18 May 2009

Debriefing for Match 14.10: At C.D. Chivas USA

C.D. Chivas USA 2 : 2 D.C. United

Six Word Novel Recap

"Way to avoid losing!" Now win.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "United staged another stirring comeback Saturday night, scoring twice in the final 13 minutes to earn a 2-2 tie with Chivas USA and extend its unbeaten streak in league play to six. "
Goal.Com, Zac Lee Rig: "A goal and an assist from Santino Quaranta leveled the game at 2-2 after Chivas USA took a first half lead and looked to have all three points wrapped up."
LAist, Angel Magana: "Galindo broke in on the United goal after a missed offside call and easily beat D.C. 'keeper Louis Crayton to give the L.A. side the lead at the 25th minute. "
DailyBreeze.Com, Phil Ball: "In the 43rd minute, after Crayton had knocked away two crossing passes - including one off Braun's head - Harris sent in a cross from the left. Lillingston, charging in, beat defender Marc Burch to the ball and headed it in before Crayton could reposition himself, making it 2-0. "
UnitedMania, Chris Webb: "
United subbed in midfielder Fred to start the second half and right away the team started to press the issue. United was unable to take advantage of their new found confidence as Chivas USA’s defense held firm. Christian Gomez was the next sub to come in and he too injected a bit of life into United only to see Jaime Moreno’s semi-breakaway fall away easily when he decided to try and lay off to Emilio instead of taking the better option of going straight in on Thornton."
MLSNet, Luis Bueno: "Quaranta and Emilio combined on D.C.'s first goal as Emilio re-directed a shot from Quaranta off the left post and across the goal line. Quaranta took care of the second goal himself as he fired a shot from nearly an identical angle."
MLSNet, Jeffrey King: "'Once again, we showed the character that we've shown all year,' said United head coach Tom Soehn. 'No matter what happens, we're going to fight through adversity. Sometimes the adversity is the officiating, sometimes it's the opponent. You have to fight through it and today we did a great job of doing that.'"
DCUMD, Shatz: "The more I watch Dejan Jakovic, the more he looks like a top level MLS center back. Yet we give up two or more goals in virtually every match. It sure feels like our back line is better than what we had last year, but that isn't showing in our goal's against column."
Fullback Files, Fullback: "...questions will have to be asked of Soehn about starting Olsen. Maybe if Jacobson was fully fit, he would have started regardless, but you just hope Benny didn't set himself back a couple of weeks by trying to go for this match."
BLCKDGRD, BDR: "Stirring comebacks are going to end eventually. I'd like United win 0-2 on the road for a change, win 2-0 at home for a change. Stirring comebacks give a team confidence, give ruby fans like me enthusiasm, but needing a string of stirring comebacks is as bad a sign as good, yes? "

The Good

  1. Going for it all the way: If, in the past, I have written in anguish about Tom Soehn packing it in, especially on the road, I must take it back here. United did come out to play this match, perhaps knowing that Chivas was too good not to score at some point, and knowing that it would be damned difficult to come from behind. That United managed to come from behind anyways is, at least, partially a product of attacking early. This team knew what was working in attack, and pressed it harder the second half.
  2. Santino Quaranta: A goal and an assist is a good evening, but the nature of both were excellent. The cross in to Emilio was a classic dangerous ball even had Chivas been able to get a foot on it. The goal, which despite Gomez's protestations I'm pretty sure was Tino's alone, was excellently placed. Tino's season seems to get better as time goes on.
  3. Dejan Jakovic: Really, he was placed in intense pressure, and held up. It is very conforting to see. I want to see more of Janicki, but I also realize that Dejan was won the role he has now, and you just can't sit him down.
  4. Fred: It could have been coincidental that his substitution for Pontius (who had a decent, but not stellar match) led to start of United turning the heat back up. It could have been, but Fred was doing quite a bit of good posession and short passing work. He was holding balls exactly where Pontius was having trouble, and for that alone he deserves a rare call out this season on the good side.

The Bad

  1. Louis Crayton, You're Not Getting that Call: Mark Geiger was more than willing to let incidental contact go from the first whistle. So even after legitimately taking an elbow in the box that should have been ruled a foul, you need to get back up again. Which Louis did, but only after flopping for a good four seconds, a four seconds he needed back.
  2. The Ben Olsen Start, and the Ben Olsen Injury: Bootsy from the comments: "Put simply, even if Klestjan was playing, even if playing w/o Olsen meant we had only a 1% chance of coming away with any kind of a result, you *still don't play him*. Getting a result in this match was never so important that it was worth sacrificing Olsen for a month or more -- something eminently predictable from past history." This is not even old history, this is last season. United had a dependence on old players at pretty much every position. And the injuries and missed games killed United. If anything, this entire season has been somewhat of a reaction to last season, and rightfully so. To miss that for this game is utterly ridiculous. And, what's more, this comes after the Clyde Simms substitution debacle from earlier in the year. At this point, it's hard to see how this doesn't become a running trend.
  3. Christian Gomez: Just as I wrote above how it wasn't coincidental how Fred improved United, I think it is something coincidental for Gomez. He didn't seem to provide anything that hadn't previously been on the field. Yes, you see the substitution, and yes, the minute marker for the sub is before the two goals, but I don't see any causation there.

Officiating Watch

So, we know the AR missed the call that led to the first Chivas goal. And Mark Geiger didn't call Crayton getting fouled in the box. So I should be livid, but I am not. Geiger's call was completely consistent with the rest of his match officiating, so his own performance would rate a "3 - Average" I'm knocking it down one point based entirely on the AR performance.

Likert Scale Grade: 2 - Below Average

Karma Bank

According to my unpublished notes, United burned one karma in Toronto when the hand ball against Wynne was called. Not that it wasn't the right call, but it is a call that United was still fortunate to receive. Now, United could have lost this match, or won it, so the karma is pretty much free to go in any direction. But given how the first goal of the game so clearly shook things up, it's hard for me to say that it doesn't merit the full change from a 1 point draw to a three point win, so I'm going to say that Karma bit us for two points in this match. With a 2 point defecit, we have paid back the previous fortune received. +2 for the game, EVEN for the season.

Man of the Match

You want me to pick to Tino. I do too, but ultimately I'm not awarding a MOTM for this game. Yes, Tino had moments, but the defense also did well in conceding only one legitimate goal. The comeback was spurred throughout the field, so I will instead award Merit to Tino, Jakovic, Fred, and Tom Soehn for the style of play and second half moves. Notes of Censure to Crayton, Burch, Namoff, and Soehn, for the move of starting Ben Olsen in a bad position.

Final Thoughts

What does depth for this team truly mean? There was a long discussion at the Untied Mania podcast on whether Tom Soehn knows what his Best XI are. In my mind, he should purposefully never think that way until August. Injuries, suspensions... something will change it, and if you get set on a best XI you may not have the mental flexability necessary to adjust to adversity. Instead, keep the rotation on, keep the roster moving. It may alienate someone at some point, but the wheel turns all the time. By the playoffs you can have the luxury of determining of the best XI, but not now.

Further, while United has depth in terms of numbers, I'm not sure that equals depth in terms of talent. We have a lot of players that are viable starters, but not a lot of players that you can consider prime players at any position. Moreno has had both good and bad games, Emilio may be less streaky than in years past but can also be taken out of a game, our midfield, much as I love Benny, does not strike me as fantastic, our backline is acceptable at best, people are worried about the keeper situation, and our rookies are fine, but not worldbeaters. We have depth in terms of players that are average to good, but no one I would say is in the top 5% of MLS players right now. We may see more players at positions because no United player is truly dominant at any position, to the point of being an everyday starter. I think that's important to remember. It isn't, to may way of thinking right now, a bad thing at all. But we see competition, in part, because our best is not as clearly better as other teams, either within the squad or in comparison to those teams.

As for resiliency, well, if nothing else I will take it. Keep the ridiculous stat going:

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At 18 May, 2009 19:53, Anonymous Grunthos said...

Somehow, I had forgotten Janicki was on our roster. So we could set up a 4-4-2 with two real center backs. I wouldn't advocate that, but we could do it.

At 18 May, 2009 22:14, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm still amazed we've only lost a single game so far

At 19 May, 2009 00:29, Blogger Oscar M. said...

I'd have to say our rookies are a bit better than fine, if only because most years we don't have one, let alone two, that have contributed so much out of the gate.

At 19 May, 2009 08:10, Blogger Fullback said...

"We have depth in terms of players that are average to good, but no one I would say is in the top 5% of MLS players right now."

Which begs the question: why are we paying some of these guys like they are in the top 5%? A quarter of our cap space is taken up by Fred and Gomez alone...

At 19 May, 2009 09:22, Anonymous Bootsy said...

It doesn't beg the question. It raises the question. Begging the question is the act of implicitly assuming what you're trying to prove.

The situation with Gomez isn't *quite* that bad -- remember that the Rapids are still paying part of his salary. But your point is a valid one, and arguably could be extended to Jaime and Emilio, both of whom get paid *by us* more than Fred and Gomez (in Emilio's case, much more). I guess the short answer comes in the form of a question: who could we get who would 1) do a better job, 2) would be a positive figure in the locker room and on the training field, 3) is available right now to us, and 4) would cost less? Because if we were to dump any of them, we'd need to replace them.

At 19 May, 2009 09:34, Blogger Bob Z. said...

I think Gomez provided an additional threat that Chivas had to consider which opened up space for other players, Quaranta and Fred in particular.

As far as star players, Emilio is currently tied for second in the league with 5 goals - not too shabby at the point in the season.

Even more surprising to me, Quaranta is tied for first in the league (with Blanco) in assists with five. He is definitely emerging as top flight MLS player.

At 19 May, 2009 09:59, Blogger D said...

Ooooh! Grammar War! Sweet. One of my other hidden passions, though from my writing you would never know it.

I suppose, when thinking about this team, that it works right now at these salary levels for right now. It is working, but is probably not a sustainable model. But that just means the model has to change in future seasons.

My point about top 5% can be summarized in this way: Put aside intangibles like chemistry, leadership, potential for growth, historic significance to the team -- Is there any player that has started for United that you couldn't think of two other players you'd trade straight up for?

Now, the intangibles do matter, the chemistry is important, but on a pure academic ability question as of today, I think that not a single United player would make this years MLS Best XI.

At 19 May, 2009 11:40, Blogger rke said...

on a pure academic ability question as of today, I think that not a single United player would make this years MLS Best XIHmm... Not sure I agree. But I am sure that I don't really care.

Not to be cliche, but we win or lose as a team. I'll take the broad level of consistent talent that we have over an inconsistent team with a couple "top 5" players. LA has proved how well that model works.

The constraints on building a team in MLS force these choices, and I think we've learned from last year's experiment that the so-called intangibles are much more important.

As for salaries... I don't begrudge anyone's paycheck as long as they're doing what they've been hired to do.

At 19 May, 2009 15:23, Blogger D said...

RKE: I agree with your cliche point. In fact, that's why I was trying to put it aside to make a different point. We have depth as a team, but also due to a lack of outliers. That's not a bad thing, per se, just something that's interesting.

At 19 May, 2009 21:28, Blogger Fullback said...

Not having an identifiable star or two to focus on also makes this team less vulnerable to mid-Naughts, Fire-style "kick the talent into submission" tactics.

On a side note, I learned long ago that Grammar Wars only lead to heartache and high blood pressure for all the sorry souls huddled in the trenches, particularly those married to English teachers (smiles ruefully). So I'll cheerfully wave the white flag, shrug, and mutter something snide about usage shifts and leaving language pedantry to the French ;-).

At 20 May, 2009 06:37, Blogger Kevin said...

"Way to avoid losing!" Now win.

I love it!

At 20 May, 2009 07:43, Anonymous Bootsy said...

Olsen out 3-4 weeks, announced last night.

Hopefully this time, it'll be 3-4 weeks PLUS SOME TIME TO GET FIT AFTERWARDS.


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