30 August 2008

First Impressions - D.C. United 0 : 0 New York Red Bulls

I predict that this match will be an easy pessimist/optimist test for our fans out there. And since I try to stay away from equivocation, let me come out and make the optimistic case. D.C. United owned the majority of this match, but didn't totally dominate it. There was about five minutes in the first half, and the last ten minutes, when things looked dicey for the home side. However, United has lost several of those matches this season. You'd hear things like "We make two mistakes, and get punished for both." United had more than two mistakes this game, and the Bulls took their shots, but this time United survived to take at least a point. Yes, Moreno's PK miss may make this feel like two points that slipped away, but Louis Crayton's performance in goal with two big saves combined with Joe Vide starting to imitate the look and heart of a Ben Olsen make this feel like a point earned. Simply put, there was every reason to feel that this team could make a hash out of a five piece lego kit early this season, and now I feel like I'm looking for more times when this team will win, than find new ways to lose.

And the effort, from pretty much everyone, was there this match. Devon McTavish looks outmatched by pretty much everyone right now, but I can't and won't fault the effort he put forward. The team lost Emilio at the half, but still found way to work the ball around. They are a scrappier, pushier team than I recall from two months ago. Hope is the order of the day, even in games that might otherwise bode for disappointment.

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23 August 2008

First Impressions - D.C. United 3 : 0 Colorado Rapids

Given this season, it's probably presumptuous to admit this, but I was fairly confident at 1-0. United looked like a team in control, like a team that wasn't going to commit some insanely stupid maneuver and let Colorado back into the match. I was relatively positive at 1-0. The fact that United then added two late goals, including that great strike from Tino, to get to three goals was a bonus. United was calm on the ball, slowly morphed their tactics to take advantage of Colorado, and kept the midfield of Colorado off balance for pretty much the entire game. I have been critical during many wins of United, and certainly there are things to wonder about in this match, but this was a solid, professional victory.

It was a match that existed in a perfect state of zen. As a fan, you could watch this match in the lotus position, your third eye opening as Quavas Kirk scores the third goal. It was a Japanese rock garden of serenity and scoring. A quiet bijoux of a match. Refreshing, at this point of the season. Let's play two.

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20 August 2008

First Impressions - New England Revolution 2 : 1 D. C. United

File under "The Better Team Over 90 Minutes Won."

It wasn't that United played horrible. This was a decent effort from United, an effort that even improved as the match went on. There were a few defensive and midfield giveaways, but none of those were directly responsible for the two New England Goals. To be fair, New England's goals were both earned through strong play and chances created with smart play over the first two thirds of the match. Yes, the ball came off of Burch(?)'s foot to Twellman for the first goal, but that move was started by some crisp passing at midfield with Twellman checking back for the ball. The second goal was a shark with a laser beam on its forehead. Again, if you want to complain, you might say Tino had given up too much ground to Larentowicz which allowed him the space to tee it up, but it wasn't egregious defending, just subpar.

And, for most of this match, while United played well, New England played better. One goal better. It's fair. If United had been unlucky, they would have been punished for their ridiculous bonehead moves at times, but that didn't happen. If United had been lucky, they would have put away a chance or two they had in the final half hour. Instead, the law of averages prevailed, and New England defends their home with a 2-1 win.

If there is one question to ask, it might be whether Tom Soehn made his move too early when Zaher came off for Thompson, but I'd rather have Soehn move too early as opposed to too late. Yes, we're arguing degrees of wrongness, but the underlying point is that I like the instinct of trying to make something happen faster.

And, one other thing - this was the greatest officiating performance ever turned in by Abby Okulaja. It was a consistently officiated match, he called things fair, he didn't call some fouls that more credulous officials might have. Seeing Abby officiate this match was to see him in a whole new way - enlightened, professional, trustworthy. Admittedly, all in all it was an average officiating performance, but when was the last time you could say that about Abby?

Goats? Not sure, perhaps Namoff for being caught out on the first goal, or Tino. Merit awards to Fred perhaps. Maybe Zaher, Crayton (yes, he was moving the wrong way on the second goal, but it was deflected, right?), and Moreno as well. The big concern - Is Emilio going quiet again? I leave you with that. Is it another scoring slump, or something more?

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18 August 2008

Debriefing for Match 13.19: At Chicago Fire

Chicago Fire 0 : 1 D.C. United

Six Word Novel Recap

Black and red likes some yellow.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Chicago Daily Herald, Orrin Schwarz: "Things changed at the start of the second half Saturday night at Toyota Park. Fans in brand-new No. 20 jerseys sat up straight. Section 8, quiet much of the first half, suddenly found its voice. A sense of electricity pervaded the nearly sold-out stadium. Only the score didn't change..."
The Washington Post, The Goffather: "Brazilian midfielder Fred scored on a 27th-minute header as United (9-9-1) atoned for last Sunday's 4-1 loss at New York, earned its second shutout in three league matches and snapped a seven-game unbeaten streak by the Fire (9-6-5)."
MLSNet, Kathryn L. Knapp: "'We lost our concentration on our marks,' Busch said. 'We fell asleep a little bit. They got an easy header. We have to pay attention to our marks. Second half they had one good shot. The rest was easy.'"
MLSNet, Kathryn L. Knapp: "One goal proved to be enough as United held on for the win -- thanks in no small part to the play of Crayton. The Liberian international signed with the team Friday and started his first MLS game Saturday. In his debut, Crayton collected a win, a shutout and made two saves."
The Chicago Sun Times, Nick Firchau: "McBride went to work immediately after entering...He won headers at midfield and in the penalty box, and narrowly missed out on an assist when Andy Herron drifted a shot over the crossbar in the 48th minute."
UnitedMania, Chris Webb: "...a match that saw both teams lay the wood to each other all night long..."
Fighting Talker, Aaron Stollar: "The two big talking points will be Louis Crayton’s outstanding if understated performance and the officiating. First on Crayton, let me ask this. Was there anything he did yesterday where you thought that Wells would’ve done a better job? The answer, quite simply, is no. He showed far more confidence and poise dealing with crosses and balls sent high in to the penalty area. His only bobble came in stoppage time when he spilled a cross while clearly being fouled. That uncalled foul brings us to the second point, which is the bizarre performance of Tim Weyland’s officiating crew. That was a physical match last night and one between two teams that make these matches hard to referee. That’s evident by a 15-13 foul count. But how, from that nearly even foul count could Weyland give DC seven bookings to only one for Chicago, I have no damn idea. "
DCUMD, Shatz: "I'd say any game that we play against Chicago where Blanco doesn't score is a good game for Clyde Simms. Would be nice if he stopped giving the ball away sometimes though."
The Fullback Files, Fullback: "...there was a shifting of the gears that seemed to take place in my head during this match. Rather than dreading the inevitable moment of madness from the United defense that would lead to Chicago sticking one in the net, I was expecting a big play from Blanco or McBride to do the dirty deed. That's a massive psychological shift--when you worry about the other team having to do something, rather than your own defense tossing up the mandatory brain-fart."
Goalscoring Robot, Sarah: "As for Crayton? He did a good job. There were several times when I was like, oh, crap. But about half of those he was fine, it was mostly my leftover Zach Wells angst coming through. Crayton made me worry a few times, aside from the Wells-related things, but he never really let us down. I expect, if he can keep this up, that once he gets to know our back line, he'll do better. I mean, he can't be worse than Wells at this point. And, if nothing else, he kept a clean sheet -- our second of the season."
BLCKDGRD, BDR: "Chicago devised and refined the strategy for beating United: Beat United. And since this was the first game v United since the USOC game, United came in ready for a dirty Fire and the dirty Fire was thoroughly unprepared for a dirty United, and like all true bullies Chicago pussied before a fight. wOOt!"

The Good

  1. Even When You Suck, Do Not Submit: There were mistakes a plenty, but at least for this match DC didn't react to their mistakes by promptly rolling over and exposing our bellies. Instead, people tried to cover for each other make plays. What a novel concept.
  2. Fred Gets Attention: The cool thing on the corner kick goal wasn't Fred finishing it with his head, or the nice back post ball from Moreno. No, the cool thing was right before the kick was taken, when Fred realizes he's unmarked. He throws a quick wave or two to Moreno, who sees it and correctly anticipates the run. When was the last time a United player called for a ball and actually killed someone with it?
  3. Louis Crayton: We're all in agreement - one game does not a legend make. For all we know, Crayton will be coached into a jello pudding pop over the next few games. But dear god, he actually owned a box. Not just controlled, but out and out dominated.

The Bad

  1. Competence, not Excellence: With Gallardo out, the playmaking responsibility (if not formal role) has been allocated to a combination of Fred, Tino, and Moreno. While not exactly bad at it, no one has excelled, and this helps explain the scarcity of chances from the run of play. Let's remember - Emilio needs service, and there was not a whole lot of it in this match.
  2. The Back Line isn't Solid. It's more a dotted pattern, perhaps those irregular dashes you find in MS Word: Look, I got to be honest here -- Our center back situation is a horrific liability. Last night convinced me that Devon McTavish simply doesn't understand communication with a keeper, he twice abandoned a mark without being sure that a keeper was coming off the line. Marc Burch is not particularly reassuring either. Our central defense is a mess, and it can't be solved with quantity. I'd almost prefer a 3-5-2 now simply because I think Clyde Simms and Joe Vide dropping back deep is preferable to the excess of incompetence between McTavish and Burch, or McTavish and Carroll, or McTavish and anyone. If it weren't for the fact that apparently we're supposed to start 11 players, I'd call for Devon to take some time on the bench and get his game back.

Officiating Watch

Center official Tim Weyland was correct in his calling of fouls, but as Sarah, BDR, and pretty much everyone recognize, he had no consistency in when to hand out cards. That's not good officiating. I'd like to say this was one of the worst MLS officiating performances I've ever seen, but I've seen too many MLS Games.

Likert Scale Rating: 2 - Below Average

Man of the Match

The easy thing is to say Fred because he scored the goal. However, it also happens to be true in this case. Very few giveaways compared to the normal Fred game, and he didn't try and be overly complex. Take the award Fred. Merit awards to Crayton and Moreno. Censure to Burch, McTavish, and Namoff.

Final Thoughts

The most galling thing about this season is the recognition that if somehow DC does recover, and go on a run, and even win the MLS Cup, then we're pretty much the 2005 LA Galaxy. As epiphanies go, that one kind of sucks. The oozing, festering wounds of the start of the season have pretty much tainted even a win like this. Last year, I would have hailed this win as "good teams get tough wins." Now I just breathe a sigh of relief. What has happened to my fandom? Have I lost the faith?

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16 August 2008

First Impressions - Chicago Fire 0 : 1 D.C. United

Okay, if all I want for the remainder of this season are gritted out wins, then I'll take this one. To give Chicago the respect they deserve - the Fire had done quite a bit and could have legitimately walked out with a draw. That said, United was a post away from a multiple goal win. Ultimately, this kind of win is satisfying. It doesn't put to rest questions about our defense, but it does show a kind of continuity that I think may serve as a running theme for the remainder of the season. We have some skill up top, a decent midfield, and a defense that is confused in the middle by any ball that gets more than three feet off the ground.

The big question that most are probably asking: "Is Louis Crayton an upgrade over Zach Wells?" I don't know yet... he had a decent first game (despite a crazy exchange where, in real time, I swore he was fouled), he got a clean sheet, but he only made two saves, and did require a ball to be cleared off his line. There were some odd interchanges with the center backs as well. But, and this is clear already - Crayton is more decisive off his line and in the air than Wells showed at any point this season. Give him another start, as he's clearly earned it.

Chicago fans will no doubt look at the fact that United covered themselves in more yellow than is typically seen in the stands at Crew stadium, but I'm not sure they have room to talk. Yes, United earned most of those cards, center ref Tim Weyland wasn't applying the same standard to the tackles of Soumare and Segares that he was applying to McTavish and Burch. But actually, go ahead and complain about chippy play from United. It's not like the Fire have made a living of that for over half a decade. And that's why scrappy wins are sometimes more enjoyable than blowouts.

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15 August 2008

Playoff Race Watch

Now that we're in the middle of August, the playoff race will heat up. With the everchanging rules for who gets to play in the post season, its hard to keep track. I think this year the format is the 3 teams above the Tropic of Capricorn from each conference, then the next 2 teams with an English player. Luckily, there are dedicated fans like Ken Roberts here to make some of the analysis easier. He put together an online application to track the MLS Playoff Race.
I'm trying to answer questions like:
What effect does each game this week have on a team's odds of making
the playoffs? (The "Big Games" section.)
How well do they need to finish out the season to make the playoffs?
(The "What If" section on each team's page.)

If you check it out and have any suggestions I'd love to hear them.

What can we gleam so far? Head over to his site to check it out. You can also learn who we should be rooting for/against in the other games this weekend.

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12 August 2008

First Impressions - D.C. United 3 : 1 New England Revolution

D.C. United Advances to U.S. Open Cup Finals

Look, I want to be ecstatic. We have a game to play, and it's a game for silverware. And if we win, we get another year of international competition. And we won with multiple goals, right?

I can't fake it. We beat the New England reserves. Not just the reserves, but the reserves with a man sent off for a third of the match. And every single fault of the season was once again on display - the Jackson Pollock defense, the long stretches of possession that would culminate in mystifying give aways, the feeling on ennui that would settle on the team for ten minutes at a time. I felt the midfield at time belonged more at home in a Paris cafe, drinking a merlot and smoking Gauloises.

But somehow we're through. That's the goal. But if you want me to be optimistic, I just don't feel it. New England rolled over, but if there's any team that's capable of dropping the US Open Cup to a USL team, it's this D.C. United team. I don't want it to happen, and I'll cheer my head off if we're at RFK (or even in Seattle) but I can't say this game was reassuring. Still, to the extend that Tom Soehn had a choice between New York and this match, he made the right choice.

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05 August 2008

Keeping Appropriate Distance and Creating Appropraite Value

In the course of being engrossed by the game to game mentality and analysis, it is easy for me to lose perspective of an entire season. At times like this, it is useful to look back on previous posts to remind myself of what I was thinking earlier, and to reapply that perspective to where we are now. I am prompted to do this, in part, because Booked for Dissent is in the middle of a series analyzing Dave Kasper's moves over the past few years. There's a lot there that is provocative, and it reminded me of something I wrote before this season began:

The mission of D.C. United is to serve the community and win championships. United has let their most visible humanitarian go to Houston. United has let the 2006 MLS MVP leave for a designated player. We are being told, in other words, that this team is more likely than that team to fulfill those two goals...

...this, we are told, is the best team to embody those principles...

While it is easy to focus on players in a game, this is a year that demands that we truly examine our coaching and front office. Players will win or lose games, but the front office and management will win or lose this season. They, more than any other parties, are responsible for the 2008 campaign. They had done right by us in the past, but the price of professional sports is inevitably "what have you done for me lately." The departure of Boswell, of Gomez, of Perkins... these all signify that while I give the roster moves of the past great credit, they do not matter for this season. This season is about the choices we have seen being made... Risk, in the markets, defines uncertainty, and riskier investments have a greater chance of crashing and burning, but also a greater chance of truly spectacular yields. D.C. United is now the most exotic South American tech stock in MLS.

Lifton is, I think, writing an analysis to evaluate the team along those lines, as he notes:

So really only three of the unknown commodities - Martinez, Emilio and Fred - could be considered as quality acquisitions. And the higher salaries given to those who have failed, notably Filomeno and Niell, have come at the expense of deepening the squad with players better suited to the style of play and demands of MLS.

To date, United's return on investment has yielded a .500 record, 4th place in the Eastern Conference, a similar finish in the CONCACAF Champion's League to last season, an elimination in group play in Superliga, and a semi-final US Open Cup appearance. Only the US Open Cup run is an improvement, all the rest is either treading water or regression. What's more, the US Open Cup run has been largely powered by the reserved, not the flashy acquisitions. If United were a publicly traded company, the shareholders would be in revolt.

Which, in a strange way, brings us to the acquisitions of Joe Vide and Ivan Guerrero. In baseball, the concept of Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) has been well established. It examines players not in isolation, but in comparison to what your typical backup player would do in the same position. There is much literature using VORP in the way that baseball SABRE-types can do with such facility, and which we can not, but the I want to borrow the concept if not the statistics. United's acquisitions have frequently never been baseline against the average MLS player, or the average MLS backup. That makes some sense, since United's approach to signings has frequently been to find the players to ensure excellence, not competence. The problem is that while United has searched for excellence, they've incurred a larger risk of getting either replacement-level or below replacement-level players in return. Our acquisitions have been tremendous (Gomez, Emilio, and hell, let's even throw in Gallardo and Fred despite the arguments that can ensue) or utter busts (Donnet, Filomeno, Niell). About the only time United ended up with someone who was an average player was Erpen, whom we traded away.

The issue here is at least partially one of translation. The South American market is one that does not translate as one-to-one with MLS, and so projecting out ability is difficult. We simply can't tell with a high degree of confidence how players will adapt to the MLS style of play. Period. You may get great result, crappy results, and any combination in between. And if most of your acquisitions are from South America, you're pretty much betting the dice will come up sixes multiple times in a row.

Which is why the acquisition of Vide and Guerrero is important -- it represents a shift away from the high risk/high reward theory of player acquisition that has dominated the last three years. Vide is not going to be a superstar, or likely be a replacement for Clyde Simms. What he is, however, is someone who you can evaluate in this league, and you can tell that you will get at least replacement player value from him, if not slightly better. Guerrero has more upside that that, but again, the baseline is higher for him than for signing, say, another Mattias Donnet. We can translate his performance more easily, and it won't be a complete bust. At worst, he's likely slightly better than your fungible replacement player, and at best he'll be a solid contributor. This is a mindset shift.

The season is not over, but this is the heartening sign - faced with a season where high expectations have met pervasive mediocrity, United has not tried to fill the inside straight to save the season. Instead, they've made lower risk, lower potential reward moves, but ones that serve to develop depth and provide confidence in the new players. That makes me hopeful. I think, when all is said and done, this season is likely to be viewed with more disappointment than joy, but it won't be remembered as a travesty.

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04 August 2008

Debriefing for Match 13.17: Kansas City Wizards

D.C. United 2 : 0 Kansas City Wizards

Six Word Novel Recap

Finally, the sheet is kept clean.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

UnitedMania, Chris Webb: "DC United got their first shutout of the season in MLS play behind a strong eight save effort from Zach Wells. Goals on either side of halftime from Luciano Emilio and Jaime Moreno got United back on track after a four game losing streak at RFK."
The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "United's victory also broke a four-way tie for fourth place in MLS's Eastern Conference. The Wizards (5-6-7) lost for the first time since June 14, snapping a 2-0-4 run. 'It took us until August, but better late than never,' central defender Devon McTavish said of the shutout. 'Everyone committed themselves to defending and it showed. It's a little bit of a confidence booster.'"
DCSportsBox, Abram Fox:"As much as Zach Wells would like you to think otherwise, the big story of D.C. United's 2-0 victory over the Kansas City Wizards was not Luciano Emilio's 11th goal of the season, Jaime Moreno's two-point night or the play of United's most recent acquisitions. No, the story was the end of Wells' hunt for his proverbial white whale, a shutout in MLS play." [NOTE: I totally disagree. I mean, yes, the clean sheet is the noticeable story, but "WELLS GETS FIRST SHUTOUT" is not the big story. This is not about Wells' hunt. See below.]
The Kansas City Star, Craig Stouffer [!!]: "The home team seized control in the 28th minute. After receiving a ball nodded down by Guerrero, Moreno slid a pass to Emilio in the center of the box, who turned and powered a left-footer under a sliding Jimmy Conrad and to the right of a diving Hartman. 'I thought I had it blocked,' said Conrad. 'He did well to squib it right between my legs and underneath my foot.'"
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "Burch's left foot provided the inswinging delivery from the right flank and Moreno yet again proved that guile goes a long way as he timed his movement perfectly, meeting the cross with a subtly flicked header that flew past Hartman and dropped into the twine just inside the far post. Now in possession of a 2-0 advantage, D.C. looked to salt away the result..."
Fighting Talker, Aaron Stollar: "Ivan Guerrero looked like an above-average MLS-caliber player out there…. which is such an improvement over what some of the performance recently have looked like. He added a lot defensively, and even added a bit on the attack. Overall, he looks like an enormous upgrade out there over a greenhorn like Thompson. If Guerrero can set that physical, labor-intensive tone that Olsen used to provide, it could help solve some the grit and physicality problems that United seemed to suffer from at times. That could prove crucial down the stretch." [NOTE: Without getting political, can we ever use the phrase "Mission Accomplished" ever again? Otherwise, I agree with Aaron 100%]
DCUMD, Shatz: "With apologies to Wellsy, the #1 performer in this match goes to Tom Soehn, who took a roster made of straw and spun it into gold. The straight 4-man midfield worked out surprisingly well, allowing the team to control possession for the majority of the match, and shifting the solid Namoff into central defense was the right decision here."
Down the Byline, Mike: "Yet again, the Wizards offense looked anemic, refusing to take shots until it was too late and then putting them wide or straight at the keeper. Honestly it could have been worse, but for Jamie Moreno hitting the post for DC in the first half. Minus the offensive outburst against Columbus, the Wizards have struggled to score during the run of play."
The Fullback Files, Fullback: "Despite the shutout, there were wobbles aplenty--both from the back line and from Wells in net. At no point did I ever feel confident about getting the shutout. "
BLCKDGRD, BDR: "Fred ran and played like he'd just discovered freedom, knowing he could play on his preferred side, knowing he could push forward on offense rather than cheat back on defense. This might be the true benefit of the trade, a twofer: not only does United get Guerrero, getting Guerrero might mean getting Fred back too."

The Good

  1. 0 GA: Let's get this out of the way, since it is the key thing everyone will focus on. Yes, the clean sheet is important. And yes, the defense was decent, and Wells made some good saves, especially in the 46th minute. But that's not to say this was the best defensive effort or Wells' best game. Neither is true. The shutout was preserved, at least in part, because Kansas City didn't finish well, and because United was fortunate at times. On one occasion, Wells had vacated his line, but earned a reprieve when a shot was sent directly at his thigh. On another, he was nearly chipped, and bobbled the save fortunately over the bar. Still, the good fortune combined with a better-than-average (at least, this year) effort was enough.
  2. The New Edition of the New Additions: Guerrero and Vide both showed up and played at at least MLS average replacement player levels, and that's all I wanted. That Guerrero exceeded that expectation is a bonus, and combined with the excellent play of Pat Carroll, United at least gave you a concrete reason to think the last half of the season would be better than the first half.
  3. Tom Soehn and "Win Ugly First": I'm not as expansive in my praise as either Stollar or Fullback here, but I do appreciate the mindset. United still gave up some space in the defensive third they shouldn't have, and better through balls from Kansas City would have made things more difficult, but United wasn't an easy team to play against. They weren't necessarily a hard team, but the mentality of making things difficult is one I apprecaite.
  4. Moreno: 1 Goal and 1 Assist, and he seems fresh. Thing is, he'll have to stay fresh.
  5. Emilio, the Non-Goal Scoring Moments: He's learning to pass, even with Jimmy Conrad on him at all times.

The Bad

  1. Clyde Simms: We can argue this, but it seemed like that he was a little out of position too often knowing he had help in center mid. I would have preferred to see him shut things down a bit more when Kansas City was running in the middle. Of course, the Wizards mitigated this to some degree by trying to play over the top more than they needed to.
  2. LCDR Zach Wells: I know, he gets a clean sheet, but there were two gaffes that could have been disastrous. And yes, he also saved the game on two occasions, and was better at punching balls out to midfield. We're not demoting him, so he stays at Lt. Commander, but still, he's not quite there yet.

Officiating Watch

Center official Edvin Jurisevic was not particularly good, yet there were redeeming qualities. His actual calls were all over the place, ranging from total blindness to absurd ticky-tack calls in the space of minutes. That's the bad thing, but the good was some of the calls he was willing to make. When, I believe, Moreno looked for a foul by going to the ground and grabbing the ball while on his stomach, he called Moreno for the hand-ball rather than give the foul Moreno was looking for. That's good. I appreciated that. He used cards at decent times. The problem was that his standards for a normal foul was just all over the place, and I could never figure it out. So, accordingly...

Likert Scale Rating: 2-Below Average

Man of the Match

I know. We have Wells with the Clean Sheet, but see "Bad #2". We have moreno with a goal and an assist. We have another goal for Emilio... All that being said, my man of the match is... Pat Carroll, who marked Lopez pretty well for the game, kept set pieces to a minimum, marked up well one-on-one, and played much better than anyone should have expected.

Final Thoughts

First, an apology. I had a really hectic two week schedule, and didn't make arrangements with my co-writers to cover this beat. That's on me, so please accept my apologies. It was wrong, and I feel horrible about it. I will take some time to try and catch up on some things I missed.

Second, even if this team is improved, it's hard to say that this team is good yet. A win over New York helps. A USOC win with New England will be even better. But four points on the road against Chicago and New England would be a ringing endorsement that perhaps this team will make a run at the end of the season, and survive CONCACAF Champions League Play to the elimination stage.

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02 August 2008

Match #13.17 -- Kansas City Wizards

Match #13.17 -- Kansas City Wizards

Six Word Novel Preview:
Even on points, a six-point game.

Kansas City Wizards

TV: 2 August 2008, Comcast Sportsnet, DireckKick, MLSLive.tv

Radio: WFED 1050AM, SRN

Previous Meeting:
March 29, 2008 - KC 2 - United 0

The Stakes:

Both teams sit on 22 points in the Eastern Conference, so this game could provide a six-point swing in the standings if either team manages to win. United needs to separate itself from other playoff-contenders, but to do so it must return to the form that saw them win 4 straight regular season games. Gallardo, Peralta, Quaranta, and Olsen are still out due to injury and Martinez received a red card in the Houston game.

New signing Ivan Guerrero could make his debut. If so, I'd imagine he'd start in Martinez's place. I'm not sure what the Coach's planned role for Guerrero is when the team is at full strength, but I expect that he'll be more useful in the midfield.

Previews from the MLSverse:

Weekend Preview: Contenders Clash | WVHooligan - Soccer Blog

One club hasn’t played well at home in recent weeks (both in league play and out) and the other hasn’t lost since mid-June. Its one of those classic, something has to give kind of games.

Down the Byline: Taking on the Evil Empire

3 starters, United should be ready for the taking. The problem is, I
thought that earlier this year when the Wizards took on an undermanned
New England side, and we were played off the field.

I'd like to see United reverse its current losing streak at home. How's that for understatement? But against a confident and winning KC team, its going to be very difficult. Even more so missing our DP and three other regular starters.

What to look for?
  • Who can run the offense? Will Moreno drop back into the midfield to generate the attack, or can we give Fred another shot at play-making from the center of the field? Clearly, Rod Dyachenko isn't the answer, but we have few answers here..
  • Will Guerrero start? It's a pretty tough game to make a debut in, but if he's worth a partial allocation, we should expect him to contribute from the get go.
  • What are the coach's adjustments? It'll be up to the coach to motivate a team on the skids and one that has to rely on a lot of young players. Soehn will need to make a lot of adjustments before and during the game to make sure it's lineup plays to its strengths and doesn't concede much to Kansas City.

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