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: 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

Pre-Season Results: I Think Bueno Said It Best

MLSnet.com rounded-up a couple pre-season games from yesterday.  In order of least to greater importance/coverage:

Toronto FC 3-1 U.S. U-17s
Seeing as MLSnet.com’s report is the only place I read about this game, they get the link.  Then again, what’s to get excited about?  Men beating up on teenagers…old news this pre-season.  The line-up has some interesting points, specifically, who isn’t lining up for TFC: Danny Dichio, Jeff Cunningham, Ronnie O’Brien…basically, most the names the  average fan would recognize.  Must be testing trialists and bubble players?

Chivas USA 1-0 DC United
Sure, you can read a bit on this one through the link above, but that doesn’t bear Luis Bueno’s eye-jab of a headline: “Chivas trialists beat DC.”  That’s got to feel swell for DC fans (about as well, I suspect, as tales of freak injuries, recovery and uneven fitness).  Anyway, Bueno’s piece also covers the game, particularly an on-field incident what sounds like a “forward’s tackle” on Jesse Marsch by Luciano Emilio; fortunately for DC fans, no retaliation came…which would have given them more distressing news to digest.  Another write-up on the game came from Nick Green of 100 Percent Soccer, who liked what he saw of Chivas going forward.

For what it’s worth, this last game constitutes one of the more interesting results of the pre-season.

BONUS: What I don’t know about current pop culture can be could fill an oil refinery large enough to solve the United States’ importation of foreign oil.  As such, I didn’t know who Heidi Montag is/was…but, now that I’ve seen and heard her first foray into singing stardom, I’m missing that blessed ignorance horribly.

2007: A Look Back on the Domestic (e.g. U.S.) Scene

The long-promised look back at 2007 in U.S. soccer unfolds below. The talking points – 15 in all (what? you wanted a Top 10? I’m nothing like that disciplined; see, I slipped to 17) – come in, at best, half-random order; put another way, I ranked these things a certain way, but it has as much to do with themes intelligible only to me, as opposed to significance. They also came to me after only 15 minutes (or so) thought, so odds are I missed a thing or two; feel free to add any omissions in the comments.

Right. Here goes…

1. David Beckham. May as well start with the elephant in the room (propped up handsomely next to his wife with the weird tits). Beckham garnered (OK, sucked up) enough attention to transcend even the rule that bears his name – that will come in a separate section – which is perhaps why his arrival sits on our collective stoop like some kind of wet turd the neighborhood kids were too lazy to set on fire. He came, we obsessed, he went down injured, and, with an exception here or there, his team did better without him on the field. Sure, he made the Los Angeles Galaxy, and Major League Soccer (MLS) as a whole, a chunk of change, but the whiff of an injured, conceivably over-the-hill player that attached to him also revived the Ghosts of the NASL. Better luck next year, Tiger (with stuffed shorts).

2 . MLS Overview: My belief that, in 2007, MLS actually felt “Major League” for the first time in its existence doesn’t strike me as a lonely one. It’s not so much that the league has arrived in terms of media exposure, money, etc., and it’s not as if problems don’t exist (refereeing, gridlines, playoff format, small rosters, payment structure, the Colorado Rapids, etc.) than things seem to be headed in the right direction, complete with a “Big Mo” tailwind. On-field play looks better than ever, stadiums are popping up at a steady clip, the scouting system looks more established, and we have yet to see what kind of talent the league’s nascent youth academies will turn out. Hell, the league could even be making more money than ever…not that we’d ever know that given how firmly they hold shut the books. So, yeah, good trends, people. Let’s keep ’em up. Continue reading

DC United 2007 Season Review: Consolation Kings

DC United
Record (W-L-T): 16-7-7; 56 GF, 34 GA
Source Material: Schedule/match reports; roster

Overview
Somewhere down in the mid-summer recesses of this blog, I dubbed DC United the best team in Major League Soccer (MLS).  Just to suggest, at least, that I’m not a lazy sack, I tried to find that post…and discovered there are several.  The first time it happened came after their August 22 win over Red Bull New York, but the affirmation of that opinion grew and grew.  By the time I wrote the post behind that second “grew,” I was preoccupied with figuring out not so much who could stop them, but where; between winning Eastern Conference title and how strong they were at home, the conference semifinals seemed the place to stop them.

And, of course, that’s precisely what happened: the DC defense’s penchant for getting flustered as virgins on their first date let in Chicago’s forwards for a pair of goals that were easy as they were well-taken and lethal.  Thus it was the same story for the past two seasons: DC gets the Supporters’ Shield, an award that, at this point, everyone at least acknowledges before dubbing the MLS Cup-winning Houston Dynamo as league champions.  Picking through the comments of a post-loss post (probably on the incomparable DCenters), the refrain that the Supporters’ Shield wasn’t enough repeated pretty often.

So what’s the story for DC United’s 2007?  They played more meaningful games than any team but the Houston Dynamo.  They won a bunch of them, too, all except the three semifinals they reached (e.g. conference, CONCACAF Champions Cup, and Superliga; they lost the last one, incredibly, to the Los Angeles Galaxy).  So, again, what is that?  “Really good,  but not good enough”?  A “beautiful failure”?  Or is it just a failure? Continue reading

DS, 10.31: Coaching Theory, Playoff Theory + Playoff Strategery

First of all, Happy Halloween. From what my wife tells me, I’m taking the kids trick-or-treating as a nun, so, yeah, I kinda have to get drunk. Dang it.

Oh, and I think I’ve got to get over shoving every subject under discussion into the title; that’s what tags are for, right? This frees me up to reuse the title “Daily Sweeper,” which, I believe anyway, implies a grab-bag of topics. Are we in agreement? Disagreement? Are you hungry too? I’m craving grease like a hungover pregnant lady…perhaps even a nun. Crap…where am I? Oh yeah.

– Apart from revealing himself to be a nice fella (through his reluctance to ask hunted coaches about their job security), USSoccerplayas.com Ian Plenderleith closed his column on La Vida Coacha with an interesting theory as to why a guy like, say, Sigi Schmid still has a job:

“The Crew is probably not sticking with Schmid because they’re in love with his coaching methods, but because there’s no one else around that could take his place. That’s not the best reason to retain a coach, but if you’re a club executive and the list of alternatives begins with, say, Bob Gansler at the top, you’ve probably no choice but to either keep the man you have, or submit to a prolonged bout of weeping.”

It’s an interesting thought. And it could explain why Frank Yallop feels more optimistic about continuing his mortgage payments in Southern California (wade past all the Chivas’ stuff; it’s in there), or why, in spite of multiple columns criticizing his competence and enthusiasm for his job, Bruce Arena still wears that, um…Tomcat Smirk (trying to come up with a phrase analogous to Chesire Smile, but one that actually matches The Bruce’s permanent expression).

On the other hand, I don’t see the limits to the coaching pool Plenderleith sees in the paragraph that follows the one above. A pool exists between former players and even coaches “tainted” by the college game. None of these will be sure-shots by any means, but the conceptual knowledge will be there. When it comes to managing players’ egos, training them well (enough), and fielding the right players in the right places, a fella will either have it or he won’t; a number of these guys will tank, naturally, but how’s that so different from the “name” guy already pulling the team down into the bowl with them? What the hell, right? Roll the dice. It’s a gamble, but you can’t win if you don’t play.

UPDATE: Longshoe makes this same point only better over on Who Ate All the Cupcakes.  It’s worth checking out.

Continue reading

10 Bright Spots of Week 23: things got weird when Jaqua hit for hat-trick

1. Nate Jaqua – it seems every time Luciano Emilio has a great week, someone has an even better one; Jaqua scoring a hat-trick was certainly not something I was expecting from the big man; he scored one in the first half and added a brace in the second to help Houston squeak by Real Salt Lake 4-3 – kind of an odd game

2. Luciano Emilio – four goals in two games for the machine as his rate is skyrocketing and he now sits solely at the top of the scoring tables with 18; none of this would be possible without the service of Gomez, Fred, Olsen, and recently Brian Carroll

3. Maykel Galindo – are defenders worse this year or are the new additions of Angel, Galindo, and Emilio just enough to outclass a plateaued level of defensive talent? after being kept quiet against DC United, the Cuban struck for two against a tired and undermanned Red Bull squad

4. Wilman Conde – a really inspiring first game for the Colombian as it looks like everyone of their summer signings have started strong; he added an assist in Chicago’s 1-0 win over Columbus; I think Conde is the guy that’s gonna put the Fire through to that last playoff spot

5. Marc Burch – this guy has become D.C. United’s most consistent performer day-in and day-out and a damn-good defender at that; the 23-year old former Terp has certainly proven to be a bargain (3rd Round Supp. Pick) plucked from Columbus

6. Corey Ashe – had himself a phenomenal weekend and introduced RSL to his newfangled partnership with Nate Jaqua as he provided the target man with everyone of his services; between Ashe (a rookie) and Stuart Holden (2nd year) Houston looks to have a promising corps of youth for the future

7. Pete Vagenas – he must have been channeling the injured Beckham as his passes were accurate and good enough for two assists – one to Alan Gordon and another to Edson Buddle: hopefully he can channel Goldenballs for the rest of the 10-game stretch they have as it might be helpful to end the year on a good note

8. Brad Guzan – a 3-0 shutout of the Red Bulls made up allowing 2 goals against D.C. United; Guzan has also been Chivas’ MVP all season, even more so than Galindo

9. Cobi Jones – he seems to really help out when the Galaxy are otherwise in dire straits but it would probably be better if the veteran had evened the ship before it hit rock bottom

10. Christian Gomez – two assists and a smidgen of his former self showed this past week; if Gomez wakes up to the tune of last year’s performances, we could see ourselves one hell of a postseason