DC Needs to Put Out the Fire

Beyond the usual bump in attendance home openers generate, season ticket sales are up, and the general buzz surrounding the home debut of Earnie Stewart could sell out United's new lowered capacity. With the lower bowl nearly full, RFK should be an absolute frenzy of drumming, singing, and confetti. If that type of support doesn't inspire the new troops to greatness, then nothing will. The valiant loss in KC was one thing, but a losing effort just isn't going to cut it this weekend.

 

With Ivanov, Reyes, and likely Prideaux still out, DC's defense continues to be a bit thin, but since it's a home game against a weakened Chicago offense, that shouldn't be a problem at all. The conservative game plan was fine for the road opener in KC, but opening in RFK is a whole different kettle of fans. The real focus for DC should be to show that all the offensive firepower collected over the off-season is ready to rock and roll.

 

DCUnited.com is reporting that Quintanilla is likely to start alongside Quaranta at forward for United, which is excellent news. He's been tearing up the pre-season and looks to be developing a great understanding with Marco and Stewart. Teen-O took a bit of a beating being the lone forward against KC, but with Quintanilla to take some of the pressure off him, he should be that much more effective. Q2 spurring some of his homeys to root for United isn't a bad thing either.

 

So, offensively DC should easily have an edge over Chicago's defense, especially if CJ Brown is still out. Convey, Marco, Stewart, Olsen, Q1, and Q2 roaring down the field attacking from anywhere should definitely pin the Fire back on their heels most of the match. That kind of pressure should result in a few goals at least.

 

Convey and Bennie stretching the field wide should cause Chicago fits and give Marco, Stewart, and Quintanilla room to carve up Chicago's central defense either setting up Quaranta, or scoring themselves. Armas has had success against Marco in the past, but without Marsch to help him, I doubt he has enough fingers to plug all the holes in the dyke that Stewart, Marco, and Q2 will create. If Brown can play and allow Gray to help Armas in MF, then that changes things a bit, but even so, DC has a huge advantage skill-wise going at their defense and they should score at least two.

 

Defensively, United does have to throttle Beasley, but really that's about it. Call me crazy, but as good as DaMarcus is, he'll have a tough time carrying this team. He's only scored 6 goals and has less than a dozen assists in his MLS career playing on better teams than this year's edition. Those numbers are like one season worth for Olsen, Dema, Convey, Marco, even Tino, not to mention what Stewart could do. It'll be a huge step up for him to be the main man for Chicago. I just don't see it happening.

 

With Whitfield and Perez on the wings likely pinned back on defense for most of the game, that'll leave Beasley with only the help of two journeyman, and maybe a teenager or two hoping to crack United's defense. Faria and Williams are dangerous to an extent, both having torched United a few times in the past, but you've got to figure Petke knows Faria's tendencies and Dema's athleticism alone should keep Williams from anything more than his usual dribbling into trouble. If Dema only got burned badly once by Preki, Williams should be a piece of cake. As for the teenagers, either Capano or Mapp, they'll both have to play much better than they did versus NE to make any impact on this game.

 

Chicago will almost certainly be relying on counter attacks, or dead balls to score. They are fast in the open field, but so are Namoff and Dema, and Rimando might almost be playing a sweeper in this game. Petke and Nelsen aren't exactly fleet of foot, but they are both smart enough to hold fast players in check as they showed against Simutenkov, Wolff, and the rest of KC's speedy forward corps. The Fire also have some big foreheads to use on FK's in Curtin and Bocanegra, but Nelsen, and Petke are pretty decent in the air too. Chicago may get a counter or a FK goal, but I can't see DC giving up more than one total. 

 

So, there you have it. Given the home field boost, the tactical advantages, and the overall talent disparity, as well as my usual optimistic rationalizations, DC has no business losing this game. If the Fire couldn't score against only 10 Revs in Chicago, then they should struggle against DC at RFK where they've only won twice lifetime. Chicago is 3-1-1 in road openers, but the loss was here at RFK. DC is 4-2-1 in home openers including a resounding win last year against the Fire when Marco scored a highlight film FK in a 2-0 victory.

 The curtain is about to go up in United's house. Time to knock 'em dead.

We’re Off to Deal With the Wizards

It's certainly a bit difficult to put a positive spin on United's chances against the Wizards this weekend. After a string of lackluster results in the pre-season, a decimated defense, and with a lot of new faces still trying to find an understanding, it'll be a miracle if DC manages a tie, much less hopes for a win.

 

Not only did KC destroy DC in the pre-season 5-0, but while United was struggling against A-league competition recently, the Wizards were thumping a very solid Dallas Burn team 3 to zip, and KC lost only once in the entire pre-season. Continuity has to go to the home side as well since DC spent their off-season completely overhauling their team, while the Wizards brought back nearly everyone in addition to acquiring Josh Wolff and Jimmy Conrad.

 

Making matters far worse, is that with some staggering injuries and Stoitchkov's suspension, DC has only 11 reliable starters right now. Considering DC's road woes of a year ago, Ray's unlikely to put much faith in any rookies for this game (unless someone is just tearing up practice lately and deserves a look). But, you only need 11 and the real question is how to organize them on the field. With a decimated defense, it seems the best way to play to DC's strengths would be too attack and control the ball, but that may be easier said than done.

 

The offense has struggled mightily in the pre-season and Quaranta in particular has looked like he's not ready for the season yet. DC's biggest acquisition, Earnie Stewart will make his MLS debut, but he still hasn't figured out his role on this team and has made almost no impact at all yet. Marco, Olsen, Convey, and Dema have all been pretty steady, but will clearly have to take a giant step forward in order to ruffle KC's extremely organized defense.

 

It'll certainly be a chess-match to see how Ray gives DC the best chance to win without giving up too much to KC's decent offense. Looking at the Wizard's likely lineup, attacking Buriciaga on the right definitely seems the way to go, but committing Olsen down that side takes away Bennie from helping the DC's thin defense very much. Leaving Olsen back a bit and pulling Stewart out on the right could be the answer, but then Quaranta could get awfully lonesome being the only guy for Talley and Conrad to pummel in the center of the field.

 

An interesting option might be to pair Quaranta and Quintanilla up top and put Earnie out on the right. Q2 is hot right now and could set up Q1 nicely, with Earnie and Convey on the outsides pulling KC's defense apart. Olsen would then drop back and Dema would have to play an outright defensive MF slot, as Chino gets pushed to the bench. But, it could work as Dema would be getting some help from Olsen and Nelsen, but if Preki is on fire, that plan could backfire worse than a Sakiewicz signing.

 

Conversely, it'll also be interesting to see how Ramblin' Ray cobbles together his defensive lineup considering the recent loss of Milton Reyes. The Honduran energizer bunny was supposed to mark Klein out of the game for DC, but that plan is now in the crapper along with Milton's season. Combined with Ivanov and Prideaux injured and out as well, some creative positioning might be the order of the day.

 

Not counting the rookies, Stokes and Carroll, DC has only 3 healthy defenders. Namoff is the most athletic of the bunch and likely will get the job of shutting down Klein. It's doubtful pulling SuperBobby back on defense will help much as sending him roaring down the left to keep Klein honest anyway. That leaves Nelsen and Petke to round out the defense, but likely Olsen will be staying back to help defend on the right and in the center, which should also allow Nelsen to push up into MF some too. However, DC's central defense would still be relatively slow and KC's forwards aren't.

 

So, the bottom line is the cards are stacked against DC. Aside from analyzing team strengths and lineups, it's also KC's home opener and with their increased ticket sales this year, Arrowhead might not be the tomb it usually is. The Wizards are hot right now, have a very solid lineup, and are facing a United team that clearly isn't yet. Unless the referee or the soccer Gods take pity on United, DC will be lucky to keep the game close. It shouldn't be a total debacle like the some of the drubbings we've taken there in the past, but a 2-0 loss wouldn't be far out of line.

 A miracle is always possible, though. Quaranta had a breakout game as a rookie scoring 2 goals to help beat KC 3-0 in 2001. DC was struggling then and had a merciless 20-hour odyssey to even get to KC in time for the game. After basically riding directly from the airport and changing on the bus, DC took the field and walloped the Wizards the year after KC won the MLS Cup. That's essentially DC's only dominating performance in Arrowhead, so maybe a little adversity is all they need. One can only hope.

DC Faces Revolution

Along with Marco’s abscence, Pope and Moreno may only see limited time as they are just coming back from injury. So United will be without the core of their team and will be hoping that their youngsters are ready to grow up in a hurry.

The loss of Marco is particularly difficult for United to overcome. DC has three candidates able to fill the playmaker role, but all of them are young and relatively inexperienced. SuperBobby is the most likely possibility to replace Marco, but he was pretty ineffective in his last game and given NE’s use of two defensive MF’s, Rongen may not want to waste his prodigious talents by having him butt heads with Leonel Alvarez and Joey Franchino.

Either Chino or Mark Lisi could also be Marco for a day, but both of them are vastly inexperienced and will no doubt struggle against NE’s defensive MF lineup. It’ll be interesting to see which way Rongen goes. Throw Convey to the wolves and hope somebody can pick up the slack on the outsides or sacrifice a youngster in the middle and expect SuperBobby to playmake from the sideline.

New England isn’t in much better shape; however, as they are coming off two bad losses and weren’t even able to score against Miami when they had a two man advantage in their home opener last week. No doubt they will get a boost from their new Brazilian Cate, who will probably join a long list of MLS stars to make their debut against United. But, given their poor play of late and their unsettled roster, United should be the more cohesive unit.

The key to this game will likely boil down to Ryan Nelsen versus Andy Williams. If the Kiwi can prevent the Reggae Boy from setting up NE’s forwards, then it’s pretty unlikely the Revolution will be able to score given Woeful Harris and Whinalda’s play of late. United, on the other hand may not be able to penetrate the middle of the field, but should be able to win the flanks as neither Sunsing or Torres are known for their defense which should put Dunseth and Woods under overwhelming pressure.

Both Arce and Conteh should be motivated to produce and will probably have a better chemistry with each other than when either are teamed with Albright. They’ll also be going against Mauricio Wright in NE’s central defense and he’s never had two good games in a row, so look for one of his horrendous mistakes to be a turning point in the game.

While NE has enjoyed some success at RFK, they have also been unlucky with injuries here too. Last year, Sommer got a finger broken and Torres has an awful memory of tearing a hamstring here as well. No doubt the game will be close, but United should be at least one goal better than the Revs as our defense is due for a shutout and our offense should be too creative for them to deal with.

DC Playing With Fire

As little as two weeks ago, if someone had bet me that DC would be 2-0 after facing the participants in last year’s MLS Cup in their first two games, I’d have though they were crazy. Now it looks like money in the bank. United’s starters are well rested and sharp after beating KC last week, while Chicago’s lineup will again be shaken up by injuries and idiocies.

The Fire are used to not having Nowak and Stoitchkov, but replacing Lewis and Gutierrez in the defense as well should mean there will be holes for United to exploit. Bradley is a master tactician, but his skills may not be enough this time. Kevin Terry should get an assist if United does win, as it was his ridiculous flashing of cards last week that put the Fire in this mess and set off cheers in bars all over Washington.

DC hasn’t won in Chicago since ’98, including last year’s debacle there which not only was a gut wrenching loss, but also the beginning of Bennie’s ankle troubles. But this year’s team is on a mission, especially superstar Marco Etcheverry and his sidekick, SuperBobby. These two should be so much of a handful to control that even if Chicago does manage it, someone else will be able to cause damage.

United’s offense will score so their defense will be the key. Chicago still has Wolff, Kovalenko, and the Beasley Boys, who can all create havoc if given half a chance. Without Pope, DC’s Talley and Watson will have to continue to improve so the game doesn’t become a shootout. However, the team should get a big boost from Mike Ammann’s first start. He did well in the midweek win over Arnett and should help keep everyone organized.

Look for Brian Kamler to have a big game for DC. Given the most likely line-ups that is United’s best matchup. Convey and Denton go against Marsch and Brown, Marco and Nelsen against Kovalenko and Armas, But Kamler and new sensation Ziadie will go against Beasley and Chulis. Look for Kamler to exploit that side of the field and help United to a 2-1 victory.

Expecting Another Giant Victory

Barring a complete breakdown of frightening proportions, United should easily defeat Arnett Gardens and qualify for the semi-finals of the Giants Cup. Given that DC won the first leg so easily in the Jamaicans backyard, a win at RFK should be a virtual lock. However, situation does propose some interesting lineup decisions for Thomas Rongen.

The Jamaicans have no choice but to play all their best players and go all out for a miracle four goal victory. Also, if past history is any indication they may get more fans here than they did in Kingston. The last time Jamaicans played in RFK about 51,000 people came to the match and I can personally attest that more than a few were Reggae-friendly. Granted it was a WC qualifier, but I doubt those fans will miss a chance to see their boyz.

United on the other hand, has no real incentive to play their stars and some good reasons not to. Marco, SuperBobby, and Arce absolutely demolished this same team a week ago and doubtless could do it again, but the MLS season is a long one, so players will need rest when they can. Rongen also has to get a look at some younger players who may have to be ready to contribute later and this is a good opportunity.

Guys like Albright, Conteh, and the defense still have some things to prove though. Albright is due for a big game and he needs some results if he wants to remain a starter. Conteh is in a similar situation. As for the defense, goals like the two they let in versus KC need to be corrected if the team wants to keep winning. Whether it was communication breakdowns or simply poor marking, they need to work it out.

Ammann and Pope present another problem. Both are coming back from injuries and could be expected to play against Chicago on Saturday. Should they play to get some match fitness, or wait a few more days to be sure they’re healed? Be interesting to see which way Rongen goes.

No matter who plays though, it should be an exciting game. It’ll be cool to see if young guys like Namoff, Chino, Quaranta, etc. can follow up on Lisi and SuperBobby’s success. The Jamaicans are fast and will come out attacking. No doubt their fans will be jammin’ as well, but when the dust settles I expect another Giant victory.

DC Takes on the Champs

What a difference a few good results can do! DC has won their last two since Marco has returned and has certainly raised the hopes for this season. As for KC, Gansler essentially played his starters all preseason and said that the Wizards needed to “practice winning”, an odd comment from the defending champions.

Obviously, he’s looked at his returning roster and discovered that his already anemic offense has lost Molnar and Preki. He’s hoping Gomez and Lassiter will make up the slack, but if he were a bit more up on his MLS lore, he’d realize old Rocket Roy is not a guy you can build the franchise around unless there’s a proven playmaker to back him up. His team will be even less likely to score than last year and they won’t have Vermes to bail them out defensively.

United, on the other hand is exactly the kind of underdog they least want to face. DC has gotten younger, faster, hungrier and is fresh off a solid victory over Miami and a crushing win internationally over Arnett Gardens. While United will still be without the services of their best striker, Moreno, they will apparently have the return of their most valuable player in Marco Etcheverry.

Marco is playing like the demon of old and looks like he wishes to erase the memory of last year’s debacle himself. Along with him, United has the added brilliance of SuperBobby and New Zealand International, Ryan Nelson. United had a horrible pre-season and will likely be without their best defender, Eddie Pope, as well as Moreno. Yet this team looks to have the speed and precision to frighten any MLS hopeful.

United was the only team last year to play MLS Cup Champion KC to a draw when they had their full complement of players and had it not been for the unfortunate loss of lights in the RFK, United might easily have beaten the Wizards in that match.

This match will have some pretty intriguing match-ups. First of all, if Eddie Pope manages to return from injury, his marking his best friend Roy Lassiter will be a sight to see. He’s on record as saying that playing against Roy brings out the best in him. Even if Eddie doesn’t play, Talley should know Lassiter’s tendencies from the numerous practices they’ve faced each other.

This game should be won right down the center of the field. KC’s 3-5-2 vs DC’s 4-4-2 means that Marco, Conteh, Albright, or Arce will be matched up directly against McKeon, Zavagnin, and Garcia. Given Marco’s play of late and apparent demonic desire to succeed, it’s doubtful KC will prevent him from generating at least one goal.

Likely KC will get a lucky goal of sorts, but DC will get at least one too. I predict a 1-1 tie, which will be a remarkable improvement over last year. Of course, DC won their last home opener against KC so a victory would be even better. It’s nice to feel hopeful about DC again!

ÁÁCelebremos!!

Ya no habr‡n m‡s tarjetas amarillas para quienes al celebrar una anotaci—n, se saquen la camiseta como hasta el momento ha ocurrido; obviamente el juez tendr‡ la autoridad discrecional para hacerlo cuando haya excesos en la celebraci—n, que vaya en detrimento del juego y l—gicamente en perjuicio del cuadro que haya recibido el gol en contra.

Por lo menos eso fue lo que asever— el secretario general de la FIFA, Michel Zen-Ruffinen, el cual comunic— la decisi—n tomada por la Junta TŽcnica Internacional del m‡ximo ente regulador del fœtbol mundial, quien en sus inicios fue precisamente ‡rbitro.


ÁEn hora buena tal determinaci—n! La verdad es que hasta hoy nunca comprend’ el porquŽ de tan absurdo castigo para el art’fice, la chispa, el detonante de una explosi—n de jœbilo tan grande, que ni siquiera los m‡s connotados estudiosos del comportamiento humano han conseguido descifrar; Ácu‡nto menos el aficionado raso, el fan‡tico de “hueso colorado”!.


El gol es al fœtbol, lo que el agua es al sediento, en la aridez de un desierto; o un buen plato de comida al hambriento, en medio de una voraz hambruna; Áclaro! Guardando las consabidas proporciones; Áno me vayan a mal interpretar!.


Porque en definitiva la magia del fœtbol, la componen todos esos ingredientes que lo adornan, las fintas desequilibrantes, los amagues que “quiebran la cintura”, el sombrerito, el taquito, los tœneles, las “chilenas o chalacas” dibujando figuras circenses en el aire, en abierto desaf’o a las leyes de la gravedad, para benepl‡cito del agradecido espectador.


A prop—sito de Žsta œltima modalidad, en una popular revista deportiva de Colombia llamada Nuevo Estadio, dan a conocer el origen de la misma, y me parece que para aquellos que la desconocen, vale la pena describirla.


Dice la nota que en la primera mitad del siglo XX, m‡s exactamente en 1917, se disputaba la Copa AmŽrica en Montevideo, Uruguay; cuando un jugador de nacionalidad chilena de apellido Gatica en su af‡n por salvar su arco de una anotaci—n, se lanz— en un salto acrob‡tico para despejar el peligro dejando muda de asombro a la afici—n presente.


All’ mismo fue bautizada como “La chilena”; aunque posteriormente se conoci— que la maniobra de Gatica, ya era practicada por los morenos peruanos del Callao, que eran conocidos como los chalacos, raz—n por la cual tambiŽn se le denomina a esta jugada “chalaca”.


Desde entonces muchos jugadores la practican y la han perfeccionado o innovado como el caso de JosŽ RenŽ Higuita, el portero colombiano que deslumbr— a los asistentes a la catedral del fœtbol mundial, el estadio londinense de Wembley, con aquella jugada que lo inmortaliz— en la retina de millones de televidentes, el famoso “escorpi—n”.


Si todas esas jugadas que hacen parte de la riqueza y el bagaje del deporte de las multitudes, nos emocionan por lo que representa para el espect‡culo, Áque decir cuando Žstas vienen coronadas con la m‡xima emoci—n que es el GOL!! Entonces ÀPORQUƒ NO CELEBRAR?

Champions Cup Preview – DC versus LA

United will be hoping to duplicate the dominating effort, which won them the first game in this tournament, against their biggest rival in the semi-finals of the CCC Cup Friday night. Typically, United has beaten the Galaxy in big games in the past, but LA has beaten us in this tournament back in ’97 and humiliated us last year in the opening game of the year. D.C. will certainly be looking to avenge those losses and win a spot in Spain this summer.


D.C. will almost certainly go with exactly the same lineup that decimated Alajuela. Moreno may possibly be substituted as he is obviously not 100% with his knee problem, but more than likely he will play at least a half before being pulled.


Should United be able to produce the same effort as they did in the first game, LA will have virtually no chance.


Since Hernandez is still with his Mexican team with a mysterious rib injury, LA has essentially no attack to speak of. Adam Frye made no one forget that he’s really a defender and while Cobi was working hard, he didn’t have anyone to work with him, so accomplished little. Cienfuegos also looked in mid-winter form, which in this country isn’t a complement. These guys will be hoping to generate chances against a United defense that looks absolutely driven to erase the horrible memory of last year.


Pope, Llamosa, and Agoos all showed why the are arguably the best defenders in the United States in shutting down Alajuela. With LA not exactly clicking offensively, the Galaxy may be in for a long night. Ironically, Lalas looked excellent supporting their attack and they might be wise to put him at forward. He certainly wouldn’t do any worse than Frye.


The real test for United will be if they can produce goals against LA’s defense. Should Bennie and SuperBobby stretch them out to give Marco room in the middle, we’ll be in good shape. When we’re clicking all over the field we’re almost unstoppable. Even Albright will get enough chances that he’s bound to get one in. Hopefully, Moreno’s knee will let him play long enough to give us a lead because if we score first, I think the game will be over.


Richie will be a big key in this game as he will have to contend with Cienfuegos, Vagenas, and sometimes Elliott who all like to work into the middle. If he makes good decisions and gets help from people getting back or pinching in, we should be able to close them out.


The Galaxy will no doubt try their usual violence to knock us off our rythm. Hopefully, we don’t get sucked into a brawl as that will only increase their chances. A good referee is also be pretty crucial. The typical DC-LA slugfests takes a referee with some guts.


Regardless, I see United winning 2-0. I’m already picking which credit card to put my trip to Spain on!