17 April 2009

First Impressions -- D.C United 1 : 1 New England Revolution

If I am willing to accept ugly wins, such as the one against Houston, then how am I to feel about beautiful losses? Fortunately, the question need not be answered yet, but we were within a few minutes of that scenario, and the answer was: I was willing to accept it. If this match represents the ambitions of D.C. United for this season, then I say give me more.

United played its most complete match of the season. While the Revolution occasionally had moments, they never stretched longer than five minutes at a time, and United ran this match. Now, in this they were aided by a Revolution side that was ineffective at maintaining possession, especially in midfield. So while I want to toast the United effort, we must also acknowledge that it was abetted by the Revolution. But still, the nightmare scenario of the Revolution scoring the first goal occurred. And in a fantastic demonstration of irony, when the Revolution decided to lock up shop and sit on the one goal lead, to play for the oles in our defensive third as opposed to putting in the second goal, it was United that managed to find a way back into the match. It was a match that United played beautifully in everything but the scoreboard.

My fear was that a loss might send the opposite message, that the strategists and generals would look at the result and say "ah, clearly we took to many shots and pushed too hard, and thus we neglected our defensive toughness and lost." The fact that the draw was maintained hopefully sends the opposite message: That this is the kind of game we should play every night.

Debrief is coming, but the Man of the Match is Ben Olsen. Certificate of Merit to Jaime Moreno, Christian Gomez, Rodney Wallace, Andrew Jacobson, and Marc Burch. Demerits to Chris Pontious and Bryan Namoff as a duo, Chris Pontius when he got on his own, and to John Harkes. Harkes? Yes, John Harkes, for his theory of "giving up goals after personnel changes." The changes happened on United's left flank, and yes Wallace seemed pinched too centrally defending a cross that stranded Jakovic between two attacking players on the left, but the breakdown leading to the cross was entirely on the right flank.

We will also discuss Tom Soehn's strategy that lead to Moreno fighting through his pain, for which he deserves all the credit in the world. You may not agree with the move, but it was damn interesting, and when was the last time you can say that? Certainly Rodney Wallace did not seem out of place at left back for the final thirty minutes. And once you made those two substitutions, you knew that between Gomez, Moreno, and Olsen, that two of those three would have to go the full ninety minutes.

Other open questions: Do we pay a karma penalty for the Bryan Namoff handball? Is Jair Marrufo the new Abbey (and Revolution fans, I think you may have been more sinned against by him that United were)? And Avery John -- really? Really?

But overall? I was prepared to be grimly happy, if such a thing is possible, with the 1-nil loss. A 1-1 draw makes me pleased with a touch of wistfulness for the full three points. But you have to take this effort, right? Right.

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At 17 April, 2009 23:42, Anonymous I-66 said...

I didn't notice this at the time because I was too busy celebrating the ball going into the net, but after Ben Olsen scored (or own goal?), he and Wells Thompson, who scuffled earlier after Thompson's cheap and/or unnecessary push, fell to the ground and Olsen slid into the boards. He got up, and with Tino pulling at him in celebration, pulled away and shouted something down at a prone Thompson, probably along the lines of "Why, I do say, old chap, that was terrible marking. Perhaps you should do a little extra work on the training ground this week" before celebrating with the rest of the team. Just desserts, I say. Eat it, Thompson.

At 17 April, 2009 23:51, Anonymous Grunthos said...

Hmmm. I'll sleep on it and try to see it your way, D. I came away dispirited and disturbed. I saw a team that lacked passion and played way too casually, a team that took winning for granted against the Revs' B team, a team whose new additions played better than its nominal core. If this DCU edition had any ambition and any sense of urgency, we would have blown NE out of the park tonight.

If this was the low end of DCU's performance range, then I might be able to write it off. But it seems to me that this was the middle of our performance range. Despite sensible tactics and good substitions (IMO) from Soehn, they were no better than the sum of their parts.

Oh, and that last wide-open shot from Pontius will be burned into my brain for a long, long time.

At 17 April, 2009 23:58, Blogger Kevin D said...

I think the Namoff HB is definitely bad karma. Then again, Wells Thompson didn't get ejected for his bitch move on Benny and his constant dissent, so that could be + .5.

We played so well in the first half, then did pretty darn well in the second half, too. If we play like this every night, we have to be a playoff team. Don't forget that Steve Nicol works wonders, no matter who he plays, so even a depleted Revs team is a dangerous one.

John Harkes is getting almost as bad as Eric Wynalda was. What other ex-US Nats can we bring in (DONT SAY ALEXI LALAS!!!!!)? Or is it time to "globalize"? I vote we bring back Carlos Valderamma! I miss that hair. It always made me smile.

At 18 April, 2009 00:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I concur with most of everything that was said. I thought Jacobson was the one that blew the marking on the goal (even though the right flank let the cross in). I agree the subs were probably not the best but that is clearly do to the fact that the three elder/injured players started. Clearly, and I thought Soehn had this down, Moreno should come in off the bench and have N'Silu/Doe start.

At 18 April, 2009 00:05, Anonymous Skippy said...

I'm going to continue off Grunthos last point - Pontius. I'm going to keep it really short - I love everything about him except his finishing. Which is kind of a big deal. Maybe its that he's young and needs to settle down a bit, I dunno. But whatever it is, United needs strikers who score - they've tried relying exclusively on Emilio and it doesn't work (even with Gallardo's hair). I'm sick of thinking "he's great, except the finishing." I'm not really being fair to Pontius, but at this point: My kingdom to the rookie (or at least "new to DC") who brings me a goal!

P.S. Okay, seriously, good on Moreno for continuing.

At 18 April, 2009 00:25, Anonymous Grunthos said...

Where Pontius is concerned, we are probably looking at a good right wing who can give us an aerial threat on set pieces, rather than a scoring forward. His moves on the ball are excellent, and he can put in dangerous crosses. He'll need to learn better defense to be an everyday wide player, but that is to be expected.

Wallace keeps impressing me with his ideas and energy. He hasn't solidified his touch on the ball, and he's still learning to blend with the team, but I like what I'm seeing.

Jakovic looked much, much more comfortable tonight. Granted, NE wasn't exerting much pressure, but I thought Dejan was very calm and a lot more in tune with the flow of the game.

At 18 April, 2009 00:37, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey D! That's some pretty red lipstick you put on that there pig.

At 18 April, 2009 01:01, Anonymous Skippy said...

Grunthos - Respectfully, I disagree. Particular respect paid to the fact that Pontius was not up top tonight. My bad. Nevertheless, I think that his skills that you mentioned, his good runs into space and his first touches scream to me of a forward. I think he's got everything, including the instinct and aggression, except the shot (which is so damn important for a forward). I'm not saying that he wouldn't do well on the wing. I'm more saying - fix his shot and I think he rapidly becomes a very impressive striker.
Of course, this is just my opinion and much of it is backed by intangibles such as "instinct and aggression." I just watch him play and I see him get himself into scoring positions and botch the shot. The shot, not the first touch, not losing the ball to a defender, not waiting too long to pull the trigger (well, okay, sometimes these things happen, but you know what I mean). He beats the defense, he just misses the target.

At 18 April, 2009 01:48, Anonymous Grunthos said...

Skippy, I think we're mostly on the same page here. I definitely don't want to give up on Pontius as a forward yet, it's way too soon - you never give up on that possibility until the guy proves it to you completely. But in the limited sample we have seen so far, I'd have to lay money on him becoming a flank player in the end.

That last open opportunity, I was straight behind his POV as he lined up the shot... to just corkscrew it completely over the bar there is a bad, bad sign. Not dispositive in itself, of course. But good finishers will at least give that shot a chance to go in.

At 18 April, 2009 08:16, Blogger Bob said...

I don't think that we need to worry about anything more than the fact that Pontius always puts his shots over the bar. Everything else about his game looks very good. I think about it the same way that I think about Burch and his refusal to use anything but his left foot. Last night he switched fields and gave the ball away because he used his left foot even though he was out of position to do so. He curled it away from the United player and it went into touch. In Burch's case, I'd bench him. For Pontius, I'd think that there has to be any easy fix.

D, I agree with your sentiments on the match. Lipstick? I think not.

After Benny almost decapitated himself on the back post, his trash talking to Wells was AWESOME!

At 18 April, 2009 08:54, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can Tommy's Karma get any worse? Central defenders knocking each other out to give up a victory in LA. Simms calling in sick right after Tommy commits to putting Santino in for Burch. The Geezers (or los Geezeros in this case) - Moreno and Gomez pulling up lame when he is short on subs.

Probably the only one he could have anticipated was Moreno and Gomez not lasting the full 90, but man does he seem snakebit at times.

Other than that, I liked the way we played for most of the game. I'm not sure why we needed to take Burch out and move Wallace back because that seemed to be working okay, but getting Santino minutes was okay by me. I thought Jacobsen did okay. He sees the field well and gets the ball to players' feet. Having to mark two players on the goal was a bit beyond him...but it is beyond most players, particularly when the second is Shalrie Joseph. Someone else should have been there helping out.

At 18 April, 2009 09:52, Blogger Martin Shatzer said...

I'm with the above Anonymous poster, but I'll take it one step further. If you really want to give Quaranta 45 minutes of play, then it should be Wallace coming out, not Burch. No reason to mess with a backline that didn't give up any good scoring opportunities in the first half.

I-66: Olsen standing over Thompson and chirping at the back of his head I think will be one of the highlights of the season. Loved that!

At 19 April, 2009 12:32, Blogger D said...

Just as a general note, I am with everyone on Pontius not putting away his chances. Look, I liked the fact that he shot, and has been pulling the trigger all season. But, yes, you have to get those shots on frame, and thus the reason he is in my demerit book.

Still, when considering the way the team played as a whole, they had a near perfect first half followed by a fairly decent second half that was marred by a goal. On that standard, this is the best match United has played this season.

Grunthos: After sleeping on this match, have you changed your opinion at all? I am curious, since we are in such different places here, and that rarely happens.

Going to have a long debrief, I feel.

At 19 April, 2009 15:13, Anonymous Grunthos said...

I'm not as down about it as I was leaving the stadium, that's for sure. But... well, but.

There are two clear reasons I was unhappy with DCU's game:

1) I thought a lot of what we did well, we did well because NE had their backups out there to play a conservative, hope-we-get-a-draw match.
2) The vibe I got from the team was that they didn't think this game was important. That's entirely subjective, of course, no way for you or I to know what was going on in their heads and hearts.

Where individuals are concerned, I was distinctly unimpressed with Gomez, and thought his performance justified management's decision to let him go in the first place. Not that he had bad ideas or screwed the team over per se, but his first touch was poor, he remained out of synch with the rest of the team, and his aggressive, incisive, rushing style of old was almost completely absent. This was a game he should have been able to rip open, what with NE failing to control the midfield and playing a generally passive style.

Benny had one of those matches where he was more concerned with yapping at the refs than improving the game. Obviously, he still had the goal at the end, God bless him, but this wasn't as good as his work in the first couple of matches, IMO.

Simms didn't look too hot, but now we know why (per Goff, he was ill and pulled himself out after the first half).

Wallace showed his potential, yes, but his actual results in this game weren't very effective. I think by this time next year, he'll have learned enough to start hurting teams badly on that flank. He could start by figuring out that when the opposition decides not to mark you at all, as a flank player you need to narrow the field a little so that you can threaten them with the inside cut as well as the outside run. I swear, if we'd had Fred out there at the start, and NE had left him open like that, and Fred played intelligently and with passion (not a given, of course), then we'd have been up 3-0 by halftime.

And of course, NE's goal was inexcusable in the most basic sense: the only threat they had on the field was Joseph, and *he* was the guy we allowed into the box with no marker. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Having picked all that apart, I expect that some of my pessimism is just an outlier here - nobody can see every game perfectly, maybe I was so focused on what we didn't do that I couldn't see what we did do. But I still can't say I am happy with that game.


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