08 May 2008

First Impressions - D.C. United 0 : 2 Chicago Fire

...and it wasn't even the worst game we've played this season.

Here's the thing. I'm used to United defenses giving up goals because of bad plays in the back. Facundo Erpen, Bobby Boswell, Brandon Prideaux, Bryan Namoff, Brian Carroll... over the past few seasons, they've all commited some horrible blunders that led to opposing team goals. What I'm not used to is seeing a United defense get carved up repeatedly. That had played positioned wrongly, or not picking up markers, or not figuring out where to go. You can point at Quaranta for missing the marking on the first goal, but he had just run back and did anyone tell him where to pick up a marker? Fortunately, that was the only goal United gave up just to poor defending. The second Chicago goal you might try and hang on Clyde Simms, or you can do what I am going to do and just admit that Mr. White nailed that shot.

The thing is, while there were some performances turned in by players who clearly haven't given up and were still fighting (Namoff, Wells, Quaranta all deserve nods here), there was also a lot of tentative runs toward balls that meant that a 50-50 ball turned into a 75-25 ball for red.

Franco Niell not pulling the trigger inside the box is upsetting. Emilio was better, but not good yet. But the touch was off, the play was off, and while it was better than last week against Colorado, it was hardly a reason to feel like things are turning around.

As I said, there were some good things. Wells made some saves he had to make. Namoff looks like he's the only one fighting for the season at times. Quaranta ran til he had nothing left. Emilio started taking shots. But Simms had an off game, Niell wouldn't take shots first time, and Emilio can't find the net, and everyone, just everyone, had a touch that was two stone too heavy.

Your goat, I'm thinking, is Niell, but I'm listening for your saints and sinners as well. And right now, United needs more than anything to just play a technically sound game. Even if they lose. Away to Chivas, after a long week of practice, that's what I want to see. Not a result, though that would be nice. Just some good, sound soccer. We need to see some basic being executed before we start enjoying beautiful soccer again.

The most troubling sign? It was that D.C. United didn't just look slow, they look frightened. And that's a recursive function that eats its own.

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At 08 May, 2008 22:55, Blogger jason said...

Tip of my hat to Tom Soehn... who put the right formation out. I think we hit the outside foot of the goal on all 6 sides as well. I am starting to feel sorry for Emilio, he looked desperate to pull the trigger but every time he got the ball 6 guys dropped between him and goal.

I think Goat has to go to the referee here, I saw at least 3 or 4 yellow card offenses against Chicago go uncalled.

I think Simms had a decent match, he just didn't look like the 7-8 we normally see... more like a 5-6.

At 08 May, 2008 23:04, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good summary.

The only guys I thought played reasonably well were Namoff, Burch, and Jaime. Quaranta was energetic but ineffective. Simms was just so-so. Emilio upgraded his game from poor to mediocre.

I don't believe that was the right formation for this set of personnel, precisely because the absence of Olsen leads us to relying on Tino's defensive abilities. Chicago has pace in the attack and some creative thinking, and 3-5-2 wasn't going to do it defensively with tonight's midfield.

But the formation wasn't the reason we lost. These guys have talent - I don't think Kevin Payne's offseason moves were stupid - but there isn't any team there right now.

The ref was absolutely clueless, but he was so lost that I don't think it tipped the balance of play either way.

I'd give a merit award to Namoff. Not sure who to tag with the goat... there are all too many candidates. Maybe Dyachenko, just for being the disappointment that he is.

At 08 May, 2008 23:07, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought Jaime busted his ass. I mean, REALLY busted his ass.

At 08 May, 2008 23:16, Blogger thumpjosh said...

i was impressed with the dc fans that stayed through to the end singing, chanting. it can't be easy watching your team perform under such lofty preseason expectations. fill that lower teir at jfk up a little more consistently and it'd be enough to push you past toronto's 12th.

At 08 May, 2008 23:17, Blogger thumpjosh said...

i was impressed with the dc fans that stayed through to the end singing, chanting. it can't be easy watching your team perform under such lofty preseason expectations. fill that lower teir at jfk up a little more consistently and it'd be enough to push you past toronto's 12th.

At 08 May, 2008 23:29, Blogger Bob said...

I have a lot I'd like to say (including my wife's suggestion for the 6 word recap concerning what VW stood for tonight) but right now... I'm just drinking. Cheers.

At 08 May, 2008 23:58, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Umm, I'm kind of with Bob, except I'm already drunk. I thought Tino and Simms had decent games. Simms had the best two looking shots all game, I thought. And props to him for getting the ball goalward.
Emilio played better, but still a safe bet would be "1000 dollars that Emilio takes the ball with his back to goal and fails to turn." Though he did turn a couple times, with disappointing results.
As for Soehn, it wasn't a nightmare, but only one sub and to take Tino out? Because Tino was the problem?
I can't fault Wells for the goals and he had a couple nice saves. But he had some blunders as well and I am still under impressed.
Namoff looked pretty good again, I thought, for the most part.
The ref, well, I wasn't enamored, but I hardly think he cost DC the game, they lost the well enough on their own. Though what was that call on United in the Fire box in the first half? Totally missed it and couldn't see it on replay. Everyone surrounding me was pissed, but we're a little biased.
Jaime did bust his ass, but, I think a lot like Tino, was ultimately ineffective. Honestly, some of the best offense I saw in the second half came from Martinez and that is distressing.
This is long, but I am drunk and rambling - Dyachenko looked better as a midfielder than an offensive sub, I thought.
I don't think there is a man of the match (except maybe that t**t Blanco, who did nail that shot) and I don't feel like there is a goat either - can team dynamics be a goat since there was a lot of mediocre play?

At 09 May, 2008 00:01, Blogger Martin Shatzer said...

Sorry Jason, but I disagree with you about this being the right formation. Only 3 defenders against the best offensive team we've faced so far? Simms played fine, but Blanco was just too much for him. Again.

At 09 May, 2008 00:03, Blogger jason said...

As for Soehn, it wasn't a nightmare, but only one sub and to take Tino out? Because Tino was the problem?
Tino was totally spent. he couldn't even make it to half line to get off the field and then crashed into a corner.

I'll second calling the lack of team coordination the goat.

At 09 May, 2008 01:09, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Watching Jaime tonight was about the only joy I took from this match. MOTM so far as there is one for us.

At 09 May, 2008 01:11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS - Doe didn't stink.

At 09 May, 2008 06:59, Blogger Unknown said...

anybody else notice that peralta played decently? he had some good clearances and shut down a few goal scoring opportunities. i saw him play up for once, breaking up chances at midfield, and trying to get forward with it, but the final third was the killer once again. wells was playing out of his mind for a while, but there were spells of laziness or something.

At 09 May, 2008 07:40, Anonymous Anonymous said...

D's wish: "Just some good, sound soccer"...

Actually that what they played in the beginning of the season. They gelled better against Pachuka than they do now 2 month later. Is it something in the physical preparation that went wrong?

As of now, I see a hapless, brainless team. Some individual efforts, some parts of the game. No team thinking. Practically everybody is guilty in holding the ball too long and then getting 2 or 3 opponents in his face. There were only few moments of using the wings smartly. Otherwise, the same old trying to squeeze the ball through the middle or sending it high into the zone, English style, without PA level guys to use it.

I had a feeling that we are playing a man short, or two.

One positive: Wells did not have communication problems with defenders. They had their own communication problems between themselves. They looked so much better 2 month ago.

Simms is well over his head as a main man in the middle. With Quaranta, Namoff and Burch I at least can read what they want to do, even when they can't execute. There is some thought there. With Dyachenko, I am lost.

Where is leadership from Moreno? He disappeared for minutes, often. There was a good camera catch of Blanko telling his guys what to do. Passionately. Did anybody see anything like that from anybody in DCU?

At 09 May, 2008 08:16, Blogger Landru said...

They didn't play like a team with "Tradition" embroidered on the back of the collar. And they're doing that way too much. I am contemplating whether Soehn's lost the team (but I'm not saying that he has).

Quaranta's been in the league 7 years. If he's all motivated and has his punkass head in the game and stuff, why is he doubling someone off to Wells' right while Justin Mapp blows it by Wells? That play was like a countdown to blastoff--you could see the goal four seconds before it was scored.

I'm down with goating Dyachenko, because I'm that kind of really mean person, but it'd mostly be because he's not Gallardo.

Terry Vaughn is an asshat, but he didn't keep United's touches out of the net.

I think that "recursive" is a very good word, better than we now know.

And yes. Mr. White, curse his dancing bones, nailed the shot. Nailed it. That will deserve a look at GOTW time. Not that I'll vote for it.

At 09 May, 2008 08:27, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I think I knew that Tino was exhausted, though I missed the collapsing part (I wasn't thinking clearly last night). Although, given Soehn's comments, he apparently did think Tino was a large part of the problem. My problem is more with the lack of other subs. I know there are no clear options to put in, but the team was down 2-0 and has been shutout fairly consistently all year, I would think it time for some real creativity.
You know what else is disturbing - Martinez putting the ball into the Chicago bench at halftime. Not that act, but the mentality. I'm not singling Martinez out, I think the entire team seems to have a frustrated mentality that isn't particularly helpful. I'm not a professional athlete, but I have played enough sports to know that when my opponents are smacking the ball into inanimate objects, the game is over; as long as I can stay calm, they'll beat themselves. And DC's record reflects that, go up a goal and DC looks lovely and will dominate. Go down a goal and DC is completely incapable of equalizing.

At 09 May, 2008 09:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My MOTM is Wells. First time he has actually looked good in a game. He came out and challenged for balls well, putting his body at risk. He had several nice saves, and the two goals were fairly unstoppable. I can't comment about his communication, as I am not skilled enough to judge.

I completely agree with D about Namoff, he is the only player showing up game in and game out. There have been a few games where I thought that he was the most menacing attacker on the team.

Jaime played well, I think. Leading by example perhaps? I totally agree with other posters that communication is still lacking on this team, and that starts at the top. Soehn and Jaime need to take the most heat for the lack of communication on the team. Beyond that, there is no real locker room leadership that I am seeing. Unfortunately, that is not something that you can really address mid season.

Goat is the entire midfield, with Dyachenko being the worst offender.

Also, as much as I hate to admit it, the work that Prideaux was doing blocking passing lanes for Burch was impressive. Why didn't he play that well when he was here?

At 09 May, 2008 09:20, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep in mind, Burch's lack of a right foot made Prideaux's job 50% easier than usual. I liked Burch's extended back-and-forth move to open up a crossing opportunity (late 1st? early 2nd? I can't remember), but it would be much better if he learned to pass right-footed.

At 09 May, 2008 09:27, Blogger AC said...

If you want stop by our site for some photos from the game.

OffWing Photo

At 09 May, 2008 09:43, Blogger Unknown said...

I think we need to go back to the 4-4-2. We went away from the 3-5-2 last year because the defense was leaking goals, and that's happening again. I just don't think that we have the two defensive midfielders to make the 3-5-2 work; the last time it worked was when we had Ben playing as the second defensive mid. Simms is okay, but Dyachenko just doesn't work well in that role. That exposes the back three.

The more time that passes without Emilio scoring, the more selfish he gets. He's shooting from bad spots when he has better options. He also doesn't move enough when crosses are coming into the box. He's been absolutely awful this year.

At 09 May, 2008 09:56, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would give Tommy until mid-June to turn this around. From there it's a question of Bruce Arena or Marco Etcheverry.

At 09 May, 2008 11:20, Blogger Unknown said...

My MOTM--probably Wells although the pickings are slim. Honorable mention to Namoff for just working hard.

My Goat--hard to say. I would like to say Dyachenko, but he is out of his league in central midfield and he doesn't work well with Simms for that I blame Soehn. Simms can't really fill the holding midfield/Gallardo role, but he gave it a good go. I would have to say it is a toss up between Niell and Emilio.

I think the 3-5-2 was a solid formation, the problem is that the people filling the roles was not right. Simms is a defensive midfielder, it is what he is good at and the role he should fill. Soehn needs to find another holding midfielder because Dyachenko isn't it and Gallardo can't play every match. Tino, Burch, McTavish and maybe Namoff can play those winger roles quite well. I though Tino did well on the right last night.

Defensively, I like that Martinez is moving forward a bit, but the back line is not communicating amongst themselves or with the midfield. We have to do better.

Finally, SHOOT THE BALL. Jeez, there were hardly any quality attempts last night. Although Busch played reasonably well, he got his clean sheet by the fact that DC simply didn't test him enough.

At 09 May, 2008 11:38, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We were horrible. I will allow that we were playing without our starting midfield - Olsen, Gallardo and Fred - and that is a difficult predicament for any team, particularly in a league that does not allow you to stock up on quality players for depth. That is the heart of our team as it was designed on paper over the off season. Now we have to learn to live without Ben which means we need to have Gallardo and Fred on the field even more.

What worries me is that the players don't seem to have a feel for each other. Passes are made to spaces where players fail to run; defenders and midfielders don't seem to have a sense of how and when to cover for each other and there have been several odd situations where a forward will step over a ball to allow it through thinking that a teammate will run onto it while that same teammate stands still awaiting either a quick pass or something else. Finally, the keeper and the defenders don't seem to communicate well. These guys have no feel for each other.

What aggravates the situation is the formaion changes. Maybe they planned a 3-5-3 all along, but they started the season with a 4-4-2 in Concacaf and my bet is they practiced that formation in training camp when they first came together. I think a 4-4-2 is more suited for the talent on this team and the lack of chemistry that has yet to emerge because it puts less presure on the center backs. In any case, sticking with one formation is probably required until the 13 or 14 players who play regularly get a feel for one another. Right now they don't understand their roles and responsibilities well enough to get basic marking down.

Finally without Ben, there is no fiestiness and leadership on the field. Jaime leads with his effort which is fine, Gallardo directs play with his passes and positioning which is fine, and Fred has shown a willingness to mix it up when he is in but is still limited in his role. Quaranta has suddenly emerged as a focal point but let's remember we hired him as a recovery project and sub, not to be the go to guy on the field when the level of play has to be raised by instilling a bit more fight into everyone. We need a fighter on the field who raises everyone's play and right now we don't have one.


At 09 May, 2008 12:18, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anybody else curious why we haven't experimented putting Franco on the flank and have him put those wheels to good use running up and down the field (a la Josh Gros)?

At 09 May, 2008 13:53, Blogger Landru said...

I'm not curious about why Frank O'Neal's not on the wing, because I watched him get cleanly outrun by Pablo Mastroeni last weekend. Those are some pretty square wheels.

At 09 May, 2008 14:23, Blogger The Manly Ferry said...

My diagnosis (assuming you want it), and it's one mentioned fairly often in these parts, DC fails to use width in the attack. And last night was worse than many I've seen.

And I thought Peralta was in no-man's land on Mapp's goal; he was just as guilty as Quaranta of opening that huge gap in DC defense.

At 09 May, 2008 15:48, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The MOTM was Burch. His crossing and free kick ability was the only offensive weapon we had all game. Yes, you would like to see him use his right foot, but he did head inside on a few occasions and it caught Prideaux off-guard.

Emilio is finally in pre-season mode (albeit 6 games into the actual season). Niell is completely overmatched against the taller, more physical defenders. I agree Niell should move outside in place of Fred until he is back, he just can't play up top.

I love the enthusiasm for Tino, but even he admitted it was not a good game for him. He's not a defender and he did come all the way back, but he played the ball and not the man and got burnt. He also had a few poor crosses and the Fire offense continually went at him in the second half. He should have been taken out at halftime. That is on Soehn.

Namoff and Moreno were hustling all over the field and that's all i can ask out of them.

The Gonzalo's had their up's and down's.

Wells played a good game and Blanco just... ya know. I don't want to give him credit for anything.

Simms played well, but at times played tentative. He had the opportunity to shine tonight, and at times took it and ran with it (those two shots from distance), and other times got beat (Blanco's goal). I feel like he could turn in to Olsen or perhaps better, but it looks like he is always having to defer to someone else.

Dyachenko was out of position. End of story.

At 09 May, 2008 18:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Niell the goat? Not sure how the math works on that one, at least the guy worked his butt off the whole game and created some chances. Maybe he should have taken a shot or 2 a bit earlier but come on the central midfield got shredded, flat out. Simms and Rod were crap all night.

If a forward has to be the sacrificial goat then I'd put Emilio under the knife. He of DP cash had like 2 dozen terrible touches, countless bad passes and not one decent shot on goal. Plus he holds on to the ball way to long, which most of the time leads to a loss of possession. He has become down right painful to watch. Why he’s still starting is a mystery.

Also I believe Soehn has to take some heat for not making adjustments quick enough. Before the Blanco goal the defense/D-Mid was just getting run over, yet no changes. Then Chicago scores and he sends on a D-mid and puts Rod out wide. WTF!?!
Ahhh Tommy Boy, DC IS LOSSING 2-0, put down the cool aid.

DC's biggest problems haven’t changed in 3 years; no width and lack of pace. In DC management speak that translates into “sign a 30’s something central midfielder.” I think the BBB campaign needs to start gearing up, “BRING BACK BRUCE!”

At 10 May, 2008 12:07, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wells was to blame for the second goal. He was so far off his line that the ball just floated right by him. His positioning at times this season has been terrible and seeing as this is his first "real" season you can only expect things to remain the same..

Namoff was the only one playing his game properly- he's my man of the match.

At 10 May, 2008 20:42, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it is time to bring in a new coach, and I think that is a possibility, it's time to bring in a real hard ass. Someone who makes the team do double practices when they play poorly, whether they win or not. That sends the forwards to run laps when they don't shoot or take crap shots, and YELLS from the sidelines.
The passion isn't coming from the players for whatever reason. Ben is really being missed, and McTavish (a postential Ben replacement), has been out too. They're missing the bite and the passion and they need to coaching staff showing them what is expected. Not in the press, but right in their face. Stop talking about showing passion and show it.

The front office has made some mistakes here as well. Niell was a ridiculous signing as a senior minimum, let alone for over 100K. Kasper et al., know better. Somewhere an agent is laughing.
I'm still pissed at how this team has gone substantially downhill in the past 4 weeks.

At 11 May, 2008 14:20, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, in the Front Office's defense, Niell is here only on a loan deal, so they're not stuck with him.

Others have said it, but I feel Franco would be effective if people would play through balls on the ground to him and not have him contest headers against Bakary Soumare.


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