29 May 2007

Debriefing for Match 12.07: Houston Dynamo

D.C. United 2 : 1 Houston Dynamo

Six Word Novel Recap

Passed a test, not The Test.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Times, John Haydon: "Christian Gomez scored a goal and set up another by Ben Olsen as D.C. United beat the MLS champion Houston Dynamo 2-1 at RFK Stadium in front of 18,078. With the win, United (3-3-1, 10 points) extended its unbeaten streak to four games and won its third straight game after a slow start to the season. "
The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "After being taken down by Ricardo Clark, Gomez ripped the free kick over Houston's wall and placed it perfectly inside the left post as goalkeeper Pat Onstad reached in vain.
The Houston Chronicle, Brian Straus: "The Dynamo managed their first goal in 275 minutes during Saturday night's match against D.C. United, a highlight-worthy, second-half strike from Dwayne De Rosario...D.C. United was effusive in its praise for its star [Gomez]; the Dynamo (2-5-1) appeared shaken by the defeat and avoided comment. Coach Dominic Kinnear refused to meet the media or open the locker room for a full hour after the game. Someone even stood inside the door to push it closed when a member of the Dynamo staff attempted to enter."
UnitedMania, Jimmy LaRoue: "The Dynamo were not without chances in the first half, but Ching missed on three headers–two of them open looks from eight yards–and Brad Davis’ forceful 25 yard left-footed strike forced Perkins into a two-hand parry over the bar."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "Enjoying more space and time than in previous games, Gomez produced an animated performance that suggested he is recovering from an early-season malaise.
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "...Perkins guessed the right way on De Rosario's penalty kick...the resulting euphoria lasted less than a minute as Richard Mulrooney sent in a cross that Perkins, no doubt still pumped from his save, raced off his line to claim in traffic. The United netminder's clearing punch lacked power and fell straight to Waibel, who passed to De Rosario...cut to his left and steadied himself to blast a low shot past Perkins to give the visitors new life."
Soccer y Futbol, Bernardo Fallas: "D.C., which struggled to start the season, won its third straight. Meanwhile, the Dynamo, bound to lose De Rosario, Ricardo Clark and Brian Ching to Gold Cup duty, are looking hopeless."
An American's View..., Brian Garrison: "Troy Perkins stepped up tonight as an MLS Goalkeeper of the Year should step up."
BlackDogRed: "Another tough night defensively. Gros was probably better than I think since Houston ran at him so constantly I remember rarely thinking about Namoff, but he is a liability, especially since he keeps getting beat to and around the endline. Perkins is back in form, but without Houston's inability to finish Brad Davis' sweet crosses United gives up three. It's not fixed."
The Edgell Supporters: "Erpen did not get a goal but he did get a bicycle which almost cost us a penalty. Way to go Facundo. He actually had a very good match and cleared the ball very well. I love you Facundo."
Soccer Insider, Steve Goff: "It's a very good team, but not a great team, and has yet to show championship characteristics. I am curious to see how this team evolves through the summer."

Also: Screaming Eagles Podcast

The Good

  1. Strike First, Strike Again: One of the points made over at the Soccer Show podcast at UnitedMania is that DC United is built to play with a lead. It's one of the points I agree with. (Tangent: The thing about the Soccer Show is that there's so much disagreement among the gang of four that pretty much everything gets said at some point. Which means someone will inevitable be right, and someone will inevitably be idiotic. It's fun.) United has yet to relinquish a lead in a league game all year.
  2. Gomez -- People Who Need People: Lots of talk about Christian Gomez having more space in the field, but not why. Some attribute this simply as a result of a less crowded midfield with the 4-4-2, but that's not it. What gave Gomez space against Houston wasn't so much Gomez being clever on the ball or drawing less attention, but Gomez allowing Olsen and Fred to have more time on the ball. With three potential lanes running through the midfield, suddenly the Mulrooney and the defensive third of Houston couldn't just hack at Gomez to bring him down, because if they did Fred and Olsen were more than capable of taking it to Houston. By Gomez not taking all of the attack playmaking responsibility on himself, he gave himself more options later on. And that's the important take away for me: Gomez finally allowed himself to trust someone other than Moreno.
  3. Perkins Penalty Save: We note it, and we salute it. Sure the goal followed quickly, but last year he didn't save one of them. Congratulations sir.
  4. Kpene Lane is in My Ears and In My Eyes: If you click on BDR's link above, you'll notice a huge "Is it an accident that the attack ran smoother with Kpene instead of Moreno" discussion. If you ask me... well, I'm not sure. But Kpene provides the ability to take the ball with his back to goal and then distribute better than Moreno can. However, the thought earlier in the season was that Emilio would be the person who'd provide this skill. Fascinating, no?

The Bad

  1. Self-Service wings: Houston consistently was pounding crosses into the box from the wing, something I can understand with three in the back, but with four in the back some of that service needs to be shut down. Brian ching had multiple free headers, and while there's room to complain about Ching, of all people, going unmarked in the box, the consistent service upset me more. Gros (primarily) and Namoff (to a lesser extent) were allowing far too much of that. Boswell and Erpen were far from perfect in their marking responsibilities, but the first job is to deny that pass, or at least force the player to make a move and get around you.
  2. Emilio Luciano: Tom Soehn in the SE Podcast talks about how he's not upset with Luciano running cold recently, but I'm a bit curious. Sure, he was robbed by the post in Toronto, as I recall, but he didn't seem to have much of a contribution in this game. Horribly bad? No, but something to think about.
  3. The Josh Gros Handball: He says it was an accident. I hope that's true, because otherwise it was the kind of play that may tactically make sense, but still feels like cheating, and possibly worthy of a straight red. Also on the podcast, listen to Gros talking about how much more thinking he had to do as a left back. He's getting there, but the ability to internalize all of that information and then act on it naturally may take most of a season... if we're lucky. There's a lot of nuance. So good luck to him.
  4. Countered Counter (Substitution Edition): Houston threw everything at United for the final twenty minutes, but United couldn't exploit that. Part of this I think was the order of substitutes. Overall I've been fairly complimentary of Tom Soehn's tactical decisions, and I don't have a problem with the changes he made, but I would have preferred a slightly different order. Simms in the game earlier (say, around the 65th) would have helped bolster the defense which was under assault, and then Dyanchenko followed by Addlery. I keep forgetting that Dyanchenko has decent skills on the ball as well.
  5. Jair Marrufo: Not the worst official we've seen this year, but one of the most frusturating. I have no problems with the penalty given to Houston, or the lack of a penalty when Kpene was bowled over. However, Marrufo is one of those officials who I think allows the score to influence his calls. He prefers not to give a winning team a call in debatable situations, and that upsets me. Call the game consistently. Again, not the worst, but far from the best.

Man of the Match

I was thinking Olsen, but Oscar argued for Perkins. Perkins had some odd moments, and didn't seem in control of himself as usual, so I still can't agree with that. However, based on Gomez understanding the team picture better, and with a classic free kick goal, I think I'll give it to Christian Gomez as a compromise. Special merit awards to Fred, Olsen, and Perkins.

Final Thoughts

After no wins in the first four to unbeatable in the last four (funny how draws support both sides of that argument) you can rest easy. However, even with a .500 record, I agree with something Goff wrote: This team doesn't look like a championship team yet. They do look like a good team, but one that can just as easily lose a game as win one. Could United lose to RSL? Sure, I can see it. Can United beat Red Bull or New England? Yup, could see that as well. United has yet to turn in a single dominating game against teams of any caliber (I still feel the draw against New England featured the longest stretches of quality soccer from DC, but the Houston first half was probably the highest level peak we've seen). United has yet to keep a clean sheet. United scares no one right now, but they aren't going to be taken for granted either.

I wrote a few weeks that the remainder of May's games would tell us if the slide is over. It is over. United is no longer in gawdawful shape (yes, I know, only 8th in the single table... but far better than 13th). But the next two games will tell us if United is a team that is ready to challenge for leadership. LA is struggling, but United will need a result at the Home Depot Center and that may not be easy. Frank Yallop has shown an ability to game-plan for United at home in the past. Then a home game against New York, which is playing some very, very classy soccer. Is this team mediocre, or is it really good? Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel...

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At 29 May, 2007 14:13, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know his name is Luciano Emilio, right?

At 29 May, 2007 14:44, Blogger D said...

Er... yes... Crap, did I reverse them? Pah, that's a problem I keep having in my head.

At 31 May, 2007 10:13, Blogger E Lowe said...

I like this format. It reminds me of another bluish blog that I have bookmarked...


At 31 May, 2007 10:18, Blogger D said...

Eric: There's a reason for that :) Yes, sadly, this is one of the things I am proud of.


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