13 April 2009

Debriefing for Match 14.04: At Real Salt Lake

Real Salt Lake 2 : 1 D.C. United

Six Word Novel Recap

United plays to not win. Doesn't.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, The Goffather: "United showed promising signs again Saturday, going ahead for the fourth straight game, but by halftime the lead was gone, and when Javier Morales scored in the 80th minute, D.C. was headed for a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake before an announced crowd of 11,793 at rainy Rio Tinto Stadium. "
Desert News, James Edwards: "RSL was forced to fight for 90 minutes against a quality opponent in sloppy conditions, but somehow the players found a way to get the job done even when a draw or even a loss seemed inevitable"
Examiner.Com [DC], Ed Morgans: "United got a goal in the 38th minute from Luciano Emilio - his third of the season - when he headed home a well-placed cross by Chris Pontius from the right side. The goal was one of just two shots on target for United all night long."
Examiner.Com [Utah], Brian Shaw: "Real Salt Lake would answer quickly, however, doing the only thing that seemed to be working offensively for them in the first half, and that’s swinging the ball wide to onrushing midfielders. Will Johnson raced down the left flank, crossing a perfect ball into the middle of the six-yard box, where Jamison Olave awaited, redirecting the cross past the wobbly hands of D.C. goalkeeper Louis Crayton to tie the match at 1-1 going into halftime."
Goal.Com, Randy Davis: "In the 62nd-minute defensive substitute Raphael Cox whipped in a cross from the left wing that Findley was able to get his head on, but the ball popped straight up in the air. Findley was able to head the ball again as it came down, but the ball went well wide of the goal. Findley had another great chance off of a pass over the top by Nat Borchers a minute later, but couldn’t get a shot off with any power as the defender caught up to him and nudged him off the ball. Real Salt Lake was the aggressor from that point on as DC United appeared content to play for the draw."
MLSNet, John Coon: "RSL finally found its game-winner in the 80th minute when Kyle Beckerman tried to find Robbie Findley on a long pass to the top of the box. The ball deflected off Findley somewhat, but Javier Morales -- who trailed him -- managed to track it down. He sliced a shot right past Crayton to give Real their first lead -- an advantage the team never relinquished."
UnitedMania, Chris Webb: "United didn’t mount much of an attack after that energy draining goal and their game long tactic of playing for the draw fizzled out and resulted in United’s fourth loss in a row in the state of Utah (three of which ended in 2-1 losses)."
MLSNet, Jeremy Horton: "Early in the second half, D.C. enjoyed a fair amount of possession, but had trouble turning that possession into scoring chances... Added Soehn: 'I don't think we created enough in the final third.'"
Fullback Files, Fullback: "Gomez looked more active than in the previous matches, at least in the parts of the match I saw. That's encouraging. Where he fell flat on his face for me was in dead ball situations. I'm well and truly aware of the DC United Corner Kick Curse, but come on! At least get the ball high enough to clear the first defender, won't you? By contrast, RSL always looked like they were a danger from corners and free kicks."
RSLBoz, Truhlk: "With the rainy conditions and the ref not making much of an effort to keep up with the run of play, the second half turned into a very ugly game of soccer."

The Good

  1. Luciano Emilio, Starting with a Streak: At four matches into the season, Emilio is currently sitting second in the league with three goals. The thing about Emilio is that you can tell when he's feeling good, and you can tell early when he's feeling bad. Right now he looks very good, and a combination of Pontius and Emilio on United's best worked goal as a team this season was a very nice move.
  2. Christian Gomez Will Pass to X, Where X is a young D.C. United player: Remember the "Jaime won't pass to Freddy", "Christian won't pass to Freddy" discussions of yesteryear? There was always some truth to those arguments, though not as much as the makers of those arguments pretended. What I like this season is that I don't have any sense of that at all, this team is willing to play everyone in at the appropriate time. Which is good, since the last thing we need is to tie one or two hands behind our backs. Bootsy in the first impressions wondered aloud at "Why the merit for Gomez?" This is why -- if his job is to run the offense, this is the first match where he really seemed involved at using all of the tools at his disposal.
  3. Marc Burch: After criticizing him early in this season, a more stay-at-home Burch did well against RSL. Both goals had attacks down United's right flank, and while Burch perhaps should have helped cover on the first goal, his blame is tertiarary as opposed to primary. For the most part, this was his best game as a defender (as opposed to a set piece taker) that he's had. Part of that was the quality of opposition, but overall I was pleased.
  4. Jakovic = Erpen: My poor spelling from the First Impressions decide, remember that one thing Erpen did very well was recover. I frequently remember him making a ridiculously poor pass to an opposing defender, but then recovering with a difficult tackle to atone for his mistake. Jakovic has that same ability to recover.

The Bad

  1. Christian Gomez, Dead Ball Specialist: Several places will note that Christian Gomez's corner kicks were fairly atrocius. They were. I count three that didn't clear the first defender, your count may vary. Also, how does Gomez pick up a yellow for dissent? Shouldn't that be the Captain's job?
  2. Louis Crayton: Ah, we were all worried about him wandering about on the field like an absent-minded greek philosopher in a bath towel, and now he gives up a goal by pushing a ball into the side netting (that'd be the wrong side netting from our perpective).
  3. Playing for the Draw: Here's what I want you to think about, and it's important that you do. Playing for the Draw is a Conventional Wisdom tactic, one that United fans that lived through the Rongren and Hudson years can well remember. If Tom Soehn decides to not play for the draw, but to go for the win, then he is likely to give up more goals, and consequently may lose several games where we can say "Why didn't Tom Soehn play it safe?" So if we're going to criticize the play for the draw, or play safe with the one goal lead strategy, we must be willing to accept the consequences of letting some games, and some points, get away from United. Now, there's a potential compromise -- Play safe with the lead, but don't be happy with the draw. I can get behind that. Just so long as we're consistent, right?
  4. Jakovic = Erpen:Where Erpen would simply distribute poorly, Jakovic tends to have difficulty on anything in the air, a huge liability for the single central back of a 3-5-2. Now, he's young, which helps, so perhaps Jakovic's huge problem can be tought out of him. This is a positioning problem, not a brain-fart problem. I tend to think training can help more with the former, and a psychologist more with the latter.
  5. Rodney Wallace: While I've been mostly positive, his poor touch on Emilio's back heel made me cry. What I think excites people, including me, about Rodney are his attacking instincts, his willingness to make some smart runs off the ball. What's frustrating is the execution of the same when the ball comes.
  6. Francis Doe, Santino Quaranta, Come from Behind Subs: One thing that we still haven't seen this year is what happens to United if they give up the first goal. Now, ten minutes is not a particularly long time to see how a team will respond to being down a goal, but can you say you were comforted in any way? Doe for Gomez (and moving Pontius back into the middle) did not seem to be particulary effective. Tino seemed marginally better, but if I rate players, I doubt I would have rated either. There just was nothing going on.
  7. Clyde Simms, On-Field Leader and Captain: There is a place for a cerebral leader, typically on a young team that's impulsive and undisciplined. However, on a team with Moreno up top, earnest rookies like Pontius and Wallace who seem to be focusing on keeping their heads down, and Bryan Namoff in the back, Ben Olsen's fire seems like the appropriate leader, one who'll yap and step up and play the role of a larger ego on the field. Clyde, and I love Clyde, is just too quiet. He needed to be the one yapping at Kevin Stott, not Christian Gomez. He needed to be the one to bring the fire with Ben Olsen out. Clyde's a capable player, and I can see him credibly as a leader, just not sure he's right to be the leader on this team at any given point.

Officiating Watch

I was all set to give Kevin Stott a positive rating, but the more I think about it, the more I think he may have been a tad trigger happy on the early yellow to Javier Morales. The Wingert and Borcher yellows both seemed legitimate as cynical fouls. For the most part, I feel pleased with the officiating this season. Really. That's kind of stunning.

Likert Scale Grade: 3 - Average

Karma Bank

Was United unlucky to lose the point at any time? Not particularly. In fact, United may have been fortunate that Salt Lake didn't notch a second or third goal earlier. As a result, had United earned a draw or win, there would have been a karma transaction, but with the loss the account was settled in the game. No change, +1 for the season.

Man of the Match


Final Thoughts

It is interesting to think that a DC fan with Fox Soccer Net will now have seen twice as many Washington Freedom games on TV than United games. I have no commentary on whether this is fitting or not, it's just a side note. I'm sure others have noted this already. CSN is, I am sure, keeping their schedule open for the Caps post-season run, and more power to them.

I still feel the same about this match as I did when it occured -- Ah, there you are 2-1 loss. You're overdue.

The interesting thing about New England this Friday is that New England seems to be the kind of team that United wants to be. Get a goal early, lock it down. They probably will do that better than anyone else in the league this year. When looked at it from this perspective, the idea of giving up an early goal is chilling.

So, as a fan, here's what I say. If United starts cautious, then so be it. But if they get an early goal themselves, or the match stays level, it is time to throw caution to the wind, right? I mean, really, do we want to be the Revolution?

And doesn't this make the Revolution the most poorly named team in the league? If anything, they conservativeness is shocking, it would be like the people rose up and asked, no demanded, that khakis and polo shirts be our national uniform and that we all allocate 6% of our pre-tax earnings to our IRAs. A revolution of young Republicans. Steve Nicol, as played by David Spade.

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At 13 April, 2009 14:25, Anonymous I-66 said...

My concern regarding Emilio is finding someone to pick up the slack when he eventually goes cold. There is a glut of guys who create goals more than score them these days, so someone's going to need to run with the torch.

At 13 April, 2009 17:41, Blogger rke said...

If Tom Soehn decides to not play for the draw, but to go for the win, then he is likely to give up more goals...

I'm not convinced this is true. When we go defensive and play for the draw, we end up pulling the play into our half for an agonizing bout of frantic defense and high-school clears to no one. Rinse and repeat.

DCU looks to me to fit into the 'best defense is a good offense' mold. I'd rather see us keep the play in the midfield, keep the threat up top, and kill the clock away from our own box.

That may not be conventional or conservative, but I think it would suit this particular team better -- even when trying to hold onto a lead or a tie.

At 16 April, 2009 00:57, Anonymous Bootsy said...

I'm going to need to watch the match again. It's always unpleasant to do that when it's a frustrating loss like this one was, but I really didn't get the same impression of Gomez' play as you did. But my impressions from watching the live match are often way off base -- I'll watch something after time has passed and see it very differently -- so I should give it a try here.


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