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 Moreno played a fine first half as almost a withdrawn forward.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