Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Houston Deeper Than United? Think Again.

I feel goaded.

Neal Thurman over at the American Soccer Daily (a reputable read; I enjoy it) have just published an article explaining how Houston's phenomenal depth is one of the keys to its recent success.

Thurman compares today's Houston to the DCU of old, that oft-heralded squad which has established DC United as the gold standard of MLS prestige. This irks me because, while Thurman doesn't attack DCU's performance (quite the contrary; he called us 'hot'), he did imply that today's Houston squad is a better reflection of that awesome depth than today's DC United squad. I call bullsh*t. Yeah, during my last game recap, I ragged on the players a bit, but now I feel the need to defend them.

Time to run my mouth:


Perkins is indispensible. Priceless. He's proven several times this season that last year's form was not an anomaly, and that his title of MLS Goalkeeper of the Season is well deserved. Furthermore, his attitude recovering from several damning performances early on show Perkins to be a truly formidable goalkeeper in his extracurricular qualities as well as technical ability. Simply put, he's an outstanding member of the team, an inspiration as well as an asset. And young still. Onstad may have been this at one point, but not now.

Thurman claims that Houston's second-string keeper, Zach Wells, is "at least a solid MLS veteran back-up... unlikely to be the heir apparent, but is certainly competent." Jay Nolly is at the very least a competent MLS goalkeeper, and (God forbid) if Troy is injured any time soon, I don't see why Nolly isn't as good a backup as Wells, even in spite of the fact that Nolly is an MLS rookie. Especially with Vanney at center back instead of Erpen, I have a least a small bit of confidence that Nolly can keep a net clean or a game close.


McTavish is establishing himself as a stellar young talent, Boswell is a veteran in the making, Vanney is melding surprisingly quickly, and Gros is more than adequate at left back (if by adequate we mean Houston's Waibel). Once Namoff gets healthy, DCU will boast one of the most solid defenses in the league. Utility players such as Gros, Carroll, and Simms can help ensure that the DC defense is well stocked. DCU fans will point out that defensive depth is still one of the most fundamental elements the squad is lacking, but if Boswell & Co. represent a lack in depth, then the league has higher standards than I thought.

UPDATE: Marc Burch is a revelation. I now think DCU has one of the top defenses in the league and have completely made up for our holes on D. We'll miss Gros, but I may have overestimated his impact on defense.


DCU's midfield is roughly comparable to that of Houston, especially considering the roles DeRo and Gomez play. Thurman is impressed by Houston's midfield options and I am impressed with DC's. Thurman admits that DeRo has been off form as yet but will make progress, and I would say the same for Gomez. Thurman admires Houston's wingers in the same fashion as I do DC's. What's the difference? Houston's midfield has cohesiveness and chemistry, whereas DC is still finding theirs -- but considering that Houston's well-oiled midfield was still struggling against United's misfiring mids, I'm content to just wait and see what DC can do when they click.

Try this: when Namoff gets healthy, Gros will proabably move up to his traditional left wing, pushing Olsen back into the holding midfielder role over Brian Carroll with Fred over on the right and Gomez up top. A player as solid as Brian Carroll being ousted from the starting XI -- what do the Dynamo have to say about that? And does Houston have an answer for Clyde Simms, upstart Justin Moose, or US U-20 Brian Arguez? I'm not sure they do.


Addlery is a target man like DCU hasn't seen in years (sorry, Jamil) and he hustled and muscled really well for his first goal of the season versus Colorado. I would say that Addlery has proven he is worthy of a place on a solid MLS squad. But let's keep in mind -- at DC, he's third string (!). With all of his physicality and poaching qualities, we have to remember that Addlery's daunting attacking presence is still only third string. Meanwhile Emilio has found himself one of the top three bids for '07 Golden Boot.

Furthermore, Moreno (you know, the all-time leading scorer for the MLS, just coming back from excellent performances in the Copa America?) will be back next game, and diamond-in-the-rough Guy-Roland Kpene could recover in as soon as two games. That's phenomenal depth for a set of attackers, especially when you consider that Fred is still lauded as the premier candidate for Jaime's role as withdrawn forward.

Thurman mentions that one reason why Houston's squad can be considered so deep and so talented is because none of their core players (read: Rico Clark, Dwayne DeRosario) are currently being scouted for moves overseas. The same can be said for DC United (although I hope that this changes in Arguez' case, at least).

I'm only inclined to consider Houston as a deeper squad than United if you consider the two teams' form from the beginning of the season. Houston has been more consistent -- probably the most consistent team in the league today. But instead of drawing a comparison to yon Eagles of olde, I'd rather draw a comparison to Nowak's DC last season. Time will tell which comparison is more accurate.

DCU has shown improvement from the start of the season, and where DCU's improvement is concerned, I'm positive that in the near future DCU can mold itself into the league's premier club again, ahead of Angel's Red Bulls, Schelotto's Crew, or Beckham's Galaxy. Despite what people (myself included) will claim to the contrary, Tommy Soehn has assembled a tidy little army for himself. Once they find each other on the field, I'm sure we'll find them in the headlines.

And we haven't even used our DP slot yet.


Fullback said...

I think your glasses have a bit of a rose tint here. While we have more forward depth, they have a depth advantage at the back and their midfield actually sports honest-to-God, genuine wingers.

As far as answers to Carroll being forced to the bench and the relative merits of Simms + Moose. Um, what about Mulrooney hitting the pine once Clark is back (Clark > Simms, Mulrooney ≥ Carroll)? Also, I think that Ashe has shown about as much, if not more, in MLS than Moose has and Holden has been tremendous for them while Davis has been injured.

I don't think there is a world of difference in depth between the two sides and we might actually have a slight advantage in the "potential" sweepstakes, but for right now, I'd agree that Houston is slightly deeper than we are.

Kinney said...

I think Houston has more depth.

Wells > Nolly by a long shot

Cochrane > McTavish even if McTavish might grow to be a better player

Both are weak on D-Backs and more people over or back

Mulroony > Simms by a little bit

Holden > Moose he has shown more so far

Ashe = Mediate only because Mediate has more experience

A-Mid both teams move other starting players in to cover

Kepene/Addlery = Daglish/Jaqua and that is just in current form, last year this wouldn't have been a question

QJA said...

Points taken. I realized that this piece would be slanted as soon as I hit the keyboard, but I think the point still stands that while Houston's depth is laudable, DC's is certainly defensible. We still have half a season (and a DP slot) left to prove me right.