24 May 2009

First Impressions -- D.C. United 0 : 0 Real Salt Lake

They say some nil-nil draws can be exciting and dramatic as a scorefest. This was not of them. Tedium was an ever-present blanket at RFK, draping fans and players alike in a humid embrace. It was a game where even Clint Mathis running his mouth like a deranged poodle defending his turf from a mastiff was more a pleasant diversion than a source of interest. Forget Tony Limarzi's excited inflections, this game should have been called by Garrison Keillor. "Well, the news at RFK is of the languid summer, the trees venturing towards green. In soccer at RFK, it is considered impolite to score, since most of the forwards are Lutherans and that sort of excitement might lead to rock and roll."

Even Fred's misses were not as exciting as normal. This match was a volley over the bar, a routine miss instead of the glorious and epic miss from last Wednesday. The Barra was displaying a "Sing or Leave" sign to its faithful, and the match made the second option a serious consideration. Part of this was the lack of engagement from United's attack. Jaimo Moreno was silent for 13 minutes. I had utterly forgotten he was in the game until the 14th minute, when he kicked off a stretch of multiple bad giveaways in the defensive third. The great addition of Moreno was his ability to the hold the ball, right? Not so much.

Similarly, Emilio seemed reluctant to pull the trigger on a shot, passing up chances to try and put the ball right on his foot only to find his momentum had carried him to a difficult angle. Christian Gomez showed a few scant signs of passion, at one point pulling off a classic forty yard sprint with the ball that ultimately went wanting. The only first half player demonstrating any desire to score was Santino Quaranta, and even he ultimately was disgusted but what he saw, even rightfully yapping at Jaime after Jaime never made a run on a nicely headed through ball played by Tino.

That being said, the defense was better. While RSL dominated the shots category in the first half, most of these were distance affairs with little traffic to bother Josh Wicks. At the end of the half he made an excellent stop to preserve the deadlock. In the second half, Wicks came alive, pulling out three excellent saves. Wicks is the first keeper to have a game where the presence of the keeper ultimately saved whatever hope United had for points. Similarly, Marc Burch's game defensively was strong. While his marking off the ball remains a little suspect, his tackling was excellent and timely, and was ultimately crucial in thwarting some RSL advances.

Tom Soehn deserves credit for pulling Moreno at half-time and replacing him with Pontius. The addition of Rodney Wallace two-thirds through also at least added someone willing to make the runs Fred was not. But tactically, this team was consistently trying to play over the top against an RSL back line that seemed content to handle it, boxing Fred or Tino to the side and then turning the play back.

If you decided to pass on the Freedom game and only watch the United match, you made the wrong choice. This game is forgettable, a waste of a strong defensive and keeping effort by an attack that seemed to thing their three day weekend had already begun.

Your man of the match is quite rightfully Josh Wicks. Merit awards to Burch and Tino. Censure to Moreno and Emilio.

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At 24 May, 2009 11:55, Anonymous BDR said...


Best bit of the night -

Woman: No, my husband died.

Man: I'm sorry to hear that. What did he do before he died.

Woman: Well, he was sorta clutching his chest.

At 24 May, 2009 12:55, Blogger Kevin said...

Looks like I picked the right match to miss!

At 24 May, 2009 13:02, Anonymous Grunthos said...

Personal merit awards to Wicks and Gomez, who threw my recent criticisms right back in my face.

I thought a lot of our problems developing the ball through midfield had to do with Fred playing too far wide and forward and Jaime taking the day off. But we should credit RSL for playing a very disciplined game - they set out to get a 0-0 draw, and they earned it with excellent positional play. We played it over the top because they weren't giving us any other choice.

At 24 May, 2009 14:50, Anonymous Jeremy said...

Fred was where plays went to die in this game. It was one of the most miserable performances I have seen since the '05 Tino.

Fred should never again earn a start for this team, unless 2 of Wallace, Pontius, and Tino are physically unable to play.

In my eyes, he has written the end of his tenure with United. Maybe they can trade for Convey, I think that their bloated salaries are in the same range...

At 24 May, 2009 15:38, Blogger jaywag86 said...

Another performance worth mentioning was Dejan Jakovic. He continues to improve with every game. I am impressed with his skill and confidence on the field. He could be on his way to establishing himself as one of the best CB's in the league.

At 24 May, 2009 19:48, Blogger Landru said...

Please tell me you're not done thematically.

I need to publicly acknowledge that I agree with you about giving Soehn credit for benching Captain Effortlessly Invisible.

I am not startled that you are making me acknowledge that Tino had a very, very nice game. By the end of yesterday's sojourn at RFK, I was almost as hot for Tino's mad touching skillz as you were for Sonia's.

Fred was a disaster.

Jacovic made some decent plays, and only offset his generally intelligent play with two or three boneheaded and potentially dangerous moves that worked out either because he was very lucky or Wicks was very good. Another day, another game, DCU loses and Jacovic is the goat.

At 24 May, 2009 22:57, Anonymous Skippy said...

Jaime was what I was afraid he was going to be before the season began. And I have to be honest; I think, "Cut him some slack." Not because of everything that has done previous seasons, but because he has been more active and more of presence on the field this season than he has been in years. He still on pace to exceed my expectations of him for this year. I didn't think that he was going to be a starter for every game, or even most games, and if Soehn did, perhaps you should reconsider your positive evaluation. I'm not trying to criticize Soehn; given how Moreno had been playing, yes, you play him. But it can't really be a shock when he is invisible after going the full 90 or the better part of the full 90 for so many weeks. Disappointing, sure. Not astounding.
I'm more upset by Fred. His miss may not have been spectacular, but he was there and he should have scored. I don't know that you bench him, I think he brings something to the team. I don't think he is being used properly though because he really shouldn't be a target up top. I thought his dry spell last year was a fluke. He has proven me wrong.
For the record, if I'm Tommy Soehn, I start the kids - Tino, Wallace, Pontius, N;Silu (who I assume is young?). That way, even if you have to sub Gomez or Moreno or Emilio (not old, but doesn't have the same nutter attitude as young guys) in later, the defense will be tired and sloppy because the young guys chase everything and push forward harder and then the veterans' technical ability goes farther against a weaker defense. I can't prove that, yes I know, I can't prove it at all. But that's what makes sense in my head.
Or maybe I just think Pontius, Tino and Wallace on the same field are a lot of fun to watch. If DCU can hang on to the three of them, I'll be looking forward to the games for years to come (I would anyway, but you get my point).

At 25 May, 2009 11:57, Blogger Shatz... said...

I prefer seeing the younger guys starting, as Skippy suggested, but I disagree with N'Silu over Emilio. As long as Luci keeps averaging 0.5 goals per game as he has for most of his MLS career, he should remain a regular starter.

At 26 May, 2009 08:32, Anonymous Skippy said...

@Shatz - I struggle with Emilio. The easy part is this - I really don't think he should earn DP money. However, as you pointed out, DCU pays him to score and he's scored at a good rate this season. My problems with him are two fold - 1) If it is possible for a player to score against the run of his own play, that's how Emilio has been scoring. He always seems to score when I am most livid at him for having been dispossessed, off-target, a step behind the defender and hesitant to shoot all game. Maybe he lulls them into a false sense of security. Maybe there's a psychological threat that defenders feel, but I don't think he leaves them scrambling most of the game. 2) I don't like the way the offense works when Emilio plays. Half the time, it seems that the midfielders (or defenders) just chip the ball in his general direction and hope that he beats a couple guys and scores. That's not Emilio's fault. But he's played like he's a target man, and I don't know that he is. He specializes in diving headers or slightly and timely redirection or shots or passes. He's not a 2-on-1 guy, but that seems to be the way they play him and it sucks the life out of the offense.

Yes, Emilio has been scoring, but the entire offense should really be scoring more and I feel like Emilio has a fair bit to do with it. Maybe put N'Silu in just enough that players aren't so in the habit of try to hit Emilio with a long ball 2/3rds of the time.


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