time.

In the end, United won the day, but lost the war. At nil-nil it was a wonderful to watch. Tom Soehn did what a manager had to do: He made the moves to give his team the chance to deliver. And there were chances. Emilio's touch wide of the post, the penalty Fred earned but was not awarded, the various bombs by Pachuca players just over the crossbar... Before Pachuca earned the first goal of the night, United had three very good chances to put the ball in the net, and came away empty. When Pachuca scored, putting themselves up three goals, I felt that United would fold the tent after all the effort they had put forward.

But they didn't. They ran like hell. Everyone did. They kept pressuring. Yes, the final ten minutes felt a bit frantic, but that's when they finally broke through. First on Dyachenko's goal (of which 50% of the credit should go to Bryan Namoff, who stepped up, eluded one defender, and then sent Fred in on goal before Fred slotted the ball to Rod). Then on Niell's goal (which was all Fred's touch. You might argue he was trying to control the ball and it got away from him, but I think I saw him look to locate Niell, and that's enough for me to call it intentional.) They fought to the end.

The problem was that too much of this story was written in Mexico. United had to play the way they did, and take the risks they did as time went on, and that invited exactly the kind of goal Pachuca eventually converted. The game was lost then, as we always feared it might be. It is almost sad that we had to make it close so we were reminded of the fact.

Still, I am proud of the effort I saw tonight from D.C. United. They played well. Well enough to earn the result they did, perhaps even well enough to have forced this series to extra time. This is not a moral victory, but this result tonight showed me more than the four goals against Toronto did.

Feel free to comment for the debrief. My sense is the man of the match is Bryan Namoff (though I would love to hear your recommendations). Center official Jose Aguilar was pretty poor, but somehow managed not to ruin the match. And as for the bad, I only have one element I'm planning to talk about in the debrief, but I'm always curious.

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At 09 April, 2008 22:17, Blogger Shatz... said...

I've got Peralta as my MOTM, but I'm down with Namoff too.

I think we feel about the same way about that game. After 65 minutes, I was all set to come on here and write that that was one of the best 0-0 draws I've ever watched. I think that says that DC United (but probably not yet the MLS as a whole) has finally reached the point where we are competitive with the top Mexican teams on a regular basis.

At 09 April, 2008 22:35, Anonymous Bill Urban said...


I'll have a guess at the debrief mention...

Questioning playing 3-5-2 and not starting with Burch...

Do I win a remaindered Bobby Boswell Bobblehead?

At 09 April, 2008 22:36, Blogger Jason said...

I would suggest that United and Houston are on par with Mexican teams when they're all in form. The problem with CONCACAF Champions Cup is that the MLS teams are never in form and then go to elevation and get slaughtered.

Did anyone get a really good look (like on TV) of the no-call on Emilio in the box... it looked to me like a pretty clear penalty and Denial of a Goal Scoring Opportunity. Between Fred and Emilio I think we probably had 2 PKs.

At 09 April, 2008 22:45, Anonymous Goose said...

Dammid, if they can play like that all season, we're going to tear this league a new goal hole.

At 09 April, 2008 22:50, Blogger Kinney said...

I was in the barra so I didn't see all of the calls from the best angle but I thought the ref did a fine job of influencing the game for Pachuca. Do people who were watching at home think differently?

At 09 April, 2008 22:51, Anonymous Grunthos said...

I agree that the game was well-fought and entertaining. I never felt like we were going to break through, but the effort was all we could ask for and more. If it was us in midseason and Pachuca in preseason, we could very well reverse the result.

I thought any of our defenders could be considered MOTM. The difference between the Gonzalos and last year's center defense is like night and day. Given the quality on display, I think Soehn should give some thought to moving back to a 3-5-2. Perhaps...
D: Namoff Peralta Martinez
M: Olsen Simms Gallardo Burch
In the Hole: Fred
F: Moreno Emilio
... which would get Fred in the middle where he seems most effective, let Gallardo lie deep as is his wont, and smooth out the offensive buildup.

It sucks that this competition comes so early in the calendar, but I think we can look forward to making some noise in the other continental competitions later in the year.

At 09 April, 2008 22:59, Anonymous Grunthos said...

"I thought the ref did a fine job of influencing the game for Pachuca. Do people who were watching at home think differently?"

It looked to me like the ref gave Pachuca more than they deserved, but he missed a few calls in our favor as well. For a while there he was clamping down on Pachuca's diving, too... you could see him denying their medicos the opportunity to run on the field and delay the game.

Overall, I'd give him a C. I've seen much, much worse performances than that in MLS. This wasn't a hack job that robbed us of the match.

At 09 April, 2008 23:58, Anonymous brew said...

Congrats on the well fought match by United. This was one of the best games I've seen in a while - very evenly matched. All on the d-line did well, I really liked Peralta - what a destroyer. I think United will be strong through the season and look forward to watching them.

At 10 April, 2008 00:00, Blogger tucksider said...

first thing i have to say is that Emilio v.2007 would have had two goals by halftime.

echoing everyone else's sentiments, this wasn't a moral victory, but it was a demonstration that what we have here is a good, possibly very good -- and maybe potentially great in the MLS context -- team. they might not be quite good enough to beat Pachuca by three goals, but they're damn good.

i'm wondering: can anyone come up with a reason why i shouldn't adopt Pachuca as my favorite Mexican side? they're fun to watch, and despite the identical aggregate score i feel completely different about this year's CCC semifinal opponent than i did about Divas de Guadalajara last year. i just don't know anything about the Mexican league so i wonder if they have an unsavory reputation or anything.

At 10 April, 2008 01:08, Blogger jrnail23 said...

My MOTM was Clyde Simms... man, he continues to play like an absolute beast in midfield. He's winning every ball in sight and once he does, he takes care and makes a good decision with it.
Another thing... if you're an opposing player, and you'd like to keep possession of the ball, you'd be well advised to just keep it away from Clyde's area in general.

At 10 April, 2008 06:57, Anonymous Tony said...

Gallardo needs to start pulling the trigger. I watched him settle the ball and pass too many times last night when he shouldve just one-timed it at goal.

At 10 April, 2008 08:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me again. (I'm seriously going to watch this year.) I was at the game as well last night, most of what I was going to say about the game has already been said, I just wanted to add that is was nice to see a good sized crowd for what was seemed a pretty hopeless situation for the home side (even if half of that crowd were away fans)

...Pachuca looked offside on their goal from where I was sitting. (329)

When do they open up the upper level seating, and how much are seats when they do?

At 10 April, 2008 10:04, Anonymous DCUinCT said...

I'm glad that the format has changed to the Champions league rather than the CCC. Baring injury, this is likely to be a wickedly good team in July-the end of the season. Does every one forget that last year we started with 3 loses, and the sky was falling?
Maybe most DC fans are too close to the cynicism that rubs off from following the National politics, but there is a lot more to be happy about in this loss than to be upset about. Soccer is a cruel mistress, and she just gave a decent shake and then walked off. But I think she's going to be a lot more generous to DC this year than other teams.

At 10 April, 2008 10:21, Blogger Dave said...

A match between DC United in mid season form vs. Pachuca in mid season form would most certainly have a different outcome. DC has the tools to win, but they are not quite in sync. I was at the game and I feel the Ref definitely influenced the outcome!

You have to love the improvement the team shows each week.

At 10 April, 2008 11:02, Blogger JCM said...

I'm not feeling Namoff or Peralta. I think the real strength came from the midfield. I vote for Fred. He was involved in both goals and was very dangerous throughout the game.

At 10 April, 2008 11:25, Blogger Jason said...

I think Simms is going to rack up over half the MOTM's this season at this rate.

He was sublime during the second half from my vantage point in 331. He was everywhere he needed to be at exactly the right time doing exactly the right thing over and over. I'd give him a 10... but I don't think Goff's rating system (tm?) would let me... so 9.5 will do.

At 10 April, 2008 11:37, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great game -- I wish I could have been there.

I've only seen the clips, but one thing grabbed me. That one-touch goal by Niell is exactly what I've been waiting for him to do.

I hope that's the ice-breaker keeps him out of the Freezer and opens him up to his potential. I love his feisty energy and speed -- if he steps up and becomes a finisher, he'll be a great addition to our arsenal.

Think about it... Emilio the power-poacher (assuming he pulls it together), Moreno the calm tactician, Quaranta & Fred the wildcard ball-handlers, Niell the speed-demon... Who does our hapless MLS opponent mark out of the game? Oh yeah, and then there's the DP.

I'm disappointed about the tournament and missed opportunities, but really liking this team more and more.

- rke

At 10 April, 2008 12:52, Blogger Jeffrey said...

Jason - I watched the non-PK on Emilio in slow motion on TV - it was a good no-call. The defender got the ball first. As for the no-call on Fred: terrible call from any angle.

Maybe there's a silver lining here (yes, I'm reaching): maybe having the MLS teams crash out of the CCC yet again will help convince MLS to give the salary cap a significant increase during the next collective bargaining round. When you look at MLS salaries compared to Mexical salaries, it's amazing that MLS teams can compete at all.

At 10 April, 2008 15:09, Anonymous Jeremy said...

I can't even pick a MOTM, everyone played their hearts out and performed above and beyond.

I did watch from home, and I think the officiating was better than the match in Mexico. Still leaning toward Pachica in the first half, and there should definitely have been 1 corner (for Fred). The Emilio one actually looked fairly clean.

In the second half, I think United figured the refs out. Suddenly all of the Pachuca dives were backfiring. The second half officiating was more or less slanted to us, but it didn't make up for the previous 3 halves of bad calls.

I watched the replay of the Niell goal several times and that pass by Fred was so perfectly positioned and timed, there is absolutely no possibility that Fred did not intend it exactly the way it came out.

With regard to Emillo v.08. His luck is completely gone. He still finds himself in the right place most of the time. However, his touch is just a little late and a little off. He had two perfect shots in the first half that should have been goals, and 2 or 3 other good looks throughout that v.07 would have scored on more often than not. I am leaving it down to his streaky nature for the moment. Hopefully he breaks out of it soon.


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