So if anyone happens to catch this weeks podcast of "The Soccer Show" you will hear a certain co-host rage on about about United and their inability to score goals on the road. You will continue to hear this co-host rant and rave about how predictable and conservative Tom Soehn's gameplan for road matches seems to be. This co-host even manages to get two of his three co-hosts marginally on his side in predicting yet another shutout at the hands of the New England Revolution.
I mean seriously, how on Earth can anyone expect United to go up to Foxborough and beat a very tough and disciplined Revs team minus Fred (via a red card suspension), Christian Gomez (due to injury) and the still recovering Jaime Moreno on the bench?
It's just not possible is it considering the collective mindset of the Black and Red and their inability to score a goal much less win a game on the road.
Well, that idiot co-host was me and my brilliant reverse physcology plan worked to a T. At least that's the story I'm sticking with. I mean seriously, 3-0? Against a full strength Revs? Missing three of our four top offensive players?
This game will live in United lore for quite a long time because not only was it an important confidence boost for a team that was struggling to find net, as their two goals in three Superliga matches would attest, but more than that it showed that this team can indeed function without having to depend on it's supreme talents in Moreno, Gomez and Fred. Having Luciano Emilio in this game was was key because even though this season is fraught with scoring inconsistencies (and Emilio had his own nightmarish ghosts to deal with during all three Superliga matches) Emilio has managed to put home 12 goals in league play, 16 in all competitions and has given United a spearhead threat that hasn't been seen since the days of Raul Diaz Arce and Roy Lassiter.
Yes, I'm well aware that Alecko Eskandarian scored 14 goals during the 2004 season (league and playoffs combined) and Christian Gomez bagged 14 last year in his MVP season, but I'm talking about that Twellman-Angel-Ruiz type of player that will put the dagger in the heart of the opponent more often than not. We just may have our first 20 goal scorer since the first year in 96 when Diaz Arce got 23 goals, still obviously the team single season record. While 23 goals may be a bit much to ask for in this day and age of MLS, it's good to have someone who can take the burden off of Gomez and Moreno who have carried this team for the past three seasons in the goal scoring department.
Emilio's brace yesterday was the cherry on the cake for a complete United effort that started on the backline and worked it's way through an industrious midfield all the way up top. A key move made in this match was the insertion of Clyde Simms into the defensive midfield spot for a struggling Brian Carroll. Simms gave the kind of physical effort this team has been desperate for for years from that demanding position. Carroll simply doesn't have a physical game and playing teams like New England requires some grit and toughness that just isn't prevelant in Carroll's game right now.
In addition to the fine play of Simms we are witnessing the continued maturation of left back and find of the season in Marc Burch. His defending was quite good but more than that he is showing off a sweet left foot that is opening up a United offense that has been guilty of predictability and blandness at times the past few years. His ability to hit a 4o yard diagonal ball across the field is giving United new found options in their attack.
Josh Gros, who scored his first goal of the season on what can only be described as a brain fart on Rev's keeper Matt Reis' part, shows that he is probably best suited as an outside midfielder for this team though his time spent on the defensive line will no doubt help this team in the future. But it's clear to me that with a fully healthy squad, Gros may not have a starting position. Now I'm not advocating benching Gros, I think his hustle and speed is needed on a team that can be very slow in moving upfield and back in defending at times. With Fred, Gomez and Moreno in the lineup we've seen this team become dynamic at times but equally frustratingly pedantic and predictable with their almost isomorphic willingness to play everything down the middle of the field.
I think if that trio of players could somehow incorporate the wing players into the offense, their chances and the offense all together will have a better flow and more scoring chances will be created. I'm not suggesting this team has to be Houston Dynamo clones, but showing everyone that their are multiple layers to this offense will scare the bejeesus out of pretty much every team in this league. United is dangerous enough right now with teams knowing what Gomez and Co. are going to do. Imagine what they'll be like when and if they can trust their admittedly lesser skilled teamates like Ben Olsen, Gros, Burch, Bryan Namoff and also the likes of Rod Dyachenko and Justin Moose.
But getting back to the pounding of the Revs, it was just great to see a complete effort on both sides of the ball. Defensively they gave up scant few chances with the Revs only registering two shots on goal while United had nine themselves and could have had more if an obviously struggling Jaime Moreno (back spasms after a vicious tackle from Jay Heaps mere seconds after he came on the field) could have been bothered to pass the ball instead of holding it too long on occasion. But that is neither here nor there, United got off their poor streak in fantastic and quite suprising fashion to the delight of everyone involved with United.
While I'm not expecting a 4-0 rout of the Galaxy this Thursday during Beckhamgate (and he won't play – book it) or a continued torrid scoring pace for United's remaining road games, it was nice to see a calm and collected multi-goal victory on the road. As a matter a fact, I seem to recall a certain co-host on the very same podcast musing about the long lost days of when United went on the road and administered a sincere butt whupping.
That brilliant co-host was me.