12 April 2008

First Impressions - Real Salt Lake 4: 0 D.C. United

Remember what we said last week? The job of a manager is to put his team in the best position to win. And in that job, Tom Soehn failed this week. Against Pachuca, down two goals, he had to press to get goals. Playing three in the back made sense as a tactical change.

Against RSL, Tom Soehn makes a perfectly legitimate decision to give Gallardo and Martinez and Wells a break. However, given the work Gallardo has done on both sides on the ball, and the presence Martinez has been in the back line, and starting a keeper in his first game, the 3-4-3 formation made little sense. You simply didn't have the right personnel to execute the defensive responsibilities that formation required. Especially against a team that beat you over the top a year ago.

The first two goals, the goals that really put this game in RSL's win column, were both directly influenced by the tactical formation chosen by Tom Soehn. On the first goal, Dema Kovalenko takes advantage of the space afforded him and put a ball in to Kyle Beckerman. The line plays off Beckerman, worried about other runners getting behind them, so Beckerman does the job himself. In the second, a long ball over the top beats the defense. Forseeable? I think so. But Jason Kreis --and I know some RSL fans may not believe this, but I think it is true -- Jason Kreis outmanaged Tom Soehn in this game. Once he saw the situation on the field, he shifted his players to take advantage of it.

So yeah, this game was pretty awful. Especially when you consider that center official Richard Heron, if anything, shaded his calls towards United. I get the sense I'm just yelling at my computer screen now, so I better end this post. What a mess. What a complete mess.

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At 12 April, 2008 23:23, Blogger beckster said...

I totally agree. Sohn is the weak link here. It became obvious during the playoffs last year and it's not getting any better. Time to go. The artificial turn and no Olsen don't explain that disaster.

At 12 April, 2008 23:46, Anonymous Grunthos said...

In the comment thread on Wednesday, I advocated for Soehn to consider a 3-4-1-2 arrangement as the team's standard formation. This was not what I meant. Dammit.

Without Gallardo to general the midfield, and without Martinez's pace on the left side, 3 at the back was destined to fail. I don't know if this was arrogance (expecting RSL to suck) or stupidity (dude, play some Football Manager... hardly a perfect simulation, but it will accurately show you when not to use a 3 man defense), but I agree that something was *bleep*ed up here.

At 13 April, 2008 01:07, Blogger JCM said...

DC United always go to Utah expecting an easy win. Those who don't know history are bound to repeat it.

At 13 April, 2008 06:10, Blogger tucksider said...


i had other obligations and didn't get to see the match today... i can't wait to read the debrief in hopes of making some sense of this.

At 13 April, 2008 08:22, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree with the analysis on the formation. On the other hand, this game looked more like volleyball than soccer. Huge bounces, fast passes. I think of the RSL stadium as the equivalent of the Rockies baseball stadium. Its just not the same game there. Also, this was a terrible match to choose for a new keeper, particularly one who had never played on turf. One question I have is: is RSL an improved team this year? Unlike in years past where they sucked but somehow (paging John Wilson) managed to steal games from DCU, this time they really seemed like a better team. Or am I just experiencing the fan's syndrome of "any team that beats my team must be world beaters"?

At 13 April, 2008 08:30, Blogger Landru said...


At 13 April, 2008 08:46, Anonymous Jeremy said...

Frankly, I couldn't even watch the game. When it finally came on TV and I saw that we were starting a reserve lineup, and that we were floundering so badly, I gave up.

beckster's "Fire Soehn" calls are rediculous though. The playoffs were lost because our top three players were injured. This game, I had already fully expected to lose, due to the hangover, but getting pummelled was something else.

At 13 April, 2008 10:19, Anonymous Goose said...

Exactly, Jeremy. I expected to maybe lose this game, but getting the shit kicked out of us (pardon the language, but there's no other way to properly describe it) by a bad team just pisses me off. I don't want to fire Tom Soehn right now, I just want to punch him in the face.

At 13 April, 2008 10:40, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was painful to watch. To me, it looked like Sohn didn't really care about winning. He could have played it differently from the start, brought in help sooner, etc. Seems he was more interested in testing the bench and the formation than winning. Like a pre-season match, the score was secondary.

Does that make strategic sense at this point? This was arguably an unimportant game -- legs need rested, and reserves need minutes -- but was it worth throwing the game away? Maybe.

Sohn said, "Just coming from a game like Wednesday and comparing it to today, it was two different teams."

Yep, literally.

A few player thoughts...

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.

Mediate and Dyachenko continue to disappoint. I'd rather see some other options. Do we have any?

Cruel game for Carvallo. He was sloppy, and could take some blame for a couple of those goals, but it was a terrible setting for a debut.

All our weaknesses aside, I agree that RSL looked pretty good. They're definitely a better side this year.

- rke

At 13 April, 2008 14:35, Anonymous DCUinCT said...

I understand that there is a lot of interest is managing players and making sure players don't get injured. But at the beginning of the season you need to established the stability of the team and the team style and comfort. So there either needs to be a very clear and consistent team style from the coach that all players fully understand, or the first team needs to stay together to gel, THEN bring in the reserves to fint into the established system. The hearts of a team are it's defense and central mid in my book, which is exactly what Soehn changed.

Is there any surpise that the team had no idea what it was doing, that Fred tried to do way too much, that Moreno was in his own half getting the ball as much as in Salt Lake's, that Paralta was caught out without the speed and support of Martinez, that Burch had no idea what he was doing in midfield when he had been in defense for the past year?
What does a game like this do to the confidence of the reserves? It would have been better to have the first team lose and bring on the reserves at half time than to have them all run around looking helpless.
If each game a different set of players trot out on the field this will be a long season, and Soehn will be in the freezer in a month.

At 13 April, 2008 17:09, Anonymous Nick said...

I'm not opining on whether or not Soehn deserves to be fired. He is a nice guy and hasn't done any worse then our last couple of coaches. I will simply say this: DCU has demonstrated how serious they are about player acquisitions and improvement on the field. The Front Office has put there money where there mouth is. Eventually, however, there will have to be a corresponding investment on the coaching side. Everyone here, including our GM and President, knows that Tom Soehn is not one of the top coaches in the Americas or even in this league and country--not even close. To take us to where we ant to go, we need players AND coaching. The players part is getting close (we are prob about 2 or 3 short), and is clearly hampered by the salary cap. But the coaching issue is not close. Maybe this is not the year to invest in a serious coach, but we shouldn't expect to be worldbeaters until we do. Bruce is available if we want him--that would require and investment clearly. Enrique Mesa has been at Pachuca for a long time and could be tempted for a change. There are several great Argentines out there available as well (Pekerman, Bianchi). All I'm saying is that eventually we will get as serious on the coaching end as we have been on the player acquisition end. It's not a criticism or a call to "fire the coach," it's just a reality that we will have to face somewhere down the line.

At 13 April, 2008 18:59, Blogger Sean said...

I wonder if the coaching staff just wrote off the game. Not that they were expecting RSL to be bad and roll them with reserves, but just decided this game wasn't worth sending out a bunch of foreign players who had never played on turf before for.

It's the last time the team will play in Rice Eccles and it's a long season.

I'm not sure if this good or not, but is it a possibility?

At 13 April, 2008 22:00, Anonymous Jeremy said...

Nick: Bruce Arenas hasn't even been a good coach for about 8 years, let alone a top notch one. Did you not notice the mess that he made out of the World Cup and New York?


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