17 May 2009

First Impressions -- Chivas USA 2 : 2 D.C. United

This is officially ridiculous. United down two goals with 15 minutes remaining, and for the first time this season I actually am thinking "Yeah, but they've come back before from this." Which, if one believes in tempting fate and what not, is exactly when United shouldn't come back. Except, of course, Emilio flips one to the far post, then Tino screams one in from long distance, and United come out of L.A. with a point. And United is the first team to hang a crooked number on Chivas all season.

What's more, of any match this season, this was the match for United to pack it in and throw the pity party. Chivas's first goal was offside. Close? Sure, but we pay linesman to get the call right when it is close, not to screw it up. Then, United has a second goal when Mark Geiger does not call what should have been a clear elbow to Louis Crayton. Two goals that could be put on the officials (the first clearly, the second debatable). Isn't that when you just throw in the towel? Last year, I would have watched the second half in stony faced depression, knowing that we were screwed and there was nothing to be done. Yet this United team fights it all the way back to square. Amazing.

I don't think this can continue all season. Really, I don't. But it's there when we need it, and that's enough.

Now, a word on the officiating. There's a theory that on officiating that "all I ask is that the referee is consistent." Consider this an acid test, as Mark Geiger was fantastically consistent, and very, very loose. To me, it was an acceptable officiating job over all. But is that the right standard? Not sure.

We now have another U.S. Open Cup match, and the match I consider the key to this month against RSL. It is a team that is worth watching all the way through, for every minute. Make sure you pad those TiVo times by 30 minutes... just in case.

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At 17 May, 2009 02:08, Blogger Kinney said...

I posted the following on BigSoccer, but I want to get your thoughts on it D.

Okay I know we have grit and toughness to fight back on the road. But I think something else is at play...we have depth. This game, and a few others remind me of what happens when we play Mexican teams in the Superliga or CCC. In those games we go up by one at home, then in the 70th min. after we are gassed and forced to make subs our play drops off but the other team's does not and they tie it up.

I think that is part of what we are doing to MLS teams this year, combined with some DC swagger and a bite that wasn't there last season. I am not saying that we will compete better in the CCC, we still give up too many soft goals (espeically at home), but I think our depth is a key factor to winning or tying late that a lot of people are over looking.

At 17 May, 2009 02:44, Anonymous Grunthos said...

I'd completely agree with that, Kinney. I get the impression most MLS observers still haven't figured out that we're good, still don't know us well enough to know why we are getting points. The FSC guys kept harping on Moreno/Emilio/Gomez/Fred, but we play just as well with Tino, Pontius, Wallace, even Barklage (so far) in there.

Jakovic continues to impress also, and it seems to me that he is the major reason our defense is beginning to cohere. We haven't found the right balance yet between our midfield and defensive line, and Chivas made us pay for it in the first half, just as Toronto made us pay last week; but that's a correctable problem.

Very happy with the way we toughed that one out on the road. We don't always have it for all 90 minutes, but the good DCU, the traditional DCU we know and love, is showing up every match now. I am excited!

This team is not far away from turning draws into wins and starting to frighten people. I'd say nobody in the East will match this squad for the rest of the season, but then I look at the cluster**** in net, and I remember that we still have some problems to address.

At 17 May, 2009 09:10, Anonymous Skippy said...

I'll be honest, I never thought two. I thought DCU would pick up one goal and have some good chances for the second, but not quite get it.

I don't disagree with Kinney, I would also like to toss out the theory that the attack changes when the subs come in. Pontius, Wallace, Tino, and Barklage are all very aggressive - they attack defenders head on, there's a lot of speed and willingness to shoot. Gomez, Emilio, Moreno are less aggressive directly - the attack seems slower, but passing is quicker and (usually) more accurate and the runs more intelligent; they'll pass the ball into position rather than take a low percentage shot. I know none of this is a shocking revelation, but I have to wonder if a defense is playing against one type of offense for 65 minutes and all of sudden the attack changes almost 180 like that, if defenders are getting caught trying to play against an attack that is no longer on the field. Just a thought.

At 17 May, 2009 15:52, Anonymous Bootsy said...

When it comes time for the more detailed analysis, I'd like the following addressed:

Last year, we suffered often from rushing folks back from injury before they were fully there. The result was that we lost them to injury again.

This year, we talk about our depth, Tommy talks about our depth, so surely such things shouldn't happen.

And yet last night, we started Ben Olsen even though he was so freshly back from injury that he hadn't been fit enough to practice with the team for even 30 seconds this entire past week. He's not fit enough for a second of practice, but he's fit enough to start. Right.

So what happened? He re-injured himself, and now god knows when we'll have him back.

At 17 May, 2009 15:56, Blogger Kevin said...

Two stunning goals from United. Goals we wouldn't have come close to last year.

Eventually, people are going to have to start giving this team respect. Yes, we're young, and yes, we blow leads a lot, but we are a force to be reckoned with. Last year, as D says, this team would have packed it in before they even scored the second goal, and I would have watched the second half either stone-faced and on the verge of tears, or by yelling and throwing stuff around the room, which would be followed by me "giving up on the team for the rest for the rest of the season" (which really just meant until the next day, when I read various accounts of the pervious night's debacle).

At 17 May, 2009 17:52, Blogger Stan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 17 May, 2009 17:54, Blogger Stan said...

Bootsy has a point, I think.

On the one hand, you can argue that Olsen is the most creative midfield presence we had left, since it was judged that neither Gomez nor Fred could go 90.

But on the other, while I'm not sure Soehn knew what kind of line-up Chivas was going in with, he could have suspected that with Kljestan injured, Chivas wasn't going to be doing most of its attacking through midfield. So we probably wouldn't need the pure defense there, and the creative component could have been filled by the Quaranta/Moreno/Pontius/Wallace combo. Especially if you consider a road point a satisfactory result (and against Chivas I probably do).

So if there's any risk at all to health, this would be the game where arguably we could have gotten away with not having that presence in central mid.

At 17 May, 2009 18:38, Anonymous Bootsy said...

Stan, I'd go even further: it doesn't matter whether we could have gotten away with it or not. 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.

Put another way, there is *no* early-season scenario that argues for playing, let alone starting, a player that came back from injury at kickoff, that wasn't even fit enough to practice with the team at any time right up to kickoff.

At 17 May, 2009 22:29, Anonymous Grunthos said...

Given the difficulty that Simms and Jacobson had keeping proper spacing in front of the defensive line, perhaps we are in the unpleasant position of *needing* Benny's organizational skill on the road, not for creativity, but for defense. I'm not sure that is true, but if Soehn is beginning to believe it to be true, then management could be faced with some difficult personnel decisions soon.

Assume no Benny. What's the best call, tactically?

A) 3-5-2. Historically our preferred formation. Requires that the two DMids cover a lot of ground and play well in tandem. Can we get that when picking two from Simms, Jacobson, McTavish?

B) 3-1-4-2. Only one committed DMid, but here the wide mids have to pick their spots and provide some help defensively. Wallace would be fine for this, but Fred/Tino/Pontius won't provide good defensive cover.

C) 4-4-2. Not a good fit with our current roster, since whoever partners with Jakovic won't be a natural center back. Also tends to put too much pressure on Simms to act as a de facto field general.

D) 4-5-1. Same center back partnership issue, fewer problems controlling the center of midfield, but now you're playing Emilio alone and wasting our depth up front.

Outside of the net, this may be our biggest problem right now.

At 18 May, 2009 12:09, Blogger rke said...

I agree that Olsen probably shouldn't have started. Jacobson may not be perfect, but the team is no longer dependent on just one or two key players. We have depth.

On another subject, I have been itching to see Crayton back in goal as the #1 starter, but I'm not so sure anymore. I've been a fan of his in the past. I enjoyed his antics vs. Houston when he was frustrating the heck out of their offense. But vs. Chivas I was not amused. He wastes time as a habit, whether we need it or not. And the midfield footwork that left him on his back at 45 yards... just no need for it.

This is definitely our biggest weakness -- and I'm not convinced that Kocic or Wicks is the answer. Love to see a new signing mid-year. Hahnemann? Doubtful, from the sounds of it. But somebody solid, please!


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