Monday, June 16, 2008

DCU 4-1 NYRB

Well, it's been awhile. Sorry I haven't been posting as much lately. It's not that I've lost my passion for United (eff that, United 'til I die), it's just that...

... I have two jobs.

... I like girls, and I like dating them.

... the DCU blogosphere (let alone the MLS or USA-MNT blogospheres) is oversaturated, in my opinion. The blogo-niche I aim for with these words is already filled-- brimming, even-- and well it should be. But, y'know, jobs and girls do take their precedence in a young man's life. They beckon, and I cannot ignore.

On the realz, what I'm trying to say is this: I'm too busy and you guys are too good. I'll step out of the limelight and enjoy it all for awhile, if you don't mind.

But that doesn't mean I've stopped having an opinion. If you'll indulge me, I have a few words about the DCU-RBNY

Great stuff. Great, great stuff. Chicken soup for a Black-and-Red soul, that stuff. Sicknasty methamphetamine for a jonesing tweaker, that stuff -- especially after the past couple weeks, watching the USA fail to score (up until this past Sunday) and half of Europe fail not to score (up until France-Italy tomorrow).

[By the way: Raymond Domenech, a word, please? Here, come closer: You need to give your boys some goddamn Wheaties or something, Raymond, because the ship is sinking and you've shown no signs of being capable of setting it aright. The French cock is no longer crowing; it is crying. It weeps at the mediocre football you're playing. Les Bleus are in a terrible situation. Fix it. Now.]

Anyways, D.C. United. Quick quibble:

I can't fully agree that Fred and Quaranta contributed through flank play. With Gallardo's presence absent for the match and Dyachenko unwilling or unable to provide something similar, Fred and Quaranta allowed themselves to fill the vacuum and consequently play as dual, ambiguously central pseudo-wingers. By this I mean that despite their deployment on the wing, Fred and Quaranta's most significant contributions to the flow of the game came as they distributed from the center of the pitch, and this, I feel, reflects upon their true natures as central playmakers and not as fringe wingers.

This conclusion reassures me that DC has adequate cover for Gallardo when he must be absent, but also scares me that we are not utilizing Fred and Quaranta to their full potential. Solution? Let the potential go untapped, and hope that somehow Fred and Quaranta can further adjust their talents for deployment out wide. Either that, or make Tommy play DC in a 4-2-3-1 (a la every Portuguese club in Football Manager 2008) on a more regular basis.

Just a quibble. That's all. =)

Shout outs to DCenters, BDR, Shatz, and Fullback (and Goff and BtB, and even Ives, to some extent). I've been trying to keep the blogging tradition alive, only to realize that you guys make it thrive. Holla at yo boy.

QJA out.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bitersweet Victory: DCU 2-1 Pachuca

Ye olde college workload strikes again. I saw the match but I didn't have time to write up a full recap, and I don't have much time now. Real quick:

What I Liked

- Tackles from the midfield. Gallardo and Simms are a defensive dynamic to be reckoned with. Simms doesn't have much of a first touch, but his tackling acumen never fails to impress me.

- Tackles in the midfield. Martinez is the strong and silent type, all tall, dark and handsome. People want to talk about Los Gonzalos as a pair, but in my mind they have become very distinct. Peralta tends more towards the Terry-esque sweeper role and Martinez towards the Makelele-esque d-mid role. Martinez is not afraid to get up and attack, and he has the touch and timing to do so very well indeed. Let's also talk about Bryan Namoff, that dazzling D.C. wide defender: he and Marc Burch spread the field like no other D.C. players on the pitch with their lethal service into the box; but what makes Namoff so valuable to D.C. is that he has the hustle and (like Simms) the tackling acumen to function as a legitimate wide back. Furthermore, he's consistent. Does the job, does it well. 'Nuff said.

- Three in the back. It was retired for the latter half of the 2007 season, and for good reason: United simply didn't have the defensive facilities to cope with a 3-5-2. This season, they do. I like it. I want more of it.

- Dyachenko. He's survived Addlery, Jamil, Kpene, and most recently Moose as the go-to fringe attacking player. But wait-- is that Dyachenko, our fringe attacking player, getting central and beating his man off the dribble? And wait-- he can finish, too?! Well then! Step right up, lad! There's a place here for you!

- Fred. He's struggling this season to make the most of his creative talents now that Gallardo is running the show, but when he finds the right spot and makes the right pass, he completely refutes the critics. Someone (Fighting Talker maybe? Kartik at American Soccer Spot?) wanted to make the point that he's lost some of his touch from last season. Look at his assist on Niell's goal last night: still think so?

- Gallardo beating his man on the dribble. Sometimes he does it, sometimes he doesn't, but when he does, it usually results in a panna or other such public humiliation. It just tickles me pink. Love that stuff.

What I Didn't Like

- Quaranta struggling to make an impact. He came out of the gates very fast against Toronto, and that's great, but last night he was forced out of the game by a combination of Pachuca's defense and Emilio's presence. I want him to make a strong and lasting impact for United this season, and to do that he's going to need to pace himself. Challenging Niell for a starting spot is a good start; now let's see him defend it.

- Don f*cking Garber. Read up about his foul mouth in Goff's WaPo recap. He's a tool.

- Pachuca advancing. I can't be 100% positive, but I feel damn sure when I say that they didn't want to advance as badly as we. Just like Chicago last season, this loss will go down as one of the most painful for D.C. in 2008.

- Gallardo's corners and free kicks. At this point I can't imagine that Gallardo's corners are better than Burch's or his free kicks better than anyone else with two feet. Get them on target, son.

Things I'm Not Sure About

- Niell. He still needs to prove to me that he's worth $150thou a year, but last night was a good start. I wonder if he'll make a bigger contribution for United off the bench rather than in the starting XI.

- McTavish. He was doing something last night, but I couldn't tell what. He made neither a positive nor a negative contribution on the pitch, neither offensively nor defensively. I'm not quite sure what to say.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Discussion: Overage Candidates for 2008 Olympics


This clinches it: we need to discuss the overage options for the U-23 squad this summer.

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McBride on the U-23 squad? Yes, please. He's a great option, and for so many reasons:

1) The national depth pool at forward is seriously lacking; we don't have many quality options. McBride is a gun (best target forward in U.S. history, by most arguments) and is still very capable of scoring with both feet and the top of his head. Christ, even the senior national team would take him back in a heartbeat. Need I say more?

2) As things stand right now, Jozy is our #1 and Freddy our #2 for forward. After that, what with Davies and Findley, the quality up top drops off significantly. McBride would both relieve Jozy Altidore from the responsibility of starting each and every game and share some of the physical pressure during matches should Nowak play them side by side. During the qualifying matches Jozy faced less of the strategic man-marking he's used to in the MLS and more of the hack-and-tackle treatment one usually sees with young defenders being introduced to the international game. He can expect more of the same in China. With McBride distracting the defense, Jozy will have the room to shine, much like Zizzo and Szetela did for Adu in Canada for the U-20's.

3) I'm not questioning Adu's leadership ability, but the fact remains that he's still young and still new. This summer would be McBride's first Olympics too, but there's no doubt in my mind that his presence on the squad would only serve to calm the players and staff. What's more, between McBride and Nowak, the U-23 squad would be spoiled with international experience and guidance. I can only see McBride's inclusion with the U-23 squad as a positive thing.

What's more, Ives makes the point that McBride might be called up for U.S. World Cup Qualifying, which conflicts with the Olympics and obviously takes priority. That would be unfortunate, as I think McBride is the best overage option for the U-23's in the national pool-- but I also think it's unlikely. If McBride weren't an option for the Olympics, I would be making the case for Donovan based on the same logic. I should think that Donovan would be the better candidate for the senior national team and McBride the better for the U-23's. Likewise I wouldn't count on Tim Howard or Bocanegra or EJ or Dempsey. McBride for the U-23 squad, seniors for the senior squad (with a couple exceptions, as we'll see below).

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So we've got two more slots to fill. Who else should we consider? I'll name a few and then make some bold estimations as to their chances of being called up with the U-23's. (I'm assuming here that the current scheduling conflict between the Olympics and World Cup Qualifying can't be resolved. There's a chance it will, in which case this discussion changes.)

- Cory Gibbs. He's just getting back to fitness after a couple of devastating injuries. I'm sure he wants to get back in the MNT fold ASAP and will be looking for minutes wherever they might be. I'm also sure that Premiership-chasing Charlton would like some assistance getting Gibbs back on form. If he's called up to the MNT, he's a sub at best, but on the U-23's I see him playing every match. Could work well with Jonathan Spector and possibly Neven Subotic. 90%

- Frank Simek. If Bob Bradley wants a better look at Simek before more senior call-ups, the Olympics would be a great opportunity. Moreover, Simek would be a fantastic fullback option should Gibbs, Spector and Subotic be in camp. Let's have him. 90%

- Eddie Lewis. We really need relief on the left, both on defense and midfield. Lewis would be the best option for either count, and like McBride, he would be an excellent leader and mentor on and off the pitch. However, because Lewis is such a good option on the left, should Beasley still be injured by WCQ, I would think that Lewis is a likely call-up to the senior national team, moreso than McBride. 70%

- Jonathan Bornstein. I was surprised that he wasn't called up for qualifying. He's 23 right now; does that mean he's overage? He's a good option anyways. Bornstein at left back would free up Sturgis to cover the right, which would relieve a lot of my fears about Kamani Hill and Marvell Wynne. 60%

- Taylor Twellman. He's fizzled with the senior squad, but he should do very well if he were called up. As with McBride, Twellman could provide good cover for Jozy. It's either him or Ching with with the seniors for WCQ. 50%

- Brian Ching. See Twellman. 50%

- Jay Demerit. If he's not with the national squad, the U-23's could definitely use a bruiser like him, but I think it's more likely that he is with the national squad. 40%

- Marcus Hahnemann. Again, I want to challenge the idea that we need a keeper (though there is a slight dropoff between Seitz and Cervi), but if Nowak wants one anyways, Hahnemann is a very good choice. He's seen little minutes with the national squad, very little minutes indeed. I would think that Hahnemann is more likely than Guzan to hook up with the U-23's. 40%

- Brad Guzan. Many people are calling for El Guzano, and I'm surprised: I think Seitz is a quality option at goalkeeper and has the skills necessary to succeed at the Olympics. That said, Guzan is more developed and his presence on the squad would quash a good many fears about the security of the backfield. However, even if Guzan is called up, there's a very good chance he'll be at a new club and would be unavailable to join the team. 30%

- Ramiro Corrales. Like Lewis, Corrales is a good option on the left, but San Jose will be relying on him to kickstart their return to MLS. 30%

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There are a few other MLS-based options (I'm thinking Hejduk, Conrad, Boswell, Olsen, etc.) but if there were a choice between a European-based player in his offseason and an MLS player in mid-season, I think Nowak would want the former.

So there you have it: McBride, Gibbs, and either Simek or Lewis. Nowak has some deciding to do.

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Finally, I want to petition for Neven Subotic to be welcomed into the national side. I hope we offer him a spot on the squad, and if we do, I hope he accepts. He would be a great addition.

What's more, I think Nowak will bring back Alvarez for the Olympics this summer. He would be foolish not to. I think Alvarez' exclusion from the qualifying tournament has less to do with his skill and more to do with his attitude. Hopefully he's made the necessary adjustment.

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Anyone I missed? Get at me with some comments.

Enjoy.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

D.C. Open with a Loss: Kansas City 2-0 D.C. United

Hmmm. Interesting idea, Mr. Soehn. We'll have to wait until Tuesday to see if it pays off.

Apparently Soehn took Fred out of the starting lineup in favor of Dominic Mediate and perhaps withheld Santino Quaranta in favor of on-form Devon McTavish, the argument being that the full starting XI needs to be fresh for Tuesday's more important Champion's Cup match against Pachuca. I can see the logic there.

The thing is, there's a big drop off in talent between our starting XI and our subs. Our lack of depth is a serious problem. McTavish's movement off the ball was laudable, as was Mediate's hustle to balls played into space, but both players' lack of touch killed several offensive movements. There's no doubt in my mind that had Fred and Quaranta been on from the start, D.C. would have tallied the first goal, and even if they hadn't, they would have been better able to equalize and overcome.

As it stands, this loss confirms what many of us suspected: D.C. United has poor roster depth.

That's all for now. Pachuca is on Tuesday. I'll have more to say after that match.

(I agree with D: the loss does feel a bit abstract. A loss v. Pachuca, on the other hand, would smart a bit.)

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Other notes:

- We'll be seeing Carvallo soon. Wells did not have a good showing tonight.

- Get well soon, Jaime. We need you.

- When do we get to see that dapper youth, Quavas Kirk?

- Stratford has the hustle and muscle to keep possession in tight spaces. I didn't get an accurate reading of his touch and field awareness, but after those eight minutes on the pitch tonight I'm curious to see more.

- Yup yup, I agree: MetroSports' technical difficulties were embarassing for them, and for the league.

- Niell also had a poor showing. Kansas City's back line had a very easy time knocking him off the ball. He couldn't overcome their physicality with his speed. What's more, even though he was ineffective there, he stayed central, forcing Emilio into a creative role on the wing. The result, as you can see, was impotency. Gallardo managed a few pot shots on goal, but he takes too long to set himself up and even when he does, he telegraphs his target. Defenders blocked him easily. Quaranta did his best to alleviate the problem but it took a few minutes for him to break into the game and by the time he did, there were two minutes left in regulation. Bottom line: Niell needs to realize when he can and when he can't beat the opposing defense. If he can't, he needs to spread the field and make way for the people who can. I even think he would be more effective in a wide role, if the right ball were passed into space and he could charge the box.

- Burch and Namoff had some deadly crosses into the box and showed that we really need a target man to capitalize. Unfortunately, Peralta is the only outfield player on the squad who has the physical tools to fill the role. We'll have to make the most of our corners, I suppose.

- Anyone else doing Fantasy MLS? I did fairly well tonight. My gamble with Trujillo paid off somewhat, anyways. Wish I'd gambled on Nyassi, too.

- Claudio Lopez will do well in this league, I think. Certainly a MotM performance tonight. A post might be brewing about the advantages of pursuing a forward for your DP as opposed to CAM. We'll see.

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Get your own celebration, jackass.

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I have a couple questions, if you guys wouldn't mind helping me out:

1) What happened on Lopez' goal? I saw his chip, but not the buildup.

2) When Fred came on for Burch, where did McTavish go? Left back or center back? If he went center back, who went to the left? Or did we change to a 3-5-2?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Pre-Season Power Rankings and Other Silly Things

I could have done a DCU season preview but there are already nearly half a dozen out there. Shatz, for example, has been doing the roster dance for weeks. Ives turned his out for ESPN a couple weeks ago. Jon at DCU Offside did his the other day. Even Goal.com has one up. That's some good coverage. Why compete?

Instead I think I'll go thirteen further and do an in-depth response to Ives' power rankings (with significant help from I-66's "Preview in Haiku").

MLS 2008 Pre-Season Power Rankings:

  1. Houston
  2. D.C. United
  3. New England Revolution
  4. Chivas USA*
  5. Kansas City*
  6. Chicago Fire*
  7. Red Bulls
  8. FC Dallas
  9. Colorado Rapids**
  10. Los Angeles Galaxy**
  11. Columbus Crew
  12. Toronto FC***
  13. Real Salt Lake***
  14. San Jose Earthquakes
Asterisks mark the changes I made to Ives' power rankings.

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Let's go from top to bottom:

1. Houston over DC United simply because the Western Conference has not improved as much as the Eastern during the offseason. Houston will have an easier time asserting their dominance and winning points. Their self-confidence and home support will carry them through the season, That said, in terms of talent, any of the top 4 could be argued for the #1 spot. They are the class of the league.

2. DCU has improved their defense, which wasn't the worst, and their playmaker, who was one of the best. Their preseason ended on a very positive note. They entered last season as a solid, title-challenging side and will enter this one the same, only more so. (What remains to be seen is the quality of roster depth: the starters are solid, but the subs? Quaranta can step on for any of the attacking corps, but can Stratford really come on for Simms, Carvallo for Wells, Dyachenko or Kirk for anyone? Let alone Moose, Barlow, and potentially Cezar and Curtin. We simply can't know until those boys see significant playing time, and they will, thanks to a hectic schedule. I predict another end-of-season slump, which is growing into an unfortunate franchise tradition.)

3. New England has a lot to prove and so does Twellman. Reis should have another solid season, as should Ralston. WVHooligan has even gone so far as to predict Shalrie Joseph as 2008-09 league MVP. I don't think I can agree with that assessment at this point, but I will predict that Foxboro will be the birthplace of many a nightmare this season.

4. Raphael Wicky is bringing in a lot of positive press for Chivas USA already. Sacha Kljestan had a very solid showing with the U-23's. Preki has a glut of starting options up top, namely Razov, Galindo, and Eskandarian. Bornstein at left back and Suarez as center back are two of the best in the league. Make no mistake, Chivas are title contenders this year. (On the other hand, lack of depth could prove a problem for the Goats. What's more, with Burpo gone to San Jose, who will step in for Guzan when he leaves?)

5. I dropped Kansas City in the rankings for two reasons. First: their offense is now an unknown quantity. The Trujillo/Lopez front line could prove miraculous, but it could also fizzle. Second: they've traded Burciaga and Garcia and brought in draftee Chance Meyers. As good as they are, I don't see Conrad and Hartman picking up that kind of slack.

6. Cuauhtemoc Blanco will draw crowds and fouls, converting the former into team chemistry and the latter into goals. He is the reason Chicago Fire should be respected. But he is the only reason. Ranking them sixth is an optimistic estimation. The Fire will be plagued by questions this year: will Hamlett succeed? Will the Fire miss Armas or Pickens more? Are Rolfe and Barrett really capable of socring? Will Conde play to his best? Is Frankowski still good? Positive answers will be hard to come by.

7. Oscar Etcheverry just signed with RBNY, giving Altidore both relief from and competition for his starting position. If Altidore leaves, New York has adequate cover. Still, let's go from the top down on the Bulls' starting XI, asking whether or not they will succeed this season. Angel? Of course. Altidore? Certainly. Reyna? Probably. Van den Bergh? Err, potentially. Stammler? Uh, possibly. Freeman? Mendes? Parke? Um... maybe. Conway? Well, no. Osorio is known for breeding strong defenses, but he has his work cut out for him.

8. Juan Toja is the buzz of Dallas' preseason, as is Davino and Caraccio. Each has enormous potential, but will they fulfill it? It's hard to say. That said, top to bottom, the Dallas side is more than decent and could easily leapfrog Kansas City, Chicago, or RBNY.

9. Everyone is being very hard on the Rapids because of their ill form at the end of last season plainly because they failed to score goals. They have one of the strongest defenses in the league, backed by Coundoul and spearheaded by the league's best d-mid (Mastroeni) and one who has to potential to be even better (Rafael Gomes), but their offense is dismal. Christian Gomez is verging on legend status; if he can orchestrate the impotent Rapids offense into something lethal, he'll go down in the books as a superhero. I think he can do it, and that's why I've bumped the Rapids up a couple notches.

10. The Galaxy have the biggest burden of proof in the league. Gullit is the most internationally accomplished coach in the league just as Bex is the most accomplished player. The Beckham/Ruiz connection has already proven effective in Asia. Donovan is headed for another double/double season. So what gives? Infrastructural instability could cripple this side. So could an injury crisis. As it stands now with everyone healthy, there's no doubt in my mind that the Galaxy have the capability to succeed in the MLS; but will they?

11. The Crew have a big problem: who will finish Schelotto's service? There are serious doubts about Alejandro Moreno and Nico Hernandez. Robbie Rogers and Eddie Gaven have yet to produce their best, and I'm not entirely sure it will come this year. Couple this with a mediocre Brian Carroll, a flawful back line, and a half-decent keeper and there isn't a whole lot to be optimistic about, especially when you consider the possibility that Schelotto leaves mid-season.

12. Toronto FC are poised to do much better than last year, but that's not saying much. They've pursued many and signed few, indicating either choosiness or contract faults or administrative conflicts or all three at once. But here's the bottom line: they're going to do better than last year, I can feel it. Their home support alone will render them not-the-last throughout the summer. The efforts of Maurice Edu, Jeff Cunningham and Danny Dichio might push them even further.

13. Kreis, now's your time to shine. Bring Real Salt Lake to life. You've got no Esky, no Adu, no DP, and nothing to lose. This goes for you too, Robbie Findley.

14. San Jose, to the contrary of many another MLS side, have nothing to prove and plenty of leeway about it anyways. Yallop will be well-esteemed whether this year ends well or badly. I'm hankering after Ramiro Corrales for my fantasy side; I think his value will increase exponentially once the season starts.

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Also, Houtson's video preview of the 2008 season. I think it's all very cute and silly. Houston should have a motto, and only a puppet of Jose Mourinho can say it, and it should be this: "Be champions."

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Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

US Dominate in Poland: Polska 0-3 US

I won't say that our offense was fantastic (it was much the opposite, in fact) but our defense was solid when it needed to be and our midfield got the job done. We played our brand of football throughout, which is to say that we played some good ol' soccer: bruising d-mids destroying attacks before they happen, (over)utilization of the wings, and capitalization of dead-ball opportunities. A very dull match with sparse opportunities rarely produced by the run of play. Typical stuff, yeah?

Not quite. We managed to dominate the run of play against a Euro 2008 competitor at their home stadium, in front of their home fans. Today's performance was very much rebuttal for the performance vs. Sweden in Sweden and possibly Ghana in Germany. This is a very positive result for the progressive Bradley campaign.

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So how did everyone do?

Michael Bradley did fine. We saw very little of his attacking prowess this match as he was utilized alongside Clark as the d-mid tandem, but we did get a good look at why nepotism has nothing to do with his frequent MNT call-ups. He consistently performs his midfield duties well: stemming the opposition and diffusing pressure to the wings. He completed nearly all of his passes and hardly put a foot out of line. I think the next step will be to integrate him into the offense. I'd like to see Coach Bob experiment with an offensive trio of Bradley (CAM) - Donovan (FW) - Johnson (FW), at least until Adu gets another call-up.

Ricardo Clark was also fine. After Mexico there were doubts about how well he and Bradley could perform together, but tonight these doubts were dispelled.

Howard was also at the top of his game.

Carlos Bocanegra was the consummate center half, as was Oguchi Onyewu. Ives has been touting the pair as the best in the MNT pool and after tonight I can hardly disagree. Each tallying a goal on the day from set pieces, the twain also proved that they still bring a lot to the dead-ball table.

Lewis still has a motor and a wicked lefty. He is an attractive overage option for the U-23's this summer, in my opinion.

Steve Cherundolo's crosses provided our most dangerous opportunities off the run of play, though I did think he tended to get over-committed with his offensive forays.

Donovan
did admirably, for playing on the left wing. He created Gooch and Bocanegra's goals with lethal dead-ball service and should have added a goal of his own. Thing is, while Donovan is the most versatile attacking option in the MNT pool, he's also the most potent, and I don't think he will produce his best out left. In the hole or up top would be ideal, but even a move to the right wing would be an improvement.

Other than that, Dempsey was off-form, Pearce was hot and cold (though Ives thought he was great), and the forwards were non-existent. But how is this unusual?

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Next stop: London. The Fulham boys will be back in full effect for that one, I think.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Home, Sweet Home : DCU Hits Harbour View for Five

DC 5 (6) - (1) 0 Harbour View FC

Ah, the difference a pitch can make.

Recap, quick and dirty:


United came out strong by penetrating the flanks and cutting inside. McTavish capitalized on some poor defending from a Gallardo freekick in the 26th. HVFC struggled to respond.

DC resumed dominance in the second half as Harbour View's attempt at an offsides trap fails miserably. Fred completed a backheel connection from the touchline to Emilio on the six, who finishes clean; from that cheeky touch a beautiful relationship is born. Quaranta came on for Niell in the 64th. The offsides trap failed four more times. Harbour View managed a handful of shots from outside the box, none of which threaten the net.

DC will face the winner of Thursday's Pachuca/Montagua match with a huge boost of confidence.

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The big story here is United's clean sheet. There were no goals due to communication errors, to goalkeeping howlers, to poor positioning, to tactical misalignment, to anything; there were no goals period. Defensive cohesiveness must have been Soehn's big preseason project and it is beautiful. Beautifully surprising, even: where the hell did Martinez come from, getting forward like that? I thought he was going to have a shot for a second there. He seemed stunned with himself.

You know what else is beautiful? Watching our boys rediscover attacking football again. I was euphoric from the 60th to right around the 75th. Now, if you were to tell me that the scoreline exaggerates the goodness of United's attack and is really more of an indication of the badness of Harbour View's defense, I would agree. But take a closer look: Fred dominated the left flank on the dribble and provided service for two goals. Emilio looked every bit the CONCACAF veteran with his well-timed runs, scoring a brace. Even Quaranta provided two goals on the day; now when the hell has that happened for anyone, let alone DC?

United are finding their feet again and are rediscovering the basics of attacking soccer, thanks in no small part to Gallardo. You can already see his influence on United's method of attack: United are finding ways to make the most of their touches in the middle third, diffusing pressure and positioning well. Those hopelessly optimistic balls over the center of the pitch are being phased out in favor of shorter, more penetrating balls into space on the flanks. Gone are the telegraphed passes out of the back to the one man making a run; each movement up the field has two, three, sometimes even four options. Finally Soehn & Co. will have the opportunity to emphasize finishing, rather than providing, opportunities in the box.

The result tonight might be overwhelmingly positive, but it is positive nonetheless, and certainly more righteous compared to the last time DCU played at RFK. Well done, boys.


------------------------
Other notes:

- I do have a small concern about Gallardo: in his role as coordinator of the attack, sometimes he goes so far as to make and offensive movement's first pass out of the back. He was side by side with Simms in front of the back four on more than one occasion. If he's busy making passes out of the back, how can he get himself in the perfect position to provide service into the box? Let Simms do his job. He's not that bad.

- I don't want to admit it, but after tonight I think I have to: McTavish is probably our best option on the right wing until Olsen recovers. I'm not saying this because of his goals (he's the consummate opportunist) but because neither Dyachenko nor Mediate showed up any better.

- It's good to see 'Tino get some minutes. His touch and service are almost on par with Fred's. I'd like to see him on the right wing instead of McTavish but Soehn seems to want him as an option up top, and with Jaime still recovering, that's probably wise.

- Wells has my full support. He has no jump but his technique and communication are excellent. Peralta and Martinez know exactly what to expect from him and he them. Another indication, I think, of Soehn's preseason success.

- Miles and Caligiuri seemed to hit their stride just as DC seemed to hit theirs. Miles is kind of smug and Caligiuri seems a bit out of place in the booth, but they certainly performed better than in Jamaica. That said, I'm glad they're not with Comcast.



Enjoy.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Thursday, March 13, 2008

U-23 Olympic Qualifying: US 1-0 Panama

I'm going to stop calling these 'recaps' because honestly, I don't recap what happened in the game. I'm just posting what I think about it. And here's what I think about this one:

A clean sheet is just what Seitz and the US defense deserve. The Panamanian offense isn't the strongest of the group (by the numbers it's the weakest, actually) but it's to the US' credit that there were a scant few chances on goal.

On the other side of the field, our offense could use a little work, namely with finishing. Shots, boys; let's have more of them. I think ultimately what will lead to more shots is better service, and in that case, here's what needs to happen:

- Get rid of Gaven. I didn't see any creativity from him this game. He advanced the ball only to pass it laterally or backwards. I'd even be willing to experiment with Zizzo in his place.
- Centralize Freddy. He's the best finisher of the squad (which explains why he was up top), but he's also the most creative. He contributes more as a #10 in the hole than as a forward up top, or, ideally, as a CAM with the freedom to get forward. We saw a central Freddy in the U-20 tournament; let's see it again.
- Put Kljestan in the middle third. For this to happen he needs to be relieved of the bulk of his defensive duties, and for that to happen we need Edu playing as DM instead of McCarty. (I said it yesterday and I'll repeat it again today: the kid has the motor, but not the brain.) Problem is, there are only two ways Edu gets to play midfield: Ianni steps up in training and inspires some confidence in Nowak, or West Ham releases Spector. The latter is more likely, I think.

If we want more goals, this is what I think the lineup needs to look like:

------------------Altidore-----------------

-------------------Adu--------------------

Zizzo------------Kljestan------------Holden

-------------------Edu----------------------

Wynne----Spector----Orozco-------Sturgis

-----------------Seitz-----------------------

Otherwise, if one-nil victories are satisfactory, then what we saw tonight should suffice.


-------------------------------
Other notes:

- The Sturgis experiment seems to be working. There weren't many chances from the wing. Then again, there weren't many chances at all, but still, he's better than Freeman. Honduras will be the real test.

- Orozco is a fine addition to the squad. He is excellent on the tackle and works well with Edu. I don't have any complaints.

- Hill's touch and balance are better than Wynne's. Wynne has him beat for pace and stamina, though, and because both have sub-par positioning and awareness, my top choice for left-back would be Wynne. If Hill is an option on the left, why not try him on the wing? (More important question: is Hill injured? He wasn't on the bench.)

- Our set pieces aren't terrible; in fact, a couple of our corners were fearsome indeed. Nowak has obviously been drilling dead-ball plays during practice.

- I want to see more Holden. He was excellent for the first half-hour. His stamina is lacking a bit, which might be why he didn't start v. Cuba, but he's the best winger in the current squad.

- Speaking of wingers, how about the prodigal Salvatore Zizzo? Hannover was reluctant to let him go for the week, but he isn't showing much out wide. He worked very hard for very little. Better than Gaven, but still-- compared to the U-20 tournament, Zizzo is underperforming. Let's get back on form, Z.

- Nowak has picked a very balanced squad for this tournament, IMO. The team is neither overly offensive nor defensive and Nowak has options at almost every position on the pitch, even if some of those options are untested and experimental. If we had won v. Cuba, I would be satisfied. As it is, I wish we had more tried-and-true options up top and out wide. I wonder if Nowak misses Alvarez and Feilhaber going into a make-or-break match v. Honduras.

- This might be tempting the devil, but I'm curious about Cervi. He became very popular very fast. I want to see why.

- At one point the ESPN Deportes commentators mentioned something about DC United. Anyone know what? Also, a paradox: I appreciated the Spanish commentary of this match better than the Miles/Caligiuri abomination of the DC-Harbour View match.




Plato's Republic beckons.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Match Recap: DCU 1 - 1 Harbour View FC

Woof. Not much to like about this game. A slow and cranky start to the season.

Recap, quick and dirty: McTavish scored just before the end of the first half, Lowell equalized just before the end of regulation. Neither goal was anything to brag about. DC enjoyed large periods of possession, which HVFC did their best to break up with hard tackles and double-teaming.

The most important thing I noticed was the slow pace to the game. It seems United is struggling to shake off its preseason mentality. Players were walking at every opportunity and there were far too many lackadaisical balls over the top. The large influx of new players won't make finding rhythm easy, but it needs to be done. Soehn needs to eliminate fitness problems as soon as possible; team cohesion is a pressing issue.

Second: DC needs to find a way to overcome HVFC's physicality. Pretty touches alone won't do it, and neither will our dependence on flank play (not with McTavish as right wing, anyways). We need to draw their defense out of position and wreck their back line with pinpoint passes through the middle. It's entirely possible: Gallardo is a dead-eye and Niell has the hustle to latch onto balls knocked into space. I want to see Fred and Emilio holding up the ball a bit more, allowing Gallardo to set 'em up and Niell to knock 'em down.

Looking ahead, DCU are the safe bet to take the home-and-away series at RFK. But they've got a bit of work to do before they inspire confidence in me.

--------------------
Other notes:

- I agree with Dave Lifton. The commentators (Christian Miles and Paul Caligiuri) were awful.

- The rumors are true: we finally have a #10 that contributes defensively as well as organizing the attack. And Gallardo does organize the attack: I saw glimpses of him communicating with Niell and Emilio. I have high hopes for that trio this season.

- Furthermore, I hope Gallardo wasn't too frustrated by the end of the match because he'll be seeing plenty of the same physical-play-to-disrupt-possession-until-we-can-equalize-through-counterattack kind of soccer very frequently for the next six months. Here's hoping he can overcome negative soccer quickly.

- Early on the question was posed, "What does Niell bring to the field that Moreno doesn't?" My immediate answer was pace, but I'll rephrase that with 'hustle.' He's fast and he's scrappy. I can see Niell vying with Simms for amount of effort expended per game this season. He's got more than enough speed and the way his shoulders swing when he sprints tells me that he's spent years fighting off the bigger guys for long balls. We here at DCU like them long balls, apparently. Niell will suit us nicely.

- Now that I think about it, I would be happy to replace Jaime with Niell in the starting lineup for several reasons. Firstly, the creativity Jaime traditionally brings to DCU's game is now El Muneco's responsibility. Secondly, he is deficient in pace at this point in his career, and pace (along with finishing) was a crucial element missing from our attacking corps last season, a crucial element that Niell has oodles of. Thirdly: if memory serves, this past season Jaime has performed better for United as a sub than as a starter, scoring more goals from the run of play. That makes sense. When everyone is tired and Jaime's lack of pace ceases to be a handicap, he can create and exploit holes in defense like no one else can. Jaime is better able to open the game for DCU when he is fresh in the 70th and everyone else is winded.

- Wells is slow and his reach isn't the best but he's got good hands and good positioning. I even heard a bit of communication. I'll reserve judgment until I see Carvallo, but from what I saw tonight, Wells has a good many starts ahead of him this season.

- There were scant few shots from HVFC and the Jamaican squad only equalized through a set piece, which tells me that DC was defending well during the run of play. Excellent. Peralta and Martinez can only get better from here on out as they learn to play with each other.

- I don't like McTavish on the wing. I mean, he fulfills the role decently and he didn't commit any egregious mistakes, but I can't help wondering if Quaranta won't link up better with Gallardo. Speaking of linking up, there were several Gallardo-Niell connections that gave me goosebumps. I prophesy some tasty, tasty net-bulgers from the Argentinean duo.

- Burch didn't lose much over the offseason in terms of defensive capability. By the same token, he still has more to gain. I'm hoping this season that he'll be able to cultivate his defense while making a positive contribution on offense.

- Fullback agrees with Lifton and I about the commentators, and also makes a good point about Soehn's tactics. Anyone else think they're too rigid?



Feels good to post another one of these. I'll have to do it again soon.

Enjoy.

Halftime Thoughts

Post-game recap later. Couple thoughts beforehand:

1) According to critics, Dax McCarty had a better-than-average game last night v. Cuba. I would tend to agree. I hesitate to applaud, however, because he still looks raw to me. He has more stamina than anyone else on the pitch and enough pace to stem a budding attack and get the job done, but his field awareness and defensive tactics leave much to be desired. Dax ran touchline to touchline harassing the Cuban wingers, but he was infringing on his teammates marks and generally pulling the midfield out of shape. I want to see more composure and pitch intelligence from the lad before I sing his praises.

2) Avram Grant should be fired. Chelsea is coming apart at the seems. As my primary piece of evidence I call to the stand one Mr. John Terry, who has seen more than his fair share of press exposure recently. It seems like every other day now he's in the press with some quotes about team chemistry and the squad's relationship with the management, defending the players and lashing out at critics. Some might say that he is merely fulfilling his role as captain, and I can hardly argue with that, but the fact is that Terry feels the need to step into that kind of role and to singlehandedly keep the team aright. John Terry will never beg for anything, and damn right he shouldn't-- so I'll do it for him. For the love of Wayne, someone fire Grant. With Mourinho at the helm, the only things Terry needed to concern himself with were the organization of his defense and what the hell he was going to do after the game. Now he's bearing the weight of the entire squad on his shoulders and it breaks my heart. Let's have a real manager back again. I'd even let Rijkaard have a crack if he were so willing.

See you in 45.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Match Recap: U-23 Olympic Qualifying, USA - Cuba

Just lettin you guys know that I saw the game tonight, and I'm still in the blogging game. Still in it to win it baby. I'll see y'all soon.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Match Recap: Chelsea 2-1 Wigan, FA Cup

With this win, Cup holders Chelsea are through to the final to play either Sheffield Utd or Manchester City.

Today's Chelsea was a decent side and the result was always to be, but due to the injury crisis and ACN absences it is now painfully evident where Chelsea's weaknesses are and a good possession side will be able to exploit them with ease. A matchup in the final with Man City could prove be one of the most thrilling of the season.

----------

Chelsea ratings (out of 10):

Cech - 7
Stopped all but the most spectacular of chances. Looks like his dependable old self again.

Bridge - 4
Got upfield well but wasn't communicating well with either Cole or Carvalho. Ivanovic might be making his debut quickly.

Alex - 6
He's no Terry but he'll do. Did his level best to organize the back line and showed good anticipation by stepping up and quelling some potentially dangerous buildups around midfield.

Carvalho - 6
Between him and Alex I feel confident in our center defense. They can be relied upon.

Belletti - 4
Guilty of slow thinking and too many touches. Nearly the victim of his own mistakes on more than one occasion. Not an inspiring performance.

J. Cole - 7
Very troublesome on the wing. His bursts of flair and creativity are very encouraging. Cole's performances on the pitch might prove to be decisive throughout the coming weeks.

Makelele - 5
I can't tell whether he's off form or just slowly losing his game as time goes on, but either way, a below-average Makelele is still a crucial presence for Chelsea on the pitch. He could work a bit better with Carvalho and Alex.

Sidwell - 4
I'm not comfortable with any midfield lineup involving Sidwell. He just doesn't have the vision and awareness you'd like to see out of a player in his role. Damningly, he failed to pressure the service which led to Sibierski's wondergoal.

Wright-Philips - 6
You definitely want him on the pitch, but I feel he's underperforming. Scored the winning goal but could have made the Chelsea bench a bit more comfortable earlier on if he wasn't so wasteful with his touches in the final third.

Malouda - 5
Anelka's immense presence up top effectively forced Malouda out of the game. He wanted to relegate himself to the wings but found Cole and SWP there already. Isn't a true winger and therefore couldn't find his place in the game. I wonder how he'd do in a central position, either as a Ballack-type a-mid or a Jaime Moreno-type withdrawn forward. I also wonder how J. Cole would do in those roles, for that matter.

Anelka - 8 (MotM)
Grabbed his first goal and first assist in only his second appearance for the club. Consistently broke Wigan's back four and was a constant threat the entire game. Anelka looks well to me, playing with a style and presence very similar to Drogba's. In that sense I can't help but feel I'm witnessing the work of Drogba's replacement. If he preserves this kind of form throughout the coming weeks, he might just become Chelsea's #1.

Subs:
Ferreira - 4
Didn't have much time to make a positive impact but committed several poor touches which almost cost us.

Pizzaro - NA

-----------

Notes:

- Wigan's pitch looks awful, though I do seem to recall a certain pitch at a certain Bridge against Barcelona in the 05-06 Champion's league which looked awfully similar.

- As far as I can tell, Anelka has been onside every time they've called him off. He has sublime timing.

- Wigan's real chances have all come from the wings just outside the final third-- Wright-Philips and Cole aren't connecting well enough with Belletti and Bridge. Fortunately Wigan hasn't had good service and Heskey doesn't have the physical presence to deal with Alex.

- Malouda is useless. I wonder what a young, hungry gun like Sinclair wouldn't do to open up Wigan's back line for Anelka.

- Chelsea seems to have no intention of working through the center of the pitch. Makelele is busy at the back and Sidwell seems incapable of being the two-way conduit. So then who? I can't help but imagine what Michael Bradley would be doing that Sidwell isn't.

Enjoy. =)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Marcelo Gallardo to DC??

Well, it's been since November. Just wanted to check back in. I'm well, thanks for asking.

Here's my silly season contribution:

Goal.com is reporting that Marcelo Gallardo is headed Stateside the next few days to sign a contract with an MLS club rumored to be DC United after our pursuit of Veron was scuppered by La Brujita himself. This makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider the situation with Gomez. Last I checked, negotiations had stalled and rumors had started. I heard something about Gomez to Colorado. I laughed out loud, but in light of this rumor, I might be inclined to take it a little more seriously.

Update:

Dammit, Ives, with your intrepid reporting and substantiated information. And dammit, Red Bull-- wait, no, you can have him. I'm still holding out for Sheva.

While I'm checking in, shout outs to Ives for going independent (his blog is fantastic, nigh on orgasmical for we MLS junkies) and to MLS Rumors for stepping it up a notch. The MLS is truly inferior to the EPL in one very important publicity-getting arena: tabloids. Good to know MLSR is on top of things.

And shout out to Fullback, just cause.