CCC08: One More Observation from DC’s Win

Marcelo Gallardo versus Devon McTavish: seems a forced comparison, but I found doing so revealing last night.  Here’s how:

I count McTavish one of those good-for-Major-League-Soccer (MLS) players.  By that I mean he generally makes good decisions, he knows the game, and works plenty hard.  Possessed of just enough swagger – or perhaps feeling a little randy after scoring his second goal in as many games – McTavish also attempted a couple clever passes, but with a higher degree of difficulty.  A lack of precision and/or difficulty with applying just the right weight made his several attempts came up short.

Gallardo, on the other hand, overcame the higher degree of difficulty time and again, squeezing passes into places where you’d think it couldn’t go and finding a run that seemed irrelevant only second ago.

Whenever I question the wisdom of signing designated players, I’ll have to remind myself to make this seemingly forced comparison.  Gallardo, along with guys like David Beckham and Cuauhtemoc Blanco, do possess that little extra something.  They’re not a cure-all – not least because they’re playing on a team full of people without that “little something extra” – and talent doesn’t always equate with effectiveness.  Still, having the talent explains their allure because, even when American players can pull off the same moves, the can’t with the same consistency.

We’ll get there – at least I think we will – but only when our players work on this, or are taught it, from a young enough age.

– A list of real-life inventions seen on Star Trek…I’m most excited about hyperdrive…which, it seems, some people believe can actually come together.

– Ever wonder what happens when a fire breaks out at a gas station?  Now you know.

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

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: 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 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

Gomez to Colorado: “It’s Going to Happen” (and Houston gets a ‘keeper…)

Tucked in a bunch of other player movement items, Goff effectively buries the lead…at least so far as Colorado Rapids fans are concerned. Citing a “source with knowledge of a possible trade” Goff reports now-former DC United midfielder Christian Gomez’s move to the Colorado Rapids only waits on the blessing.

So, what will this do for Colorado? Well, here’s the team Gomez will join. Suppose the first question is, who’s he going to feed? Conor Casey and Herculez Gomez? Omar Cummings and Nico Hernandez? Some other permutation of those players? What happens to Jovan Kirovski, who has set up on the field where I’d expect the Rapids to use Gomez?

Waiting on the answer, at least through preseason, seems wiser right now than guessing. At the same time, Gomez’s arrival seems likely to kick one of last year’s regulars down to the bench, if not off the roster; Hernandez, who labored through 2007, seems a likely candidate.

Obviously, that’s a load of speculation. The one thing I know: things look like they’re getting interesting in Colorado…finally.

One last related point – and this one is for DC United fans. I’ve seen some fans/bloggers play out an upcoming game on one of the FIFA video game systems. Last night, my wife and I did a variation on that in a rummy (cards) game we call “Olkatana”…because we can’t remember whether Hoyle calls the game Oklahoma or Montana. I played as Marcelo Gallardo and she as Gomez. “Gallardo” started strong on the first hand before Gomez took over the game in a most relentless fashion; “lopsided” only begins to describe the final score. If you’re disposed to believe such things, that’s one grim omen for DC’s 2008.

– Elsewhere, the Houston Dynamo signed a backup ‘keeper this morning: Tony Caig. The noise you hear, which sounds like a gentle breeze blowing, is actually the tail-end of the sigh of relief issuing from Martek over on Nutmegged.

OK, one last order of business. I’ve mentioned finding/receiving weird/funny/gross crap on the Web. I’ve decided to just add it as a find it…like this “ode” to our first president George Washington. I’ve seen this enough times that I’ve almost committed it to memory and the bit with the bear still makes me laugh.

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

Trades: Forward Crisis in Houston? Gallardo Goes…Where? Who Is Ivan Trujillo?

It’s not so much the trades I’m reading about today that interest me, and not all are – how do you say? – consummated, as the fallout they’re producing. Here’s a quick tour, starting with the outgoing and confirmed.

Joseph Ngwenya to SK Austria. Sounds nice for the player, but what’s it do to the Dynamo? Consider this snippet:

“Ngwenya leaves a deep hole in the Dynamo’s offense as he was Brian Ching’s attacking partner. His departure comes at a time midseason acquisition and fellow forward Nate Jaqua (six goals, two assists) is also seeking employment in Austria.”

“A third forward, Paul Dalglish, was released at year’s end.”

And that leaves…leaves…leaves…who? Bernando Fallas answers on Soccer y Futbol, and fairly credibly from a straight-up personnel point of view. There’s also a hint of reinforcements on the way at the bottom of the piece, as well as Jaqua’s luck with testing foreign waters to consider. But you have to wonder about things like depth, fatigue, and reworking the on-field formula. I get what Fallas is saying, but have my doubts on the mechanics.

Elsewhere, the Columbus Dispatch’s Shawn Mitchell tops off his post on this move with a dollop of Schadenfreude. Continue reading