Given the still-frequent references to the playing surface in Jamaica, I expect DC United will elevate their play to the realms art tonight, stroking the ball across the canvas that is RFK’s playing surface.
I kid, I kid. I imagine a plug-ugly win will send DC fans home happy.
We’re not far from the kick-off of the decisive second leg of the CONCACAF Champions Cup (CCC) quarterfinal series between DC and Jamaica’s Harbour View FC (HVFC). Only a couple minor changes to report: DC will, indeed, miss Jaime Moreno for tonight’s game, but the Jamaicans arguably have it worse: they’ll be missing Rafeik Thomas, a semi-hot scorer for the club of late, and Kemeel Wolfe courtesy of visa issues. And don’t forget the team chef…that one’s a killer. Otherwise, the preview that preceded the entire series covers the Big Picture…though, there’s that little matter of the first leg to cover.
(UPDATE: USSoccerplayas.com linked to a Jamaica Gleaner article that does really well with flagging HVFC’s players to watch, what to expect for tactics (more of the same). And, to add a personal emphasis unrelated to that, I wanted to highlight my concerns about DC’s ability to get its offense firing. They’re not exactly ripping the nets, with one goal per game setting the high-water mark in recent outings. I get into my belief they need to score early below, but it bears emphasizing: finding the net is plenty hard, but trying on tired legs only makes it harder.)
I’d argue DC held the edge in both play and style over the first 50, 60 minutes, before pre-season legs undermined their efforts. One competitive game and one week’s further conditioning shouldn’t greatly alter that equation so pressing for an early advantage seems a good tack to take for the hosts. Their capacity to make that pressing count relies on their ability to score – which relies in turn on syncing their play, something Jeff Carlisle smartly flagged in his one-stop CCC08 second leg preview for ESPN.com:
“It’s expected that with another week of training under their legs, Gallardo & Co. will find more of that elusive precision in the final third, especially as the tendencies of Gallardo begin to emerge and those of the man he replaced, Christian Gomez, fade in the memory.”
Like Carlisle, I believe Gallardo is up to supplying the goods – he showed as much in Leg One – so my questions point to the forward corps. Newcomer Franco Niell struck me as the more menacing threat on the first leg, but, given the difficulty DC had with running at HVFC’s defense, Luciano Emilio’s physical presence makes him seem the likelier source for goals. That will require an actual appearance by the Brazilian, something he made only in body the last time out. Someone, anyone getting involved from range will help open space for the forwards….so, yeah, who’s going to step up? Fred? (For the record, earlier comments notwithstanding, that’s more rhetorical than sarcastic.)
A couple question marks also appear on the defensive side. Crappy field or no, HVFC did their best down the flanks, especially through Robert Scarlet on the left side facing Brian Namoff; even as the question of whether this was poor defending or good attacking remains open, DC will probably face the same this time around and need to cope. The central defense looked all right, as did DC ‘keeper Zach Wells, but, as the first leg demonstrated, any back-line can succumb to extended periods of pressure.
HVFC showed they’re more fit than DC, but the home team has more to worry about than fatigue. The Jamaicans showed they can play in the first leg and, lest we forget, HVFC will enjoy that same, improved surface tonight. Improvement in just one part of their game – and, here, I’m thinking crossing, getting the ball not only behind DC’s flanks, but dropping crosses in more dangerous places – and DC will suffer stress at the very least. And even with Thomas missing, HVFC still has The Two Jermaines (Jermaine Taylor (on a yellow, I think) and Jermaine Hue) for offensive threats – plus, no doubt, players of whom I’m ignorant. I’ll be very curious as to how the Jamaicans come out tonight. Whatever they do, however, DC simply must start well; if they find themselves chasing this one into overtime, I’m not sure they’ll make it.
I’m expecting a good game tonight, perhaps even a close one…not that that’s what we want to see. Here’s to hoping Jamaicans travel badly…when they can travel at all (sorry, Rafeik! Only a joke!).
- Enjoy this pre-WWII Japanese cartoon starring a somewhat familiar mouse as an icon of evil, courtesy of Boing Boing.