27 April 2009

Debriefing for Match 14.06: At New York Red Bulls

New York Red Bulls 2 : 3 D.C. United

Six Word Novel Recap

Good day for DC in Nuyawk.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The New York Post, Brian Lewis: "The Red Bulls _ and the MetroStars before them _ have specialized in heartbreaking defeats in their history, but few have been as stunning or as maddening as today's collapse"
The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "A 90-degree afternoon on unforgiving artificial turf had taken its toll on mind, body and soul, and considering United's futility on the road the past year, a draw with the New York Red Bulls might have been sufficient...Pontius had just enough left to pounce on a loose ball and score from seven yards in the first minute of added time -- United's second goal in 1 minute 42 seconds -- to cap a stirring comeback and provide a 3-2 victory before 10,303 sun-scorched spectators. "
Goal.Com, Steven Streff: "...when the game needed some drama, United stepped up and delivered a goal in the 21 minute. Bryan Namoff played a long ball up from the back, and Quaranta was able to beat the New York offside trap. After controlling the ball in the box, Quaranta sent a cross to the far post, and Wallace was able to slide in and finish the cross, for his first ever MLS goal, which gave United the 1-0 lead."
NY Daily News, Michael Lewis: " ...the Bulls rebounded behind second-half sub Jorge Rojas before an announced crowd of 10,303. Rojas set up both goals - Angel's header in the 68th minute and Dane Richards rebound conversion off a save of Angel's header in the 74th minute. 'Then the wheels came off,' Conway said. "
MLSNet, Dylan Butler: "In the 90th minute, Pontius switched fields, finding Quaranta, who played a sublime first-time volley across the goal where Luciano Emilio tapped home the equalizer...Less than two minutes later, D.C. struck for the winning goal, capitalizing on a defensive breakdown between Jon Conway and Alfredo Pacheco, who both froze as Thabiso (Boyzzz) Khumalo pounced on Marc Burch's long ball and attempted a shot. The ball found Pontius, who knocked it into the open net for the winner in the first of three minutes of second-half stoppage time."
MLSNet, Dylan Butler: "'I've got no words to describe this defeat,' Red Bulls midfielder Jorge Rojas said through a translator. 'We are professional soccer players. It can't be. We weren't smart to hold the ball, put the ball on the ground, kill the pace of the game, try to slow down.'"
Soccer By Ives, Ives Galarcep: "If there were a crisis prevention hot-line for New York Red Bulls fans (and let's face it, there should be one after 13 years of agony), the phones would be ringing off the hook after Sunday's embarrassing late-game meltdown. The Red Bulls were winning 2-1, in complete control, then they let up and D.C. United made them pay."
UnitedMania, Rafael Crisostomo: "Hasta allí todo era jorgorio y festejo de victoria adelantada en la escuadra newyorquina y lo peor sin mirar que los minutos no se acababan. Craso error taurino, DC United habiá puesto mucho sudor en este reto y sin duda no iba a claudicar hasta el pitazo final.. DC United se fue arriba con todo el aliento que les quedaba y el resto es historia con sabor a hazaña capitalina. ¡Qué manera de voltear un partido en el aliento final! Dos goles sacados de quién sabe donde con esa alma de ganador que solo infunde el amor propio."
DCUMD, Shatz: "I would have started Pontius at forward and Quaranta at CAM, Tom Soehn did the opposite, and it seemed to work out perfectly. Two of his substitutes Barklage and Khumalo made a big impact. But we gave up two goals during the fifteen minutes that Soehn switched the team from a 3-5-2 to a 4-4-2. In that formation, with Burch at LCB and Wallace at LB, and without Olsen on the field anymore, DC was at its weakest."
The Offside: New York Red Bulls, Dave Martinez: "Let me tell you a story. It was hot out. Really, really hot. I was sitting 2nd row midfield the entire game. 89th minute hits and I say to myself, 'Dave, you have suffered enough. Why not retreat yourself to the shade by the exit door, take in the rest of the game from there, and mad dash to the car once the Bulls win it?' And a plan was hatched. No sooner that I get half way up the section, I here a collective groan from the '10,000' fans in attendance. Yup, that was Emilio juking Pacheco on the flank, and sinking one past Conway. Seconds later, when a cross finds space in the area, and ultimately, a home in the Red Bull net, I downed my water and head to the door. What more can be done at that point?This is one of the most painful losses the Bulls have endured in quite some time."
Fullback Files, Fullback: "Not a match for the purist. Follow the bouncing ball. So should we blame the basketball court surface? The 100+ degree temps on the field? Both? There was an awful lot of head tennis and long ball madness, though that much had to be expected. Any time either side attempted to get the ball down and play, they surface conspired against them. No wonder every goal came from balls over the top or crosses."
We Love DC, Tom Bridge: "What’s that, New York? Is that the sound of crying I hear? Perhaps gnashing of teeth for ruining your weekend? Excellent. Just what were going for."

And finally...

BLCKDGRD, BDR: "But Wallace on the left-wing is a revelation offensively - this is the widest United team since Josh Gros." [Um, is that damning with faint praise? Whatever, the thought is sincere, and true.]

The Good

  1. Keep in Touch I: The concern, for me, was about the first ten matches of this season. With nearly 2/3 of that stretch done, United is still within 3 points of the top of the Eastern Conference. As a big picture view, that's closer than I expected them to be, and a reminder that draws are better than losses, and wins cover a lot of ground.
  2. Keep in Touch II: Chris Pontius seems adept at managing to head a long ball, say, from a goal kick, forward in midfield onto an attacker like Emilio. I do not recall the last time United was actually able to execute this play with anything like consistency. It amazes me every time I see it, and it happened on at least three occasions. This is a small thing, but in a game that was dominated by what happened with long ball over the top distribution, a critical one.
  3. Santino Quaranta: Since his return to DC, this was his most threatening match to date. He tried to set up Olsen, he set up Emilio and Wallace, and while his attempted lob of Conway in the first half ended up not particularly close, it was the right decision. His assist to Wallace was almost a reproach to Chris Pontius. Tino may have been shooting, but if so he made the right shot again by putting the ball low and to the far post, where Wallace or even Pontius could have a chance at it.
  4. Those Who Have Legs, Used Them: The final goal, which was all about a very long run from Boyzzz, whose errant shot fortunately found a similarly long sprint from Chris Pontius, was exhausting to watch in the 92nd minute. That anyone on the team could even think about that sprint was something I haven't seen from, say, Jamil Walker in 2005. That Chris, as tired as he was, finished without putting the ball over the crossbar is a huge relief. Can you imagine the howl if he hand't. By finishing, he regains the status of co-golden boy rookie with Wallace.
  5. Go to the Net: On the first two goals, we saw a lot of players making runs at the net. The first saw Wallace and Pontius both making runs (Wallace to the far post, Pontius as a late arrive coming to the spot). The second goal was more impressive. As Pontius switches fields, Emilio starts to make his move away to the net. Normally, I would expect to see United settle a ball like that, but Quaranta volleys the cross to Emilio, who started his run at the right time to nudge the ball by Conway. Easily the best team goal of the match, but also a surprise to see how well United was making those runs.
  6. Rodney Wallace's Midfield Defense: It was hacktastic, but at the same time, it was tight. He should have had a yellow for persistent infringement by about the 20th minute (about the time he got the "No More" signal) but it was nice to see him playing his marker so tough. If he can improve the technique, I feel a lot more comfortable with him there in front of Marc Burch.

The Bad

  1. Those Who Didn't Have Legs, Didn't: The heat was affecting a lot of players. Clyde Simms looked beat about 2/3 of the way into the match. Emilio was intensley exhausted (though he did fight through it). The back line also seemed to slow up.
  2. Louis Clayton Off the Line: Grunthos wants to caution against too much Louis Clayton bashing, and he's right. But Anonymous later gets to what the concern is. Crayton's keeping was generally solid when it came time to make a save, but his control of the box was extremely suspect. He missed two crosses, once even making the correct decision to punch the ball out of the box but then missing by a good two feet. His save on Angel's free kick early in the game was not easy, and the decision to push the ball over the ball rather than risk a hard rebound was right. Still, there always seems to be at least one aspect of Crayton's game that's concerning in each match. His control is good, but his saves aren't. His saves are good, but the control is lacking. He's got both down, but his distribution is strange and he's wandering out 40 yards. All the aspects of a great game are there, but have yet to combine.
  3. Moving up the Field: I wrote about this yesterday, and still feel the same way. United, when attempting to transition, frequently pushed the ball wide before attempting to move forward, rather than using a wide ball to open up a defense. I'm not sure if this was a tactical decision, to bypass midfield in some way, or a result of Pontius not being where Gomez normally would be, or what, but as a result with the ball on the flank in United's defensive half, the high pressure from New York was more effective as it constricted potential mobility and passing lanes.
  4. Rodney Wallace's Defensive Defense: I'm not sure how this is a long term plan. While I understand wanting to make room for a Boyzz or a Barkledge, Wallace does not make me comfortable at left back, seeming to be indecisive on when to go at an attacker and when to simply contain him.

Officiating Watch

Aside from Wallace escaping yellow for persistent infringement, referee Steven DePiero's calling was mistifying. Again, I was not sure what a fould was, and to me the bias was in favor of New York on the majority questionable calls. However, he did let play continue when Ben Olsen stood his ground in the box like a Duke center looking for a charge (a play that ultimately ended with a United shot off the cross bar.) While I was happy with the result, it seems clear to me that while Olsen was clearly standing his ground, he made no effort to play the ball, and I've seen calls given for less. I think the right call was to play on. Still, that call in favor of United pales to the noncall on Emilio being pushed from behind in the box, which should have resulted in a penalty. Ultimately, I am left unsatisfied.

Likert Scale Grade: 2 - Below Average

Karma Bank

We have a neutral karma balance entering this match. And in a match that could have resulted in a loss, win, or draw for United, it seems like karma burn could be all over the place. However, United gets the win, which means there is no chance Untied earned any karma, so what do we do? United earned one point on the second goal, and that goal was a strong play all the way around, so no karma burn for going from 0 points to 1. So how about from 1 to 3 points? Well, the collapse of New York was fortunate, so that should be a burn of 2 points to get us to the win. But I'm going to say that United was previously owed one karma for the combination of the shot off the post in the first half combined with the outstanding hustle from Pontius and Boyzzz for the goal. In my mind, we burn 1 karma for this game, putting us at -1 for the season.

Man of the Match

Santino Quaranta was extremely dangerous. Two assists, two near goals, and a strong performance up top as a legitimate forward option. Certificate of Merit to Chris Pontius and (2 assists), Rodney Wallace (1 goal), and Bryan Namoff. Censure? Hmm... Clyde Simms is a bit worrisome and the yellow he took seemed unnecessary, Ben Olsen's Left Foot is not about to put anyone in trouble, Fred was provided opportunties but seemed unsure about what to do with them, and while people are talking about the how Barklage made an impact, I'm not sure I understand what it was. So no note of censure to Barklage, just if someone can tell me what he did as a sub that was so good, as I apparently missed it.

Special Certificate of Merit to Tom Poti.

Final Thoughts

There are games that you steal that you have no business winning. One of the thing I was trying to write in the first impressions was that this was not one of those games. New York never, at any point, had a consistent game going for them. This was a game of moments, not a game of cohesive narrative, and as a result New York was providing moments for DC. So while DC does steal this match, it is only because New York practically invited them to do so. I mean, you're in New York, right? Who goes around leaving the keys in the ignition of their Aston Martin DB9, with the door open, and loudly announces "Well, I'm off for a few hours, I know I can trust you fine fellows of the boroughs not to try anything. Toodles!" You know better New York. Or you should. I'm glad you didn't.

And let's see: National take down the Mets in a rout for the Nats first road win. Caps take down the Rangers in a must win game at MSG. And United gets its first road win against New York. This is not likely to happen again, so I am happy it happened at all.

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At 27 April, 2009 13:11, Blogger rob said...

Maybe this is just me not paying careful enough attention in the past, but I would think about giving an award for "most improved player" to Emilio, who is now not only scoring goals but working extremely hard to track back, win the ball, and/or hold the ball against two-three defenders. The ability to draw two defenders, hold them off, and play the ball in a way that (to a player who) takes advantage of the extra defender he is drawing is huge. I'm not saying he never did it before for DCU, but it seems like he's much improved this season.

At this point, I think I worry much, much more about losing Emilio to injury than Moreno/Gomez, despite the quality they bring when they're on.

At 27 April, 2009 13:52, Blogger Bob said...

Here is my theory:

For me, RBNY is a terrible, terrible team. So why do they have five points instead of, say, zero? Teams will be successful against RBNY depending on whether or not they play down to the level of skill that RBNY is putting on the field. I watched the Thursday Night primetime game at KC and saw it to be true then. DCU as well got bogged down in some low quality soccer after 1-0 and as a result let in a couple of goals. (here’s a hint: be sure to mark a team’s MVP, ie, S. Joseph and J.P. Angel!) The stoppage time comeback may have been about hustle and karma, but in a wider view, and for the purpose of my theory, I’d like to think that it was United waking up and thinking about quality soccer, for a change.

At 27 April, 2009 15:03, Anonymous Grunthos said...

Following up on Crayton: ITA. To my view, he has established that he is an acceptable MLS starter. He has not established that he will ever be anything better than that, despite the athletic talent, because of these inconsistencies from match to match. And with a guy in his prime who has failed to secure a long-term starting job with several clubs to date (despite being regularly involved in international play), I suspect what we have seen so far is what we are going to get.

Hypothetical FM ratings for Crayton (keeping in mind their 20 point scale is not linear, the distance from 11-15 is larger than the distance from 5-10):

Agility 18, Jumping 16 (super-springy)

Reflexes 12 (I don't find Louis's reaction time to be anything special, he's just a really fast mover once he does react)

Aerial Ability 10 (Jumps high, but not particularly solid at claiming the balls he reaches)

Command of Area, Positioning, Anticipation, Communication, One-on-ones, Handling all at unspectacular ratings (9-13 range)

Composure 9

Bravery 15

Eccentricity 20 (Not sure I could name a keeper more willing to make strange, strange plays)

Consistency... 5?

No big holes in his game, but like the proverbial box of chocolates, you never know...

At 27 April, 2009 15:08, Anonymous BDR said...

I wish I had appreciated Gros more before he had to quit. It took his absence and United's struggle on that wing for me to understand the importance of what he contributed.


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