22 June 2008

First Impressions - D.C. United 3 : 1 San Jose Earthquakes

I know that I should feel bad keeping these three points for D.C. United. It feels like I found a wallet full of twenties at the side of the road, and decided to pocket the cash before looking up the address on the license inside.

Actually, that's a lie. Two months ago, if United had played the exact same way as they did this afternoon, don't you feel like the result would have been a drubbing at the hands of San Jose? It had all the hallmarks - moments of slipshod defense, long stretches where United couldn't challenge keeper Joe Cannon, awkward give-aways at midfield, yet this time United ends up on the right side of the 3:1 result. Part of that is certainly luck: San Jose had two shots rattle off the frame of the goal. That being said, part of it is attitudinal. Since Chicago, this team is looking for ways to find things to go right instead of anticipating the next slip-up.

This was not an awful game for United, I'd say it was a few steps down from what we've been seeing, so let's call it below-average. And let's admit that San Jose was, especially for an expansion team, a credible side that if a few things go right for them, they walk out with at least one point.

Tactically, United did seem to have a plan of attack. Gallardo was finding runners. United had success attacking the flanks, but couldn't execute a final pass into the middle for the entire first half. Defensively, there were problems. Perralta and McTavish never held the center of the field as well as they should have, and Clyde Simms found himself pushing too far up at moments when Gallardo had moves to one of the sidelines. San Jose, as a result, created multiple chances right down the center of the defense.

Most of that is attributable to the starting line-up. With Quaranta out, Soehn decided to Burch to left wing, Martinez to left back, and start McTavish in the middle. Which is, to be fair, a completely defensible decision. While Martinez is certainly a joy to watch when he gets forward, I feel that United is better served keeping Martinez in the middle, leaving Burch at left back, and starting McTavish at left wing(or perhaps now Cordeiro, who rarely looked dangerous but didn't look bad either at left wing). Left wing, however, continues to be a problem when Tino and Fred aren't the ones switching sides. The worry for me is that the defense pairing in the middle has to work, and it's better with Martinez than McTavish right now.

One note, quickly, about Alex Prus - He had a horrible match as center ref. The box score reads that San Jose fouled D.C. by a 2:1 margin, which is ridiculous. DC was fouling more, and Alex Prus wouldn't blow the whistle if even the slightest hint of advantage existed. As a result, San Jose had to be confused about what the standard of a foul was, and as things escalated with more and more 50:50 challenges, and 75/25 situations, not resulting in a foul call, San Jose saw no reason to hold back from riskier challenges. After all, D.C. wasn't paying a price. Which is my way of saying that James Riley is certainly to blame for his red card offense, but he was also disserviced by the examples that Alex Prus was setting.

So let's start wrapping up by saying this -- I'll take the points, thank whatever random forces of luck brought them too us, and move on from this match. The United defense is still a concern, the offense is not entirely there, but the midfield was decent. I'm thinking of Martinez for man of the match, both for his goal (what an amazing strike) and for some nice turns under pressure he executed in the defensive end. Then again, he did look kind of bad the last thirty minutes of the match, so perhaps not. We'll see. Other contenders could be Fred, Jaime, and Clyde, but Clyde seemed a bit out of sorts tonight.

Wells one gaffe surrendering the San Jose goal was bad. Ridiculously, circus clowny bad. But other than that... Well, he actually was okay. Other people for potential censure are McTavish, but he did save one goal, Namoff, and Perralta. Ditto March Burch on the wing who was as lost as a Rose Mary Woods guitar solo.

So hey, let's take the points. Even we are deserving of gifts. And a win, even a bad one, is better than a loss, even a good one. Right? Right.

One game to .500, and it's against the player who makes me call myself by an initial on this blog. Dig it.

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At 22 June, 2008 22:58, Anonymous Grunthos said...

I thought Clyde played just fine, including some good holding play in combination with Gallardo and Moreno. But I agree, MoM still has to go to Martinez... he's really our best player right now.

That said, I thought our basic offensive build-up was frequently sabotaged not just by bad passes, but poor spacing in the midfield. The standard offensive sequence in the first half was: Wells rolls the ball out to Martinez, Martinez looks upfield and finds no good options, Martinez runs with the ball until challenged and then passes, recipient isn't in a position to do any good, turnover. Things got better in the second half, but not really good enough if the opponent is, say, LA rather than SJ. We will need to play better next week or we will eat a loss at home.

Oh, and when you refer to the rest of Wells' match as "OK", you're being quite charitable. I'd give him a 4. I think you're forgetting him running out to the edge of the box for a ball he had no chance of getting, only to get a karma-costing reprieve when the SJ player muffed the ball over the end line. He had a few other low moments, too. I've started to feel bad for the guy, in that he's clearly in over his head but doesn't have any way out except to keep trying. And failing.

At 22 June, 2008 22:59, Blogger Bibliotheker said...

You're right, you're right. Still many problems with this team. Just doesn't seem to have settled yet. But the thing is to be a force in August and beyond, this team is working that way.

Martinez, outside of the goal and some fine defending, did an excellent job of recognizing that he had to get forward with the players he had in front of him to provide some offence.

The center-half combo isn't the best but McTavish gave a good day's shift. Be fair, he did save one goal and didn't do anything horrible.

Zach Wells - he appears to be trying too hard. After all the bad press and the overt searching for help, his confidence appears gone and so he tries too hard. Its a human reaction to the criticism he has received. Doesn't justify is play, only supports the idea that help is needed, if not another GK than a good sports psychologist, I'm serious and not trying to offend. I do have to say that he bounced back and played "okay" as you said but I'm still on the fence with him, physically he has the tools just needs work on/get some help on the mental/confidence part.

Anyway, we got three points from a team that we should relieve of three points.

At 22 June, 2008 23:34, Blogger I-66 said...

McTavish did save that goal, but I'm fairly sure it was his own mark that took the shot. If he does his job the first time, he doesn't need to make the save.

At 22 June, 2008 23:45, Anonymous Grunthos said...

bibliotheker, I don't think it's just a mental issue. Even if Zach corrected his poor decisions and low confidence, his physical abilities are too limited for MLS, IMO. He is at his best on balls down low, where he shows good agility and handles securely. The higher the ball goes in the air, the worse he becomes - this has been a consistent problem all season. He has trouble holding the ball when it's above his waist, and he doesn't judge or reach crosses well at all. He doesn't have great reflexes or good running speed to cover for his other problems, so once he makes a bad choice, it's over.

I think some psychological work could salvage him as a backup, but as a starter he is just overmatched.


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