23 June 2008

Debriefing for Match 13.14: San Jose Earthquakes

D.C. United 3 : 1 San Jose Earthquakes

Six Word Novel Recap

Gonzalo Martinez's right foot of DOOM!

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "D.C. United had plenty to savor from its 3-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes yesterday at RFK Stadium, a result that extended its unbeaten streak to five and pulled the club into a three-way tie for fourth place in MLS's Eastern Conference....But from Coach Tom Soehn's perspective, United (6-7-1) was fortunate to escape with a third victory in a row. He agonized over a bland first half and then watched goalkeeper Zach Wells make another critical blunder."
The Mercury News, David Lifton (!!): "The Earthquakes had the better of play through much of the afternoon before losing 3-1 to D.C. United in a Major League Soccer match Sunday at RFK Stadium."
The Washington Times, John Haydon: "The deadlock soon was broken when Simms scored in the 50th minute...The lead vanished a minute later, however, when Wells failed to hold on to James Riley's cross. The United goalie tried to reclaim the ball, but it bounced to John Cunliffe, who tapped it home...United was back in the lead four minutes later when Martinez whipped in a blistering shot from 16 yards after speeding away from midfielder Ronnie O'Brien."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "...the Black-and-Red overcame a sluggish first half and a poorly-timed error from goalkeeper Zach Wells to earn their fourth win in the last five games."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "McTavish found himself playing a central role in the game's next pivotal moment, too, when the United utility man reached a loose ball well before James Riley some eight minutes from full time.The Quakes defender had already committed himself with a rash slide tackle aimed right for McTavish's ankle, however, upending his rival and drawing a swift decision from referee Alex Prus, who produced a red card and patiently waited for the prone Riley to get off the turf before brandishing it in his direction for the meaty challenge."
Center Line Soccer, Jay Hipps: "It was a result that the Earthquakes will have to chalk up to experience. All week, the team’s coaches and players spoke of the importance of bringing the proper aggressive attitude to each match, and they succeeded in unleashing that determination against DC. Attitude alone can’t win matches, though — there needs to be quality as well, and in that, the Quakes were lacking."
UnitedMania, Chris Webb: "There is a school of thought in most sports that says the sign of a good team is getting a result when they are not playing at their best. I think United's 3-1 win over San Jose this afternoon firmly puts their win in that category"
BLCKDGRD, BDR: "I'm tired of typing 'good teams win games they ought to win' because United is not yet a good team, and a decent team beats United yesterday. United is not good enough, cohesive enough, organized enough, or fluid enough to take halves off against anybody.' Good teams stomp teams they ought to stomp' is not the same as 'good teams gut out games they ought to win.' The second United begins to think they are all that, they aren't. "
MLSNet, Chris Snear: "in the end, United have more talent in most of the critical areas than the Quakes and therein lies the primary difference between the two clubs, which was evident United's 3-1 win against the Quakes."
DCSportsBox, Abram Fox: "In a reverse of the age-old adage, it was the moveable object against the stoppable force. " [That's a decent line.]
The Far Post, Mark McClure: "I still think United is an ordinary team that is benefiting from a series of home games against weak opponents. But now things get interesting . . . LA and then Chivas (Mexican kind) come to town for the next two games. (That Open Cup game in between doesn’t count and you know it.) Two wins from those two games will convince me United is legit."
The Fullback Files, Fullback: "It wasn't just on the goal that Gonzalo Martinez was bombing forward. And what a peach of a goal it was! Fullbacks everywhere will be putting that one in a replay loop on the HD sets tonight."
DCUMD, Shatz: "The past two weeks, DC has beaten the teams that they are supposed to beat. And that's good and continuing to do that should get us into the playoffs. But it's not inspiring a whole lot of confidence that we'll do very well in the playoffs, or in international competitions."
Behind the Badge, The Management: "[San Jose defender Kelly Gray says...] I hate to say luck but we got a couple of unlucky plays where a little deflection causes a goal."
The Offside: San Jose Earthquakes, Sean: "I hate to play the optimist once again, but if a couple deflections go our way (or don’t, as it were), I think we have a much different game on our hands."

The Good

  1. Gonzalo Martinez: Lovely game on both sides of the ball. Most of the time when a back on the sidelines is facing his own goal, and there's high pressure coming his way, I get nervous if he doesn't immediately execute the back pass to the keeper. Martinez's ability to turn under pressure, which we have seen regularly the past few games, is a higher risk move, but one that pays off with better possession at midfield. Add to that a wonderful goal, just a fantastic strike from the corner of the box to the far post, and it was a lovely opening hour for him. The last thirty minutes, complete with a fouls in a dangerous area and a poorly timed tackle for a yellow-card, make this not quite the best effort possible, but it was still damn good.
  2. Tom Soehn, Realist: I was going to kick my radio is Tom Soehn started to talk about how good a game this was, and how his team gritted out a result. The fact that Tom was also disappointed in his players, and that he was willing to make changes all game long, speaks well of him.

The Bad

  1. Fred: Yeah, looking through the game again, he had an awful game. Far too many give aways, and not a good looking performance when he was pulled (legitimately) from the match. You're better than that. You can use the pacifier in goal celebrations provided you don't ever actually act as a spoiled child, and that didn't happen in this game.
  2. Lt. Zach Wells: The knives are out for Zack (listen to the United Mania podcast for a great example), and really, he does deserve every bit of flack for the goal that he allowed. Trying to recreate a Randy Moss one handed end zone grab is never a good idea, that ball should have been punched out twenty yards. That being said, he avoids demotion for some areas of good: A strong save on Ivan Guerrero in the first half, and twice coming off his line to do just barely enough to save a goal. In the first instance, he managed to get enough of the ball to send it out for a corner, and in the second he at least bought time and angle for Devon McTavish to get back. So let's not forget those as well. Still, it was an awful goal that he gave up.
  3. The huge ever growing sucking hole that lives in the center of our defense: Okay, Perralta had a better game, but here's my question. To my mind, our two weakest defenders are Perralta and McTavish. That's why I'd rather put Martinez in the middle and Burch on the left, sacrificing some good left back work for a stronger center presence for better cohesion right in front of our shaky keeper. Of course, tactically, Tom Soehn may well have made the right chance against a weak San Jose offense, so I'm not up in arms about the choice this week. But against Los Angeles next week? Clyde Simms will have to stay at home more, or something, because we are going to be carved up otherwise.
  4. Midfield Depth: We have two wing players with Olsen absent - Tino and Fred. That's it. Cordeiro hasn't established himself as a consistently viable option, McTavish and Mediate are downgrades, and Burch is an acceptable left back but awful left wing. To think what this team would be like if we hadn't signed Tino is a worry. If there is a shopping list for the summer transfer window, a center back and a left winger should at least be considered at this time. Or perhaps Quavas Kirk, or Murphy, or Cordeiro will improve to the point of earning the spot. But it is a worry. Fred will get five yellows at some point this season, and Tino getting another suspension is not entirely out of the question.

    On another note, the Gallardo-United mix is not right. Yes, Gallardo is making smart plays at times in feeding the ball in, but really, the rest of United is not really adjusting to his game. Also, Gallardo is not adjusting his game for the rest of United. There's a disconnect there. Two great tastes that don't go great together yet. BDR has this covered from the Gallardo is good perspective, but I think there's another side to the coin as well (or, being as there are so many of us, the same side of two different coins?)

Officiating Watch

Alex Prus has a game that managed to disadvantage both teams. There were a ton of fouls not called on both teams, though DC probably got the better of it. Still, he created at atmosphere that positively encouraged James Riley's reckless tackle, and it made me sick. You could tell it was building. I'm saying, this was a poor performance all the way around. Awful. The ARs were fine, except for Alex waving off their flags at times he should not have. Alex Prus, today's Worst... Person... In the World!

At least, until Matt Reis does something new.

Likert Scale Grade: 1 - Bad.

Man of the Match

Gonzalo Martinez, congratulations. Merit award Gallardo. Notes of censure to McTavish (missing his runner), Wells (circus catch, or not as the case may be), and Fred.

Final Thoughts

Take the win, take the points, and take the tongue lashing from your coach. Los Angeles is coming. Now, under the rule of "Soccer-sometimes it just has to be contrary to your expectations" I expect a low scoring game next week. A 1-0 or 0-0 game. Really. I do.

That being said, I'm also now willing to say Tom Soehn's job is safe for the rest of the season, but that's about it. His job does not have, and should not have, security beyond the last game played. Still, that's a much longer horizon than he did have. It means I'm not evaluating him result to result, which is the situation we were in a few games ago.

Five hundred, by the international break. It's important to remember that would have been a disappointment pre-season, but right now it is the best we can hope for, and seems like a major fight back. Seems that way. But the second half of the season is going to be tougher than the first half, and that's something else to remember. It's not going to get easier in August and September.

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At 23 June, 2008 10:21, Anonymous Dave Lifton said...

Nice Olbermann reference. And thanks for the exclamation marks.

At 23 June, 2008 16:38, Anonymous diego r. said...

it's not that we should be upset with Zach Wells for his bundled "catch", but by his performance the entire season. I don't fault Wells - I fault DCU for discounting the importance of the goalkeeper. We let Troy Perkins go without one ounce of protest or struggle. There is a reason that the "best" keeper in DCU history is Nick Rimando and he wasn't all that great - this is a position that we generally don't value.

In some years the goalie doesn't matter all that much but in this year when every part of our team is shaky at times we need a rock in the back anchoring us. If there was a time for the front office to step up and sign a big player it is right now.

I'm not a Kasey Keller fan but we could use him now.

At 23 June, 2008 17:17, Blogger rke said...

We have a history of playing down to the competition -- certainly saw that last year as well. The first half of this game looked a lot like that old habit. But we did look good against NYRB, and then gritted this game together for the win. Maybe we'll break that habit some day.

As for Gallardo fitting in, I agree, and we've talked about that before. But I think things are coming together now. Gallardo works well stylistically with Quaranta and Fred. He's currently clicking a lot better with Moreno, and trusting Simms a lot more. Best of all, Emilio is starting to fit in. (Not long ago, I was a voice against Emilio -- simply because I didn't see him working out with Gallardo. I'm very happy to be proved wrong on that count.)

I do thing Gallardo is starting to accept and adjust to MLS, and the A-team is starting to share his vision.

In hindsight, we shouldn't be surprised that it takes half a season for this team to come to form. We lost a heart, swapped a brain, and transplanted a (what's the vital organ-equivalent for keeper?). It takes a body time to heal.

At 23 June, 2008 22:47, Blogger Bob said...

rke: Depending on who you ask, the keeper is either the asshole or the liver.

At 24 June, 2008 09:05, Anonymous Anonymous said...

D.C United this year is no better than an A league team..............Can't wait for next year with a new slate of players . two thirds of this crew must go..........

At 24 June, 2008 16:14, Blogger Bibliotheker said...

@ rke - as former GK myself it is somewhere in GI system. Essential and unnoticed when working right and when not, well we've all been there and it ain't pretty. Cheers

At 26 June, 2008 12:03, Anonymous Skippy said...

I kept thinking that they were playing down to the level of San Jose during the first half. I hope its true and not backsliding. I also am not so down on Gallardo. I do think the players are starting to adjust to him - frankly remember all those ball he slotted through into the box with no one there to receive them at the beginning of the year? Don't really see those anymore. Its true that the mesh is far from perfect, and last match was a downgrade, but I think its worth waiting to see if improvement continues or stagnates. If I had to bet, I would say that the improvement that we've been seeing is really going to slow as the big problems (in the attack) are largely fixed and its the myriad of little ones that need correcting. And the defense.
But I reiterate, the Galaxy game should be entertaining; between our and their defenses, I'm hoping for the final score to be something along the lines of DC 9 - LA 7.


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