Friday, September 28, 2007

Preview of Game 27 - DC United vs Toronto FC

DC United welcomes Toronto FC to RFK stadium this weekend looking to further solidify their claim on the number one seed in the Eastern Conference and the Supporter's Shield. United are on a ten game MLS regular season unbeaten streak (8-2-0, W-D-L) They are also unbeaten at home since April. United's home record is 9-2-1 and they have a +13 goal differential. DC are currently in 1st place in the Eastern Conference, four points clear of New England. DC United also leads the Supporter's Shield race, three points clear of Chivas USA who holds a game in hand.

Toronto FC, not to put too fine a point on it, have been playing the worst soccer in MLS over the last ten weeks. Their league record 824 minute scoreless streak ended in their last game, a 2-1 loss to Columbus. TFC are a horrible road team, with a 1-4-7 record and a -18 goal differential. Toronto is winless since July 4th (0-4-8, -16) and is in last place in the Eastern Conference, twenty-nine points behind DC United. They are also in last place in the Supporter's Shield race.

Entering this weekend, United hold their destiny in their hands. Win out, and they receive all the regular season accolades possible. This weekend Chivas hosts Chicago and New England hosts Colorado. Chicago and Colorado are desperate for points as they are both looking for one of the last playoff spots. Toronto, while mathematically alive, is out of the hunt being eleven points back with four games to play. I expect United to play the same roster they used against CD Guadalajara, Emilio, Morerno, Fred, Gomez, Olsen, Simms, Burch, Vanney, McTavish, Namoff, and Perkins. I also expect the top subs to remain Gros, Carroll, and Boswell.


DC United 3:0 Toronto FC
Chivas USA 2:2 Chicago Fire
New England Revolution 2:1 Colorado Rapids
Special Game C - DC United 2:1 CD Guadalajara

Copa Sudamericana Round of 16

United had a goal in mind. In previous international tournaments, United had left home with a tie and ended up eliminated. This time, against an opponent they had played earlier this year, United was determined to leave home with a win. The early lead was a good sign. Isn't Olsen on a great streak? But when Burch was sent off, things looked bleak. In my section, I was agitating for a Boswell for Moreno switch with McTavish moving to midfield. Instead, Soehn brought in Gros and Carroll after the fortuitous Simms goal to make it 2-0. United was lucky to leave with the win and it sets them up well for the road game. A tie and they advance.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Special Game 'C' in Your Ticket Books - DC United vs CD Guadalajara

Tonight DC United welcomes CD Guadalajara to RFK Stadium for the first game in a home and home series for the right to advance to the quarterfinals of the Copa Sudamericana. Tonight's game is a late start. Kickoff is at 8:30 PM. United should have everyone available and with the playoff berth secured and bottom feeder Toronto coming to town on Saturday, there is no reason why United won't play their best roster tonight. I expect the starting eleven to be Moreno, Emilio, Fred, Gomez, Olsen, Simms, Burch, Namoff, Vanney, McTavish, and Perkins. Boswell, Carroll, and Gros should be the subs if necessary.


DC United 2:1 CD Guadalajara

Monday, September 24, 2007

Game 26 - DC United 1:1 Chicago Fire

I have to admit, I was very tired when I watched the recording of this game and may have dozed off for portions of it. However, it was a pretty boring match. And if you fire up the DVR at 10:30 PM like I did to watch it, it could have been sleep inducing. However, United got the job done. They pulled a tie on the road with four starters on the bench to start the game and three of them unavailable due to Yellow Card Vacation. United's unbeaten streak is now up to ten.

The Good:
  • Even though he didn't score, Emilio was dangerous on the few times the JV midfielders were able to get him the ball.
  • Boswell and Vanney looked pretty good next to each other in the middle.
The Bad:
  • Mediate and Gros had poor games on the wings.
  • Very little imagination.

Forwards (Emilio and Moreno) B+

Jamie gets lucky and scores #111. Not much more could be expected with the service they were getting.

Midfielders (Carroll, Mediate, Gros, and McTavish) C-

McTavish only played a little part of the game here before sliding into Namoff's spot. But, it was some ugly soccer from this group.

Defenders (Vanney, Boswell, Burch, Namoff, and Perkins) B

Good game from this group. The goal was a nice one, could it have been stopped? Yes. But I wasn't upset about it. Chicago made a nice play.

Substitutes (Simms, Addlery, and deRoux) C+

Simms was great, as usual. Addlery and deRoux added little, also as usual.

With New England's tie and Chivas USA's win, here's how things are in the Supporter's Shield and Eastern Conference races as of now:

DC United - 50 Points, 4 Games (3 H, 1 A) Max Points - 62
Chivas USA - 47 Points, 5 Games (3H, 2A) Max Points - 62
New England - 46 Points, 4 Games (2H, 2A) Max Points - 58

Predicted Final Standings as of 9-24
DC United 58
Chivas USA 58
New England 56

(United holds the tie-breaker against both Chivas and NE)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Preview of Game 26 - DC United at Chicago Fire

DC United, 15-4-6 (W-D-L), head to Chicago after eleven days off without the services of three starting midfielders. DC United will be without Fred, Ben Olsen, and Christian Gomez, all of whom are on league sponsored Yellow Card Vacation. United won the only previous meeting at RFK 3-1. These two teams will play their third and final game at RFK on October 13. United has clinched a playoff spot and essentially is guaranteed no worse than the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference postseason. There are two things left to play for in the regular seasonfor United. First is to beat out New England for the top seed in the East. New England can get a maximum of sixty points, so United's magic number is eleven (combination of United points and points New England doesn't get for losses and ties). DC United is on nine match MLS unbeaten streak (8-1-0), outscoring their opponents 22-6 in that span. United is 6-2-5 on the road this year with a +7 goal differential, both tops in MLS. United leads the league in points per game (1.96 PPG) and is in 1st place in the Eastern Conference, four points clear of New England (1.80 PPG). United is also in 1st place in the Supporter's Shield race, four points ahead of New England and Houston (1.73 PPG). United has played the same number of games as New England, twenty-five, and one less than Houston.

Chicago Fire, 8-7-10 (W-D-L), are fighting for the final playoff spot with New York, Kansas City, and Colorado. Chicago pulled out a tie in Dallas on Thursday to get a precious point, and are now two points ahead of Colorado. Due to the rule changes this season, if the number five team in the East finishes with more points than the number four team in the West, the East team, currently Chicago, would be placed as the fourth seed in the West for the playoffs. Chicago is a mediocre home team with a 4-5-3 record and a -1 goal differential. They are in 5th place in the Eastern Conference (1.24 PPG), eighteen points behind DC United. They are in 8th place overall, but cannot overtake United for the Supporter's Shield.

The full three points for United would be quite a bonus. A tie keeps them on pace for the Supporter's Shield. If they get one point in each of their road matches and average two points in their three home games, that should be enough to win the Supporter's Shield. I expect the starting eleven for United to be Emilio, Kpene, Moreno, Gros, Carroll, Simms, Namoff, Burch, McTavish, Vanney, and Perkins in a 4-4-2 formation. Moose, Boswell, and Mediate all could get in during the second half.

With five games remaining, United needs about six points to have a good shot at retaining the Supporter's Shield and eleven to guarantee it.


DC United 2:1 Chicago Fire

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Looking Ahead at the Chances

I don't know about anyone else, but I am starting to get excited for some thrilling times to come at RFK. If United can hold off the rest of the league, there is a potential for three home playoff games, one of which is the MLS Cup. So, since I love me some stats, I want to look at what I think the chances are that I will be at MLS Cup cheering on the Black and Red.

There are three factors involved in United playing in the MLS Cup at RFK.

1. Will United finish in first place in the East?
2. How does United play at home? How do the rest of the teams play on the road?
3. Are the best players healthy, available, and in the lineup?

To address the first factor, let's look at the potential playoff teams in the East.

DC - 49 Points, 5 Games (3 H, 2 A), Max Possible Points - 64
NE - 45 Points, 5 Games (2 H, 3 A), Max Possible Points - 60
NY - 37 Points, 5 Games (3 H, 2 A), Max Possible Points - 52
KC - 36 Points, 5 Games (2 H, 3 A), Max Possible Points - 51
CHI - 30 Points, 6 Games (3 H, 3 A), Max Possible Points - 48

So barring an epic collapse, United only has to worry about New England for top seed in the East. United has an extra home game over the Revolution and a four point cushion. United won the season series with two wins and a tie, so DC clinches the top seed with 60 points if NE maxes out their points. That is unlikely, so let's say they do really well and win four of the five games. United would need eight points to win the East. Win two of three at home and get two points on the road and they are there. Chances of winning the East: 90%.

If United wins the East, they have a home and home in the first round against New York, Kansas City, or Chicago. United is 9-2-1 (W-D-L) at home this season with a +13 goal differential. Their only loss was the first one in April, so United is on an eleven game unbeaten streak at home and a four game winning streak. The best road team of the three is Kansas City. They are 3-4-5 with a -4 goal differential. United on the road is one of only two teams to be above .500 at 6-2-5. United also has the best road goal differential at +7. So United has a distinct advantage in the first round. Chances of winning the first round: 80%.

Now, let's assume New England advances to the Eastern Conference Finals. United has owned them this year, outscoring them 8-3 in three games. United's home record compared to New England's road record (6-2-4, -2 GD) again favors United. Chances of winning the Eastern Conference Championship game: 70 %.

So that leaves the third factor, lineups. The DC United coaching staff seems to have figured out who the best players are and are getting tremendous results recently. My only quibble is Vanney over Boswell, but that is minor compared to Simms/Carroll. So, will everyone be available for each game? Injuries and suspensions can crop up. Chances of fielding the top lineup: 95%.

So, if my unscientific and completely subjective guesses are right, what are the chances of DC United hosting the MLS Cup at RFK? United has a 48% chance. See, that's why I am getting excited.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Game 25 - DC United 2:1 Real Salt Lake

I was as frustrated after this win as any loss of this season. My frustration manifested in a few ways. Frustration at the coaching staff for choosing to rest Fred at the start of the game. With Moreno out playing for Bolivia, we needed Fred in there for creativity and the threat he is to defenses. Without him, RSL could key on Gomez and severely limit DC's ability to attack. Second, I was frustrated with the lack of possession by DC in the first half. RSL was living in DC's third of the field. They were clearly the better team in the first half. Third, I was frustrated with the officiating. Having been at the game and having not watched it on replay, I know some of the calls I disagreed with would have been correct. The sheer volume and the devastating effect of them, was alarming. All three cards on Olsen, Fred, and Gomez were suspect. Especially Fred. It seemed the linesman was feeling slighted and took it out on Fred for dissent. Even the referee later told the linesman to cool it when he got heated a few minutes later. I can honestly say I got little pleasure out of this win. All I could think of on the way home was three of United's four starting midfielders would be unavailable at Chicago.

The Good:

  • United took the full three points on a night when things seemed to be going against them.
  • Perkins makes a great save on the penalty.
  • Emilio notches another

The Bad:

  • Gomez tells Emilio to get lost then missed the penalty.
  • All the yellow.


Forwards (Kpene and Emilio) B

Emilio was very good again, but Kpene seemed to dribble himself into trouble. He had one speedy run which showed he is fully healthy, which is nice.

Midfielders (Gros, Gomez, Carroll, and Olsen) B-

An awful first half can be mostly blamed on this group. A better second half saved their grade.

Defenders (Boswell, McTavish, Burch, Namoff, and Perkins) B

No major complaints from this group. Tighter marking on Beckerman might have resulted in a clean sheet.

Substitutes (Fred and Simms) A-

Fred's excellent cross results in the go ahead goal. Simms came in and helped kill the game.

So United is now off for ten days. They will be severely short handed at Chicago, so that result is in serious doubt. If they can salvage a tie, they will be sitting on fifty points with four games to play. Chivas USA's recent form has caused me to up my estimate of the point total needed to win the Supporter's Shield from fifty-four to fifty-six. United therefore needs seven points from their final five games to reach that number.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Preview of Game 25 - DC United vs Real Salt Lake

DC United, 14-4-6 (W-D-L), remain at home and hope to avenge their loss to Real Salt Lake earlier this season. United lost that game 2-1 and played some uninspired soccer that night in Salt Lake City. Remember, that was the night Jay Nolly got the start in goal and Rod Dyachenko started at forward. Let's hope we don't have a repeat of that disaster. United also clinches a playoff spot with thier next point. DC United is on an eight match MLS unbeaten streak (7-1-0), outscoring their opponents 20-5 in that span. DC United improved its home record on Sunday to 8-2-1 with a +12 goal differential. United leads the league in points per game (1.92 PPG) and is in 1st place in the Eastern Conference, four points clear of New England (1.75 PPG). United is also in 1st place in the Supporter's Shield race, four points ahead of New England and FC Dallas (1.70 PPG). United has played the same number of games as New England, twenty-four, and one less than FC Dallas.

Real Salt Lake, 4-6-12 (W-D-L), are among the worst teams in the league. However, they seem to have United's number. The game in Utah might have been United's worst performance of the year. RSL is awful on the road this season with a 1-3-7 record and a -10 goal differential. They are in 5th place in the Western Conference (0.82 PPG), twenty-four points behind Houston with three games in hand; and in 12th place in the Supporter's Shield race, twenty-eight points behind DC United with two games in hand.

This match will decide the Ben Cup. If you don't know what that is, look it up here. United doesn't have anyone unavailable as of now, but has three players (Fred, Gomez, and Olsen) sitting on their last yellow card. I was actually thinking it might make sense to have Gomez get a yellow on Sunday to get it over with before a tougher opponent. But I decided that was a terrible idea. Go get the points against the bad teams. RSL is a bad team. It might be Vanney's turn to sit this one out on defense. I expect the starting eleven for United to be Emilio, Moreno, Gomez, Fred, Olsen, Simms, Namoff, Burch, McTavish, Boswell, and Perkins in a 4-4-2 formation. Carroll, Kpene, and Gros all could get in during the second half.

With six games remaining, United needs about eight points to have a good shot at retaining the Supporter's Shield. If DC wins this game, then they only need five points from the five remaining games, three of which are at home.


DC United 2:0 Real Salt Lake
Game 24 - DC United 4:2 New England Revolution

Apologies all around for not posting a preview. I'll try to make up for it in this game review.

After attending the Redskins game Sunday, I watched the HD replay on Comcast. I'll go into my machinations for how I decided to go to the Redskins game instead of United vs Revolution below, but I want to say right now that this was the first home game I had watched on TV in a few years and the coverage was 100% better than ESPN's Thursday night games. Kudos all around. The picture was gorgeous, the commentary was good, and no technical glitches which caused me to miss large portions of the game. So I avoided any way of finding out the score ahead of time (same for USA vs Brazil) and settled in to watch a lot of soccer at 8 PM. I found the starting lineup curious in that I thought Boswell had played well since his return to the starting lineup and Vanney was the one due for a rest, and I was shocked that Gros was not only available but starting. I would have thought he would have done one game as a sub before being put back in the starting lineup. Maybe Olsen really needed the rest, but with Real Salt Lake visiting on Wednesday, I would have thought that was the game to rest Olsen. (Although, I am reminded of a similar line of thought by the coaching staff which may have contributed to United's loss at RSL earlier this year.)

The game started well again with United scoring first. When was the last time United didn't score first? I need to look this up. The last time United failed to score the first goal in league play was against NYRB on July 22nd, nine games ago. Overall, the last time United conceded the first goal was in the SuperLiga semifinal against LA Galaxy. Not bad. The fact that in both situations they lost via shutout is not a pleasant statistic, however. The two goals New England scored were both deflections and the first one was comical in it's unluckitude. What was great to see was how United was able to rebound from their first deficit in a while and push ahead to the three points. United is now four points clear of the league. With winnable games at home coming up, United is in spectacular position to claim their second consecutive Supporter's Shield. More on that in the RSL preview later today.

The Good:

  • Emilio is making a case for MLS MVP. It's really down to him and Angel right?
  • Fred slots home his one chance.
  • Moreno scores in the run of play.
  • Gros plays the full 90 minutes with no ill effects.

The Bad:

  • The inability to clear the second goal off the line.
  • The full Sunday schedule (United, USA, and Redskins), more below.

Forwards (Moreno and Emilio) A

Emilio now stands on 18 goals and is the clear favorite for the Golden Boot and has to be one of the three named as finalists for MLS MVP. Moreno had a beautiful assist on Fred's goal and also scored #110 himself.

Midfielders (Fred, Gomez, Gros, and Simms) A-

Gros played with excellent effort and you could see that he is a much better midfielder than left back. Gomez and Fred had a good game pushing forward for the tying and go ahead goals in the second half. Simms was steady as usual.

Defenders (McTavish, Burch, Vanney, Namoff, and Perkins) B

Vanney needs to do a better job of marking the opposition's best forward. The first goal doesn't happen if he is a yard closer. The second goal may or may not have crossed the line. I have no idea.

Substitutes (Olsen, Carroll, and Boswell) A

Olsen and Carroll assisted on goals and Boswell settled the defense. Excellent work about the subs. See I can say something nice about Carroll.

Begin Rant

Last year, the Redskins were playing the Cowboys at the same time as United was playing the Eastern Conference finals. My friend who goes to the United games with me and I both chose United. The fact that United lost and the Redskins won in dramatic last second fashion, didn't cause us to regret the decision. Sunday, the Redskins were opening their season and United was playing the first of five games at home down the stretch. Playoffs are guaranteed for United at this point, and I decided to go to the Redskins game. My friend did me one better and flew to Chicago to watch USA-Brazil. I don't regret this choice either. Here is the thing though. Why schedule them head to head? United hasn't played a Saturday night home game since July 14th. Everyone knows the NFL was opening their season this weekend. Would it have been that difficult to decide that there would be no home games in NFL cities on Sundays when making the schedule last winter? There is only one Sunday MLS game a week. Put the games in LA for the month of September. Chivas and LA Galaxy can host two games each on Sundays and allow fans who like both the local NFL team and the local MLS team to not have to give up one of their tickets. I am a season ticket holder of both teams and I really get upset when a minimum of effort isn't given by front offices to conflicts like this. For a Saturday night game, there would have been 5,000 more tickets sold. Up against the NFL, you miss out on the crossover fans and the portion of the 93,000 people who go to the Redskins games who also go to United games like me. End of rant.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Game 23 - DC United 2:2 Chivas USA

On ESPN2, United played the first 76 minute game of the year in Los Angeles against Chivas USA. On my TV, United lost 2-1, however, in my morning paper, they listed the score as 2-2. Let's hope the powers-that-be don't catch on and take away the point in the standings that United stole. What's that? The game was really 90 minutes and we missed a United goal? How can that be in the modern TV age? And what about the missing minutes in the second half? Technical difficulties? Huh. Weird.

And what was up with the ref going straight red on Vanney and then changing his mind? I thought if you were giving a second yellow, you first put up the yellow and then the red to show it wasn't a straight red card. This is yet another example of MLS referees blowing the simple things. And let's not even mention the blatant bad call on Chivas at the end. Preki should have rushed the field in protest. If United had been screwed like that, I would have thrown something at the TV.

Anyway, let me give myself some props for correctly predicting the score. I think that makes me 1-54 to get both the score and result correct. Awesome. Second, this is the 100th post of this blog, so I'd like to say thanks to everyone who reads it and doesn't hate it.

The Good:
  • Great fast start by Emilio and the rest of United.
  • Burch was excellent again.
The Bad

  • Sloppy play by Perkins leads to the first goal.
  • Yellow all around on the defense.
  • ESPN
Forwards (Moreno and Emilio) A-

Great first half work from these two. Both of them heavily influenced the play. Unfortunately, they tended to disappear in the second half. Moreno's assist moves him into sole posession of 5th place on the MLS All-Time Assists list with 88. Congrats, Jamie.

Midfielders (Fred, Gomez, Olsen, and Simms) B

Not the best game from this group. Fred tried to impose himself on the game in the second half, but as often as not, his passes went to Chivas.

Defenders (Boswell, Vanney, Burch, Perkins, and Namoff) B

Two deflections resulted in goals. I don't hold them too responsible for that. What I do hold them responsible for is the reckless challenges. You can't have three of four defenders playing with yellows. You take away the aggressiveness. And why didn't they sub in McTavish for someone who had a yellow?

Substitutes (Carroll and Mediate) B-

Carroll did some nice running to try to kill the game however he was ball watching at the top of his own box which almost resulted in the go ahead goal. He's maddening, that guy.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Preview of Game 23 - DC United at Chivas USA

DC United, 13-3-6 (W-D-L), go west for a matchup of the two hottest teams in MLS. DC United is on a six match MLS winning streak, outscoring their opponents 14-1 in that span. This is the last of three straight on the road for DC. United took the full six points at Dallas and Toronto. DC United improved their road record to 6-1-5 with a +7 goal differential. United leads the league in points per game (1.91 PPG) and is in 1st place in the Eastern Conference, tied with New England (1.83 PPG) with one game in hand. United is also in 1st place in the Supporter's Shield race.

Chivas USA, 11-3-6 (W-D-L), have been on a tear recently, winning five of their last six games. Even more impressively, they have won the last three by shutout. Chivas is excellent at home and really should be considered the leader in the West due to the fact that they have four games in hand on Houston. Chivas is undefeated at home this season with a 7-1-0 record and a +11 goal differential. They are in 2nd place in the Western Conference (1.80 PPG), three points behind Houston and in 4th place in the Supporter's Shield race.

United will be without Josh Gros again, but otherwise should have the full compliment of players. Coach Soehn appears to be rotating players on defense, so the back four is a bit up in the air. I expect the starting eleven for United to be Emilio, Moreno, Gomez, Fred, Olsen, Simms, Namoff, Burch, McTavish, Boswell, and Perkins in a 4-4-2 formation. Kpene, Carroll, and Moose all should get in during the second half.

With eight games remaining, United needs about twelve points to have a good shot at retaining the Supporter's Shield. If DC wins this game, then they only need nine points from the seven remaining games, five of which are at home. It's a great time to be a United fan.


DC United 2:2 Chivas USA

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Game 22 - DC United 4:0 FC Dallas

I have to say this is the most surprising result of the entire season. While I thought DC would compete well against Dallas, I would never have expected them to run them off the field. Olsen's brace, Fred and Gomez with tremendous, momentum seizing goals, and Perkins in complete control were huge developments which I think have significance beyond this one game. United's run of six straight wins while outscoring the competition 14-1 is the best run I can ever remember. Included in those games are 3-0 wins at New England, 3-1 win at home against New York and this 4-0 win at Dallas. You could argue those teams are the three best teams not in Washington, DC. So what does it mean? United is now in the driver's seat for the Supporter's Shield. They are playing better than anyone else, they have eight games remaining on the schedule, and five of those are at home.

The Good:
  • Another clean sheet
  • Excellent midfield play
  • DC now atop the standings
The Bad:

(For the first time, this section is empty)


Forwards (Moreno and Emilio) B+

Nice steady play. Emilio easily could have had the second Olsen goal. I wonder what was happening on the sideline after Emilio was subbed out. The head coach went over to him, he had his head in his hands. I hope it was simple frustration about being the first sub and not some injury or anger at the coach. It warrants watching.

Midfielders (Fred, Gomez, Olsen, and Simms) A+

All four goals came from this group. Just spectacular all around play. This foursome should remain unchanged for the rest of the year.

Defenders (Namoff, Vanney, Boswell, Burch, and Perkins) A+

One goal in the last six games. Boswell fits right back in and plays a great game. Burch contributed to two goals with crosses. And Perkins backs up his August MLS Player of the Month award with another outstanding game.

Substitutes (Mediate, McTavish, and Dyachenko) I

I honestly didn't pay much attention to the game after it went to 4-0. Lots of company over and I got distracted.

So United sits at 42 points with eight games to go. When I started looking ahead with twelve games to go, I never would have imagined getting the full twelve points in the next four games. I had them getting seven points, so they are five ahead of pace to get to 54. If they win the game against New England, that should put them in clear control of the Eastern Conference. And the game this week at Chivas is a "six point game" and could put a serious dent in Chivas' hopes for the Supporter's Shield. Big week coming up.