Major League Soccer (MLS) enters the lists for the CONCACAF Champions Cup (CCC) today, beginning the DC United’s quarterfinal tie against Jamaica’s Harbour View FC (HVFC…hmm, sounds like a communist guerrilla outfit, doesn’t it?). With multiple outlets noting HFVC’s present struggles in their domestic league – I mean, Portmore United is running away with the Jamaican National Premier League (JNPL; can I just call it J-Nipple?) – the temptation to look ahead to the tournament’s semifinals may get the better of fans. Let’s just hope DC’s players don’t succumb as well.
Remember, guys, you’re out there to make all of us look good…and we’ll remember if you cock it up.
It’s not just HVFC’s form that pencils “advantage DC” into the game program. The parade of new faces shapes the talking points for DC as opposed to who’s out through injury – which is in sharp contrast to talk out of the Houston Dynamo camp. Ben Olsen’s absence isn’t great news, but that’s about the end of it. After that, the focus turns to: how the defensive pairing of Gonzalo Peralta and Gonzalo Martinez works together, a duo Jeff Carlisle dubs the “Gonzo defense.”; how, and how well, Marcelo Gallardo will run the game (or if we will even play); who will pair with Emilio Luciano up top, etc. Nice problems to have, really, heading into the season’s first real competition.
Add DC’s generally sound pre-season form – they’re 2-0-1 in their last three against MLS competition (Toronto FC, Houston Dynamo, and Chivas USA), even if the games have been tight – and their solid recent history in the CCC – both of which got play in the Washington Times’ write-up – and the hole from which the Jamaicans must climb gets a little deeper. History digs a little deeper still in the form of a 4-2 win on aggregate the last time the two clubs met in 2005, a series that rounded out by a 2-1 road win for DC.
But, wait! There’s more. The poor form duly noted, HVFC will also play without their captain, Christopher Harvey, who is out through suspension. I don’t know who that is either, but missing your captain rarely helps a team. By now, the fates have lined the sides of HVFC’s hole with glass, so which of their players are going to figure a way to haul them out?
Carlisle’s preview names some of HVFC’s danger-men – and MLS fans will recognize a couple of them: Fabian Taylor, formerly of the former MetroStars, plus “The Two Jermaines” – Jermaine Hue, who used to play for the Kansas City Wizards, and Jermaine Taylor…who, to my knowledge, hasn’t played for any MLS club. Carlisle mentions Fabian Taylor leads the J-Nipple in scoring with 10 goals, three of which came in a hat-trick versus Seba United FC in January; and yet it’s the “other Taylor” – Jermaine, that is – he dubs the man to watch in the middle. Rafeik Thomas’ name also makes frequent appearances in J-Nipple box scores, which you can access to your heart’s content here, so there’s another player to watch. A look at the full J-Nipple standings doesn’t suggest any particular defensive deficiencies, so that doesn’t seem a particular problem. Looks like they’re just kinda 5th place.
For all those names and details, it’s still difficult to know how the teams will stack up – though, again, things don’t look so hot for the Jamaicans. To name a couple possible helping hands, consider the dusting of pre-season rust DC’s players may yet have, that and the learning curve brought on by all the new faces. But that’s merely something to watch for and assess during the game; we can’t know going in how rusty DC will be until we see them. As for more practical matters, things like who will start for United, The DCenters offered some educated guesses in their preview, but we’ll have to wait and see who coach Tom Soehn runs out just before kick-off.
To wrap things up, HVFC has an intriguing history and situation – gleaned, as usual, from Wikipedia (and elsewhere). By way of history, the club isn’t that old – or, rather, given that they were founded in 1974, I’m older than they are. They’re just two-time league winners – 2000 and, again, in 2007 – but have won the Jamaican Cup on four occasions. MLS fans will find some familiar names among their former famous players, who are named at the bottom of the club profile…any thoughts about one last hurrah, Andy Williams? (Are you the same Andy Williams? His profile doesn’t say, but I’m wagerin’.)
But it’s the stadium situation I found most fascinating: they play in some dinky digs, the 7,000 seater Harbour View Stadium; here’s to hoping they play there tonight!