CCCO8 Semis: Strategery Before the Second Leg

I think that sums it up nicely.

The general mood of optimism going into the CONCACAF Champions Cup semifinals renders the funk looming over the second leg all the more blue. I’ll be surprised – and, for the record, damned happy – if either DC United or the Houston Dynamo make the final. It’d be one thing if only a handful, or even half, the pundits I read shared my view, but even the bigs (ESPN.com and Soccer America) put out previews with a funereal, almost post-mortem tone – e.g. it’s more lessons learned for the next go-around than what to do about tonight.

One can even find such talk out of the proverbial horse’s mouth:

“’I was thinking about that while I was watching the [Pachuca-D.C.] game the other night, and boy, we’ve got to do better,’ said MLS commissioner Don Garber. ‘For this league to win over the core audience, we’ve got to be able to be among the best clubs in North America.’”

Fortunately, the future is not now…or, rather, it better not be because there’s not a lot anyone besides Houston and DC can do today to get the MLS clubs through (well, there’s the ref, I suppose…).

So, to throw out a question before (briefly) digging into some thoughts and details, which club would you rather be coaching today? Or, more practically, if you had to put money on DC or Houston to overcome the odds and advance to the final, which would it be?

My answer will appear at the bottom and after the jump; for now, here are some thoughts kicking around in my head these few hours before kick-off. Continue reading

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CCC08: Pachuca 2-0 DC: Um…your ball, Houston

Ignore the headline: this wasn’t that bad a loss. Well, it was and it wasn’t. DC United held up pretty well for 70+ minutes and in a tough venue against a savvy team. Moreover, the goal scored by Luis Montes, which undid DC’s worthy fight for a result, was equal parts smart and fluky; never let it be said the Americans gave up a soft goal. OK, the second goal, maybe that one was soft, but the other was a low-mid-percentage rocket: good shot, good goal…y’know, what can you do?

(Hey, hey: interesting side-note: with MLSnet.com eating too much to open, I had to force quit my web browser in order to find an article; the one I did find showed up on Google News’ crawl – that feels so Big Time!)

Without laboring the point, it’s worth noting that Pachuca could have had more: in fact, they squandered a couple positively gilded chances, most notable among them a cross that dropped delicately over a defender to Juan Carlos Cacho, open just outside the six. How the forward managed to fire straight at Wells, I’ll never know (thanks, Goff, for providing names in your piece).

No less significantly, DC had their chances – including a solid spell around the 70th minute, well after their legs seemed to have left them. And, as the report I linked to above mentions the Major League Soccer (MLS) club started pretty brightly, both keeping possession and slowing down the game. Putting the loss down to heavy legs seems wise, but, without having read anything about it, that’s a best guess. On the bright side, though, heading back to DC only two goals down isn’t the end of the world. Unlikely as it may be, this remains a winnable series. So…good luck, DC. Do us proud next week, ‘kay?

I’ll close with some other thoughts, most of them about DC: 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

Arrivals/Departures: DC Lands (some of) Their Fish

Welcome to today’s now-typical wrap up of trading/rumor action. For all the trades wrapped up, just as many seem up in the air. What the hell? Let’s start with the latter. No, wait. Can’t do that. Look at the title…another trap! And I set it for myself.

– Steve Goff posted something a bit ago about DC United wrapping the deal for Colombian defender Gonzalo Martinez; it also sounds like the deal to bring in Peruvian ‘ keeper Jose Carvallo should also wrap in time for him to start training with the rest of the guys. No word yet on Marcelo Gallardo…though MLS Rumors jumped ahead of the non-risking part of the soccer media world, declaring Gallardo to DC a “done deal.” We shall see…we shall see… (Against that and for the record, WVHooligan reads something in Goff’s copy that suggests to him that DC is out of the running…or, after re-reading his space, it’s more accurate to say he wrote “they may not be in the running”; subtle difference…my bad.)

What I do know is I’m a bit conflicted on this Gallardo-to-DC thing, assuming if pans out. Given how DC collects Supporters’ Shields, this one stinks of the rich getting richer (and dumbass clubs like New England approaching the season with their heads – I dunno – in the sand? Up their butts? Too intently craned toward their wallets? I think Jimmy Chowda of Blue Blooded Journo nicely sums up the emotions this provokes). At the same time, thanks to those Supporters’ Shields, DC rather often flies Major League Soccer’s (MLS) “freak-flag” in the international club tourneys, so, on the theory that MLS clubs doing well makes more players want to join MLS clubs, which allows MLS clubs to do well, which makes more players want to join MLS, um, etc., I can live with it.

Sometime around mid, mid-early March you’ll be reading posts from me about how we’re all DC United and Houston Dynamo fans today…Is it time for outgoing? Yeah. Why not? Continue reading

MLS Rumors Watch: Fun While It Lasted and, Hey, Ends on an Up

Call it the last of a long line of projects I assign myself, only to discover the mechanics of the thing proved more difficult than anticipated. The plan to track MLS Rumors’ success rate ended today when they posted a rumor with a four rating and a damned long timeline; the simple reality is, I’m unwilling to keep track of a rumor that won’t come together for 2 years, as is the case with Major League Soccer’s (MLS) possible, future inclusion in the Copa Libertadores. I think I’ve mentioend this in the past, but I’m lucky to leave the house with pants most mornings; I’ll be lucky if I remember my fucking name by the time an MLS team takes the field in the Copa Libertadores…a move I wholly endorse…provided we kill Superliga…which, according to MLS Rumors’ write-up, may yet become MLS clubs’ entry point into the Copa…or something to that effect.

Even without highly complicated timelines, I never quite settled on a way to cope with something like, say, the Eddie “EJ’s” Johnson to Fulham rumors. The basic concept has been floating around for over a week on sites like Down the Byline and damn near everyone (including me) made mention of what looked like multiple suitors for EJ’s hand….or rather, feet. Given the age and general knowledge of that one, and knowing I have neither the time nor inclination to discover whether their January 3 post was the first to mention it, I can’t comfortably credit MLS Rumors for getting it right – even if, as happened today, they whittled a wide-open field down to Fulham FC (with Steve Goff’s help) and predicted that Fulham would be the place in that January 3 post….when Derby seemed more possible…or something to that effect.

Long story short, rumors move too quickly and have too many moving parts. I imagine/hope I could do this if this was all I wanted to do, but it isn’t. So, I’ll just call things even – and they are, literally, at 2-2 – and walk away.

What took the MLS Rumors to a .500 record? I’m calling the Gonzalo Martinez to DC United rumor in the site’s favor. It’s not wrapped, sealed, and signed, but between the deal entering final negotiations prompting Steve Goff to advancing the story from his blog to the regular pages of the Washington Post and The Fullback Files telling me that Wikipedia (oh, bastion of truth) already has Martinez off to DC, things look pretty certain to end with Martinez wearing black and red. So, congratulations to MLS Rumors on a 50% success rate. I could only hope to do as well.

Now…let us never speak of this again…