22 July 2008

Houston Game Postponed Till Tomorrow

You have probably already heard this. But just in case any of our readers are just checking in before heading out to the game tonight, THERE WILL BE NO GAME TONIGHT. The game has been delayed until tomorrow at 7:30 due to power outages in the District.

21 July 2008

First Impressions - D.C. United 1 : 3 Houston Dynamo

D.C. United eliminated from Superliga 2008

I suppose that there should be some feeling of grief, but really there isn't. Tom Soehn did the right thing and sacrificed this match, and I imagine most of us had already gritted out teeth and pulled the bandage off that hairy bit of the arm. It hurts, but not as bad as you might think. We lost Superliga against Atlante, or Chivas, and had already coped by the time this match came around.

The question for me was whether a substitute United side could even look credible. And the reserves did reasonably well. It is an accepted truism that ten good players can carry one not so good player, but here was a situation where very few of our starters were out there, so the reserves would sink or swim on their own. They surrendered two set piece goals, which is upsetting but I'd rather see that than two goals where we get shredded in the run of play. The third goal may get blamed on Burch, but I'm pretty sure McTavish was stranded in the middle of nowhere on that play. And they even managed to score a goal, as Doe proved with a goal that may not have made the match entirely meaningless. Given that United must use whatever semblance of depth we have in the post-all-star break period, this was a good run-out. The result is bad, but not, strangely, depressing. We'd come to terms with this already, and so the true test is Tuesday. A game that even if the reserves are called on to rest an injured starter, I feel more confident about their ability to step in. Hope, not fear.

Debriefing later today or tomorrow. My apologies for the lateness of this post, I had drafted it in my head Saturday night, wrote most of it yesterday, then forgot to post it.

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18 July 2008

Friday Coffee and Call for Advocates

LET'S ENUMERATE THE SUCK: The news of Perralta and Gallardo needing to go out for hernia surgery does suck, as that injury seems to plague this team somehow. The news that Carvallo has been released moderately sucks, in that it indicates our lack of depth not just in defense but in the keeper position as well. And the acquisition of Joe Vide only sucks if we allow ourselves to somehow believe that this is the sum of United's answers to a problem with depth all over the field. So there's suck going around, and this just emphasizes the need to play the reserves in this Superliga match against Houston*. We may need to get them all match fit anyway at the rate players are being lost. The season is not over. It's just more difficult. And this also increases the worry that we may burn out some other players (Moreno, Fred, and Namoff come to mind) while we're trying to stay afloat with these injuries.

CALL FOR ADVOCATES - FRED NEXT FRIDAY: BDR, a man I respect immensely, called for a Fred symposium. While I wanted to oblige, I realized I couldn't resolve the internal arguments in my head in any sort of cohesive fashion. So instead, I want to call back to some work early in this blog's life. Two years ago I toyed with writing mock trial posts, and having things argued out in public. I want to do this again, but I want your help. I want to hold a public trial of Fred, and I'm looking for people to act as the advocates for the defense and prosecution. Next week, we can argue the case over email, and then have a series of posts where the case is heard, and decided by The Honorable Judge D (with concurring or dissenting opinions from other DCenters regulars). If you are interested in acting for the defense or prosecution, drop me an email (the address is on the sidebar). If this works, we'll have more trials in the future. Advocates will have full credit for their work, links to blogs they write, and will of course be admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of American Soccer. Writing over the next week should consist of no more than 2-3 paragraphs or so, so I hope it won't be too much of a burden. And if it works, I hope to stage more of these in the future. This could be fun. For this version, I'll leave it to the prosecution to determine charges, but might recommend "Negligent Finishing (at least 1 count, perhaps 3 to 4)", "Dereliction of Duty" and "Fraudulent Showboating" So come on, drop me an email and let's get in on the fun.

*Corrected from me stupidly writing Chivas.

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16 July 2008

Debriefing for Match 13.B.02: Atlante

D.C. United 2 : 3 Atlante

Superliga, Match Day 2

Six Word Novel Recap

Superliga is done. Play the reserves

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "Luis Gabriel Rey scored twice in the first half and Christian Bermúdez added a second-half strike from beyond the penalty area for Atlante. Francis Doe had United's first-half goal in front of 12,122 at RFK Stadium...Luciano Emilio halved the deficit in the 79th minute, but Atlante goalkeeper Federico Vilar stopped reserve Rod Dyachenko's blast late in added time to hand United its second consecutive loss after entering the eight-team tournament on an eight-game unbeaten run in all competitions."
The Washington Times, John Haydon: "United suffered its second consecutive home loss to a Mexican team Tuesday night, falling 3-2 to Atlante FC in the SuperLiga tournament. United, with no points after two games, barely remains alive in the competition."
UnitedMania, Chris Webb: "United's much maligned defense was on the back foot on many occasions often letting the quicker Mexican side get behind the makeshift central pairing of Devon McTavish and Marc Burch. Playing thier fourth consecutive match together both players looked tired and often drifted out of position and left gaping holes for Atlante striker Luis Gabriel Rey to exploit."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "Wracked by injuries and drained by a busy schedule, D.C. United needed to dig deep for their SuperLiga group match against Atlante FC on Tuesday night, where a win was crucial for safeguarding their prospects of a berth in the tournament's semifinal round. But all United managed to dig was an even deeper hole for themselves..."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "United made one change from the same first XI as Saturday's loss to Chivas, demoting Rod Dyachenko to the bench in favor of Francis Doe. The home side lined up in what the lineup sheet described as a 4-3-3 formation but in reality performed much like the team's standard 4-4-2, with Jaime Moreno manning the playmaking role vacated by Marcelo Gallardo, who continues to battle a groin injury."
DCUMD, Shatz: "Sometimes Doe has a tendency to try to outdo himself. He needs to learn that the cheeky backpass or the underside-of-the-foot-flick is not always necessary; that sometimes the better option is a simple trap and pass or a through ball. Doe has good vision, but his talent lets him down sometimes, and he isn't always on the same page as the rest of the team. Um... nice goal though."
BLCKDGRD, BDR: "I don't pretend to understand MLS rules regarding salary caps and team rosters, but whatever they are, this team's depth sucks, and that's on Kasper. Soehn doesn't have options beyond the eleven he started last night if Gallardo is crippled (and the silence surrounding Gallardo's cripple-ness is ominous), if Peralta's not much better than a useless Marc Burch at center-back, if Quaranta is one hop away from missing another three weeks with his perma-hamstring pull. People who need the night off on Saturday aren't going to get it because there's no one to replace them."
The Offside: DC United, jon: "Fred. You looked like you did not want to be out there tonight, and it was plain to everyone watching. You weren’t connecting with the midfield, you couldn’t cross the ball, and your attempts to get in the attack never materialized. Tonight, and for the last few weeks, you sir, have sucked. Get it together, or get gone."
Fullback Files, Fullback: "What's with the dicking around with the ball at the back and the Latin-style molasses attack? Does the increase in Spanish vocabulary being lobbed about the pitch like so many errant grenadoes bring this out in us?"

The Good

  1. Moreno in the Center: Yes, it was that much better than Rod Dyachenko. He was tired, you could see it on some poorly played balls into the box, but he at least held the ball as well as he ever does.
  2. Emilio's Goal: A highlight in a game that didn't really have many. A nice turn, but even nicer considering he turned without the ball to take the shot first touch.

The Bad

  1. Tom Soehn as Piotr Nowak: I understand that sometimes there's stick, and sometimes there's carrot. From Behind the Badge: "Our performance, particularly in the first half, was atrocious; we had no commitment, no passion, and we played flat. It is unacceptable, especially in a tournament like this. Every time a player wears the D.C. United uniform, they should be proud. This team is well known for its pride, and that’s something we did not show today. We didn’t appear in the first half. Thus, we couldn’t contain any team. We tried in the second half, but that was too late. We cannot do that in this competition. Whether you are tired or not, you have to put in an effort. And that sweat wasn’t out there today. "

    This is fan service at its worst. I gave Tom Soehn a pass on the line-up, because he was going for the win and he had few options once that choice was made. But we have been running the players hard since the poor start, a poor start that was at least partially Tom Soehn's fault. As a result, it has caught up with us. The worst thing he can do now is try and play the starters out Saturday. They're tired, they've given a lot to the league and US Open cup runs, now let them rest. Go ahead and be disappointed, but what did ripping the team in public accomplish? Will that make them less fatigued? I doubt it.
  2. Marc Burch: Sometimes you give the goat in outrage, other times in sadness. Marc Burch was responsible for two goals, but I can't really castigate him. He's played at left wing, left back, and now three games as a center back. His instincts would have been correct for those other positions, but not for a center back as the last man back. He's simply not used to that role, and it victimized us.
  3. Fred: Gassed.
  4. Clyde Simms: Gassed.
  5. The Fans: Gassed.
  6. Bryan Namoff: He seems to be getting a pass for allowing so much space on the third goal, with most of the blame going to Wells, but I can't agree. Namoff should have shut down the play as much. Yes, Wells was off his line, but he should have been because the ball coming out of there was more likely to be a cross than a carefully measured shot.

Officiating Watch


Likert Scale Grade: Not Rated

Man of the Match

N/A, your goat is Burch, censure to Fred and Dyachenko, merit to Moreno and Emilio

Final Thoughts

I wrote yesterday that Superliga is no longer viable, even if there is a mathematical chance. I still feel that way, even though a three goal victory against Houston would see United through. It's just not worth the effort from a cost/reward point of view. The league game on the 22nd against Houston is far more important to United, even if it is only one league game, than the game on the 19th. Run out the reserves on the 19th, concede the match, and fight to regain momentum just before the all-star break. Hell, rest Wells even. The loss hurts, it feels bad, but sometimes knowing when you're beat is important.

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15 July 2008

First Impressions - D.C. United 2 : 3 Atlante


I hate to say it, but some people are right, we're done with Superliga, regardless of the result of the Houston-Chivas match. Yes, I know there might be a mathematical chance, but we don't deserve to advance. Run up the flag, play the subs, we're done like a Five Guys burger. Sometimes you need to know when you're throwing good money after bad, and so it is with Superliga this year.

I'm sure some will work themselves into a righteous indignation about this, but the team I saw was tired. You can tell, the tackles were wild, the passes were received with the heel and not the side of the foot, and the crosses were looping and mysterious. The team is tired, and played a game that made me feel their fatigue. It should be said that this can not be used as an excuse, nor can injuries really (despite the absence of Olsen, Gallardo and Perralta, and Tino making his first appearance in several matches.) It is sad that we've burned through our depth, and burned through our starters. I might want to complain about Wells, only I can't since two goals were the result of a player (Burch) not used to being the last player back. I might want to even attack Tom Soehn's line-up, especially given that Burch made bad decisions on the first two Atlante goals. I might want to say that this is another piece of evidence of Tom Soehn not making a change after something worked once. I might say that I would have put Martinez in the middle, or started with a 3-5-2, or Mediate, or something, but I would be lying. I would have pretty much the exact same line-up (perhaps started Cordeiro in lieu of Thompson, and that probably wouldn't have been smart in retrospect). I would have made similar changes, and it would have amounted to the same.

I'm not even disappointed with the effort. The team went down fighting, giving their all, but there wasn't that much to give.

Players need a rest. It has caught up with them. Moreno, Emilio, Namoff, Simms, Burch, Fred... let them take the Superliga Houston match off. We're done here. The league and open cup are still viable. We play for them.

You goat is Burch, censure to Fred, merit to Emilio, Moreno, and Martinez. I think. Now let them get a good night's sleep.

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Note to Soccer Journalist Fact Checkers

First, Moreno joined the league halfway through the 1996 season. Second, most reports stated that DC United wasn't willing to give Gomez the number of guaranteed years he was asking for. Third, thank you for not mentioning the other failed Argentines that have passed through RFK - Donnet, Filomeno, and Niell. MLS' second wave of Argentines (cont.) - Soccer America - SI.com

"I knew it wasn't going to be easy for him," says Moreno, who went through his own growing pains after arriving from English club Middlesbrough at age 23 in the middle of the 1997 season and is the league's all-time leading scorer.
While we're giving out yellow cards, one should go out to Ridge Mahoney, for getting Jon Busch's club wrong nearly halfway through the 2008 season. MLS Confidential » Blog Archive » Picking the All-Star lucky seven
But Crew keeper Busch has stopped more shots (75) than anybody else and permitted the fewest goals per game (0.93), has amazingly recovered from two major knee surgeries, and is just the kind of crazily likable guy that gives the unique madness inherent in goalkeepers a good name.


14 July 2008

Mr. White Wash

See? It isn't really that hard. Have Blanco issue the non-specific apology, keep quiet about details about which you probably know nothing about, and we can all move onward. Don't have your head coach start mouthing off, don't have your PR director start issuing excuses, just handle things quietly and efficiently and let the inertia of the MLS bureaucracy bury things to where nobody cares about them anymore. This is how things are done.

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PR, You're Doing it Wrong

From the Red Card Blog:
When asked why he thinks D.C. United is sending footage of the Cuauhtemoc Blanco incident to MLS and U.S. Soccer, Denis Hamlett said he wasn't sure. "We never sent the league footage of Christian Gomez spitting in C.J. [Brown's] face," Hamlett said. Hamlett also said United was supposed to send the Fire the footage but has yet to do so.

Gee, Denis, that's a great point. Why didn't the Fire send in that footage? Could it be because that PLAYOFF GAME WAS ON TV YOU STUPID FUCK? Could that be it? Maybe, just maybe, one of the technological advances MLS has invested in is a TiVo in the breakroom? Perhaps they didn't need the footage because it aired on TV? Might that have had something to do with it? Perhaps DC had to send the footage because they're the only ones who had a videocamera with the footage?

For goodness sakes, I was halfway to getting beyond this story, and letting it be buried. But Chicago's insistence that somehow they are the aggrieved party in this matter baffles me. I have no desire to keep writing about this, but now I want to see them pay. If they insist on falsely playing innocent then I hope they burn.

See, if the Fire had kept their collective mouth shut and let channels work, this would not have been an issue. But instead you've decided to put your people out there reading quotes from The Crucible. Goddamn, you had to sticking your finger in the electrical socket.

UPDATE: Reader Craig from Baltimore Emails:
As a loyal, daily reader of the site, I think it's my duty to remind you that this is the same Denis Hamlett who, as a member of the NPSL's Harrisburg Heat, blatantly and intentionally broke another player's jaw with a vicious elbow many years ago. The injured player was Rob Ukrop, who would later go on to play in MLS (briefly, I believe) and for the Richmond Kickers. The incident took place in '93 or '94 during a Harrisburg Heat-Baltimore Spirit indoor game. If I remember correctly Hamlett was fined and suspended by the league for his part in what became a bench clearing incident. Maybe there's footage of that on YouTube somewhere!
I mean, since randomly quoting past incidents is apparently how you handle things professionally according the Chicago [Fire] Manual of Style, then why not! Send the footage to the league! I mean, Craig is absolutely spot on that this is totally relevant under the Dennis Hamlett theory of handling disgraceful actions by your players.

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Debriefing for Match 13.B.01: Chivas Guadalajara

D.C. United 1 : 2 C.D. Guadalajara

Superliga, Match Day 1

Six Word Novel Recap

Lights go out with United's hopes.

Six Word Novel Literary Criticism of Six Word Novel Recap

That recap is over-dramatic, too sentimental.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Times, John Haydon: "...a depleted United team was beaten by a tactically superior one as United lost 2-1 Mexican club CD Guadalajara...The game was delayed 19 minutes when the stadium lights went out in the 59th minute...The score might have been worse, if not for United goalie Zach Wells playing one of his better games. Even at his best, Wells couldn't stop Gonzalo Pineda's brilliant game-winner — a free kick in 72nd minute."
The Washington Post, The Goffather: "The match got off to a roaring start, with both sides probing the attacking channels and searching for an early advantage. Wells made a diving save on Sergio Santana's bid and Emilio smashed an angled drive off the near post with such velocity, the rebound struck Chivas's Héctor Reynoso several yards from the net and nearly spun in for an own goal. Chivas seized the lead in the 24th minute...Bryan Namoff's challenge was unsuccessful, allowing Arellano to jet past the advancing Wells and tuck an angled shot into the far corner."
DC Sports Box, Craig Stone: "Luciano Emilio cut the lead in the 76th minute when he emerged from a pack of players with the ball and a clean look at the net in the Chivas penalty area. Emilio quickly pushed a low shot underneath Chivas goalie Luis Michel to make it 2-1. Namoff assisted on the goal."
UnitedMania, Chris Webb: "United believed they had a golden opportunity to even the match at 2-2 when Emilio was brought down in the box by Olivera after being sent in by Moreno. Queseda didn't hesitate to point to the spot and the RFK faithful were anticipating the tying goal. However Michel dove to his left and palmed away the attempt from Moreno and the score remained at 2-1."|
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "United would dominate possession in the final minutes, throwing everything they had at Michel's goal, but his Chivas teammates persevered despite tired legs and escaped with a 2-1 victory to maintain their advantage in the cross-border rivalry."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "...after being outhustled and outmaneuvered by their opponents for most of the first half, United made some tactical changes, pushing McTavish from center back into midfield to counteract the Mexicans' numerical advantage as striker Jaime Moreno dropped deeper to orchestrate possession. Ten minutes into half two, McTavish even dashed into the Chivas penalty area and slapped a shot of his own off the right post."
Superliga 2008, Dave Lifton: "It was a match that featured all sorts of unusual occurrences, including an illegal throw-in, a handled backpass, a missed penalty kick by the usually reliable Jaime Moreno, and, most bizarrely, a 19-minute delay when the stadium's floodlights inexplicably cut out."
DCUMD, Shatz: "I didn't like the starting lineup that Tom Soehn utilized, but I did like the changes. His halftime lineup is probably what we should have started the match with."
BLCKDGRD, BDR: "It's games like this - which I adore, mind - that remind me how rinkydink MLS remains (and how far MLS has come from truer, deeper, rinkydinkiness). The eleven United started would have beat any MLS team last night comfortably, but United's depth of talent, both quantitatively and qualitatively, vis a vis a major Mexican side, is glaring. Rod Dyachenko? Please."
Fighting Talker, Aaron Stollar: "Rod Dyachenko and Craig Thompson weren’t fit to wear the shirt. Look, I have no doubt that both guys tried their darnedest out there, but neither of them are MLS caliber players and Thompson isn’t even close to that level. Dyachenko’s decision making simply isn’t precise enough for MLS, leading to giveaways when decent passing options are often at hand. Thompson is purely a USL player, all hustle and zero skill on the ball."
The Fullback Files, Fullback: "Dyachecko needs to go. Glacial movement, holding the ball too long, passes direct to the opposition--all these and more can be yours if you'll but give us a third or fourth round draft pick!" [Note: And to think, we traded a first round pick to get him back from Toronto...]
Goalscoring Robot, Sarah: "In the end, it was Chivas' lack of finishing that didn't drive the score up and DC was just plain lucky that the final was 2-1. "
Who Ate All the Cupcakes, El Guero: "Chivas came out to play"

The Good

  1. Zach Wells: His best game to date in a United uniform, and it was a shame it was a match that involved two goals. If you're looking to invent reasons to hate him, I'm sure you can, but objectively he did all he could on both goals, and saved many more.
  2. Our Best are the Best: Luciano Emilio and Jaime Moreno both had excellent games, and Emilio deserves a special call-out given the long run out he had recently against Chicago. They were some of the best players on the field in either uniform, and played up to expectations.

The Bad

  1. Defensive Reliability: Gonzalo Martinez, who has been the best new defender for United this year, finally screwed up big time and started the chain of events for the game winning goal. McTavish and Burch were an awkward, at best, backline pairing. It wasn't that they're slow - they're arguable faster than most backline pairs we've put out over the past three years - but they are not aware enough to suddenly take on smarter offenses than you average MLS team (and make no mistake, Chivas is better than you average MLS team in terms of thinking how to attack).
  2. "We are Built for International Play": See Final Thoughts below
  3. Minor League: Seriously, the lights went out? Even Dave Johnson calls foul on this over at WTOP. A huge embarrassment for this team, and perhaps more importantly, this city.
  4. Rod Dyachenko: I think I see why he's mildly effective as a substitute. When defenses are a bit tired, they're less likely to swarm and more prone to being beat when he has the ball at his feet. But when their fresh, willing to run and attack? Then he's exposed.

Officiating Watch

N/A, but I want to draw attention to the case of the illegal throw in. Both Copa Sudamericana competitions that United have competed in have involved center officials actually calling an illegal throw (against Catolica, I seem to recall both teams being called on it within a minute.) Now one in this match. I think these are the correct calls, and it just shows that there is some stuff that MLS refs aren't calling when they should. Just a quick note.

Likert Scale Grade: Not Rated

Man of the Match

N/A, but merit awards to Moreno (despite the PK save), Emilio, and Wells. Goat to... whew, tough competition. You have Simms first bad tackle, but Namoff surpasses that. And you have McTavish having just an awful match until he was shifted out. Tough call, but I give it to... Rod Dyachenko, who is just as awful as everyone made out above.

Final Thoughts

Part of the reason I had been rating Superliga ahead of the U.S. Open Cup is because of how this season was sold to us. This year we were supposed to be built for International Play. Superliga was the first tournament in form we would see that this revamped roster would apply to. And for the first game of Superliga:
  • Franco Niell - Contract Terminated
  • Marcello Gallardo - Injured, Did Not Play
  • Gonzalo Perralta - Inured, Did Not Play
  • Gonzalo Martinez - Played decently, but directly contributed to Chivas Game Winning Goal.
75% of the moves made to improve this team's competitiveness did not play. That's depressing. What's more, even if Gallardo does take the field against Atlante, Emilio and Moreno both must be close to total depletion given the effort they put out recently. This does not bode well, and if you aren't questioning the moves made earlier this season, shouldn't you?

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12 July 2008

First Impressions - D.C. United 1 : 2 CD Guadalajara

If we want a positive spin, it's this. Everything went wrong from United, and they only lost by a goal. Twice shots rattled off the woodwork. A Jaime Moreno penalty was saved. The first Chivas goal was a result of Clyde Simms and Bryan Namoff falling down one second and twenty yards apart. The second was some muddled attempt at breaking out. United was pushing Chivas hard when the RFK lights went out and allowed for a regrouping moment. (The lights went out? Really? And this is the place we want to say "This is our house?") United could have gotten a draw. United could have gotten a win, as they had some good chances in the opening minutes to dictate control of the game. It didn't happen.

If you want a negative spin, look at the way Chivas exerts control on both the ball and the game. Each player controls the ball at their feet remarkably well, each played tackles in a way that's designed not just to halt an attack, but win a ball back. They apply pressure all over the field. And they're not even particularly good right now.

This game could have been better. It could have been much worse. Zach Wells had a tremendous game, beaten on a good free kick and a two on none break where he forced the most difficult angle he could. He made some excellent saves and got to some balls that otherwise would have been trouble.

If I feel negative about this match, it is almost not because of the game we saw. It was a decent effort from United, who were a bit tired post US Open Cup. The problem I have is that we were trying to build a team for international competition, and two of the players we acquired for that purpose weren't on the field. That's just frustrating.

Debrief either tomorrow or Monday.

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11 July 2008

Who Edits this Site, Anyway

Let's see, 13.## refer to MLS and MLS Playoffs, and 13.A.## was CONCACAF Champion's Cup, so that would make US Open Cup play 13.B.##, right? You'd think so, wouldn't you. But apparently I decided that 13.C made more sense. Which means that Superliga will be the 13.B series, and CONCACAF Champion's League will be 13.D.##. Or 13.F.##. Or 13.$#!*.##. Who knows?

Sorry about that. Or perhaps I should go back and renumber. No, wait, it was all part of an plan, densely plotted, and it will make sense later.


10 July 2008

An Expert Opinion on The Moves of Ben Olsen

The news that Ben Olsen would be out 4-8 weeks, just days after his inspirational return to the pitch, is naturally heartbreaking. But after discussing his Dick's sporting Goods commercial, we wondered how he felt he would be after his surgery. Would he still have the moves that he casually announced to Brian Ching and Christian Gomez? What other moves does Ben Olsen have that he can bring back to the pitch in his return? To answer those questions, there was only one place to go... to the man himself. So providing the expert opinion on the moves of Ben Olsen will be Ben Olsen. Ben, welcome to the DCenters.

Hey, yeah, good to be here. You know, I could write a blog. But it wouldn't be about soccer. It would be about, I think, the works of David Salle, and the influence he's had. And about how Bobby Boswell doesn't understand neo-expressionism.

That would be an interesting topic. Anyway, Ben, the rules are simple. We'll show you a move on TV, and you let us know if that's a move that you have. Ready?

I think I can handle that.

Excellent. Here's the first one.

Yeah, I got that move.

Yeah, I got that move.

Yeah, I got that move.

Yeah, I got that move.

No, I can't... Wait a minute, I forgot, Yeah, I got that move. Just haven't used it recently.

Yeah, I got that move.

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Fire up some Coffee

BLANCO REDUX: I want to revisit the Blanco story, especially because Luis Arroyave in the Chicago Tribune has a good write-up on the fracas. Now, while I'm pleased that United is not issuing much in the way of commentary, I am a tad surprised that Chicago has elected to go on record with a defense of Blanco:

According to Fire spokesman Gregg Elkin, Blanco wanted to get the ball back because the Fire was down a goal in overtime and he thought Simms was stalling. He also said Blanco denied poking Simms in the eye.

Blanco and Burch were given red cards in overtime, except Blanco headed toward the bench rather than the locker room, as is required. According to a United spokesman, a United employee asked Blanco to go to the locker room, and Blanco became confrontational and head-butted him in the cheek.

Elkin said the employee had no business walking into the Fire's restricted area.

"[Blanco] stopped by the bench to pick up his gear," said Elkin, who spoke with several people on the Fire bench about the incident. "He wasn't stalling or yelling at the official. The situation was under control, but the D.C. person got in his face and yelled at him to leave the bench.

Now, the defense that Blanco was provoked into a confrontation with a United employee should not be surprising. The fact that the defense was made in this matter is a bit surprising. Let's stipulate that the facts as portrayed by Mr. Elkin are 100% correct. In that case, we see two problems. From the Laws of the Game, Law 12: "A player, substitute or substituted player who has been sent off must leave the vicinity of the field of play and the technical area."

Well, that means Blanco clearly wasn't where he was supposed to be, and for a player who has been ejected as often as he was I would be surprised if he wasn't aware of the requirements of leaving the field. The other contention is that a United official was in the wrong place. Without knowing the specifics of credentialing into technical areas, this is possibly true. However, even if it is true, then Blanco is still in the wrong because he should never have been allowed near the area to begin with. In fact, his own teammates should have walked him off the field if they had to.

I'm not going to say that United is all pure here. I don't know that, and it is possible Blanco was being provoked. Even if he wasn't, it is still possible that he perceived that he was being provoked. But even granting all of that, he should have been well away.

SOME INTERNET COLUMNISTS... In case you're wondering, the Washington Times on a Tom Soehn piece writes "Many fans and Internet critics pounced on Soehn, who was ripped last year when the club faded in the playoffs after posting the league's best record. One blog asked, 'Should Tom Soehn be feeling the heat?' and a so-called mainstream news outlet went even further."

Which blog are they referring to? Soccer by Ives, in this post here, a blog that due to geography has no need of a pro-DC bias. But look at how that post concludes... "For now, it is Soehn's team and he deserves the chance to right the ship." So, in essence, the answer provided by Ives after an analysis was "No." If anything, the post is a defense of Soehn finishing out the season. Lord knows that I have little reason to defend Ives, but it seems unfair to lump him in with those, like me occasionally, who ripped Soehn.

What's more, given that this was a pretty easy post to find, shouldn't they have attributed Ives quote to him? I'm just saying. Ives, you wanna chime in on this if you drop by?

Anyways, that's a quick post for this morning. Join us a little later in the day when we talk to... an expert.

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09 July 2008

Debriefing for Match 13.C.02: Chicago Fire

D.C. United 2 : 1 Chicago Fire

D.C. United advances to U.S. Open Cup Semi-Final against New England Revolution.

Six Word Novel Recap

Doe, Namoff score. White meets Red.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Times, Harlan Goode: "All D.C. United needed Tuesday night was a little more Jaime Moreno."
The Washington Post, Paul Tenorio: "In the 62nd minute, with D.C. trailing 1-0, Soehn inserted veteran Jaime Moreno, who Soehn had thought would not be able to play because of an abdominal strain. Moreno sparked the United attack, assisting on both goals to lead United to a come-from-behind 2-1 victory in front of 4,118 at Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds."
UnitedMania, Chris Webb: "In a match that saw 38 fouls commited between the two teams and a pair of red card ejections in extra time, it was substitute Jaime Moreno's calm and composure that helped United to an historic victory over the Chicago Fire in the quarterfinal round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup...In the 107th minute, Fred was booked for a challenge in front of the United bench. Just seconds after the whistle blew for the foul, Cuauhtemoc Blanco punched Clyde Simms in the stomach in full view of fourth official Mike Donovan and referee's assistant Adam Wienckowski. United defender Marc Burch was the first player to get to Blanco and he laid a retaliatory shoulder into Blanco who fell to the turf like a sack of wet cement. Both benches got up players on both sides were snapping at each other as the referee's finally got the players seperated. "
Booked for Dissent, Dave Lifton: "On October 20, 1996, Chris Armas scored what should have been the championship-clinching goal for the Los Angeles Galaxy in MLS Cup. But DC United fought back, and in the 4th minute of overtime, Eddie Pope headed in the golden goal, right over the head of the diminuitive midfielder, who was stationed at the near post. As if he had sworn eternal revenge, United’s record against Armas’ teams in knockout games during his playing career after that was atrocious...With Armas retired (albeit on Chicago’s bench as an assistant), I hereby declare the Curse Of Chris Armas to be over after tonight’s win. "
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "Fire left back Daniel Woolard's 36th-minute goal off a Logan Pause long ball gave the visitors an advantage they looked quite comfortable defending, while United's rust and sluggishness all over the field suggested that they'd just returned from a month off, not a weekend...Moreno's pass to fellow substitute Francis Doe netted the equalizer in the 77th minute, pushing the Fire back onto their heels and prompting 30 minutes of extra time. Then his 99th-minute corner kick gave Namoff a glorious look at goal that the veteran defender did not waste, flicking a header past Jon Busch to send D.C. into the semifinals of the nation's oldest major tournament."
MLSNet, Chris Snear: "The Fire withstood early but marginal pressure from United before settling in and created the better chances to take a well-deserved lead in the first half. Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch might have seen more shots than his counterpart Zach Wells, but Wells saw the better quality chances through much of the night."
Poplar Point Perspective, JCM: "The win might have been costly as Moreno left the game after playing only about thirty minutes and Fred was visibly limping at the end. United will play New England in the semifinals next month at RFK."
The Red Card, Luis Arroyave: "I was kind of surprised Denis Hamlett went with Jon Busch in goal. Maybe he was unhappy with Nick Noble's performance against the Cleveland City Stars. Maybe he was taking the Open Cup more serious now that the Fire was farther along in the tournament. Or maybe it was a combination of both."
Behind the Badge, The Management: "
D.C. United Defender Marc Burch [on] the incident with Cuauhtemoc Blanco...'Blanco came over and swung as hard as he could and hit Clyde [Simms] in the stomach. You know I’m sick of that, throwing elbows at [Gonzalo] Peralta. I bumped shoulders with him and he threw an elbow at me and kicked me so I was just sick of him. He gets away with a lot of stuff because he’s Blanco and he’s from Mexico and he’s a big name. but he can’t do that stuff to any of my teammates...I don’t like him, I don’t think he’s a good person. He’s a good player but when he’s out there he’s doing stuff that he shouldn’t get away with.'"
Fighting Talker, Aaron Stollar: "Anyway, if DC goes on to beat Chicago in the playoffs and rid ourselves entirely of Chris Armas juju, curse, or whatever that Chicago has had over us, I will be curious to see if this match is mentioned as some kind of turning point. Even, not having been there, it kind of feels that way." [Note: Since you ask...]
BlackDogRed, BDR: "I'm sure I'm over-enthused, but beating Chicago in a knock-out in that manner could fuse this team into a product greater than its parts. I'm sure it's the fan speaking, but that's the kind of game that can create an identity that's an attitude. I'm sure I'm a rube, but if United collects silver this year, this might have been the watershed game, not the unbeaten run in MLS, but a vicious and emotional win in Germanfrackingtown Maryland with half the A-squad in a crappy US Cup quarterfinal against the fucking Chicago Fire when this United team claimed its identity."
The Fullback Files, Fullback: "Was it just Limarzi's call, or did Banner sound like he was causing major problems with his speed? This is why I'm harping on about pace on the wing. We don't have it, and it's something that makes MLS defenses deeply uncomfortable. Ergo, it's something I'd like to have on our roster."

And yes... let's at least link to this...

MLSRumors, RumorMill: "According to multiple reports, Chicago Fire midfielder, Cuauhtemoc Blanco may finally have gone off the deep end in what many describe as an assualt on a stadium employee after being red carded in tonight's US Open Cup Quarterfinal match at DC United."

The Good

Note: Radio again, but this time I was able to ask questions of Mr. Lifton thanks to his live blog, who at least would confirm or deny my occasional suspicion about what was really going on. Yesterday was just a personal hell day for me at work. But I think the Good/Bad section should be better this time.
  1. SuperSub Jaime Moreno: Yes, I am planning on giving Man of the Match honors to someone who came in the 60th minute and left before the end of the match. No, I don't have a problem with that. Chicago was in the process of locking down yet another victory before his entrance. He turned it around, he held the ball, he interacted well with Doe, Fred, and Emilio, and he got everything started. Let me admit that he can still start, but if we're going to regulate his minutes by using him as a sub more frequently, games like this show just how powerful that could be.

  2. Marc Burch, Heart and Soul: From our comments yesterday, I-66: "Marc Burch has become a USOC hero, with his two goals last week, his racing to the defense of Jaime Moreno after he was chopped down, and his hip check of Blanco that earned his ejection. Across the field, as Blanco waited at the top of the hill for Burch like some sort of schoolyard bully at the flagpole, and Burch was held at the bottom of the hill until Blanco was moved on, we chanted Burch's name and he acknowledged us with applause. After the game, our chants of 'We want Burch' went unanswered, as Marc was likely not permitted to re-emerge, but on this night, #4 is a hero."

    I agree. Marc Burch showed a great mentality in the way he handled the situation. He stood up for his team, represented the colors, and while he was clearly in violation of the laws and deserved the red card he received, at the same time he handled it in a way that did not overly endanger himself, his team, or his target.

  3. Clyde Simms: He kept doing a lot of small stuff, and all of it accumulated into another solid game is a season's resume full of them.

  4. Luciano Emilio: Ran for all 120 minutes. Yes, I had fitness concerns about him earlier, and I wonder what shape he'll be in for Superliga, but he gave his all for this match.

  5. Doe, a Dear: He scored, he was active, and he helps put aside comparisons to last year's non-scoring substitute forward. This is a good thing, and a huge step up from Rochester.

The Bad

  1. Pat Carroll: It's sad, as he had done a few decent things, but all of that fades when compared to the one big gaffe that leads to a goal. Sorry, that's the merciless nature of the game.

  2. Fred/Dyachenko: What, exactly, was Rod's position last night? Withdrawn forward? Midfielder? Hard to tell, because he never seemed to be playing either as far as I could discern. As a withdrawn forward, he never held the ball successfully. As a playmaker, he never, well, he never made plays. Awful. Now, Fred also deserves some censure here, as before his move out to the wing, he was largely invisible.

  3. LCDR Zach Wells: This is borderline. To oversimplify, a keeper has two major tasks: Save his team when called upon, and not endanger his team unnecessarily. On the first task, Wells had his best match to date, making some key saves and shutting down some free kicks and crosses. On the second task, he was mildly at blame for the first goal in not controlling the play, and once or twice took too many touches. So just barely, he'll end up on the "Bad" Side of the ledger, but not bad enough to merit demotion (indeed, he did save United after an atrocious giveaway by Namoff early in the match.)

  4. The Blanco Circus: I've no idea what happened post game, but I do know this. United is probably not going to publicly comment, nor should they. That's not to say they should do nothing. File the appropriate reports, and let whatever systems work their way through things. That's smart, and the right thing to do. What's more, let's not forget that most observers are not unbiased. We tend to see things with Mr. White especially through the worst possible lens, probably because he's given us cause to so many times. But still, the full circumstances are not known by most observers, and we don't know what happened just before the alleged acts by Blanco. We know what happens when team officials irresponsibly mouth off about things they know nothing about, and that's not pretty. While I understand the skepticism about the MLS system in this matter, you still need to let it work. Later, if necessary, is the time for a public comment, not now.

Officiating Watch


Likert Scale Grade: Not Rated

Man of the Match

It would be Jaime Moreno, but there is no Man of the Match for non-league games. Super merit award to Jaime Moreno, Merit awards to Emilio, Doe, Simms, and Burch.

Final Thoughts

One in four. But while we're celebrating a win over Chicago, who killed us so many times, let's not forget that New England belongs to that select fraternity of US Teams who have eliminated United in club matches, and they're next, and not likely to play the same team of reservists after the scare they got from Crystal Palace Baltimore. What's more, the Charleston Battery are also part of that select group (the other active teams being the LA Galaxy, FC Dallas, Harrisburg City Islanders, and the Richmond Kickers. I think that's the list, adding in the Miami Fusion and MetroStars for teams that no longer exist. No doubt Lifton will correct me if I missed someone). So it's not a gimme. But it is, at least, a one in four chance.

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08 July 2008

First Impressions - D.C. United 2 : 1 Chicago Fire (aet)

It is a first impressions post, but the match was a story of second impressions. This was a match of reexamination, reconsideration, and perhaps redemption.

The second impressions of Pat Carroll, stranding himself and Zach Wells and allowing Daniel Woodward to chip the ball into the net. After a strong game against Rochester, Carroll was having a perfectly acceptable, but not stellar match, until the paralysis of indecision created the dreaded Big Oops moment. I imagine that will be what most people will take away from this game, but I will remember instead that Rod Dyachenko seemed lost and unable to move this team forward. After ten minutes of strong play from United, the tide was turning due to Chicago's persistence, and Rod's play never felt like he was taking the time to calm things down, and rather was losing possession too frequently. Fred, to be fair, should also have been working this, but while he faded out of the picture, Dyachenko was the one who was giving things away. Choose your poison. It never changed until the insertion of Jaime Moreno in the 60th, at which point United had ten minutes of strong play with some good chances that never quite clicked.

Strangely, just as it seemed that momentum was subsiding, as Emilio didn't quite link up again, he did stay with a play that, with Frank Thompson's help, forced a ball to Jaime Moreno who sent an easy ball to finish to Francis Doe. And this brings us to the second impressions of Francis Doe, who underwhelmed in his last outing, but finished this chance so as to remove the Kpene Komparisons. But the story was Moreno in for Dyachenko, which had rallied this team to fight back.

And so in a match that demanded a second look at many things, perhaps it required a second match of its own. So on to extra time, where we all know a few things: Chicago will win this, as Chicago wins elimination matches against United. And when a corner is awarded to United in extra time, we don't hold our breath. We know that United doesn't score on corners. And Moreno plays the ball to Namoff, and the ball finds the net, and all of our impressions are thrown askew, everything we know is wrong, and somehow United goes on. Wonderful.

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Tuesday's Cool Cool Considerate Coffee

Ah, the link farm post. But there's stuff out there worth reading, so I'll get back to my world in a bit, but first let's poke the head above the covers and see what we see.

BEN OLSEN - OUT AGAIN: Paul Tenorio writes up the sad situation, but there is something to feel good about here. First, we got to see Ben on the field again, and that was a tremendous moment. Second, Ben himself makes this choice knowing full well the situation he was in, and I feel better about that. As though somehow he has more ownership of this, rather than being at the mercy of the medical staff. And third, it just means that at some point, we get to welcome him back again. Preferably unannounced, and with WWE style entrance music (MAH-GAWD!!! IT'S BEN OLSEN!!!)

MID SEASON WRAPS: UnitedMania is up with theirs, and John Haydon at the Times is also getting into the swing of things. However, the key thing from Haydon is Olsen on Olsen:

It's almost impossible to be a soccer fan and not to have seen the mind-numbing Dick's Sporting Goods commercial starring Ben Olsen. "I'm willing to give them the money back they paid me for the commercial if they would stop playing it," Olsen said..."I wish they would stop playing it because it's ruining my soccer watching because every time it comes on I get into a bad mood and turn the TV off," Olsen added.
Now, we can debate how successful that particular advert is, but the one moment I love is Olsen looking at the TV and announcing to all around him "Oh, I got that move." That's what I love about Ben, the blasé arrogance of looking at anything and figuring out he could do it.

RATINGS: Steinberg at the Bog examines the question in detail, vis a vis the Nats. But wasn't United outdrawing the Caps, and even with the Wizards a year ago? Now we're behind both. Part of that may be that this is early season, and was perhaps also affected by United's poor start, the Caps amazing playoff run, and the Wizards once again flirting with the playoffs. I dunno, I try to keep this stuff straight in my head so that it keeps me honest.

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07 July 2008

No, No, And a Thousand Times No

It is presumptious for me to question either the accuracy or judgement of Dave Lifton, but the idea of comparing D.C. United players to Yankees is abhorrent.


02 July 2008

Debriefing for Match 13.C.01: Rochester Rhinos

D.C. United 2 : 0 Rochester Rhinos

Six Word Novel Recap

Dewar! What's it good for? CONCACAF.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Times, Harlan Goode: "It took a while for Marc Burch to get going Tuesday night, but once the D.C. United defender did, he was hard to stop. Burch scored goals on two late free kicks, lifting United to a 2-0 win over the USL first-division Rochester Rhinos in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup before 2,752 at the Maryland Soccerplex."
The Washington Post, Steven Goff: "...for 78 minutes last night, United found itself in a familiar and discouraging situation: locked in a scoreless round-of-16 match with the last-place team from the second division."
UnitedMania, Chris Webb: "Head Coach Tom Soehn made seven changes from the starting XI who beat the Los Angeles Galaxy 4-1 just two days ago at RFK. Goalkeeper Zach Wells got his second shutout of the season (none in MLS so far) and United's defense was rarely tested though physically pushed by the visitors. Wells was only required to make one save all night long and it was routine at best. Rochester did however have a few close calls early in the second half but they came to nothing in the end."
DCSportsBox, Abram Fox: "As the game wore on a distinct atmosphere settled on the SoccerPlex, not of panic but perhaps unease. Rochester played D.C. tight through the first half, jamming up the middle and stifling Emilio. Dyachenko managed several quality scoring chances, including a header inside the first minute, but for the majority of the half United succeeded only in Rhinos goalkeeper Scott Vallow look good."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "United ran out a young first XI, albeit one sprinkled with experience. Luciano Emilio captained the side, leading the line alongside Francis Doe, backed by an entirely new midfield of Rod Dyachenko, Dan Stratford, Ryan Cordeiro and Quavas Kirk. Zach Wells remained between the pipes for D.C., but he was fronted by a reshuffled back line as Devon McTavish and Marc Burch manned the central spots together for the first time, flanked by Gonzalo Martinez and rookie Pat Carroll."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "Fatigue even haunted a striker who hasn't worn his United uniform for weeks. Francis Doe finally returned from African World Cup qualifying duty over the weekend, but was less than fresh in his first-ever 90-minute match for D.C. 'I'm still tired because of the flight, because it was like a 14-hour flight,' admitted the Liberian international."
Behind the Badge, Doug Hicks: "Why didn't Burch take the free kick at the end of the game?...'I was joking with Burchy that I was going to take the kick. I was going to run over the ball, though. As I went up to it, though, I saw a hole in the wall and, all of the sudden, I kicked it. It was instinct and I had no idea what I was doing. I'm sorry coach.' Cue more laughter. Winning games is fun."
BLCKDGRD, BDR: "Kirk and Doe flunked too. Kirk had one chance for brilliance, mid-2nd half, a breakaway, tough but doable with a deft touch and burst of speed, and he botched the touch as he was hesitating. Could have earned himself some minutes there. Doe? Besides triggering a stupid-ass song from Sound of Music in my head every time I hear or see his name, I'd rather have Kpene not scoring." [Note: This excerpt makes BDR sound more negative than he is in his summary, but I thought this was an interesting note that deserved wider view]
The Fullback Files, Fullback: "Why not have a defender win the Open Cup Golden Boot with that cannon he's got strapped to his left leg? ... USL put in another good showing for itself last night, claiming three MLS scalps out of a possible eight. And the new kids on the block at Crystal Palace Baltimore flew the USL-2 flag high with their shorthanded sinking the Swamp Things."
DCUMD, Shatz: "I'm not sure that this clean sheet for Zach Wells was enough for me to release the ban on all defenders from the top shelf category, since Wellsy only had to make 1 save." [Note: Wellsy? Um... Let's monitor that one. A bit too much of a John Harkesism for my taste, but we'll see.]

The Good

Note: I had intermittent access to the radio transmission of this game, via both the internet and the AM radio signal, so this is going to be unfortunately light. My apologies.

  1. Marc Burch: He's been coming so close, I am happy that he finally gets rewarded. Good for him.
  2. Defensive Solidarity: Between the 45th and 55th minutes, it sounded like Rochester was starting to build momentum and get closer. The defense and midfield tightened up, and shut things down.
  3. Pat Carrol: One of my concerns has been "What if something happens to Brian Namoff?" Now, I don't think Pat is a long-term answer there, but I think he did well enough that if he needs to fill in if Brian gets a knock in a game, I'm not immediately going to panic. Plus he executed what sounded to be like a long-throw. Nice.

The Bad

  1. Run of Play: I know it wasn't the starters, but controlling a game's tempo is never enough if you don't start generating offense. To only score on set pieces means that at some level, you yield your fate to decisions of linesman or referees. That's worrying.

Officiating Watch


Likert Scale Grade: Not Rated

Man of the Match

It would be Marc Burch, but there is no Man of the Match for non-league games. Merit awards to Pat Carrol and Devon McTavish. No goat.

Final Thoughts

Evolving payoffs.

If you want international play, the U.S. Open cup is probably the most difficult route to take from a sheer probability perspective. Just going from the odds, you have a one in thirteen chance of being the Supporter's Shield Winner (assuming all teams are equal), if you make the playoffs, you have a one in eight shot at the MLS Cup, and the odds for the US Open Cup for United were one in sixteen. To start with, at least, but pot odds change constantly, and now that the odds are one in eight it justifies a bit more investment. The more we win, the more important each successive win becomes. It's a strange situation.

Although, to be frank, I'm not convinced this is the best shot at international play yet, another win would certainly change my mind. Against Chicago. That's not a particularly nice confluence of events. Chicago tends to win US Open Cups. United tends to lose to Chicago in elimination matches. It's John McClane vs. Death Star ("The Death Star: Tends to explode. John McClane: Tends to cause things to explode.") So I'm not really going to prioritize this tournament at the expense of Superliga... yet.

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01 July 2008

First Impressions - D.C. United 2 : 0 Rochester Rhinos

Ah, yes, welcome back to the Marc Burch show, starring him, Marc Burch. This is why I write long posts debating the role of Marc Burch on the team, what it means to have Marc Burch rally the offense after being shut out in the first half. What I'm saying is, thank goodness I had the foresight to write about Marc Burch today. Okay, right, point taken. Yeah. Whoops. What I mean to say is, this is why in the future I'm going to write long posts about Marc Burch

Still, if someone whose been on the border of the starting line-up had to step up, I'm glad it was Marc. Last year's US Open Cup debacle at the hands of the City Islanders served a nice prescient slice of pie (humble flavored) to United, so the fact the team did step up, that Tom Soehn used all four subs, that we actually managed this game (even if I was stunned to see Emilio starting out) makes me glad. The US Open Cup does not mean that much to me at this point, it's an investment with too remote a payoff to justify endangering any other competition right now. But the farther we get, the more important it becomes. In my mind, by actually playing Fred and Simms (second half), and Emilio (first half), this almost seemed like too much of a risk of injury, but Tom Soehn was rewarded with the advancing and by blending his line-up, protected himself from any charges of taking the match too lightly.

Except for about a ten minute stretch, Rochester never particularly seemed dangerous, but United didn't finish off the Rhinos the way they did against L.A. But the team of mostly reservists got the job done, especially with a decent defensive effort. Merit awards to Carroll the Younger, man of the match to Marc Burch.

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Marcello Gallardo

The Question, for today, is Marcello Gallardo. Specifically, why do opinions diverge on his performance so much? The same game that has some writers and commenters raving about him is the same game that leaves other observers scratching their heads and saying "I don't get it, what's so special?" Is he a genius, or is he making passes according to a game in his head that he, and no one else on the pitch, is really playing.

The easy answer is to say "well, the truth is somewhere in between." That answer is wrong. Marcello Gallardo neatly illustrates one of the truths about soccer that makes it so enjoyable, and yet so frustrating. There are a few positions that are difficult to objectively judge when watching. Sometimes it is a limitation of TV. You can see an attacker dribble around a keeper after a long through ball, but who was supposed to be marking him? Why wasn't the defense organized? Sadly, that is probably cropped off your image making a judgement about a goal difficult. But if you're at the game, or get a replay with a wide angle, you can probably piece it all together.

The problem is a bit more difficult when you're talking about a holding midfielder. Are they man marking? Are they playing more zonally? Where should they be, when should they get forward, who is making the run that they need to be aware of. Plays at a distance affect the center of your attention.

With an attacking midfielder, especially one that plays like Gallardo as opposed to Gomez, the problem is even greater. Marcello thinks in longer passes than Christian Gomez, which means where fellow players are (and where defenders aren't) is more of an issue. Also, since more time elapses during the pass, the vectors of the ball and the run are longer (remember those arrows in math?) Which means the potential space you are looking at is expanded. Christian was great at a one touch pass, playing short, dribbling around a marker, and slipping a ball through. Gallardo plays the long ball, but it's not Route 1. It's a speculative highway that another player may or may not see.

So the answer is that Gallardo is great, right, and that the other players are to blame for not making those runs? Not so fast. Gallardo does see these runs, and plays the ball for them, but that doesn't necessarily make it the right choice. Players can check to him, and he'll play over their head, when he should play it short and take the return pass. The longer pass is more speculative, and sometimes improbable to a fault. Even if Gallardo believes he can perfectly weight the ball, he also must assume that the run will have the right line, and that the player gets the right jump. Sometimes the easy play is right.

To look at Gallardo's play is, to some extent, to look at yourself as an observer. How are you feeling today? Adventurous? Artistic? Then Gallardo will no doubt manifest himself as a genius, and you and he are simpatico. Are you feeling cautious, prudent, and efficient? Then the play of Gallardo is no doubt extravagant and foolhardy and does not pay as much attention to his teammates as it should.

We see the Gallardo we want to see on the field, and that colors our perceptions of him. Perhaps the doll is not just diminuitive, but also he is dressed up by each observer to fit their own feelings. It is not that the truth lies in between for Gallardo. No, it is that both extremes are true, but say more about the observer than the observed.