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

Daily Sweeper, 1/1: Building the Future and (A Little) Playoff Dish for the Saints

It’s All Saints Day, doncha know?

Before getting to the good stuff – e.g. the stuff about soccer – I’ve got to pass on something funny about trick-or-treating last night.  In case you don’t know, I live in Hillsboro, Oregon, a suburb of Portland with a heavy Hispanic population.  I did go out as a nun last night and, let me tell you, the looks I got; the Hispanics, especially got a kick out of it; maybe it’s the Catholic angle.  Most people were amused, if to a surprising degree, and I got a few cold stares; some kids looked freaked, but that’s not so weird.  But having spent my entire life in, I dunno – tolerant, adaptive, maybe even “hep” – circles, I can only say I was neither prepared for, nor planning on, being a center of attention with a costume like that.  For Halloween parties past, a dude dressed as a nun is entirely unremarkable, if a little lazy.

Anyway…

– I still love reading this kind of thing, from Sacha Kljestan’s Q & A sit-down with USSoccerplayas.com:

Sacha Kljestan: I grew up watching MLS, so [Carlos] Valderrama, Peter Nowak, Preki, and [Marco] Etcheverry were my four favorite players.”

OK, so lumping “coach” in there may read like a brown-nose maneuver, but the cool thing is, we’re more likely to grow supporters when kids grow up following the league.  This, incidentally, is why getting families to the games matters: they may cramp your style by keeping you from telling the ref what you really think, but if you limit the attraction to the league to the young, the hip, and the barren/infertile, that can bite you on the butt.  Sing it with me….”I believe that children are our future…”  There is a second piece to this: namely, keeping the “fun young adult vibe” in the stadiums; after all, the little critters need something to which they can aspire once they get the yen to separate from mom and dad.

– Another quote, this one from Ryan Hunt’s playoff thinker for Sports Illustrated:

“Just like in 2005, none of MLS’ top four seeds enters the second weekend of the [2007] conference semifinals with an advantage headed into the home leg. And that was perhaps the most unexpected postseason in league history, with three lower seeds advancing out of the first round and the West’s No. 4 team (Los Angeles) rolling to the MLS Cup crown.”

So, you got that, New England, DC, Houston, and Chivas?  Get with it ya deadbeats.  And while you may look at the final regular season standings for 2005 and think, “well, yeah, the lower seeds went through, but that’s because the Rapids were one of the top seeds” (insert double-take sound effect).  True, but the rest of them were the usual suspects: San Jose/Houston, DC, and New England. 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