02 April 2008

First Impressions - Pachuca C.F. 2 : 0 D.C. United

Did you ever have some elaborate plan to sneak out and hang out with your friends when you were in high school? And it had to be an elaborate plan, because technically you were grounded? So anyways, I was trying for various reasons to get to Georgetown with my SO, but I wasn't supposed to be driving anywhere, but I had a plan with multiple distractions and false leads that should have gotten my parents out of the house and let me make it into Georgetown. And it was working perfectly, until my parents decided to come back home via Georgetown and somehow saw me on the street. United's 2-nil defeat was kinda of like that.

United played well, but "well" wasn't perfect, or even exceptional, or even "damn good" and just "above average" wasn't going to cut it. When there's a difficult environment at altitude plus a skilled opponent plus a difference in form, you pretty much have to have a very good game. And United didn't have that tonight. They had a decent, well, alright game. And they're down two goals because of it, which makes the return leg at RFK not impossible, but a fair longshot.

The first goal is most likely the fault of Wells, thought Montes was running down the side of the box a little too freely, indicating that McTavish or Namoff or someone missed the mark there. The second goal was set up with the McTavish foul, and frankly that's a goal I would expect to see more times converted by Pachuca than not.

And on the other end, United would look threatening, but too often try to thread a ball through too many defenders, or not pull the trigger, or something, and the chance would slip away. Full credit for creating half of an opportunity, but no credit for not really even exploiting the opportunities we created with dangerous shots.

Form was clearly a factor, in two ways. Yes, the most obvious way was the fact the last fifteen minutes of the first half, and the last half an hour of the second, it was clear we were almost done. Those legs were heavy. But the other way our lack of form manifested was in the way the muscle memory hasn't quite gotten the mnemonics for this season. You can see the ideas, they're good ideas, but the pace of the passes is off, or the angle is shaved too thin, or the touch puts you into awkward footing, and suddenly the ball is going the other way.

If there is a complaint, a real point that I have a problem with, it was United's inability to be gracious with the gifts they were given. United was clearly at its best with some posession to the game, and they showed they could pass the ball around. Yet too often in the back a chance to build that same type of possession, to make Pachuca chase and give everyone a bit of a breather -- those opportunities were squandered with a poor pass out of the defensive third. That may be some fatigue, or some form, but I also got the feeling that the pressure of the situation had clouded the mental clarity that would have just advocated for a moment of calm.

There is no man of the match, but I think I would have looked seriously at Fred. As for the goat, I'm looking somewhat towards McTavish right now. I'll see how I feel after a good night's sleep. Debrief tomorrow.

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At 02 April, 2008 08:27, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I agree with most of that. I think I would add that this team may be more frustrating to watch than last years because everything seems to be there, but not consistently and not all at the same time. Last year, the attack was stellar and when it was on, we won. But we all knew the defense was in shambles and midfield passing wasn't great. This team seems to really have it all, they are much more capable of breaking apart a defense through build up rather than fast breaks, there seems to be much more control and distribution in the midfield and the defense is miles better than it was - every lost man or break away doesn't result in shot on goal anymore. But when if the passing is there, the movement off the ball or finishing isn't, when the defense plays well, midfield passing breaks down and the ball never crosses the half line. And what I think is frustrating is that not only do you know that they can do better, you saw them doing better for the past 10 minutes.
A couple comments on players - I go back and forth on McTavish. He seems pretty damn good on the attack, and I don't mean the goals, I mean taking on defenders and driving with the ball down the touch line. But he is making a lot of defensive lapses. I don't like to complain about him because when he plays, I think you can often see his enthusiasm and willingness to give of himself and sometimes it is really effective. He single-handedly will break up midfield possessions or continue an attack through sheer determination and effort. But he has to stop getting beat on defense.
On Wells, and I think its really to early to judge quality, I think it is safe to say that he doesn't control his box the way Perkins did. He may be more stable than Perkins, but he's not out there in the thick of things like Troy was and that is going to change the way the defense needs to play.

At 02 April, 2008 08:44, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry gang - I'm not drinking the tonic this year.

At this time last year, respectable DCU blogs were crowded with reasonable and rational explanations of why DCU was solid on paper after losing to a better Mexican side, that we shouldn't get excited about getting dumped out of the tournament early (AGAIN), and that everyone needs to cool down because it is early in the regular season.

Here we are - once again - a revamped DCU roster that looks good on paper and proclaims a desire to be the top dog on the continent. But when it comes to the games that really matter, DCU doesn't deliver on the field. Fair rationales aside, I'm not going to give the team a soft applaud as they get dumped out of the tournament again and start the regular season with a loss again. Not this year.

If DCU wants to proclaim itself a premier club, then a mentality akin to the great clubs of Europe needs to be adopted. One loss after a string of convincing victories can be rationalized; however, a pre-season where the offense is absent on the score sheet, an opener with a loss and now a loss to a team that out-played DCU from end-to-end - that can't be rationalized while attempting to proclaim DCU as a favorite to take home some hardware this year.

Sorry - this is long in the tooth - needed to vent where this argument might actually be appreciated.

At 02 April, 2008 10:01, Anonymous Anonymous said...

while i agree that los Gonzos are a big improvement defensively, it seemed to me that once they won the ball, Peralta especially was always looking for the long pass over the top, and while sometimes lumping it upfield is necessary to stretch the d and/or to escape pressure, when one of our forwards is 5'4" and the other not a speedster, it may not be the best tactic. Last night it certainly resulted in so many lost possessions.

At 02 April, 2008 10:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks to me like our offense still isn't clicking.

I'm especially disappointed with the Galliardo/Emilio combination. They don't seem to think the same way. Emilio looks late to every play, never predicting the pass. Maybe Moreno is the missing piece, needed to make this offense gel.

Niell reads the passes better, but he needs to stop falling down and fire once or twice. Has he taken any shots yet?

Quaranta seems to read the field very well, and could be dangerous with Fred and Galliardo. I'd like to see him on the pitch a little sooner.

I realize that this was a possession loss -- Pachuca dictated the game, and their attack was relentless. But DC had their moments, and for all their fancy footwork, we had zero shots on goal.

I think our disjointed offense might be our biggest weakness at the moment.

- rke

At 02 April, 2008 12:12, Blogger Bob said...

April Fools, right?

At 02 April, 2008 12:22, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it's the age in my own legs, but I can't seem to get as worked up about these results as in previous years. In the past I'd look at a game like this and see the sky falling, that the team wasn't gelling and that the changes were too much to make an improvement.
I guess rather I see this team being built for July thru Nov. Superliga, Champion's league, MLS cup, maybe even the US Open. The team doesn't have to win right now and I think the coaching staff know this, and that the team knows it. Next week they will look different, but I think advancing here is all just gravy on an appitizer. The meat of the season is this summer.

At 02 April, 2008 13:09, Blogger The Manly Ferry said...

I agree with a great deal of the points made - most notably, the main premise of the post: DC played well, but needed to be better. I think I'm a little higher on "the Gonzalos" than one commenter; Peralta, especially, looks good and the only time I remember him really hoofing it came when he had to mend a bad touch. Also in his defense, fatigue limited DC's off-the-ball movement, which typically allows them to make better passes.

Anyway, it's all here - feel free to drop by and rip up my points.

At 02 April, 2008 13:56, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we have a nice team and we will do very well in MLS play again this season. I think breaking down this game in terms of tactics, individual performances, game conditions and circumstances, etc really misses the mark.
In a way, I think it was a minor miracle that we escaped with only a 2-0 deficit, and I give us, the referee, and Pachuca's finishing each their due credit in acheiving the result. And I certainly do not discount the possibility of us turning it around and even advancing after the home leg next week. After all, the Galaxy were able to get a fortunate result against Pachuca in Superliga last year, so it is certainly obtainable for us.

I think what we should take away from the game is the following:
1. Man for man, with the exception of Gallardo, Pachuca is a far superior team to us, and this difference in quality will likely not diminish much for at least another 5 years, unless we dramatically up the salary cap. Every year we reload for this tourney and every year we get absolutely dominated in Mexico (not necessarily score-wise, but performance wise).

2. Enrique Meza has proven over the past 5 years that he is clearly one of the best coaches in the world. Not only do his teams win every competition, they are so much fun to watch for fans of the beautiful game. When you couple in the comparative budget limitations he faces as Pachuca's coach, vis-a-vis America, Chivas, Cruz Azul, etc, his impressive record speaks even louder. Seattle, Philly, Toronto, DCU, US National Team: Can somebody get this guy into US soccer please?

At 02 April, 2008 16:21, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick: Please don't give any props to the ref for keeping the game at 2-0. After having to watch the Mexican National Swim Team earn foul after foul in the first half, and our players getting absolutely mugged in the offensive third with no whistle, I was honestly shocked when the ref finally started calling a couple of fouls.

Of course, the elbow to Gallardo's face got no whislte... That should have been a yellow at least, not that it really mattered that late in the match.

At 02 April, 2008 16:58, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The officiating remark was only in reference to the two PK's that weren't called. Of course, they scored on the free kick given instead of the second PK anyways, so it was not so crucial. The Wells foul was conspicuous and blatant though, and a 3-0 deficit would have buried us, so we at least have the official to thank for that.


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