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.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Leg Two - DC United 5:0 Harbour View FC

United advances 6-1

Okay, a very late recap of this game. I wasn't at the game due to a birthday coinciding with the game of a person related to me by marriage (can't skip out on your wife's birthday), and I didn't actually see the game until the next night. At that point most everything has been hashed and rehashed. It was nice to see the offense light it up. It was better to see McTavish play the role of Kaka. What was best was how quickly and dramatically the new players (Gallardo, the Gonzolos, Wells, and Niell) have integrated into the team and are also applying their own flair and style. DC United is now big in the central defense, faster up top, and just as creative in the middle. Was is just me or were there more quality runs behind the defense in that one game than in a month of last season? McTavish, Emilio, Niell, and Fred were all anticipating passes rather than chasing after them. Good sign of things to come. So, let's all get ready for the MLS opener this weekend. Preview should be up by Friday.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Leg One - DC United 1:1 Harbour View

Well, that was a boring game. I love my soccer and this was the first game of the year, but after a really boring first half, I found my attention wandering in t he final fifteen minutes. And isn't that interesting, so did the defense. It's hard to formulate my thoughts into a coherent analysis since so many different things were happening, so I will tackle what I feel were the major questions entering the game and see if I think any answers were given or alluded to...

  1. Gallardo as the new #10 was as expected. He clearly doesn't have the same skill set at Gomez, and he isn't as familiar with the DC United system. However, his on the ball skills were apparent. He seems to hang a bit further back than Gomez did and will try more long balls from midfield, much like another former #10 did, Etcheverry. One of his dead ball strikes was really nice, and he seemed to have the creative eye any team would want. So I am pleased with his first game.
  2. The Gonzolos as the central defenders. They are big boys, huh? I like that. They don't seem particularly fast, but with proper positioning, that can be mitigated. After a very nice, easy first sixty-five minutes, things began to get more interesting and the corner kick equalizer was part hand ball, part poor marking. I'm not sure who was at fault, but no one was in the middle with two Harbour View players and no one was on the far post.
  3. Zach Wells in goal. Well he sure plays a different game from Perkins. I had no problem with him at all, he just seems to be more at home on his line with crosses and takes fewer chances. He did come out to jump on balls at the top of the box a few times and seemed to be fearless when he does decide to come out.
  4. The uniforms will take some getting used to. The front seems like a black hole. I have to assume there will be a sponsor by midseason to fill all of that space.


Forwards (Moreno and Emilio) B-

Midfielders (Fred, Gallardo, Simms, McTavish) B

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

Substitutes (Niell and Stratford) B+

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Preview of Leg 1 - DC United at Harbour View

DC United opens the 2008 campaign with a road match in Jamaica against a familiar foe in the CONCACAF Champions' Cup, a North and Central American club tournament. United was able to dispatch Harbour View three years ago, 4-2, but fell in the next round. This season, DC United may start five new players who were not with the team last season. How quickly the attack and defense jell and how the midfield is able to connect the two will determine how successful United is between now and the end of April. There will be two new central defenders, the Gonzolos, a new #10, a new goalie, and Olsen is out. It's possible the Moose will get time, but from what I have read, he is on the outs with the coaching staff, possibly not being on the eighteen man roster once the season starts. Quaranta however, should get a major look in the next ten weeks and probably has passed Moose on the depth chart. I also expect Niell to play a lot during the first half of the season, perhaps averaging forty-five minutes a game and alternating starts with Moreno to keep him Jamie fresh.

I expect the starting eleven to be Emilio, Moreno, Gallardo, Fred, Simms, Quaranta, Namoff, Peralta, Martinez, Burch, and Wells. Look for Niell, McTavish and Kirk to get time in the second half.

You can find the DCenters preview of the game here.


DC United 2:2 Harbour View

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Welcome to MLS, Philadelphia

And Philly makes sixteen. MLS has confirmed the long rumored Philadelphia expansion franchise will begin play in the 2010 season.

So, to our soccer loving brethren to the north, I say "Congratulations! You can join the rest of the teams in Pennsylvania which I hate. I can't wait to make road trips to your soccer specific stadium and be jealous that you have one and DC United doesn't. See, I hate you already."