CCC08: DC 5-0 HVFC, The McTavish Scoring Machine

“The game is opening up. Harbour is getting their chances.”

I wrote that into my notes sometime in the late 50’s, thinking it spelled the beginning of a period when Jamaica’s Harbour View FC (HVFC) would threaten DC United’s lead and survival in the CONCACAF Champions Cup (CCC) quarterfinal. Instead, not much more than 10 minutes later, DC had extended their lead by three goals – not the prettiest things, but they all count – leaving the Jamaicans completely demoralized. I turned off the game before DC scored their fifth, but saw plenty ahead of it. HVFC had actually lost their way just before the half, but, finding themselves four goals down in abrupt fashion, they hesitated to go forward for fear of suffering another dizzy spell in front of their own net.

And, to think, DC owed so much to Devon McTavish. Without his first half goal – a goal allowed by fundamental errors that don’t belong at the professional level – HVFC would have had less need to compress the field and send players forward. Once exposed, they defended desperately and, unfortunately, not so well. A fortunate bounce here – I mean, how often does a back-heel carom off a defender directly into the path of your star forward? – and defenders chasing the play everywhere, it took only well-placed finishes to put the game to bed.

Mark Rogondino said sometime after the fourth goal that DC’s performance put the rest of Major League Soccer (MLS) on notice. I don’t buy that. They played well, but also benefited from HVFC’s struggles with possession and their players’ preference for too clever play; I can’t count the number of times, when, presented with an easy pass, HVFC’s players opted for another slick, individual maneuver; this threw a wrench into the team’s rhythm and stranded players – the wide ones who proved effective in the first leg, especially – when they made useful runs. At any rate, the analogy rings false because I don’t think many MLS teams, organized and energetic as they tend to be, will shower them with so many give-aways. Continue reading

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CCC08: DC v. Harbour View, on RFK’s Resplendent Surface

Given the stillfrequent 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: Continue reading

CCC08 Quarterfinals Wrap: Correctives, Additions from Around the Web

I posted my usual ramblers on the CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinals involving Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs down the page (Harbour View v. DC and Municipal v. Houston). In my usual rounds around the Web, however, I found plenty more thoughts on all this – the majority of them coming from DC-related sites (hey, Houston fans, where are you guys?). A few of those disagreed with my copy to varying degrees, so I thought I’d pass on those to give all y’all another perspective. That way, we all get smarter (and they get plugged!). There is also one area of broad agreement that I’ll flag as well.

May as well start with Houston, ’cause they didn’t get as many. Well, actually, may as well plug Jeff Carlisle’s quarterfinals review for ESPN.com. He turned in his usual quality stuff on both games, but took a harder line on DC’s draw; his singling out of DC’s flank defending as “shaky” also bears noting; after all, that could be why Harbour View did so well down the flanks, right? WVHooligan also combined both games in one post and, while he didn’t think much of either team’s performance, he took a dimmer view of Houston’s game. So, who’s right? Got me. You figure it out. Continue reading

CCC08: DC v. Harbour View Talking Points (Some Pointed)

I laid down the big picture perspective on DC United’s 1-all draw with Jamaica’s Harbour View FC (HVFC) last night. Bottom line, DC did well enough for a two-legged game – especially one this early in the season and all that implies – but clearly faded down the stretch. And, to give commenter Longshoe his due (who writes over on Who Ate All the Cupcakes; worth checking out), United let up a little early, whether by fatigue or tactical adjustment.

Below are some bulleted talking points that come to me…um, in the absence of the notes I took last night. One last thing to note: the visual contrast between last night’s games.

– The Harbour View game looked and sounded like a United Soccer Leagues-1 game. The small, quiet, almost milling crowd, the crappy, bouncy pitch, even the camera-work: all spelled “minor league.” No offense intended to the good people of Jamaica…besides, your team played above the visuals.

– There’s a lot to love in the Jamaican player; even the defenders look comfortable and inventive on the ball – an oddly tentative second-half spell on defense notwithstanding. Even tactically, the Jamaicans moved the ball well, though only at their best outside DC’s attacking third. They switched the ball well and often and, particularly through Robert Scarlet on their right, found plenty of space down the flanks. Work on their crossing and they’d have something.

– Apart from Scarlet, “The Two Jermaines,” Jermaine Hue and Jermaine Taylor, showed pretty well, even if they too often received the ball in a swarm of black-and-red clad defenders; again, I blame the crossing. Continue reading

CCC08: Two Draws Tonight – MLS Shakes Off the Rust

Some quick thoughts on both of tonight’s CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinals come below. I’ll offer more detailed thoughts on the game tomorrow, but figured I’d get something up while the memory is still fresh. I invite anyone who cares to to drop their thoughts in the comments below.

Harbour View FC 1-1 DC United
This one stumbled out of the blocks; more than just the general start-stop, it seemed fair to wonder around the fifteenth minute if DC would lose too many players to complete the game. But they settled down before long and, until their legs ran out late in the second half, the MLS club enjoyed the better of the play. When DC snuck a goal off a slop-scramble at the (very) end of the first half, it was as much as they deserved. Even so, a lot of the game – too much, even – took place in the middle third. For their part, Harbour View worked the ball down the flanks pretty well – and they’ve got some damned speedy players out there – but too many of those moves ended with crosses to the top of the 18, which left all DC’s defenders behind the ball. Harbour View’s equalizer came with another slop-fest, this one at the (very) end of the second half and off a corner in front of DC’s goal. A fitting end, as I see it.

CSD Municipal 0-0 Houston Dynamo
What…a…friggin’…game. True, this one died with Houston’s legs – though, to their credit, the Dynamo managed a super-late rally – but to that point, this game was a pants-in-the-air affair. Municipal started better and, by the end, had the better chances; actually, it’s fair to say they should have won it when Gonzalo Romero broke free on Pat Onstad inside the 6, but – impossiblé! – he pulled a certain goal wide. Municipal ran Houston ragged for much of the second half, launching chance after chance toward goal.  Houston had it’s share of misses going the other way, even in the second half. For what it’s worth, I’d call the first half even, but the second half – that was just about all Municipal. Good game and, better yet, it promises more to come. By that I mean, if you can’t see Municipal stealing this series in Houston, you’re not looking hard enough.

Well, good night overall – though the nightcap definitely had something on the opener. Both MLS clubs control their fate – and that’s a good thing. But there’s 90 minutes of work left to do. All for now.

CCC08: Harbour View FC v. DC United – The Ever-Deepening Hole

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. Continue reading