30 March 2009

Debriefing for Match 14.02: Chicago Fire

D.C. United 1 : 1 Chicago Fire

Six Word Novel Recap

Is "Nyarko!" a Three Stooges exclamation?

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Times, John Haydon: "After taking an early lead and playing a strong first half, D.C. United fell victim to some lax goalkeeping and was forced to settle for a 1-1 tie against the Chicago Fire in its home opener Saturday night."
The Washington Post, Steven Goff: "Although this draw lacked the drama and controversy that overshadowed last Sunday's opener at Los Angeles, it was equally disappointing for United, which took the lead in the seventh minute on Luciano Emilio's strike but faltered defensively in the second half and yielded a 53rd-minute equalizer by former Virginia Tech star Patrick Nyarko. "
DC Sports Box, Abram Fox: "For the first 45 minutes the Black-and-Red dominated the pitch, controlling the flow of the game and winning a majority of loose balls. D.C. outshot Chicago 5-1, with Emilio’s marker the only ball to find the back of the net."
DCist, Aaron Morrisey: "The Black-and-Red's first major move of the game was a sign of that pressure: a nice through ball from Namoff found it's way to the now longer-coifed Luciano Emilio, but his cross through the box to Moreno was neutralized. A few short minutes later, Emilio applied a clinical finish at the center of the Chicago end after a great effort to wrestle possession by Ben Olsen. Calmly shooting from 20 yards away, Emilio struck firmly and beat keeper Jon Busch to his right..."
United Mania, Chris Webb: "The tide indeed did change as the Fire came out guns ablazing to start the second half. A number of defensive mistakes nearly cost United the game-tying goal but it only took eight minutes after the restart for the match to be level. Patrick Nyarko collected a fine pass from Marco Pappa and drove past defender Dejan Jakovic towards goal, but at a severe angle. United keeper Josh Wicks, filling in for injured starter Louis Crayton, mistakenly tried to come out and smother the play and the second-year striker from Virginia Tech easily passed the ball into the empty net. 'The goal that they scored, you know, he should’ve stayed in his goal,' acknowledged Soehn of his netminder."
Examiner.Com, Ed Morgan: "United's best chance to regain the lead came early in the second half, when Pontius was played in behind the Chicago defense for a 7-yard effort. But after nicely chesting the long ball down, his shot went right to Busch, who saved well. Earlier in the game, Pontius had missed high with a straight-on one-time shot in the penalty area. Pontius had an up and down game. Playing a wing in a 3-5-2, he had to get deep on the flank at times to play crosses in, but he seemed to struggle a bit in this role."
MLSNet, Chris Snear: "The Fire adjusted nicely to United's five men in the midfield, effectively marking the dangerous threesome of Christian Gomez, Jaime Moreno and Luciano Emilio out of the game in the second half."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "'It was a tale of two halves' surely ranks as one of the stalest clichés in the game of soccer...Much like the 2-0 lead against the Los Angeles Galaxy that evaporated into a 2-2 final last weekend, Saturday night's result offers Soehn plenty of teachable moments for his younger players. Dejan Jakovic endured several erratic moments in his first start at center back, but for long stretches he and his fellow newcomers supplied vigor and athleticism that complemented the savvy of veterans like Gomez and Olsen." [NOTE: I applaud any writer that recognizes a cliche is being used before then going on to use it. This is not laziness, it is self-awareness. There's a difference. Charles Boehm, I salute you.]
Goal.Com, Steven Streff: "Despite having dropped 2 points in each of its first two games, United's hopes for the season have not been lost yet. As United midfielder Clyde Simms put it, 'we are undefeated, so you can look at it that way.' So while the team may be struggling to win the games in which it is taking the lead, Simms noted that the performance was better this week."
The Fullback Files, Fullback: "Some questions for Tommy. What did you say at halftime? United were on top of the game going into the half. Chicago had only had a couple of looks while DC were controlling possession. But from the whistle to start the second half, we simply failed to answer the bell."
The Offside: DC United, Jon: "Bryan Namoff. What were you doing? I counted at least 4 or 5 times where Namoff carried the , ball way up into the attack and was caught in possession. I apologize to Bryan if Tommy was asking him to do that, but if not…c’mon."
DCUMD, Shatz: "The returns of Fred, Quaranta, Janicki, and McTavish will be a huge help, and Soehn is going to have some real tough decisions to make when he's got all of our regulars available. How do you bench Pontius after the opening he's had? I'm also thinking that we may see Jakovic fall behind Janicki, McTavish, and Burch on the defensive depth chart in no time."
QuarterVolley, I-66: "I actually felt that Olsen should have been subbed, not out of fatigue, but because he was on a yellow card and seemed like he was toeing the line between staying in the match and leaving on a 2nd yellow, especially after his exchange with Cuauhtemoc Blanco where Blanco positioned himself to allow Olsen to collide with him and went down like a ton of bricks. Center referee Mark Geiger, who seemed all night hesitant to call anything on a player in red (see: DC United fouls - 13, Chicago fouls - 6, plus 3 yellow cards for United and 0 for Chicago), motioned for Blanco to get up, and later talked to both players, presumably as a warning. Should Andrew Jacobson not have been inserted for Olsen at that point?"
And still blocked, but I will find a way, and slightly modified from the quite readable original...
BLCKDGRD, BDR: "Dig this Soehn quote: 'We gambled a little bit and were too confident in the second half. We took some chances instead of playing it safe. That shows signs of a young backline.' Sounds like a coach hanging his players, yes? Fire Tom Soehn...in an email 'Die. Die, die, die, die, die. This line confirms that, in Soehn’s fat [rutting] head, breaking out to try to score is, in fact, gambling. His implicit approval of the utter lack of “gambling”, of the game of playing it “safe” by backpassing every time they crossed midfield in strength, is [Initially, Knights of Christrianity Unified in Faithing reversed] reprehensible.' He’s a [slang word for kitten]. I’m [intercoursing] done with him."

The Good

  1. Peter Tomarken Has Good Advice: "Press Your Luck." United's first half was as truly excellent as the media reports look above. Now, we must caveat that the Fire was well and truly into their depth chart, but just because a third to a half of a team is subs is no reason to think that United will automatically have an advantage. Indeed, I seem to recall United having many games where they were owned by bit players who rarely see the field. But this United side made a lot of opportunities, especailly in the first half. And these opportunities were spread out. Gomez, Emilio, Pontius, Olsen and Doe all had decent looks at some point. We need goals, and the early indications are we should see them.
  2. Jilted McBride: While there's legitimate Angst about the back three vs. Nyarko, Brian McBride was marked out of the game. Which, if nothing else, provides some hope given that United has often been troubled by people who have a tendency to show up, relax with a lime cooler for 85 minutes and then head one or two into the goal.
  3. Wallace, Pontius: Look, I'm not ga-ga over the kids yet, but having seen them twice, do you feel bad if you see their names on the line-up next week? Not me.
  4. Wicks as a backup: Look, with Crayton out, I am willing to take Josh Wicks as a substitute. The argument that he is responsible for the goal is well made, and upon review I agree with it, but I also blame the D for letting Nyarko get behind them a few times. And yes, his muff in the dying minutes was bad and very fortunately put over the bar. But as a backup, he'll do.

The Bad

  1. Speed Kills: Mr. Nyarko is fast. Our fullbacks, all of them, are not. You can probably have changed the name of the given opposing forward for most of the last three years, and this comment is true. Mad libs, the soccer writing of the future. To be written with Dippin' Dots.
  2. Dis/join/ted: Anon from the First Impressions: "Our players seemed unfamiliar with each other. Clyde is learning to play with another defensive Mid and a rusty one with a heavy touch at that. Both are learning to play with a center back who got off the plane two weeks ago and has not seen a lot of minutes on the field in a long time. The fullbacks are working with rookies on the flanks." True, but as long as it continues, it must be noted.
  3. There is a difference between gambling and attacking: I want to point out the comments from BDR and Landru above, and agree with the underlying sentiment. This team will give up goals, no matter if they bunker and play conservatively as a Savile Row three-piece (Mr. Namoff, you get to be the coat and watch chain. Mr. Burch, you get to be the best. Mr. Janicki, you're the pants. At least for this match). This team must attack, must gamble if you want to use the term, and must score goals, because we're going to give them up. If he's referring to gambling in terms of odd tackles at midfield, then he has a point, but a point more applicable to the first half than the second.
  4. Wicks as a starter: I would like to see Louis Crayton again. You'd think the media would be asking questions about this. What's that? Ah, right. Forgot.
  5. Free Christian Gomez (By Using the Wings): Right now, I'm attributing this more to Chicago's approach to taking him out of the match than anything else. And yes, Chris Pontius should have seen the ball more, but so should Rodney Wallace, and the fact is that while Gomez seemed clearly willing to pass the ball to Chris (who was making the right runs and showing well) Rodney isn't quite as there yet. Rod, time to join the posse.

Officiating Watch

Referee Mark Geiger is getting some flack for the fould distribution. You could reasoable say it should have been 15 fould on United after a double advantage in the 29th minute. Yet here's the thing: He was right. Sure, he missed a fould here or there, or called a few things a bit sensitively, but all-in-all he was consistent and strong and I actually enjoyed all aspects of his officiating. He didn't fall for Blanco's dives, but did note when Blanco was legitimately fouled. One of the best officiating performances I have seen. If you want to complain about the foul disparity, then perhaps the reason might be that we have a coach who seems to think we can redeem 10 fouls for a goal. And here's my bet. Any match where United fouls less than their opponents, expect to hear a few words questioning the effort of the players.

Likert Scale Grade: 5 - Excellent

Karma Bank

A nice even balance transaction, as both teams traded good opportunities for balls over the bar, so we're keeping it as +1 for the season (we're still owed a lucky break at some point.)

Man of the Match

Just to piss off Jon from The Offside, I'm going Bryan Namoff. Yes, the point that he was caught in posession too often is well made, but he handled his defensive responsibilities pretty well, and how many times will I have to award MOTM to a defender this season. Mr. Namoff, step on up.

Final Thoughts

Grunthos has an excellent breakdown of the match in the First Impressions, especially looking at what Mr. Hameltt did right in terms of tactics.

Our confused play in the early second half was directly attributable to the Fire suddenly getting in people's faces and hounding the ball. We had many more turnovers in our own end, and they tested our defense pretty hard. We caught a break, oddly, when they brought on Mr. White, who clearly isn't match fit and basically killed the energy of their press and the speed of their attack.

True true true.

In terms of my final thoughts, I am still reasonably pleased by how we've come through things right now. Despite the propensity of team focused blogs to always pick their team as a winner by one goal in close matches, if I had offered predictions it would have been LA by two over DC, and Chicago by one. Houston looks to be struggling now as well, and I would love to see United finally notch all three points, but at least I feel reasonably confident in predicting a non-scoreless draw. Since I resumed my duties here, I have written that United as a team will need a third of the season to figure itself out. If nothing else, it feels that process is continuing. If, by the end of the year, we're out of the playoffs, then yes, sign my name on the FIRE SOEHN list and let's move on. And that's still a reasonable possibility. But I also am willing to accept that things might truly get better.

And not just in St. Louis.

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At 30 March, 2009 12:12, Blogger The Soccer Source said...

Chris Snear also did a match report for AmericanSoccerNews. Link here:

At 30 March, 2009 16:40, Blogger Landru said...

Thanks for the shout, D, and for imposing your gentle will on the more granular singularities of the language I chose in my email to bDr.

Which email I chose in lieu of blogging 3,000 words about the order in which I'd carve parts off Soehn's body at his very public and bloody sacrifice in Lot 8.

I know that it's not all Soehn's fault, that he's not solely responsible for player personnel, and that he didn't hurt Quaranta or Fred or Janicki or Mountaineer Boy, or cause Mila Jovovich or whoever that was in the center of the defense the other night to not bother tracking down his own vomit.

But I'm also sick of seeing the team try to sit on the ball (quite ineptly, as it turns out) for 80 minutes with a 1-goal lead, and there's a copious body of evidence that that's the playing style most distinctly associated with the Big Kitty, Tommy Soehn.

Yeah, you can have that one for free. See you down there, you know where to find me.

At 30 March, 2009 22:26, Anonymous Skippy said...

I still have no idea how this team is going to look. Honestly. I know you argued bits and pieces are starting to take shape (for the good or ill), but I still have no idea what to expect from this team or the season. Okay, so Tino and Fred haven't played and I'm not sure how they're going to blend with the team on the field. Nor has Crayton, and I have to argue, defending seemed very different with Crayton between the posts last year, so how is the defense (oh, yeah, two defenders were injured for one of the games too) going to work with Crayton and his occasional . . . zaniness? And frankly, I'm still concerned about Olsen's ankles and how does the line-up change if he is suddenly unavailable? Also, both the teams United has played have had considerable absences due to injury, national team call-up or etc.
This was a long-winded way to say this: I feel like there is a good possibility that the DCU team that plays the majority of games this year will not resemble the team that played the past two games. Sure, there may be aspects, but I feel like these games were an evaluation of the new guys and the depth, rather than the squad.

At 31 March, 2009 03:53, Anonymous savile tow said...

Teams take a while build. Have faith and look at the most successful teams in the EPL. Man UTD and Arsenal have build teams over time and waited for success to come. Sides that change management and players too often suffer.

Mind a lack of pace in your left and right backs is a worry. You need speed in those positions to succeed. Look at Ashley Cole at Chelsea and Cliche at Arsenal their speed means that add extra going forward and can recover when they need to defend


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