19 May 2008

Debriefing for Match 13.08: At Chivas USA

Chivas USA 3 : 1 D.C. United

Six Word Novel Recap

Early goal... late defeat... final accounting?

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The LA Times, Grahame Jones: "D.C. United rode the talents of former Argentine World Cup midfielder Marcelo Gallardo to a 1-0 halftime lead over Chivas USA... Then, in a thoroughly unexpected turn of events, Chivas USA answered with two late goals from two good players -- Jesse March and Sacha Kljestan -- and then got another from teenager Jorge Flores to come away with a memorable 3-1 Major League Soccer victory."
The Washington Post, Steve Goff: " It happened so suddenly and without any warning."
UnitedMania, Chris Webb: "United now has lost all four road matches this season and have been outscored 11-1 in those games. To add insult to injury this was the first ever win over United for Chivas USA in six matches."
MLSNet, Danny Bueno: "Marcelo Gallardo had put the visitors ahead in the 30th minute with a tremendous goal and D.C. United looked ready to take advantage of an injury-depleted Chivas USA squad that was missing nine players, including their entire starting defensive backline."
MLSNet, Luis Bueno: "Marsch finally gave the home crowd something to cheer about in the 73rd minute. Harris tried but failed to reach a loose ball inside the penalty area. Wells, though, dived and failed to collect the ball. Marsch ran onto the ball and softly slipped it into the back of the goal. Kljestan continued the late offensive surge. Harris tracked down a bouncing ball on the right flank and slipped a well-placed ball to the center of the box. Kljestan ran onto the ball and tucked it into the back of the net before heading toward a pocket of United supporters and karate-kicking his way toward a celebration."
Booked For Dissent, Dave Lifton: "United allowed themselves to get beat because they had no response to Chivas’ physicality. Instead, they got scared every time a Chivas player got near them, which led to cautious, hesitant play, resulting in turnovers. "
You Are My Minions, Landru: "It's also, not at all coincidentally, time to note the major role that awesome goalkeeping has played in DCU's success lo these many years. Great DCU teams had memorable keepers--Scott Garlick, Tom Presthus, Nick Rimando, and it appears all-too-briefly, Troy Perkins. Semen Wells is on a track to be the wrong kind of memorable. Except a keeper doesn't stay on that track long enough to become truly memorable."
DCUMD, Shatz: "I was all ready to come on here and give Tom Soehn props for putting together a good starting lineup that played really pretty well for 30 minutes. But that's about as far as it went. Because the tactical decision to sit back and defend a single goal lead has NEVER WORKED in this league...So we might as well start the countdown. If this persists, and there's no reason to believe that anything will change over the next few days, it will be exactly one week from today that Tom Soehn will be out of a job. That's Sunday May 25. And that will already be too late."
An American's View..., Brian Garrison: "It might be just as bad a situation if United replaces Soehn during this stretch as opposed to waiting until June. I really cannot see the club getting any better with Soehn at the helm. Maybe it is time for him to go down with his ship?"
BlackDogRed, BDR: "It's entirely plausible that Soehn is doing a shitty job, but I don't think it possible, or fair, to determine with any accuracy how shitty a shitty job he's doing considering what crappy tools he has at his disposal. What if Soehn is getting all that can be gotten out of these mutts?"
BehindTheBadge, The Management (feat. Tom Soehn): "But the first half I thought we had a game plan and we stuck to it, we were hard to play against, we got our goal. In the second half they came out with a bit more intensity and I don’t think we handled it well." [NOTE: And did you have a game plan in the second half? Did you stick with it? C'mon now... -D]

The Good

  1. Gallardo's Goal: In a season starved for highlights, it was a good one. Not like his volley against RSL, but good none-the-less. I'm glad Behind The Badge has it up for you to watch. Really. Watch it, and pretend the entire game was like that. You might even come to believe it. We have always been at war with Chivasia.
  2. Bryan Namoff: Another game where he was running his shorts off for most of the match. He makes mistakes, he gets beaten, but damn if he isn't trying. There was always talk of handing the armband to Ben Olsen at some point, but perhaps Ben should turn around and hand it to Bryan.
  3. Atmosphere in the Corner: If we stipulate that certain Calvinists are right, and that there is an elect number of people that go to heaven come the Rapture, then certainly the brothers and sisters I was fortunate to join at the Home Depot Center have done enough to earn their place come Armageddon.

The Bad

  1. Analysis from the Corner: Really, it's damn difficult to make sense of the game from down there. Even without the alcohol, you just don't have a good look at the game. That being said...
  2. Aren't We Supposed to Play With the Lead? Yeah, let me say something I think I said on the UnitedMania Podcast. There's an old baseball maxim, I think attributed to Earl Weaver, that "If you play for the one run inning, that's exactly what you'll get." I think that also applies to us in the second half - "If you play not to score a goal, you'll succeed."
  3. Using the Field: Ryan Cordeiro proved he's a standout in the reserve games, but never seemed to fully grasp his role in how to occasionally use both the left and right flanks.
  4. LTJG Zach Wells: I was prepared to promote him after his performance against Chicago. Sadly, this performance negates it, as he lets in a dribbler and gives up a rebound. So we'll keep his rank unchanged, for the time being

Officiating Watch

Apparently the ARs had the offsides calls right. Michael Kennedy is a twerp, but no more annoying than any other official.

Likert Scale Grade: 3 - Average

Man of the Match

N/A. Merit award to Namoff. Goat to... Jaime Moreno, who never seemed to do what a captain needs to do. He's the one who should be harassing the ref, not Gallardo. He's the one that needed to give the team a quick reality check in the second half as the field started to tilt.

Adjusted Results

No adjustments.

Final Thoughts

Given this line-up, with the benching of Emilio and others, it had to be looked as a message from Soehn. So I feel that I have to give one game for the message to sink in. But that being said, all I asked for after the Chicago game was good basic soccer. Did you see that? I did for a decent portion of the game, but at the moment when the second half came around, we started making the same mistakes that have plagued us all season. Tom Soehn had a week and a half, even with a new line-up, to figure out how he wanted to simply move the ball around the field, and we couldn't do it in the second half. And that's a problem.

I'll be honest. He's got exactly one game left with me. And then, well, I might make the change. But if we don't do it in the next four games, then let's consign the season.

Shatz is writing that this is a rebuilding season. Well, it is now, but we were promised a shiny new car. It just happens to have been hit by a semi.

One game for Soehn. He's made his last possible move, now we'll see if it works. It's not that I think even that he's the problem, but the only move that can be made now to save the season has his name on it. Make the move, or consign the season to memory.

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At 19 May, 2008 14:47, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really feel THIS is the match where heads should have rolled. Giving until the couple matches with Toronto is a no win scenario, either theres a tie or a win and Soehn has earned himself another chance, or he loses and we walk away on the downside of a match(es) we should have easily gotten points from.

At 19 May, 2008 15:58, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This feels like the scene in "Apollo 13" where they dump all the junk on the table and say "We have to make this fit into this using only that." We have the following assets:

1. A deep-lying, technically gifted playmaker who is passionate but not necessarily determined.
2. Two withdrawn forwards who like to do tricksy moves with the ball at their feet, one of whom can't go 90 minutes anymore.
3. A poacher with no ability to create on his own.
4. A forward so tiny he might not be turned away from a U-13 boys' match.
5. A random forward/midfielder with lots of energy, little consistency, and no defense.
6. A garden variety d-mid with a powerful-but-completely-inaccurate long shot.
7. A left back with one strong foot, one useless foot, and no other special skills.
8. A right back who plays his heart out for you but was never the most talented player on the field.
9. Two center backs whose offensive skills appear more promising than their defensive composure and consistency.
10. No goalie.
11. Devon McTavish.
12. And some random bench players of no particular pedigree or accomplishment.

Out of this conglomeration, what *team* could we possibly build? Gallardo's skills don't match with our total lack of offensive pace. We can't seem to fit Fred in the center where he wants to be, especially since Jaime would play the same spot. The senior team has precisely one "natural" wide player (Burch). Simms can't play side-by-side with Gallardo, but there isn't space enough for him to stay *behind* Gallardo all the time. The defense desperately needs a take-charge goalie, but there's no one there.

Anyone who has played Football Manager knows the feeling Payne and Kasper have right now. You go into an offseason feeling the need to make changes in order to progress. You bring in half a dozen new players with various promising talents. And you put the team out on the field, and it bombs... and you realize that what you thought was going to work together, doesn't, and what you thought wouldn't be a problem, is. If you're lucky, there is still a decent team hidden in there somewhere... and maybe, if you are willing to radically change your style, that team can be brought out to play. If you're not so lucky, the season is over.

Only this is real life, and we can't go back to the last save.

At 19 May, 2008 17:04, Blogger rke said...

I was cranky in the last thread. In an effort to think positive, here's the lineup I'd like to see in Toronto.

Namoff Martinez Paralta Burch
McTavish Gallardo Simms Fred
Moreno Quaranta

GK: Wells needs to feel the heat of competition. Hopefully Carvallo's defense treats him better than at his debut.

D: I maintain that the Gonzalos work best when they're paired in the middle.

MF: Hopefully we have Fred & McTavish back. That should mean more control and more grit, respectively.

F: Quaranta has the skills, speed, and hunger to work up front. He also makes runs and reads Gallardo better than most. In any case, I like him better than the other options.

Off the bench, I don't want to see Emilio (he needs to sit a full match at least) or Dyachenko (he needs reserve time). Mediate can sub at D but not MF. If we have to bring in Stratford or Cordeiro when legs are tired, so be it. (I'm curious about the Carrolls -- they should at least play with heart).

Just thought I'd throw that out there, since I'm pretty sure Tommy comes to the DCenters for help...

At 19 May, 2008 18:36, Blogger Unknown said...

rke: Not a bad idea lineup-wise. Wells has been sucking so ridiculously bad that we could use a change, and can you really blame Carvallo for 3 of those goals in the RSL game? The Gonzalos were certainly better together in the middle (as evident against Harbor View, although that isn't the greatest of examples). Simms provides steady offense and some stable defending, and McTavish seems like the next Ben Olsen (well, actually that title might be given to namoff- dude's crazy). Up top, Emilio definitely needs to prove himself. he's had the opportunities (too many of them), but has done nothing. He should be benched until he shows improvement in practice.

At 19 May, 2008 18:49, Blogger Martin Shatzer said...

I'm not sure that I suggested this as a rebuilding season. This season was what I thought we were building towards! We were supposed to win cups this year. Not just another damn Shield, but cups. Multiple ones. That's what makes the results so effing frustrating.

But I am willing to drop the axe on the Soehn regime after the Toronto mini-series. I'm more worried that United will somehow manage to luck their way into 2 or 3 points and Soehn will be given a few more weeks. Every week that a change isn't made is one less week that a new coach will have to try to turn this thing around.

At 19 May, 2008 21:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We went into this season looking to continue winning silverware and in a couple months we've realized this is nothing more then a season to figure out A. who will go and B. who will stay.

I think the biggest "goat" this season is the our keeper- he's a joke who's been caught out of position so many times I've wondered why we haven't used the back-up.

We're really missing Olsen's leadership because we have talent but no direction and the coach surely isn't giving any. I hope he makes a comeback- be a dreadful day if he is forced to retire this season.

I still have my head held high and still think with a few adjustments we can still turn the season around. Wouldn't mine seeing Arena back, he'd knock some heads around.

PS I'm looking to buy any old United jerseys and shorts if anyone is looking to get rid of any- e-mail at davisjw3@vcu.edu
(sorry for shameless plug)

At 19 May, 2008 22:37, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The season is certainly salvageable. There is great parity league-wide, and we have a difference-maker and the ability to make moves in the summer. We have known from his appointment that Tom Soehn was little more than a stop-gap measure and never even mentioned in the breath of "top ten US coaches"--something that should not be forgotten considering the DCU job is the one of the top 3 in US soccer. We have chosen to invest in players and put coaching on autopilot. Eventually the time would come that we would need to get off autopilot--that was inevitable. Whenever KP and the GM decide that time is, we should expect the organization to take that next step and bring in a coach truly indicative of the position. It that is tomorrow, great. If it's in July, that is fine with me too.

I find it difficult to be disappointed in a man in whom there never existed any expectations in the first place. And anyone who thought Tom Soehn was going to be any better than Rongren or Hudson or Novak, was not being honest with themselves. I could only fault Soehn if he were not trying his best, and i have little doubt that he is.

Now is certainly a great time for a coaching change. Arena is out there, and for all his faults he is still the best American and MLS coach of all time, and the best out there currently. Meza from Pachuca might be available. Pekerman, Pasarella, and even Harkes could be options.

When the front office is ready to take the next step and make an investment in a quality coach, I will be ready and don't be surprised if this team comes around by year's end.

At 20 May, 2008 00:38, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that the season can be saved, unless the East suddenly gets much much weaker. If we were in the West, a hot streak might save the team. And while a rebuilding year might be appropriate, I also would like to point out that DCU is in some tournaments and it seems unlikely that they'll be invited next year (thank god for the new Champions League?). So a legitimate and desperate stab for some silverware seems appropriate.
Ok, I agree that Wells hasn't been spectacular and he really mishandled some saves. But that said, I feel like he, more than any other player, has really stepped forward to learn his role with the team. Is communication better? It seems so, though not perfect. But I like the way he gets off his line and throws himself in harms way now. Its how a keeper has to play for this team, apparently (at least, that how I remember Troy Perkins - continually running off his line), and I feel like Wells actually changed his style somewhat to better fit with the team.
Having written all that, I have no problem giving Carvallo another shot.

Grunthos - I like the "Apollo 13" analogy; seems pretty accurate. Plus, given their respective records, "Houston, we have a problem" has more meaning.

At 20 May, 2008 09:18, Blogger bond said...

WOW , I don't know where to start , this season is a bust,,,,,,,,,,,,instead of crusifying most of the players I will just add the total lack of team speed , Santino is perhaps the fastest on the field but lack discipline , the midfield is slow but as a few posters stated can be made up with a diligent and high energy work rate , the biggest challenge is the defense lack of speed..........you can't make up for the lack of speed defensively , I don't care what anyone says ,in the back the lack of speed kills you in many ways too numerous to mention................Putting it simply , I believe management wasn't thinking when it put this team together last off-season......We have the slowest back four in the league , and I love Namoff (never gives up), if you put speed around him he is great , but the lack of it this year reduces our chances of creativity all over the field.......going to be a really tuff year................we have to get faster next year...............

At 20 May, 2008 10:33, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a bit early to be picking up the crack pipe and going on to say that the season is a bust.
Remember that the top 3 teams of each division go to the playoffs followed by the next best placed. While it is not good, DC is only 6 points (2 wins) out of being in the middle of the pack. Look at the history of the past few years. Some teams start strong to drop off and other's start slow to get better. remember LA was in contention until the last game of the year last year and they sucked.
If the team turns it around come August and plays very well, they could win SuperLiga, Open Cup and even MLS cup.

But they have to turn it around. My feeling is that there have been injuries, but the the talent is there to at least tie games and fight until the other players get back. he fact that players that played very well last year are struggling so much may be due to the coach. If not, it could still be turned around by a coach decision.
What I worry about Bruce is that based on how he responded in NY I think he's likely to complain about the players and regard this as a throwaway season, like he did 2 years ago in NY. We need someone who doesn't think that we need to replace the defense and offense, but can work with what is there (with 1 or 2 changes). More change would kill the team, but a couple new could energize them.
There is more need for a coach that can lead and motivate any player and get the most out of them. Don't know if that kind of coach is available and this may be what KP et al. are struggling with.

At 20 May, 2008 11:25, Anonymous Anonymous said...

dcuinct - I suppose you're correct, making the playoffs isn't impossible. Hell, to be honest, DCU wouldn't even have to play like the team they were against Pachuca. If they could play consistently to the level that we hoped they could early in the season, even the Supporters Shield isn't a bust. But after that loss to Chivas, on top of everything else, I feel like this team has a long way to go to be a decent, let alone a playoff-worthy, team. And it may happen that things will just start to click tomorrow against TFC and United will be off to the races. I think its more likely that, if things start to improve, improvement will be gradual (Like maybe a draw or two? Or is DCU avoiding those because they confuse and frighten an American audience?) and the playoff teams will pull away. Maybe a Fulham-style winning streak at the end would put them in the wild card spot. Maybe not.

At 20 May, 2008 14:56, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Or is DCU avoiding those because they confuse and frighten an American audience?" Love it, very funny!

Yeah. It does seem like a long road back based on the way they are playing. But in MLS it seems that the real difference between a crappy and great team isn't that much. Cowlumbus could easily begin tanking it (an injury to Scoletto or Brain Carrol and a change of form of Robbie Rogers and every game becomes a struggle). And other strugglers like Chivas could win the Shield and the Cup.
Part of me doesn't want to see Soehn get off the hood since I think that he's shown that he can't coach in big games. Maybe he can turn them around enough to make the playoffs, but I think a new coach is needed and earlier gives more time for change to sink in, or they could all just tank the whole year. Guess I'd rather have hope of getting cups (and shields) than the prospect of just another MLS playoff team.
Guess we'll see what the response is this Wed. If we see another poor performance, then I think the players have lost confidence in the coach and we'll see a change. If they really do want him to stay, they better show it now.


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