05 May 2008

Debriefing for Match 13.06: At Colorado Rapids

Colorado Rapids 2 : 0 D.C. United

Six Word Novel Recap

Gomez-Gallardo. Clavijo-Soehn. Lost Both.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Denver Post, Brian Forbes: "By the time Gomez was replaced to a standing ovation in the second half, having outplayed United's No. 10 — and Gomez's replacement — Marcelo Gallardo, the Rapids had sealed their 2-0 victory to give them 10 goals this season from 10 players."
MLSNet, Geoffrey Urland: "
Former United midfielder Christian Gomez set up Jacob Peterson for the Rapids' first goal and former D.C. defender Facundo Erpen scored the insurance goal, with Gomez again providing an assist, as United remained winless in Colorado since the 2000 season."
The Washington Post, Steve Goff: " Unimaginative and uninspiring, United rarely challenged the Rapids..."
UnitedMania, Chris Webb: "With United playing cautiously from the jump, they never gave themselves a chance to win this match. "
MLSNet, Geoffrey Urland: "The statistics show a game that was thoroughly dominated by the home team. United were outshot 17-5, gave up 10 corner kicks while earning only half that many, committed 13 fouls and, most importantly, gave up two second-half goals."
Behind the Badge, The Management: " D.C. United Head Coach Tom Soehn: 'The loss is very troubling, we have addressed a lot, especially having a better road mentality. When looking at individual performances in this game we were just bad all over the field, I can’t even think of a player that did well. '"
The Offside: Colorado Rapids, Kyle: "On Sunday, the Rapids outplayed DC United by any measure, and I still think they underperformed. I really think they could have scored three or four if they had just finished on a few of the opportunities they had in the first half."
Fighting Talker, Aaron Stollar: "Garbage. Absolute garbage...This is a team who’s best striker clearly cannot contribute right now and whose manager and technical director are finding their decisions exposed as wrong on a more regular basis...What is the one thing we all learned about Gomez during his tenure here? It’s that if you pressure him in possession incessantly and knock him down repeatedly, he’ll struggle. We didn’t do that one bit...I’ve officially reached the point where Soehn’s job is officially in jeopardy, at least to me."
Booked for Dissent, Dave Lifton: "I don’t know if United can make the necessary adjustments against a team that is playing very well and perennially has our number. It could just be a home-and-away thing, in which case United right now is no better off than it was under Ray Hudson. Again: one step forward, two steps back."
DCUMD, Shatz: "So despite playing with one more midfielder than the opposition, we were still dominated in the middle third. That right there is a really bad sign. But a worse sign is that Soehn continues to roll out the 3-5-2 regardless of the situation. Coaches always talk about how its important to be able to play successfully in more than one formation. I believe we have the team to be able to do that. So why not take advantage of our personnel and tailor the formation to the situation. Playing at home against a team that is weak offensively: that's a good time for the 3-5-2. But playing on the road against a team with a proven (and vengeful) MVP leading the attack, in a game where we would probably have been happy with a nil-nil draw: not a good time for the 3-5-2."
The Fullback Files: "I'm getting the worrying feeling that I'm on a bus, and the driver's got his eyes fixed on his dash-mounted GPS rather than the 30-car pileup a half-mile up the road and approaching fast. 'Hey guys, this setup worked for us at home against a team with no midfield creativity and no width! Let's do the same thing on the road against a team with a proven All-Star midfield dynamo and some decent wide players!' Jumpin' Jeebus on a pogo stick, man!"
BDR, BlckDgRd: "I'm going to wait past Thursday's game regardless of result and past both Toronto games, the back-to-backs, before thumping the chest of this season and declaring the corpse dead. But everything feels wrong this year, from the front office to the coaches to the players to the stadium experience. Everything."

The Good

  1. Bryan Namoff: Even if Mr. Soehn can't name a single good performance, I can. Bryan played his role right, and was one of the few people who knew when to push up to put Colorado attackers into the offside position. Bryan didn't get beat by his marker on a corner kick. Bryan is most of the Good, except in tandem with...
  2. Defenders, Roll Out: It was nice to see Martinez and Namoff join the attack moving the ball up on the wing. Really, our midfield play only looked functional in those moments.
  3. The first half of Santino Quaranta: He played both ways, and again our movement up the wings looked better than anything in the middle. Sadly, he got gassed. Let this not be a metaphor for this season.

The Bad

  1. We Always Fight the Last War: There's more concern about Soehn. There should be. If our working theory is right, we'll see a different performance against Chicago on Thursday. And, if our theory is right, and we do well against Chicago, we'll see the same ideas for the Chicago game used against Chivas. And that's a recipe for a .500 team...at best.
  2. Emilio - Financial Market Performance Artist: Either he's hoping for a call every time he's falling down, or he's decided to stage a piece called "The performance of the Dollar against International Currency." It would be better if he covered himself in chocolate first. And said things like "rabbits! rabbits! rabbits!"
  3. LTJG Zach Wells: Another game, another communication gaff. C'mon, I'm tired of this. We demote Lt. Zach Wells (O-3) to Lt. Junior Grade Zach Wells (O-2). Yes, we're using Navy ranks. No, I don't know why, other than I think that all starking keepers should at least have the rank of Commander (O-5)
  4. Our game is one of holding the ball...Except when our midfield is dysfunctional. There's a lot of heat at Emilio, but I can't think of a game this season where he got less service. Our midfield was awful. Really awful. Anytime a team manages to simultaneously mark you closely and clog your passing lanes, something is deeply wrong. Gallardo also had one of his worst technical games this season. You could see the ideas in his forward passes, but they were either passes that required a precision that he couldn't execute (between two or three defenders) or they weren't particularly dangerous. No middle ground.

Officiating Watch

This was not a particularly challenging game for center official Jorge Gonzales and his ARs. If I have one complaint, it's that Ugo Ihmelhu somehow managed to commit half of Colorado's fouls and not get carded for persistent infringement. The ARs missed one off-side call that I saw, on a DC free kick, but otherwise had little to do, and did it well.

Likert Scale Grade: 3 - Average

Man of the Match

N/A. Merit award to Namoff. Your goat could be any number of players, but I will go with Gallardo.

Adjusted Results

No adjustments, though you might make a case that Colorado deserved another goal to make it 3:0. Still, the result feels about right as is. No change, and for the season D.C. United's adjusted record is 2-3-1 (7pts); 10GF, 13GA, -3GD.

Final Thoughts

What worries me is that I get the sense that Coach Soehn puts a team out there, and that is the extent of his management so far. Too frequently it seems he's relying on his players to figure out how to play the game, as routinely, even in games we do well in, the first 10 minutes are a disjointed affair. It's a strategy that could work, given experienced players, but how do you expect Quavas Kirk or Dan Stratford or any of the other new players to fit into a gameplan where the gameplan isn't necessarily known on the sideline. Instead, there seems to be a general theory and formation, based on the best moments of the last game, and the players are told "Go do something."

Case in point, earlier in the CONCACAF Champion's cup we saw that Franco Niell was fairly adept at running down long aerial balls over the top. Given that he's starting, and given the presence that Mastroeni and Ihemelu had in the middle of the field, might it not have made sense to try that in this match? Even with the narrower field? And yet, to my knowledge, I think I saw one attempt to play Niell into the final third in that fashion.

Now, I fully expect to see a different result against Chicago. But until we see two wins in a row, two games where United consistently makes progress even after a good result, then we have every reason to be concerned about the coaching for this season. We can blame the players, sure, and we can blame the lack of speed, sure, but these are the players we have. Either they just aren't sure how to use each other, or the coaching staff isn't telling them.

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At 05 May, 2008 11:29, Anonymous DCUinCT said...

In a similar vein, on Soehn, I can't remember the last time I saw him commenting to players on the side-line, changing formation or just trying to focus the team on a strategy outlined before the game. Maybe he's doing it though individual players or something, but communication seems to be problematic all the way through the team, from Well to his defenders, within the midfield, to players with the ball, or directing traffic. Teams are about collective thought and action and coaches get payed to set the direction and maintain the message. Benny was the link last year that maintained this. It isn't happening now. Maybe Kaspar is in Argentina trying to find a replacement since Soehn can't seem to work with what he has to make that happen.

At 05 May, 2008 11:40, Anonymous diego r. said...

for those of you out there into performance art, Rod Dyachenko gave an impressive interpretation of Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man." I'm hoping that his invisibility on the field was his way of communicating his position of not being a citizen of any country in the world.

Nevertheless, the blame for this terrible game should be placed solely at the feet of Tom Soehn. Playing a 3-5-2 on the road in the huge field in Colorado with only 1 defensive midfielder is absolutely irresponsible. I get the sense that he might just not know what he's doing. Perhaps Benny Olsen was indeed holding the team together last year.

At 05 May, 2008 12:51, Anonymous Dave Lifton said...

"Instead, there seems to be a general theory and formation, based on the best moments of the last game, and the players are told 'Go do something.'"

Thank you for backing up my point about Hudson in greater detail.

At 05 May, 2008 13:14, Anonymous Skippy said...

I'm pretty negative. Again. I see what D is driving at about Soehn, but. . . If "Coaches can't win games; they can only lose them," then we're not there yet. For starters, I don't agree with that quote. But I don't think this can be laid exclusively at the feet of Soehn. I don't feel like the play has been great but the tactics were poor. When the tactics have been poor, so has the play. Which is why DCU is as likely to blow at team as get blown out. Ok, maybe the latter more likely than the former. But I just feel like I haven't seen a close game since the second Pachuca tie.
Look, to be honest, Soehn's problems aside, I am coming to the bitter realization that DC's line-up under went a dramatic makeover. Keeper, defenders and midfielders all changed. Even a lot of the guys who are "back" second to 1.5 stringers. I just don't think the team is clicking under pressure. They can dominate, but I feel like ever since the Pachuca game, if they're down a goal, the game is over and DCU collapses.

P.S. I also cannot accept the excuse that the East is more competitive now. It is, but there's no talent gap where DCU is concerned.

At 05 May, 2008 16:08, Blogger Landru said...

Dood, The Little Engine That Frank O'Nealed couldn't even outrun an aging and tired Dirty Pablo to a ball that was his the one time they played it over the top. This is strength?

But it was entertaining; it's been weeks since I laughed as hard as I did when I saw the down-the-sideline camera angle of that play.

At 05 May, 2008 16:22, Anonymous Jeremy said...

I'm not sure if I am thinking of the same Niell through ball that everyone else is... I remember early in the match, Emilio sent a beautiful through ball between 2 or 3 defenders into perfect open space (showing great vision ;-))

As with all great through balls this season (to any player), Niell didn't read the play right and didn't start his run until the ball was well on it's way. By the time he caught up to it, the defense had already cut the angle and cancelled the play out.

I only point it out to mitigate the Emilio sucks chants. In this game I saw Emilio trying to generate a lot and doing it more effectively than I usually see him. I saw him dropping back into defense quite frequently and playing attacking midfield passingly. Of course, that is not his position to play and he doesn't do it anywhere near as well as he (used to) play striker...

At 05 May, 2008 18:44, Blogger Shatz... said...

That's a great point on Niell, and really goes on to re-emphasize the point you've been making about this coaching staff all year. If something works for one game, they expect it will also work in the next. And now to take that point one step further, its that if something didn't work against Pachuca, it won't work against MLS opponents with average defenses? The complete lack of tactical adjustments based on our opponents' strengths and weaknesses has been our biggest flaw this year.

But I don't really see how you can "fully expect to see a different result against Chicago". I'm mostly expecting to see another 2-0 loss at this point.


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