Friday, April 25, 2008

A View From the Other Side

DCU -vs- Real Salt Lake
Courtesy of BolivianFeugo (aka Andrew Esprella)

[Note: Prior to each match we intend to have the a preview of the match, provided by a supporter of the opposing team. This is the first such preview, and we thank Andrew for his contribution on short notice.]

First, let me start off by congratulating Real Salt Lake on their win at their home turf COMPLETELY dominating DC United. Two very strong points that I noticed with in the two first goals were 3 men, Fabian Espindola, Dema Kovalenko, and Kyle Beckerman. These are 3 guys that definitely knew how to play at their own house to their advantage, and to a weak backline which DC United decided to try out, which consisted of Dominic Mediate on the left, in the center Big Strong Gonzalo Peralta, and on the right Veteran Bryan Namoff. A 3 man backline can be very good IF it consists of 3 very strong Defensive minded players who can hold their ground, now MAYBE we could have slowed down the beating if Martinez (our strongest and most experienced defender) was in the back given his pace, and control over the game, and his clean tackles but Coach Soehn decided to rest him this game, along with our play maker Marcelo Gallardo as our boys deserved it after a tiring two-game series with Pachuca.

With that said, our weak spot in the game was the defense with an inexperienced Mediate… whom in my opinion should NEVER start in the back ever again, unless we are in some sort of crisis (god forbid). And Peralta didn’t have much of a game great game either, constantly getting roughed up by Deuchar yet being close to 6’3 and pretty burley for his size.

Beyond that we had nothing going for us, no fire in the front, nothing really working for us in our four-man midfield, beyond Moreno trying to act as the playmaker (experimentally put in the midfield), with his holding and touch, yet his long passes were a big problem that game because they could not produce what a Gallardo pass could.

The fact is we got dominated by a very strong at home squad with proven strengths in the midfield with Beckerman and Kovalenko. Also the strong, young Argentine contingent that is Espindola, Morales, and Mantilla I expect to play a big role in the rematch at RFK. We most definitely will be watching Espindola as he scored that great goal against us in Salt Lake, and given the other argentines respectable résumés I expect all players to be guarded heavily.

Looking at the records for both teams, with RSL having only 1 win (against us), 2 losses, and one tie this game in DC is very important for RSL as they need to work on the number sitting in their W column. The same goes with United (1-3-0), sitting last place in our division, we need a win to regain back the support from a lot of the fans because at this time many are very disappointed in play so far, as our team with our first DP that is Gallardo was expected to be the next coming of Marco Etcheverry, who so far has not quite lived up to the hype, by only seeing limited flashes of his ability. The bottom line is that Gallardo as our team’s engine is not failing but succeeding at what he does best, finding open players, opening up space, creating dangerous through balls for the forwards to finish. Truthfully it is not his fault that we have started out so bad, it comes down to how fresh our defense and offense is. It seems though that a lot of fans are having Gomez withdrawals, wishing that he was back in place of Gallardo, or trying to compare the two. The truth of the matter is that both are two different

Up front we are missing a very much needed Olsen who knew how to work the right side, with his passing, holding, touch, and creativity along with his decent strikes on goal. Instead because of injury we are left with a universal player who is Devon Mctavish, who as a temporary fix is nothing close to what Olsen brought to United, in any of the categories above mentioned. Up front also we are lacking finishing, with Moreno for a couple years now not being the same finisher he was in his past seasons with DC and more so a withdrawn forward that doesn’t score as much but can hold the ball and open up space for others. He seems to be getting a handle on Gallardo’s play which is good. What DC is lacking also is a very strong finisher that was Emilio last year, he happened to be at the right place at the right time to finish off those perfect opportunities up front. Well sadly it seems the league has finally caught on to his style of play, and are shutting him down, it also does not help that he came a little out of shape to Pre-season and seems to still be struggling with his fitness

Speaking on our defense/Goalkeeper situation, we have replaced a somewhat shakey semi-inexperienced back line that was Bobby Boswell and an aging/slow Greg Vanney with a speedier Gonzalo Martinez, an ex. Colombian International and a Gonzalo Martinez coming from a strong Argentine Second division side being their captain to add strength to our defense. Both have their strengths over our early American counterparts, and in my opinion surpass them both in foot skill, touch, and defensive ability. But it seems that Marc Burch once considered a strong Offensive wing Defender with semi-decent defensive skill for being a converted forward, has completely lost any defensive vision or skill he had before. We have a hole in the back left and it seems to be a big problem that teams have figured out about. In order to come out with a good result it will largely depend on that left side being able to close down any threats.

On the goalkeeping situation it is the exact opposite compared to the defense, we have lost a veteran keeper that was Troy Perkins to Valarenga (Norway), who was a great fit for the MLS, very athletic, not scared of confrontational tackles with forwards and just all around very strong in the net. Now what did we replace Perkins with? Zack Wells, a 2nd string keeper for Houston Dynamo that happened to play pretty well versus a semi-strong Costa Rican Puntarenas, and going down fighting to last years CCC champ Pachuca in the next round. I so far have not been all that impressed with Wells. He shows a lack of Goalkeeping vision and intuition of how to keep himself positioned or when to go for the ball in that he seems fearful of possibly getting hurt. Although the last part is my own theory it very well could be true and just shows right now why DC fans miss Troy so much at this point, as he brought strength, leadership, to our backline with the defenders. That is also another issue that others haven’t really touched on, our 2 central defenders first language is Spanish and personally I feel although Carvallo went down in flames against RSL, is still deserving of a second chance to play at home and see how well he could do with our 2 strongest defenders understanding him completely.

The bottom line for this game is DC has to win it, or else more people will continue to lose faith, this will all fall on our forwards and Goalkeeper. We have to score in order to win this, and we have to stay strong in the back to not concede any dumb goals which could be prevented. As generic as that response sounds it is all true from my perspective.

With all that said, I for see Tommy Soehn fielding a very conservative 4-4-2 that has been proven to work so far this season:




I don’t foresee Coach Soehn to gamble much this game unless we happen to maybe get a good lead going, I predict Franco Niell coming in at the 70-ish minute to replace Moreno or at the same time that could also be Santino Quaranta, who has been given the job of possibly replacing an aging Jaime Moreno as both play very similar. Personally I would like to see Tommy try Niell up front with Moreno working together up front to start, but I doubt that will happen as it seems we most likely will play it safe, I assume. I see the rest of the team staying in for the remainder of the game beyond those 2 subs depending on their performance.

This Saturday it seems that we will have a great and enjoyable game with two sides needing a win badly, and will be in for a dog fight for those 3 points. Although I predict a DC win (trying to think optimistically), I don’t think it will be anywhere close to easy.