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:







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.


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.


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.