Friday, July 25, 2008

Game 12 - DC United 0:2 Houston Dynamo

I don't know if it is the summer doldrums, United's recent run of losses at home, the constantly evolving schedule, or some other influence, but I'm glad there is a week and a half break until the next game. The SuperLiga was a disaster. Injuries played a large part in it, true. But a team needs to be able to absorb two or three lineup changes without falling apart. Admittedly, I was not at the game on Wednesday due to the late schedule change (and let's be honest, in hindsight it was a blessing to miss it even on TV), but the drop off from Peralta to his replacement and Gallardo to his is jarring. I can remember complaining about this last season and lamenting that United were one injury away from oblivion. I can honestly say that unless Gallardo returns at full strength United will not make the playoffs. And the next game with both Gonzolos unavailable is not looking good. So much for all the good stuff that happened in June. DC United start over again in August. As Fred and Emilio would say, meu deus.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

DC United vs Houston Dynamo POSTPONED

Lack of power at the stadium has caused the game to be postponed until tomorrow night. Call your friends and let them know.

Friday, July 11, 2008

SuperLiga Group A - DC United vs CD Guadalajara

DC United continue their hiatus from league play with three games in eight days for the group stage of the tournament. DC United are in the same group as Atlante, Houston Dynamo, and CD Guadalajara. CDG are coming off of a subpar year in the Mexican League and look to salvage a trophy at the expense of their neighbors to the north. CD Guadalajara eliminated DC United from the Copa Sudamericana last fall on away goals.

Unfortunately I'll have to catch this one on TV as I have out of town guests visiting. Just glad it is on TV, unlike the US Open Cup games.

I'm assuming United will be at full strength, minus Olsen. Gallardo has had two weeks to rest up and Moreno seemed like he was fine with his post game comments. Also, I haven't heard anything about Fred who was limping around on Tuesday, so maybe everyone will be available. Hopefully United will go out and grab the three points.


United 1:0 CD Guadalajara

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

US Open Cup Quarterfinals - DC United 2:1 Chicago Fire

DC United has advanced to the semifinals of the US Open Cup after outlasting Chicago in extra time. The goals were scored by two unlikely players as Doe and Namoff tallied for United.

The win might have been costly as Moreno left the game after playing only about thirty minutes and Fred was visibly limping at the end. United will play New England in the semifinals next month at RFK.

No grades as I listened to the game on the radio.
Ben Olsen Has Another Surgery

If it seems too good to be true, it usually is. Ben Olsen has had another ankle surgery to try and reduce the pain he experienced when training with United in the week leading up to his fifteen minute appearance against LA. While not expected to "end his season", it is another setback for Olsen following his career year in 2007.
US Open Cup Quarterfinals - DC United vs Chicago Fire

DC United welcome longtime playoff nemesis, Chicago, to suburban Maryland for a Round of Eight game in the US Open Cup. The longer United stay in the tournament, the more important it becomes in relation to the rest of the season. United catches a break in that they haven't played a league game in nine days and several of the top players should be well rested. I expect Gallardo, Moreno, Emilio, Fred, Gonzales, and Namoff (my top six players) to all play at least sixty minutes. In fact, the starting lineup may well be the same one that finished the first half against LA, with Burch in for Quaranta.

United have never beaten Chicago in an elimination game. The rivalry extends back from the 1998 MLS Cup which Chicago won to the 2-1 comeback win for United in extra time while down a man in Chicago. The recent addition of Cuauhtemoc Blanco to the Fire has only enhanced the rivalry in that he is the object of much of the hatred/respect that DC United supporters throw Chicago's way.

I expect the starting eleven to be Emilio, Moreno, Gallardo, Fred, Simms, Burch, Namoff, Peralta, McTavish, Martinez, and Wells. Look for Kirk, Dyachenko, Carroll the Younger, and Doe to get time off the bench.


DC United 1:1 Chicago Fire
United advances on penalty kicks 5:4

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Oh, Fred, Who Art Thou?

The DCenters posted an excellent article on the value of Gallardo this season. While I agree with most of his reasoning (I am solidly in the Pro-Gallardo camp), I think the more interesting debate is concerning Fred. I thought Fred was dangerous in the game against LA on Sunday, DCUMD gave him bottom marks (rail behind the bar), Goff gave him a 6, BLCKDGRD disagreed with Goff's rating saying he is indecisive and making terrible passes, and D placed him in the Bad section and has vowed to call him F-r-e-* until he finishes something.

So, who is this Fred, and why all the disagreement?

Fred, a Brazilian, joined a DC United team last season that was primed for an MLS Cup run. He was starting by the end of the first month and has been a mainstay in the starting lineup since then. He has been relatively durable, appearing in twenty-six of thirty games last season and twelve of fifteen this season. He can play either side of the midfield and the center. He is left right footed and makes excellent cut back runs to the center which really put the defense on their heels. He is a deft dribbler in tight spaces and doesn't go down easily. Memories of his 2007 season are positive. He finished with seven goals and eight assists and DC United won the Supporter's Shield. So, he is associated with excellent play and winning results.

In 2008, Fred's statistics are down from last season's pace, but so are United as a whole. He has created numerous chances and this has resulted in a large portion of his criticism. Is it enough to generate chances for yourself and others if those chances don't result in goals? My guess is that the Pro-Fred crowd would say yes, it is enough to be dangerous and keep the defense on their toes. The Anti-Fred crowd would say no, finish something. Fred seems to be one of the most talented players on the team, so much is expected from him. If Fred goes a half, a game, a few games without tangible results, the scrutiny is ratcheted up. Then, each missed pass, each unpulled trigger in the box, each ball skied over the goal, is magnified, dissected, and regurgitated. If Fred was less talented or less likable, I think his poor play would be rationalized, much like Josh Gros was. Gros was a hard worker who was limited offensively. If Gros produced a total of six goals and assists for the year, or one a month, the masses would have been happy. Not so with Fred, who last season averaged 2.5 goals/assists a month and is now on a 1.3 goals/assists a month pace.

So which side are you on? Happy with Fred, or left needing more?
US Open Cup Round of 16 - DC United 2:0 Rochester Rhinos

I only caught the second half on the radio, and some of that was garbled due to technical issues, but DC United was able to pull out a victory while resting several starters. Gallardo, Peralta, and Moreno didn't play at all, and Emilio, Fred, Martinez, and Simms played a half. The game was tied 0-0 until two late, deflected free kicks by Marc Burch both found the net. The one I've seen on youtube didn't look all that great, but the other was better from what I've read. United moves on to play Chicago next Tuesday at the SoccerPlex. I'm going to try to make it out there for this one. And, if Tony Limarzi is to be believed (and I always believe him), Fred blew another wide open net at the beginning of the second half.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Halfway Point

After the win over LA, DC United has officially reached the halfway point in the regular season schedule. This is the traditional point in baseball to double your stats and see where you are. I figure, if it's good enough for baseball...

Projected 2008 Full Season Stats (2007) Difference

Emilio 20 (20) 0
Moreno 12 (7) +5
Gallardo 8 (N/A)
Quaranta 4 (N/A)
Simms 4 (0) +4
Fred 2 (7) -5
Martinez 2 (N/A)
Namoff 2 (0) +2
Peralta 2 (N/A)
Dyachenko 1 (1) 0
Burch 0 (1) -1
Olsen 0 (7) -7


Moreno 14 (6) +8
McTavish 8 (0) +8
Fred 6 (8) -2
Gallardo 6 (N/A)
Quaranta 6 (N/A)
Burch 4 (3) +1
Dyachanko 4 (0) +4
Emilio 4 (1) +3
Simms 4 (3) +1
Cordeiro 2 (N/A)
Martinez 2 (N/A)
Niell 1* (N/A)
Olsen 0 (7) -7

* No longer with team

United also would be at 44 points which would place them solidly in the playoffs. If they were to improve their second half record to 11-0-4 (W-D-L) they would net 33 points and would be at 55, exactly the pace for an average Supporter's Shield. So that's the target. Eleven wins and 33 more points.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Game 16 - DC United 4:1 Los Angeles Galaxy

DC United are back. This was evident in many ways, but let's concentrate on three.

1. The offensive creativity which has defined the United attack was varied and potent. The Galaxy defenders, not world beaters on their best day, were disorganized and caught out all afternoon. United were able to attack from the sidelines, up the middle, and on set pieces. United played beautiful long balls, deft short passes, and creative dribbling. It was beautiful to watch.

2. While still a work in progress, it is impossible to deny that the United defense has allowed a total of four goals in the last four games, all wins. Martinez, still the favorite for team MVP, has been excellent and steady, Peralta is working well in the center with McTavish, and Namoff continues to have his best season.

3. Ben Olsen. When he walked up to the fourth official and checked into the game, the roar was partly for him, partly surprise, and partly a cheer for the Tradition he represents. While he may not be the Olsen of last year, having him on the field is a great sign and I for one am thrilled he is able to play.


Forwards (Moreno and Emilio) A

Emilio played his best game of the year. He netted two and could have had two or three more. Moreno played a fine first half as almost a withdrawn forward. I really like him in that position and of course he scored on his chance from the spot. Excellent game from these two.

Midfielders (Gallaardo, Simms, Fred, and Quaranta) A-

Possibly the best game of the year from this group. Simms was steady. Fred was dangerous. Quaranta, while he was on, was very good running down long balls and making well struck crosses. But, Gallardo was the class of the group. From beginning to end, he was the best player on the field. Just a masterful game from him, and his goal could win goal of the week.

Defenders (Namoff, Martinez, McTavish, Peralta, and Wells) B+

The lone goal was not something to put on a training tape, but the rest of the game someone always stepped up to make the crucial play. All five made key saves on dangerous plays.

Substitutes (Burch, Olsen, and Dyachenko) A

Burch made an immediate impact with his cross to Emilio. He also had a massive strike on a free kick which struck the crossbar from around 25 yards away. Olsen was good at maintaining possession on the right side and Dyacheno nearly had a goal of his own on two occasions.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Preview of Game 16 - DC United vs Los Angeles Galaxy

DC United, 6-1-7 (W-D-L), welcome the LA Galaxy, to RFK for their one visit of the season. Along with the Galaxy come Landon Donovan and David Beckham. Should be a large crowd, maybe approaching 40,000. This game also matches up the two highest scoring offenses (DC 24, LA 31) and the two highest yielding defenses (DC 25, LA 24). Let the fireworks ensue. United are in the midst of a five game unbeaten streak (4-1-0) including their 3-1 win over San Jose last Saturday. DC are playing well at home with a 5-0-2 record and a +9 goal differential. United, 1.36 PPG, are currently tied for 4th in the Eastern Conference, eight points behind New England, 1.80 PPG, with a game in hand. United are also in a five way tie for 5th place in the Supporter's Shield race also led by New England.

Los Angeles, like DC United, are undefeated in June (2-1-0). Over all they are 6-3-4 and have been playing exciting soccer. Similar to recent years, the offense is successful and the defense is mediocre to awful. The poor defensive play can be attributed to salary cap decisions which have allocated large amounts to money to a few offensive players. This has left very little money with which to field a proficient unit along the back line. So they try to pummel you to death. Los Angeles have scored three or more goals six times in thirteen games. Surprisingly they have also been shutout three times. Los Angeles, 1.62 PPG, lead the Western Conference by two points over Real Salt Lake and Houston with two and one game in hands respectively. Los Angeles trails New England bby six points in the Supporter's Shield race.

United will be without Domenic Mediate (concussion), Ben Olsen (ankle) and Francis Doe (visa issues) this weekend. I expect the starting eleven to be Emilio, Moreno, Fred, Gallardo, Quaranta, Simms, Namoff, McTavish, Peralta, Martinez, and Wells. Burch, Dyachenko, Corderio, and Stratford might see time off the bench.

As has been mentioned here and on other blogs, Burch's lack of progress is more than a bit disappointing. Simply put, he has no right foot. It's not an Etcheverry situation where his left is so dominant he tries to use it at every opportunity. Burch simply refuses to use his right foot even when it seems like it is the only option. Awkward stabs at the ball which result in careless turnovers are no deterrent. I've never seen anything like it, and I can't understand how he could have progressed this far without a coach pulling him aside and telling him it is unacceptable. Could you imagine an NBA player never dribbling with his opposite hand? If it continues, I can't see him in the starting lineup at any position.


DC United 3:2 Los Angeles Galaxy
Frank O'Neil heads back to Ireland

Irish forward Frank O'Neil has been cut from DC United's roster and will head back to the Emerald Isle to...what's that? Not Irish? Argentinian? With a last name like O'Neil? Franco Niell? Oh. Never mind.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Game 15 - DC United 3:1 San Jose Earthquakes

Maybe there won't be a shutout this season. Is that such a bad thing? Personally, I'd rather win 3-1 than have a bunch of 0-0 ties. And a shutout doesn't mean that you have great defense. It can mean you play like a bunch of babies and put nine men behind the ball. Am I rationalizing? Maybe. But I do think the shutout statistic is vastly overrated. So, other than allowing a goal, what else happened?

The Good:
  • Martinez and Namoff continue to make runs up field and look good doing it.
  • Emilio's scoring streak reaches five games
  • The back line was solid
The Bad:
  • Distribution from defenders to midfield and midfield to forwards was poor for most of the night
  • Fred, Burch, McTavish, Simms, and Moreno all have substandard games
  • Wells was shaky yet again

Forwards (Moreno and Emilio) B

Emilio was extremely active. He made nice runs and was dangerous in the box. San Jose needed to know where he was at all times. In addition to the very nice goal, he also hit the post off of a nice combination with Gallardo. Moreno was not bad, but he didn't seem to influence the game very much.

Midfielders (Gallardo, Fred, Simms, and Burch) C+

Simms' touch seemed to fail him most of the match. There were numerous passes which had the wrong weight and never made it to the intended recipient. He had an excellent strike which deflected into the net (he must have worked on those long shots over the winter) but he cancelled it out with his bad passing. Fred was occasionally brilliant, but often lousy. He was pulled early and deserved it. Burch has no right foot. San Jose realized this and made him use it. He couldn't and was completely inneffective. Gallardo was very influential. I watched him with binoculars for about ten minutes during the second half and this is clearly his team. He was directing players constantly shouting encouragement and criticism at what seemed to be appropriate times. He decided who took free kicks and corners and demanded the ball when he was open. His passes at times seem ambitious, but I think the team is beginning to understand how he sees the field and is starting to anticipate his passes and are starting to run on to them at the right time.

Defenders (Peralta, Gonzalez, Namoff, McTavish, and Wells) B+

If I was going order the players from one to ten on how likely they were to score a goal, it would have been as follows: Emilio, Moreno, Gallardo, Fred, Peralta, Burch, Simms, Namoff, McTavish, and Martinez. Numbers one, seven and ten scored. The Martinez goal was gorgeous and shocking. He has been spectacular the last two months. So far, he is the player of the year im my book. Wells keeps this group from an A. He was directly responsible for the goal, although none of it happens if Corderio doesn't get blown by on the sideline immediately preceding it. McTavish makes the spectacular save but doesn't make the simple passes. Peralta and Namoff were excellent in defense.

Substitutes (Corderio, Mediate, and Dyachenko) B-

I give partial blame on the goal to Corderio. I honestly didn't notice Mediate or Dyachenko much other than the red card which Mediate was part of.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Preview of Game 15 - DC United vs San Jose Earthquakes

DC United, 5-1-7 (W-D-L), welcome expansion franchise San Jose to RFK stadium for the first of two meetings this season. United have rebounded nicely from a terrible start in which they only netted six points from the first nine games. Since then, United claimed ten of a possible twelve points. United have scored at least two goals in each of their last four games, including four last week against NYRB. DC are in the middle of a stretch of games where they play at home from June 14th thru August 10th, a total of nine games. United are 4-0-2 at home with a +7 GAA. United (1.23 PPG) are in 5th place in the Eastern Conference, eleven points behind New England (1.93 PPG) with a game in hand. DC are 9th in the Supporter's Shield race also led by New England.

San Jose Earthquakes are playing as you would expect an expansion team to play. They give up a lot of goals and don't score very many. Despite being shut out the last two games, San Jose have pulled four points out of their last three games going 1-1-1 including a 2-0 win at Columbus. San Jose are 2-1-4 on the road with a -4 goal differential. San Jose only average 0.67 goals per game on the road. San Jose (0.92 PPG) are in last place in the Western Conference, nine points behind Los Angeles (1.67 PPG). They are also last in the Supporter's Shield race, sixteen points behind New England.

If DC United are going to break through and get their first shut out, this is the game. San Jose are a fairly defenseless team. United need to attack from the start and keep the foot on the gas. With Gallardo and Namoff back from red card vacation but with Quaranta leaving for a yellow card vacation, I expect the starting eleven to be Emilio, Moreno, Gallardo, Simms, Fred, Burch, Namoff, McTavish, Peralta, Gonzalez, and Wells. Dyachenko, Kirk, and Stratford could see time as substitutes.

I'm one game late, but let's look at where United was after the second fifth of the season. United had thirteen points after twelve games for an average of 1.08 points per game. That is well off the pace of 1.83 necessary to contend for the Supporter's Shield. United will need to go 12-3-2 in the remaining seventeen games to hit the fifty-five point threshold. The margin for error is very slim. To make the playoffs, DC needs to get to around forty points. Eight wins in the final seventeen games would get them there.


DC United 3:0 San Jose Earthquakes

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Game 12 - DC United vs Houston Dynamo
Postponed due to lack of flood insurance

As I exited Lake RFK last night, I was left with a few impressions:
  • Since I no longer had my game ticket (who keeps a soccer ticket in case of a rain out?) how am I going to get into the game when it is rescheduled? Anyone know?
  • This was a bad game to bring my 10 month old to
  • Gallardo appears to be a mudder. He looked great
  • Houston couldn't wait to leave the field when the referee suspended the game
  • Loved the fact that you could see the outline of the old baseball diamond in the pattern of the puddles. Shows how well the drainage system works. And I guess there won't be a crown on the field at RFK anymore. Hopefully the new stadium comes soon. I think the game would have been playable longer and started again if the field had a crown.
So, looks like late summer for the replay of this game. Do they start from the beginning or pick up in the 16th minute? What happens if someone gets cut or traded who was on the field? Does replacing them count as a sub? When is an MLS game official? Halftime? I need answers people!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Preview of Game 12 - DC United vs Houston Dynamo

DC United welcome the two time defending MLS Cup winners to Washington, DC. Currently (4 PM) it is raining pretty hard in DC so conditions could be sloppy at RFK. United are coming off of a 2-2 tie at New England which felt like a loss. However, the offensive production was a big step up. Emilio, Gallardo, Fred, Simms and Moreno all appeared to be on the same page in the first half and only several spectacular saves kept United from posting four or five goals. United are 3-0-2 (W-D-L) at home this season with a +4 goal differential. United, 3-1-7, is currently in last place in the Eastern Conference, trailing New England, 6-2-3, by ten points. New England also leads the Supporter's Shield race.

Houston Dynamo are back on track after a very slow start to the season and return to RFK Stadium where they clinched the MLS Cup last fall. Dynamo won three games in May with two ties and only one loss. Houston have not played well on the road with a 1-3-3 record and a -4 goal differential. Houston, 3-5-3, are tied second place in the Western Conference, one point behind Colorado who have a game in hand. Houston trails New England by six points in the Supporter's Shield race.

United remains relatively healthy after eleven league games and four tournament games. Olsen remains unavailable but every other player should be ready to go. I expect the starting eleven to be Emilio, Moreno, Fred, Gallardo, Simms, Quaranta, Namoff, Peralta, McTavish, Martinez, and Wells. Burch, Dyachenko, and maybe Stratford come off the bench.


DC United 1:0 Houston Dynamo

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Preview of Game 11 - DC United at New England Revolution

DC United, 3-0-7 (W-D-L), travel north to Massachusetts to take on New England in a nationally televised match up on ESPN2. DC United are coming off of a desperately needed come from behind victory at home against Toronto FC. Emilio ended his seven game scoreless streak, Fred looked to be at full strength, and United scored on a set piece. All things that could lead to a change in fortunes. As always, time will tell. United have been horrendous on the road this season losing all five games and only scoring one goal while surrendering twelve. United are currently ten points behind Eastern Conference leading Chicago, Columbus, and New England. Those three also lead the Supporter's Shield race.

New England, (6-1-3), have been on a three game winning streak allowing only a single goal while scoring five. New England is a respectable 2-0-2 at home with a +1 goal differential. New England are tied for the lead in the Eastern Conference and the Supporter's Shield race with Chicago and Columbus.

Now is the time to show how far they have come. The comeback victory will not mean much if they get shutout on the road. Last place teams don't need road victories, playoff teams do. I expect the starting eleven to be Emilio, Moreno, Fred, Gallardo, Quaranta, Simms, Namoff, McTavish, Peralta, Martinez, and Wells. Niell was left off of the senior roster again and looks like he will be released before the July 1 roster date. Everyone on the roster on July 1 has their contracts guaranteed for the season.


DC United 2:2 New England Revolution

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Game 10 - DC United 3:2 Toronto FC

Apologies for the lack of posts during the last two weeks. Personal travel and a wedding anniversary combined in a way which prevented me from watching any of the games live or on same-day-tape. Once I was able to watch them several days later, the posts I would have written seemed dated since there was a game either that night of the next day.

So where is DC United? One third of the way through the season and United is sitting on nine points. They are way off pace for making the playoffs and seem to be out of both the Supporter's Shield race and the Easter Conference title. The offense is playing below expectations, not generating the chances which were anticipated. The defense is actually playing better than last year. The keeper has been a bit spotty, but the number of goals allowed is exactly the same as it was last season through ten games. The fact that there hasn't been a shutout skews the numbers a bit. So what is the biggest difference between this year and last? The inability to earn a tie on the road. If United was standing on a 3-3-4 (W-D-L) record, there would be no panic, and large amounts of optimism. However, the three extra losses make for a depressed locker room. The most recent game is cause for hope, but the needed breakthrough on the road better come soon.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Game 7 - DC United 0:2 Chicago Fire

I am now worried about making the playoffs. My worries can by put into to two main categories.


It look like the bench is no stronger this season than it has been in the past few years. With Gallardo and Fred out, the midfield was severely out classed by the Chicago Fire. Dyachenko is not creative enough and is prone to brain cramps where he holds the ball too long and gets it taken away from him. Burch, once again, proved he isn't a midfielder. In fact the whole DC United offense last night seemed to consist of passing the ball around in the midfield until someone kicked it directly to a Fire defender. Directly to them. And I have a question. If one of your forwards is the size of a small point guard and the man marking him is the size of a power forward, does it make sense to continuously play the ball in eight feet off the ground? Niell is pint sized, Dyachenko. Stop sending head balls to him.


Game after game, United seems unable to push forward with numbers. The slow build allows the opposition to father forces behind the ball and mount a defense which requires tremendous ball skills to penetrate. DC United lacks the requisite ball skills to do this, so what happens is any pass which isn't played into space or to Moreno is fumbled and turned over. Seven games, same results. When United scores it is in long ball passes or when the defense makes a mistake. I think it is time to go to a counter attack offense. Back to the 4-4-2 lineup and have Fred, Gallardo, Quaranta, and Emilio make runs into the box when possession changes. Five times DC has given up the first goal, all losses and four of them shutouts. They simply can't afford to give up the first goal.


Forwards (Emilio and Niell) C-

Lack of imagination only mitigated by one or two quick decisions which resulted in shots on goal. Niell was directly and solely responsible for the second goal after a reckless giveaway at midfield.

Midfielders (Simms, Burch, Dyachenko, Moreno, and Quaranta) D

Simms was his normal, steady self. Moreno was also effective in the central midfield. Quaranta looked tired and uninterested. Burch proved once again that he has no right foot by failing to make simple passes with his right in favor of trying to make awkward stabs with his left. One time he sent the ball out of bounds on the far sideline because he tried to switch fields with an outside of the foot cross which he toed and missed his target by twenty yards. Even Prideaux was able to stay in front of him because he went to the end line every time he got close to the box.

Defenders (Namoff, Peralta, Martinez, and Wells) B+

Best game of the year from Wells. Namoff was the best player on the field for United. Peralta was fine except for his strange inability to control headers. Martinez was very solid and made several good runs with the ball.

Substitutes (Doe, Stratford, and Kirk) C

All were ineffective. Kirk only played about a minute.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Preview of Game 7 - DC United vs Chicago Fire

DC United, 2-0-4 (W-D-L), welcome the team which knocked them out of the 2007 playoffs to RFK stadium for an ESPN2 national television matchup. DC United have been dreadful on the road this season, but they have played well at home. United, six points, is 2-0-1 at home this season with a +5 goal differential. DC United is currently in last place in the Eastern Conference, trailing Columbus by nine points. Columbus also leads the Supporter's Shield race with DC United in tenth.

Chicago are coming off of an impressive 3-0 whitewashing of New England on the road. Chicago have been excellent away from home this season with two wins and a tie in three games and a +4 goal differential. Chicago, thirteen points, are in second place in the Eastern Conference trailing Columbus by two points. They are also in second place in the Supporter's Shield race.

This is a game which could determine the shape of the Eastern Conference. If Chicago wins, they put a lot of distance between them and United, the preseason favorite. If United wins, they stay within arms reach of the conference leaders with the bulk of the MLS schedule remaining. It looks as though McTavish and Olsen are unavailable. I expect the starting lineup to be Moreno, Emilio, Fred, Gallardo, Simms, Quaranta, Dyachenko, Namoff, Peralta, Martinez, and Wells in a 3-5-2 formation.


DC United 1:2 Chicago

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ich Bin Ein Berliner
DC United has issued a press release announcing the partnership with Volkswagen and photos of what the new uniforms will look like. I think I can get used to it. Not overly large, matches the uniform well and the circle logo even evokes a soccer ball a bit. All in all, very palatable.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Game 6 - DC United 0:2 Colorado Rapids

DC United were shut out for the third consecutive time on the road to begin the 2008 season. From watching the game, I didn't see anything that was definitively different from what they try to do at home. Fred was missing, but he cannot be the difference between four goals and a shutout. Moreno didn't start, but he played in the second half and never seemed to get it going. Colorado are a decent team, but United now have a -8 goal differential on the road in only three games.

I thought the defense played well and the two goals were more a result of good play by the Rapids. The first goal was vintage Christian Gomez. Just an excellent pass and an equally impressive one timer. The second goal was a very nice quick cross and header by Erpen. It was like old home week with the DC United Alumni Association: Colorado Chapter getting a bit of revenge. Peralta had a much better game in central defense. Zach Wells was not at fault on either goal. Both were rocket shots that I wouldn't expect any goalie to save.

I'm not sure if it is panic time yet, but in my 2008 season preview I crunched a few numbers and determined that DC United needed to average eleven points for every six games to have a shot at the Supporters Shield and eight points to make the playoffs. United stand on six points. They are now 20% of the way through the MLS schedule. I'm not in panic mode yet. However, after game twelve, United had better have at least eighteen points.


Forwards (Neill and Emilio) C-

Another quiet game from the forwards. Both were subbed out in the second half and deservedly so.

Midfielders (Gallardo, Simms, Burch, Quaranta, and Dyachenko) B-

I liked Dyachenko this game. He has some ball skills which can be developed. Simms was fine and Gallardo was the best player on the field for United. Burch is still out of his depth in the midfield. An off game from Quaranta.

Defenders (Namoff, Martinez, Peralta, and Wells) B+

Solid game from this group. No complaints. I liked the runs forward from Martinez and Namoff.

Substitutes (Moreno, Doe, and Kirk) C+

Doe and Kirk were unable to create any real chances. Moreno was unable to put a stamp on the game with a full half of work.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Olsen's Bad Wheel

According to Goff, DC United midfielder and my favorite player, Ben Olsen's career is in some danger. This is really sad news. In the back of my mind, I thought this was a possibility but I refused to really acknowledge it. Goff's report puts it in black and white. I wish Benny the best and won't be trading in my #14 jersey any time soon. However, this has real personnel ramifications for DC United this season. Last season Olsen was moved out to the wing because there wasn't anyone else to play there. Now the options are Quaranta who was cut recently, McTavish and Burch who are defenders, and Young Player To Be Named Later (Kirk, Jeff Carroll, Stratford). Maybe there will be a signing this summer to replace him, otherwise that could be a big hole to fill.
Preview of Game 6 - DC United at Colorado Rapids

DC United travels to Rocky Mountains for a mile high date with the Colorado Rapids. DC United has been quite the Jekyll and Hyde team this season playing very well at home and downright dreadful on the road. United is 0-0-2 (W-D-L) on the road with a -6 goal differential (zero goals scored). United, 2-0-3, is in last place in the Eastern Conference, six points behind Columbus. DC is tied for ninth in the Supporter's Shield race also led by Columbus.

Colorado Rapids are in the midst of a two game losing streak, netting a single goal in the 180 minutes. They are an average team so far with a win and a loss at home in their two games. The Rapids have a +2 goal differential. Colorado, 2-0-3, trails Western Conference leading FC Dallas by two points and Supporter's Shield leading Columbus by six points.

So the big question entering this game is whether DC United can shake their road funk and pull out at least a point. After this game, twenty percent of the season will be over. If United wins, they will be on pace for a 45 point season, a tie puts them on a 35 point pace, and a loss puts them on a 30 point pace. Last season it took 40 points to make the playoffs. Not good numbers, but it is still early. McTavish appears to be out again this week and Fred is questionable but will make the trip. I expect the starting lineup to be Emilio, Moreno, Gallardo, Fred, Quaranta, Simms, Burch, Namoff, Martinez, Peralta, and Wells in a 4-4-2 formation. Subs should be Dyachenko, Niell, and Stratford.


DC United 2:2 Colorado Rapids
DC United Now Diesel Powered

It has been revealed that DC United has signed an agreement with German auto manufacturer Volkswagen to be the company to place it's logo in the gigantic empty space on DC United's 2008 jerseys. We all knew this was coming. I'm of two minds about it. I don't like the idea of jersey advertising. It seems cheap and tacky. However, I realize that soccer doesn't have the same opportunities to sell advertising as the traditional American sports do. There are no TV timeouts, no stops in the action, no "we'll be back after this". So you have signs along the sidelines, you have logos next to the clock on TV, and you have jersey sponsors. The reported numbers are $3.7 million a year. That is a big number, and it is more than I thought DC Untied would get. It dwarfs the current salary cap number.

I will reserve final judgement until I see the design. I would imagine it would debut next Thursday on the ESPN national TV game. It has to be either a white or red logo on the black background and a black or red logo on the white background I would think. I am having a tough time picturing a circular logo on the jersey after the Adidas triple horizontal stripes.

But as Robert C. Gallagher said, "Change is inevitable - except from a vending machine."

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Game 5 - DC United 4:1 Real Salt Lake

So I managed to avoid seeing the score of this game during the time I was on vacation and was able to watch it on tape. As always, I don't look at anyone other blogs or articles before writing up my review, so I apologize if my comments are redundant.

I liked the formation. Not sure about giving the new kid Stratford the start in midfield, but it looks like Soehn wanted to give him some minutes, and I bet he has been great in training sessions and this was a reward. Quaranta should remain in the right midfield role at least until Olsen returns and if the formation remains 3-5-2, maybe Olsen is returned to defensive midfield. Gallardo, Emilio, and Moreno worked very well together with Quaranta and Fred/Burch working the wings. Even Namoff and Martinez made several runs into the box which I have been waiting for defenders to do for years. I would still like to see Moreno in the midfield but I'll take this formation for the next few weeks to see how it progresses.

I was not at all happy with Wells. He seemed indecisive and poorly positioned. He made one excellent reflex save, but was several yards away from a bushel of near misses. And one play particularly vexed me. On the free kick from the top of the box which hit the post, he didn't even make an attempt. I want to see the goalie dive for it even if it is a futile attempt. Let's see some effort out there. And I hope D gave the referee full marks for this game. Best officiated game I have seen this year.


Forwards (Emilio and Moreno) B

Excellent use of his body to shield the defender and earn the penalty. He seemed a bit better at the post up but still not great. Moreno was his menacing best. Keeping possession, making good passes and converting his penalty kicks. I could do without the heart attack chip shot, but as long as he continues to convert, he's my guy at the spot.

Midfielders (Gallardo, Simms, Fred, Quaranta, and Stratford) B+

Simms seemed a bit off during the first half. Uncharacteristic bad passes, losing shape, and out of position. I think it was probably how badly Stratford was playing, but I was still surprised by it. Stratford was obviously a bit overwhelmed and was justifiably removed. I think he'll be fine, but he was all over the place and not accomplishing anything. Fred goes down with what looked like a quad bruise. But he and Quaranta looked very nice on the wings. Gallardo had his best game this year and both his and Tino's goals were things of beauty. However, Gallardo's has goal of the year potential. Wow.

Defenders (Namoff, Martinez, Peralta, and Wells) B-

I liked the runs they made. I liked the covering for each other. I liked the toughness. I liked the good decisions they made. I hated the goal tending.

Substitutes (Burch, Dyachenko, and Kirk) A-

Excellent work by this group. I still don't like Burch in the midfield. he has no right foot and his crosses aren't very accurate. But is an emergency situation, he played very well. Dyachenko did well to push the attack and allow Gallardo to play closer to the goal. Kirk got his feet wet. I want to see some more from him.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Game 5 - DC United vs Real Salt Lake

JCM is on vacation and will post a review when he returns this week.


DC United 3:1 Real Salt Lake

Friday, April 18, 2008

Game 4 - DC United 1:2 Columbus Crew
Apologies for not posting a preview of this game. I had one
half finished, then work got busy and I spaced on finishing it. Sorry

I am worried. I wasn't this worried last year when DC United started with three losses and a tie in the first four games. Then I was thinking, new coach, new players, give them a month and we'll see what happens. Now I am thinking same coach, two home games, a road game against the awful RSL, and some more new players. There have been two shutouts and another one goal game. There has been better defense, and there has been an inconsistent offense. Why do I feel worse? Why do I feel like there isn't going to be a huge turn around? Why do I feel the depth issues are as bad or worse as last year? Is it all Ben Olsen? Is it Gomez' absence? Or Perkins? Man for man, I like this starting roster more than last year's. Peralta and Martinez are better central defenders than Boswell and Vanney were. What are the problems?
  1. Emilio is not a post up forward. He cannot play with a man on his back, and another closing in from the side. He will invariably cough up the ball. Most of the time he can't control the ball so it stays at his feet. It bounces away and the defense takes possession.
  2. Too much offense has been flowing through McTavish. His skill set is not developed enough to distribute the ball forward. Balls on the ground are not precise enough or not given the proper weight. Crosses are balloon balls which give the defense too much time to recover and disrupt the play.
  3. Not enough runs into the box. United's offense seems to be build from the back and then pass around the outside of the penalty box until someone wins a corner or gives up the ball. For a team that went like two years between corner kick goals, that is not a winning strategy.
  4. Quaranta should be starting until Olsen returns. This seems so obvious. Keep Burch and McTavish out of the midfield. Put Santino up top and Jamie in the midfield. How about playing Jamie in the middle and Gallardo in the "Donovan" USMNT position? A little up and a little right. Let Namoff play a little forward to fill the space with Martinez on his side to compensate when he runs forward.
  5. Atrocious gambles and goals in the box. Both goals this week were the result of bad marking and bad goalie positioning. There is no virtue in playing great defense for eighty-eight minutes and two minutes of kiddie league tactics.
Look, it isn't all doom an gloom. If the referee had called either of the obvious penalty fouls, it would have been a completely different game. But I am less optimistic than I can remember, maybe since 2003.


Forwards (Emilio and Moreno) C-

Very little possession from these two. When they were in position, they didn't make good decisions.

Midfielders (Fred, Gallardo, McTavish, and Simms) B-

Just an average game from this group. I still don't like McTavish in the midfield. Fred was good, but not great. Gallardo worked very hard but kept trying to get the ball to Emilio when he was posting up. A whole lot of effort with not much in the way of results.

Defenders (Namoff, Peralta, Martinez, Burch, and Wells) D

Terrible communication between goalie and defenders. Martinez and Wells were yelling at each other at one point. The two goals were comical and a third took a remarkable save from Wells to prevent.

Substitutes (Niell, Dyachenko, and Quaranta) B

Not bad from this group. Dyachenko showed good ball handling and vision. Quaranta was involved in trying to get the equalizer and Niell didn't throw up all over himself. He did whiff on his one good chance, though.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Game 3 - DC United 0:4 Real Salt Lake

Oh, holy shit! This was the worst performance by a DC United team since the 4-0 shellacking in the playoffs by Chicago in 2005. There was nothing redeeming about it. Nothing. The goal tending was crap. The defending was worse. The midfielders couldn't pass to the forwards. The forwards couldn't make good runs. We will never speak of this game again.

This is two years in a row that United has started the backup keeper in Salt Lake City. Why do that on turf when you are also sitting Gallardo and Martinez? I said it last year after the RSL road game, and I'll say it again, starting every game shouldn't be a problem for a goalie with no injury issues. This isn't hockey. And wasn't Rod Dyachenko pulled from the game for his awful play at RSL? Yes, he was pulled in the 44th minute and wasn't injured. Nice choice, Tom, to put him in there. Maybe he doesn't play well on this type of field? Hmmm?

The only thing you can say in United's defense is that it was played on that god-forsaken artificial turf which causes the ball to travel at warp speed. It removes 3% of the bad taste. The 97% that remains is enough to make you want to take a shower. And don't forget, that makes two straight shutouts on the road. Dammit! Why are United the only team in the league who can't beat RSL in Utah.


Forwards, Midfielders, Defenders, and Substitutes F

Friday, April 11, 2008

Preview of Game 3 - DC United at Real Salt Lake

DC United, 1-0-1 (W-D-L), head to Utah to take on Real Salt Lake. DC United won last week 4-1 over Toronto FC. DC United lost their only road game 2-0 at Kansas City. United are tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference (1.50 PPG), 3 points behind Kansas City and New England (2.00 PPG) with a game in hand. Kansas City and New England are also in first place in the Supporter's Shield race with United tied for 6th.

Real Salt Lake, 0-1-1 (W-D-L), have not shown much improvement this season. They have allowed six goals in the first two games this season and only netted three themselves. They are tied for 5th place in the Western Conference (0.50 PPG), three points behind Chivas USA and in 11th place in the Supporter's Shield race.

United will be without Ben Olsen again, but otherwise should have the full compliment of players. I expect the starting eleven for United to be Emilio, Quaranta, Gallardo, Fred, McTavish, Simms, Namoff, Burch, Martinez, Peralta, and Wells in a 4-4-2 formation. Moreno, Dyachanko, and Niell all should get in during the second half. Look for Emilio and Fred to get on the goal sheet.


DC United 3:1 Real Salt Lake

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Round 2, Leg 2 - DC United 2:1 Pachuca

Pachuca advances 3:2

I sit about even with the top of the six yard box on the gravel end of the stadium. So sometimes my perspective is influenced by what happens right in front of me. Rarely does the in stadium replay help in deciphering whether what my eyes tell me happened actually happened. I'll give you two examples:
  1. My eyes told me that Emilio was butchered after misplaying the ball in the box right in front of me. Penalty! I read on Soccer Insider that Emilio says the player got the ball first and even though it looked like a dangerous play and I think clearly would have been a foul outside of the box, it did not deserve a penalty. Huh.
  2. At the other end of the field, my eyes told me that Fred had a clear chance on goal but was pushed off the ball. Penalty? This one apparently deserved one due to a shirt pull I couldn't see and still haven't. Damn RFK MicroTron scoreboard.

It is really difficult sometimes to know whether or not a referee is blowing the game. I try so very hard not to blame the refs, but MLS makes that extremely difficult with the inconsistencies from week to week on how the game is called. My biggest beef last night was the yellow card on Emilio. Never have I seen a more obvious example of an official determining that he was going to give a card to a player the next time he did anything questionable and then not even get that right. Emilio leaned against a Pachuca player looking up for the ball. He didn't use his arms or elbows, he didn't even push the Pachuca player off his spot. He simply leaned with his rear while trying to get position. Needless to say, I wasn't hopeful for a well called game after that. It wasn't the regular MLS horror show, but it was inconsistent.

I really like the 3-5-2- lineup. I think Moreno's best position is withdrawn forward or attacking midfielder. If Martinez can play on the right side of the defense, DC United might have a viable alternative formation. And this isn't a knock on Burch. Just a more offensive formation. When Benny comes back (soon I hope), that would be a pretty potent lineup. McTavish was the weak link. Too many times the offensive buildup ended with a bad pass off his foot. He has a tendency to loft passes into the offensive third giving the defense time to get under the ball. He wasn't bad, just not the player I want to run the offense through. Pachuca clearly decided to find Fred and Gallardo and mark them closely, so that left the right side as the path of least resistance. Fred and McTavish switched sides a few times to try and throw the defense off, but it didn't seem to make a difference.

Gallardo was very good controlling the ball and distributing it. His free kicks/corners were not great, but I hope that is just my own comparison with Gomez and Etcheverry. Not every player who wears #10 will be able to put it in the upper corners from twenty-five yards out. Martinez continues to impress and Wells had two excellent saves. Peralta was a step slow, but against arguably the best team in North America. Niell was fine, but his goal was offset by his inability to do anything when he gets possession. He won't shoot or pass. He just holds on until he is dispossessed. But, all credit for taking the one timer and scoring. Gallardo had a similar chance a little earlier, but instead tried to improve his angle and ended up not getting a shot off. Sometimes you just need to put the ball on net.

Was it just me or were there a ridiculous amount of deflected crosses? It seemed that every attempt at a cross from the wing was blocked by the defence before it went ten feet. Just great defense by Pachuca.

Overall, this felt like a 1-1 game, but given the quality of the opponent, I'll take it.


Forwards (Emilio and Quaranta) B-

Emilio didn't have his best game. He was put in position to make something happen and just didn't have the ability to convert his chances. Quaranta was adequate. He was well positioned and even tracked way back to play some defense when the positioning got way out of whack. He looked like David Stokes backpedaling and stalling for time (I honestly think he would have continued all the way to the end line if the Pachuca player hasn't passed), but I appreciate the effort.

Midfielders (Gallardo, Fred, Moreno, Simms, and McTavish) B+

A good game from this group. Moreno was effective for about 75 minutes and I think it was a direct result of not having to make the long runs down field. He and Gallardo seemed to mesh well together in the middle with Simms playing stopper behind them. I want to see more of this formation.

Defenders (Namoff, Peralta, Martinez, and Wells) A-

The goal was more a result of pressing for the score rather than a defensive lapse. Excellent game from this crew.

Substitutes (Niell, Burch, and Dyachenko) A

Two goals from this group. What more can you ask for?

One final comment about Greg Garber's comments about DC United not doing well in these tournaments.

Shut up, Greg!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Round 2, Leg 2 - DC United vs Pachuca

Not much to say other than United needs to play a perfect game. Pachuca wants this as shown by their resting players this past weekend. United trails 2-0 and away goals don't matter.

I expect the starting lineup to be Moreno, Emilio, Gallardo, Quaranta, Simms, Fred, Namoff, Peralta, Martinez, Burch, and Wells.


DC United 1:1 Pachuca

Pachuca advances 3:1 on aggregate.
Game 2 - DC United 4:1 Toronto FC

When the game was 3-0, I thought that it had the feel of a 4-0 game. United was dominating possession, the defense was stout, the offense was creating dangerous chances, and Toronto looked like a team which was beginning their second season and had great difficulties on the road. The two goals to start the game were a great sign, and just before the red card we were thinking in our section that the only way things could get worse for TFC would be to go a man down. Then they did. So on came the subs in the second half. Niell was awful again. I'm thinking he will go down with the likes of Filomeno, Guppy, and Donnet. Gallardo on the other hand looked great. I love the long balls over the top. Not your typical MLS prayer, but tactical decisions based on the positioning of the opposition. If he grows his hair a little longer, I might start having El Diablo flashbacks, but with a better shot.


Forwards (Emilio and Quaranta) A-

I liked the Quaranta up top and Moreno in the midfield experiment. I want to see more of it.

Midfielders (Gallardo, Fred, Simms, and McTavish) B+

Once Olsen makes his way back on the field, United should really have a potent lineup and quality depth on the bench.

Defenders (Namoff, Peralta, Martinez, Burch, and Wells) A-

Excellent work by this group.

Substitutes (Moreno, Niell, and Dyachenko) B-

Moreno actually stole the ball from Niell just before he scored because he was taking too much time. When Moreno thinks you are stalling in the box, that's saying something.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Preview of Game 2 - DC United vs Toronto FC

DC United welcomes Toronto FC to town this weekend looking get back on track after consecutive shutouts on the road to Kansas City and Pachuca. United was great at home last season with a 9-2-2 record (W-D-L). DC are currently in last place in the Eastern Conference, four points behind Chicago with a game in hand.

Toronto FC had an anemic offence last season which they hope will improve this year. They set the league record with an 824 minute scoreless streak. TFC are a horrible road team, with a 1-4-10 record and a -23 goal differential. Like DC United, Toronto has no points after their 2-0 loss last weekend at Columbus.

I expect United to play the same roster they used against Pachuca: Emilio, Niell, Fred, Gallardo, McTavish, Simms, Burch, Peralta, Martinez, Namoff, and Wells. My guess is that Moreno will be saved for the Pachuca game next Wednesday. I also expect the top subs to remain Quaranta, Mediate, and Dyachenko.


DC United 2:0 Toronto FC
Nationals Stadium

Not a soccer post. Just a very long rant.

I've lived in the DC Metro area my entire life. A few things go along with that. I expect to run into traffic whenever I go out. It might be 1 AM on a Tuesday, but there might be a five mile backup on the Beltway. I know this and adjust my expectations accordingly. Another thing is diplomatic plates. If I see them, I try to give them a wide berth. I know they probably don't have insurance. If there is an accident, it's on me to get my car fixed even if it wasn't my fault. I think most long time residents have first or second hand knowledge of a fender bender or worse with a car with diplomatic plates. Comes with the territory. A third thing is the tourist, especially at this time of year. I work just off the Mall and at this time of year, the Metros are crawling with high school students visiting DC from all over the country, families seeing the cherry blossoms, and foreigners with their cameras. None of these things bother me. It's part of being a Washingtonian. It would be like a New Yorker hating all the cabs, or someone from Los Angeles hating Hollywood. Doesn't make any sense.

There is something else that is part of being a Washingtonian, and it is The Washington Post. I've read it my whole life. It is one of the dominant papers in the country, maybe number two behind the NY Times. I get it everyday and have my whole life. I love the Sports page. I devour the editorials. However, the Style section is getting on my nerves, specifically the critics: movies, television (except for Lisa de Moraes, love her), and now architecture. If you haven't read the recent review of the new Nationals Stadium, it is a prime example of what really bothers me. So please excuse me while I dissect this review.

It is a machine for baseball and for sucking the money out of the pockets of people who like baseball, and it makes no apologies about its purely functional design...As people circulate through the stadium's public spaces, where beer can cost $7.50 and the cheapest hot dog is $4.50, the human traffic flow unifies the two central purposes of the building: baseball and the fleecing of baseball audiences. This circulating motion wrings money out of you like wet laundry on the spin cycle.

Sorry, the two central purposes of the stadium are to generate income for the owners (and the city by way of taxes on food and tickets) and to provide a place for the public to watch a baseball game. There is no fleecing. To fleece someone is to swindle or cheat them. While the public may be unhappy about their tax dollars being used to build the stadium in the first place, you cannot fleece someone by overcharging them for something they aren't forced to buy. Otherwise, car dealerships would be guilty fleecing anyone who pays full sticker price. If you don't want to buy a $4.50 hotdog or a $7.50 beer, eat and drink before you come to the stadium. And weren't we talking about the design of the stadium?

Although much has been made of its wonderful views of the iconic Washington skyline, it is an inward-focused building, with the field at its center, and rings of concession stands around the edges hiding external views in most places. Even on the inviting open-air corridor of the third level, where people of normal economic means can buy seats without dipping into their kids' college funds, food stalls and bathrooms block what might have been a wonderful view of the Anacostia River.

Really, a baseball stadium is inward focusing? You mean people might want to be able to see the field when walking around the concourse? The game being what they paid to see, I think that a halfway decent argument could be made that it was a choice the designers made to make the field the most important area visitors should be able to see. And how might we accomplish that task? I know, put all the food stalls, bathrooms, offices, and such in places where they won't come between the fans and the field. What a concept. Oh, and we can make specific areas where people who want to take advantage of the location and height of the building can see the beautiful DC vistas, which are viewable for free from the top of the Washington Monument and the Kennedy Center.

The old and much-maligned RFK Stadium, where the Nationals played the past three seasons, might be a better building -- more visual interest, more presence on its prominent site, and a better mix of modern style with the city's vernacular gravitas...RFK Stadium at least looks like a stadium, with a classic shape that recalls noble precursors back to the Roman Colosseum.

This is the most laughable argument the writer makes. RFK reminds him of the Roman Colosseum? On what planet? RFK Stadium was placed in the edge of an established neighborhood which goes back centuries. My ancestors owned a shop about six blocks from the stadium site seventy years before the stadium was built. The Nationals stadium is one of the first building built near the Navy Yard in decades. RFK's presence was "downtown stadium", much like Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. In a baseball configuration, the stands were far from the field, nothing at field level in the outfield, because it was a multi-purpose stadium. Baseball specific stadia look like baseball stadia because form doesn't trump function. A modern baseball stadium puts a premium on getting fans as close to the field as possible. Also, they aren't completely enclosed. The outfield usually opens up to the city beyond for a reason. Football and soccer stadia are usually enclosed because the action can take place at any point on the field. So one corner is the same as the opposite one. At a baseball stadium, seats near the dugouts are clearly superior to ones out by the bullpens. Therefore, the design will be different because the needs are different. Decide on the number of seats you want, in this case just under 42,000, and then put them in the best locations possible, Roman Colosseum be damned.

Although it is positioned on one of the most symbolically significant and potentially beautiful axes of the city, aligned with the Capitol and next to the Anacostia River, it all but fades into the landscape.

A landscape that will be changing dramatically over the next decade. And if you look at the approach from Half Street, I dare you to say it fades into the landscape.
Two disastrously situated parking garages -- reserved for high-paying ticketholders -- obscure the front entrance, and its other three sides present a bland face to the world.

Newsflash, a stadium requires parking. Oriole Park, remember the one with all the presence, has parking structures just outside the stadium. There is also a bland convention center across the street. None of it detracts from the obvious beauty of the stadium. And don't get me started on the off ramps from I-95. Couldn't they have been beautified in the name of aesthetics? What's another $250 million to make the stadium 3% nicer to look at from a few specific angles? Money grows on trees right?

Yet there is nothing particular about baseball, except how it is structured financially, that precludes first-rate, daring and exhilarating architectural form. Ballparks look like shopping malls -- functional, cheap and cluttered with branding -- because the cities that build them are forced to design structures that will maximize the profits of baseball owners. Architectural seriousness is not among the priorities.

This one he has half right, but all wrong. Ballparks are like shopping malls. They are buildings which are made to be visited by the public. Inside them, there are very functional things the public expects, bathrooms, food, signs, elevators, and escalators. Therefore, if you are looking for similarities, you will see them. However, Macy's isn't going to build a pitching mound in the middle of it's men's department and the Nationals aren't going to be building a movie theater in center field. And the exterioirs are somewhat similar because what's important happens inside, so therefore, the focus and the money was spent there.

And so the dreary list goes on. The interior spaces, accessible only to the public that can afford more expensive seats, are covered in carpeting that looks as if it came out of a Courtyard by Marriott. The private boxes are so generic in their fittings and finish, they remind one of the inside of a recreational vehicle. Look out of one of the elevator lobbies on the top ring and you see the exposed mechanicals on the roof of the team's corporate offices, a forest of metal junk.

What a wity line. Courtyard by Marriott. Brilliant. Wait, I'm never going to see the inside of a Presidential Suite. What do I care if the fittings and finish are bland? And where exactly are the mechanicals supposed to be located? Ground level? Here's an idea, take a look at the tops of any other building in the DC area and tell me if the air conditioners aren't located on the top of the building. And he's worried about the view from the elevator lobby on the top level. God, this guy is an idiot.

All that for $611 million in public money. We have been trained to treat our sports teams, the industry behind them and the architecture that contains them with a grim sense of fatalism. Of course stadiums must be bigger. Of course the social space of an egalitarian sport will be distorted into a rigorous hierarchy of wealth and exclusivity. Of course the building will be crude and functional and inspire no one from the outside.

This is a medium sized stadium, around 10,000 seats smaller than RFK. For bigger is better, go bother Dan Snyder.

It is also a colossal symbolic failure with national and international import. At a time when the United States is losing a global argument about freedom and democracy, when China and countries along the Persian Gulf are proving to an attentive developing world that top-down leadership is the best and most efficient route to prosperity, the capital of the so-called free world built a monument to its national pastime that gets a C-plus.

It passes, barely. But as sports lovers know, sports is never just sports. And architecture, especially in a world capital, is never just architecture. Nationals Park might be a better experience than RFK, but it fails to say anything larger to the city, or the world.

"Look people, we are at war. Our stadia need to be beacons of freedom to the rest of the world. If you don't agree with me, you are supporting terrorists. Dictators are the way to go. By the way, I happen to be available for the job should it become open. I would deliver a A+ stadium. Just give me absolute power. I'll take care of making your city beautiful. All it costs you is your liberty." Nice argument. You almost had me. You, Philip Kennicott, are a moron.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Round 2, Leg 1 - DC United 0:2 Pachuca

A couple of streaks continue. DC United still hasn't won a game in Mexico, and DC United has been shutout in back to back games. It's games like this that make me believe that there should be stricter altitude rules. DC United was equal to the task through the first two thirds of the game. However, with about thirty minutes to go, United suddenly was unable to maintain possession. Some awful passes resulted in lengthy Puchuca ball control and the inevitable goal eventually came. Maybe Wells took his eyes off the ball to try and anticipate the cross he thought was coming, but it was just a great shot. The second goal looked to be a bad job of marking by Gonzolo Martinez. The Gonzolos had a good game, but here, Martinez simply seemed to lose track of his man.

A one goal loss would have been admirable and perhaps fortunate. A two goal loss was deserved.


Forwards (Emilio and Niell) C

Unable to maintain possession and Emilio seemed a step slow all night. I never thought they were close to scoring. Were there any shots on goal?

Midfielders (Fred, Gallardo, Simms, and McTavish) B-

A mixed bag here. Fred had a good game. I think he was the best DC player. McTavish was ineffective. Simms was average. Gallardo was good, he was just a bit off in his timing with his forwards.

Defenders (Namoff, Martinez, Peralta, Burch, and Wells) C+

An uneven performance. Some nice defending would be negated by a clearance directly to a Pachuca midfielder.

Substitutes (Quaranta, Dyachenko, and Mediate) C

Nothing remarkable other than Santinos memorable slip which allowed a dangerous possession to end with a whimper.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Preview of Round 2, Leg 1 - DC United at Pachuca

Everyone knows the statistic: DC United has never won a game in Mexico. I know it, you know it, the players know it, Pachuca knows it, Alexander Ovechkin knows it, Barack Obama knows it, even my ninety year old grandfather knows it. So why bother showing up? It's a foregone conclusion, right? United will get a tie or go up a goal at home and then will come up short on the road. We've seen it before many times. So, forget it. Send in the scrubs. Concentrate on the regular season. Focus on the...What's that? United gets the second leg at home? Well then. That's different. And Moreno's back? That's great! Go for it guys. We'll see you when you get back.


DC United 1:2 Pachuca
Game 1 - DC United 0:2 Kansas City Wizards

I am going to be honest, I fell asleep a few times during the broadcast of this game. I had gone to the Nationals-O's exhibition game and when I settled into watch the DC United game, I was pretty tired. I made it about 15 minutes and fell asleep. I woke up after halftime and it was 1-0. I rewound the DVR and watched the goal. I then watched the last twenty minutes which was some pretty entertaining soccer. I'm not sure about all the offisides calls. It was really tough to tell with the camera angles they had. It sure looked like United got the raw end of the deal, but who knows.

No grades this week as I only saw about half the game.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Preview of Game 1 - DC United at Kansas City Wizards

DC United travels to Kansas City to kick off the MLS Season XIII. United looks to start this year off on a more positive note than they did last year. United managed only one point from their first four games, yet managed to recover their form and win the Supporter's Shield. DC had a loss and a tie against Kansas City last season being outscored 5-3. United's road record was 6-4-5 and they had a +7 goal differential.

Kansas City were a decent home team last season with a 7-3-5 record and a +4 goal differential. The Wizards finished the season tied for 4th place in the Eastern Conference.

Jamie Moreno is recovering from his hamstring injury suffered during the first half of the first lag against Harbour View, Ben Olsen has not been cleared to play, and Rod Dyachenko is serving a red card suspension earned from being sent off during the playoff game against Chicago. United looked very good against Harbour View. I think the central defense will be best it has been since 2004. The bench is deeper as well with several players who are ready to play now, not looking for minutes to get them ready for the furure. Competition for starting spots should be intense in practice and with the heavy schedule, Emilio, Moreno, Gallardo, Fred, and Olsen will be given a game off every now and then to keep them fresh for the end of the year. I expect the starting eleven this week to be: Emilio, Neill, Gallardo, Simms, Fred, McTavish, Martinez, Peralta, Namoff, Burch, and Wells. For comparison, this was the line up from the final game of the season against Chicago: Emilio, Gomez, Fred, Olsen, Carroll, Simms, Namoff, Vanney, McTavish, Burch, and Perkins. So six players return and five new ones join. That's quite a turnover.


DC United 2:1 Kansas City Wizards

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Look into the Future

I've been trying to figure out what would constitute a successful season for DC United this year. A part of me thinks that this could be a year when it takes until July or August to figure out how all the new parts fit together. But I can't help thinking that what we saw in the home leg against Harbour View shows that things could coalesce much earlier than that. So, the question becomes "Is DC United a Championship Caliber team?" Tough to answer given that the championship is decided in a playoff. So, how about "Will DC United retain the Supporter's Shield?" Now that's a question you can sink your teeth into. I've been fascinated the last two years with the end of season permutations on what amount of points will win it. Fifty-five points was the magic number the last two years over thirty games. Sixty-four won it in 2005, but in thirty-two games with two Western Conference expansion teams. Forty-nine won it in 2004. So I looked at the average number of points awarded per game and the number is somewhere between 2.69 and 2.82. The only other constant has been that expansion teams are awful in their first two seasons. So, I started there.

San Jose is in their first season and Toronto FC is in their second. Neither should break thirty points and San Jose will probably be around twenty. Then I divided the other twelve teams into two groups, contenders and pretenders. I came up with five contenders (DC, New England, Houston, LA, and Chivas) and seven pretenders (Dallas, New York, Chicago, Colorado, Kansas City, Columbus, and Salt Lake). I put them in order of finish and handed out the points as they tend to be distributed. Here is what I came up with.

DC United 55
Houston 54
New England 53
LA Galaxy 50
Chivas USA 47
Dallas 46
New York 44
Chicago 42
Colorado 41
Kansas City 38
Real Salt Lake 36
Columbus 33
Toronto 29
San Jose 20

Like fourteen wins in the NFL, 100 wins in baseball, and sixty wins in basketball, if you get to fifty-five points in MLS, you have a better than even chance of winning the Supporter's Shield. That is a 1.83 point per game pace. To maintain that pace, you can break down the season into five groups of six games. In each group you need to average eleven points or three wins, two ties, and one loss. So let's see where DC United and the rest of MLS is after six games.