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."