11 April 2009

First Impressions - Real Salt Lake 2 : 1 D.C. United

Call it the opposite of last week. This was a more entertaining match, with United having stretches of strong possession and creative attacks. At the same time, Real Salt Lake had the edge over the course of all ninety minutes, and the result is a fair reflection of a game where RSL was one goal better than United. This was an enjoyable match, for a neutral. We are not neutrals. Therefore this match is an abomination.

Seriously, if you want to know, this is my nightmare, but this is also my expectation. Part of me felt that this game will be precisely the kind of match I expect to see this year: A game with moments for United, but ultimately a goal down. In some ways, United was fortunate that they surrendered the one goal lead as quickly as they did, as it forced them to play a little longer into the second half to try and get the win. However, once the decision was made to settle for the point on the road, then it fell apart. The final goal is not so much as result of bad marking, or a great shot, though certainly you may wish to argue both of those. No, in my mind it was presaged by the United midfield falling back as RSL took position down United's right flank. United midfielders drifted receded like seaweed pulled in the undertow. We were looking to find our shape in defense, not pressure the ball. We wanted to build the bunker, not stop the enemy from coming to our door. And so it went.

Where there other options, better options? I am a fan, not a coach, so for me the concept of settling for a point on the road is inherently abhorrent. As a coach, I suppose there is a certain attraction. Gregg Easterbrook has frequently made the argument that coaches play the conventional wisdom because they don't get fired for it. Fair enough. And Tom Soehn's choices were inherently conventional, safe choices. Without Ben Olsen and Jaime Moreno, he elected to throw McTavish into midfield and pull Pontius back into center when Doe arrived. Quaranta was a move only after United found itself down, and that too was conventional (a more aggressive move might have been to move Q to withdrawn forward, as opposed to wing, and play a 3-2-2(bucket)-Q-2, but that would not have been conventional play, and to be fair would easily have opened up United's flanks to a third goal.)

So we arrive at United's first loss of the year, and it feels as if an annoying acquaintance has shown up to your party, but an hour late, just as you were hoping that he might not remember the invitation you extended out of some strange social obligation. But in your heart, you knew he was coming, and he'd tell his bad jokes, and hit on your friends, and double-dip into the guacamole. All we can hope is that he didn't bring a sleeping bag, and leaves next week at RFK.

No man of the match. Merit to Pontius, Emilio, Gomez. Censure to Clyde Simms (who deserves the armband, but needs to add more fire), Crayton (some nice saves, but if you thought the odd rebound disappeared with Wicks, well, this game would change your mind), and Wallace. We need to discuss BDR's assertion that Janicow = Erpen (a theory that gained some support tonight, but there is good and bad in that), and we need to talk of Andrew Jacobson as well.

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At 11 April, 2009 20:30, Blogger rke said...

However, once the decision was made to settle for the point on the road, then it fell apart.

Completely agree. Defense is better than expected this year, but it's not our strength. As soon as we invite the remainder of the game into our half, we may as well expect another goal or two.

Missed Benny out there.

At 11 April, 2009 21:27, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Always get a feeling when the opponent's goal is coming... DCU is always at its best when attacking, when they pulled back, it was ugly. McTavish was an embarassment to the shirt (and I even own a McT shirt) and totally blew a ball that a pro should not miss. Wish Tino had gotten more of a run out. Still not seeing much from Doe, would have rather seen Nsulu But #13 is the truth. Best DCU rookie in a long time... Wallace looked more rookish but still a fine night. Will we ever see the Fred of old again? The team missed Moreno but needs to figure out who the next Moreno will be. More upset with the coach than the defense. Attitude matters, teams that go defensive on the road too early get crushed (as per RKE) Will be good to get Olsen back out there, would have been the difference maker. And seeing Kreis made me think-- Coach Olsen in 2010?

At 11 April, 2009 22:31, Anonymous Skippy said...

Its early, I know. The sky isn't falling. Just color me yet unimpressed.
Of the five points, which should United really be proud of? Yeah, Fire are decent, but a draw at home? Acceptable, not laudable. A draw on the road, but against the Galaxy? Okay, but DCU is the only team to concede a point to LA so far (CHV-LA game hasn't started yet, maybe I will be surprised?) Beating Houston, ugly, at home? Houston are deceptive. They look good at times. But they also have one point and are drawing the damn Red Bulls at home. That's not a team that a good opponent should draw at home.
And its easy to dismiss the loss to RSL, particularly since it is away. But it looks like an emerging pattern (or a continuation of last year) to me. If United wants to have even a decent season, they're going to have to beat weak teams and draw or beat mid-table teams while playing away. If they're not going to beat mid-table teams away then I don't think they afford to give up points at home.
Or maybe you're right and I'm just disappointed our old acquaintance, the road loss, finally got to the party. (And really, the sample size it too small to start thinking about patterns.)

At 12 April, 2009 14:47, Anonymous Bootsy said...

Why the merit to Gomez?


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