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LA's Robbie Keanne beats United defender Dejan Jakovic to the ball; Photo: Tony Quinn.

DC host a Galaxy without a few stars

DC hopes to rebound from a woeful performance last week by catching the Galaxy at a good time when most of their big stars are away.

Unfortunately for DC, while the Galaxy will be without their top two scorers in league MVP Robbie Keane and young superstar Gyasi Zardes, as well as starting keeper Jaime Pinedo, they do have Edson Buddle and Alan Gordon and they beat DC handily last year 4-1 without Keane and Zardes. Beefeater Gordon hung two of those goals on DC to boot and Buddle has scored more than 100 MLS goals so it’s not like LA is toothless. Of course the Galaxy are also defending champions and have won 3 of the last 4 titles under former United coach Bruce Arena, so this is not a team that will go down easily no matter who they are missing.

DC on the other hand is the defending Eastern Conference champions, but they won that by playing relatively injury and mistake free the entire season. That is not the case now. They are buried under injuries and one crucial suspension as well as seeing veteran players make truly shocking gaffes on both ends of the field. Granted, United started last season with a couple ugly games to begin the year before rebounding to virtually run the table, but this situation in no way mirrors last year.

DC was completely overhauled before last season and had seven new starters to integrate into the team in those first few ugly games. This year the team is virtually intact except for injuries to Luis Silva and the suspension of Fabian Espindola. It was supposed to be a strength of this team to be able to return virtually all of their starters from last year, but it hasn’t worked out that way at all. Outside of a few good plays here and there in the first few games, DC has looked confused and disjointed with mistakes aplenty.

Ben Olsen seems to think it is merely mental mistakes and not playing hard enough, but that’s naïve at best, insulting at worst. This team has shown very little organization offensively and is being tactically overwhelmed regularly and that is on Olsen. Teams from Costa Rica to the Jersey swamps have figured out that you can overwhelm DC’s pitiful midfield which has a domino effect on pulling DC’s defense too far apart and makes them prone to mistakes through being disconnected. And it’s becoming increasingly obvious neither Olsen nor the players are capable of figuring out how to adjust either before the game or during it.

Teams also don’t need to worry too much about DC’s pedestrian attack. Playing an archaic 4-4-2, DC is built to attack on the wings, but rarely does it effectively. More often than not an attack on the wing fizzles into someone dribbling into a herd for a turnover, or they turn and back pass for a defender to hoof it upfield to a flailing forward with defenders draped all over him. United is only truly threatening when they’re gifted a turnover in a good spot and sometimes not even then.

Last year, DC had these same problems on offense, but Espindola and Silva were able to mask the issues by finding each other in the seams of the opposing defense, and also finding the back of the net more often than not. So DC essentially scored enough to win close games as the defense hardly put a foot wrong. Without them and with Pontius playing like a shadow of his former self and Nick DeLeon dribbling himself into trouble constantly, DC’s offense is pretty much down to whatever the cagey veterans Chris Rolfe, Jairo Arrieta, and Davy Arnaud can conjure up usually out of nothing. You can bet the house Arena will have noticed and will come in here with a plan. It’s not for nothing Olsen has never beaten The Bruce in the four years he’s been DC’s coach.

Looking at the lineups, Olsen has almost no option but to go with the same starting XI from the New York debacle. Arrieta and Pontius as forwards, Rolfe, Arnaud, Kitchen and DeLeon in midfield and Chris Korb, Steve Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, and former Galaxy right back Sean Franklin in the defense in front of Bill Hamid in goal. Maybe Taylor Kemp gets the start for Korb if he’s ready for 90 minutes, we’ll see. It’s my guess Arena goes with Buddle and Gordon at forward, Jose Villareal, Juninho, Baggio Husidic, and Stefan Ishizaki in midfield, then Dan Gargan, Omar Gonzalez, Leonardo, and Robbie Rogers in front of Brian Rowe. However, he may well rotate Gordon and Buddle allowing him to start an extra midfielder attacker like Mika Vayrynen if he knows Buddle can’t go 90 as he’s just back from an injury.

So, looking at the matchups and likely tactics, DC should be happy the tricky and precise Keane and speedy and powerful Zardes aren’t here because the aging Buddle and the teeth rattling Gordon are better matchups for DC’s central defense, but that’s where the good news ends. Villareal with a goal and an assist already this season will be a handful for Franklin and the rugged Ishizaki is an absolute nightmare for Korb or Kemp as Kemp has trouble defending anyone and Korb does not do well with big guys with skill who can fend him off or simply round him on the dribble. If Ishizaki gets five or six crosses in the box, then Gordon will bundle at least one in for sure.

All of which is also very bad news for DC’s offense which really needs to have Franklin and Korb or even better Kemp get forward into the attack. Franklin has been hesitant this year for some reason, but if he’s stuck back keeping Villareal from causing trouble and if Korb or Kemp contributes very little too, United is down to hoof it and hope. Which is unfortunate because that means Rolfe and DeLeon will have to stay wider and not come inside where they do their best work. LA has a bit of a soft spot as Juninho really is the only cover for the backline as Husidic doesn’t like to defend. So, unless the outside backs or even Arnaud gets forward enough to unbalance LA’s midfield defense, DC will be playing pretty much straight up and I don’t see Rolfe getting much joy against Gargan or Pontius and Arrieta getting over or around Gonzalez or Leonardo that much nor will DeLeon be much trouble for Rogers.

No matter how you break it down, DC just doesn’t have the talent or the form to pull off anything other than a tie against LA. DC would have to play their absolute best and LA be a bit off for there to even be hope of a win. DC just has too many key injuries right now and has yet to show any decent form or even a coherent style of play. Add in mistakes and you get the travesty we saw in New York. But even taking away those defensive mistakes, you just don’t see where the goals will come from in this game as LA isn’t likely to make a ton of mistakes. DC will have to be precise in the few chances they will get and they have yet to show that they can be that precise in front of goal.

It doesn’t help that LA has no reason to fear DC or RFK either. Incredibly, United hasn’t beaten the Galaxy since Gallardo was roaming DC’s midfield in 2008. DC has gone 0-3-4 against LA since. LA is also the only visiting team to have a winning record in RFK as well as the lead in head to head regular season meetings all-time as well. DC is 8-9-4 in RFK against LA, but three of last four matches in RFK have been draws so that’s something. DC is 13-19-9 all-time against LA, although United has beaten their biggest league wide rival twice in Cup finals.

Now I’d like nothing better than to be proven wrong, but everything points to a draw at best, more likely a loss. We’ll see. Recent history points to a draw and I remember a high draft pick back in 2009 making his first start in the first game of the season and scoring the tying goal in a 2-2 draw with the Galaxy in LA. Perhaps a certain electrifying high draft pick Miguel Aguilar, who just got his paperwork straightened out and is available, starts or comes off the bench and scores the tying goal in this one.

Episode 130 – Dos a Cero

Join the guys as they review DC United’s past two matches against both LA Teams, including the 1-0 loss at Chivas USA and the 2-2 draw vs. LA at RFK Stadium. The boys also take a look at the US Men’s National team and yet another 2-0 win against Arch Rival Mexico in Columbus…

Fiesta futbolera en Casa Blanca, Galaxy fue recibido por el Presidente Obama

Fue una agradable fiesta de gala futbolera la que se vivió en la Casa Blanca, en predios washingtonianos,  el pasado martes por la tarde teniendoo como tradicional anfitrión al Presidente de los Estados Unidos, Barack Obama.

El presidente estadounidense sorprendió con su afabilidad en su tradicional ceremonia de recibir a los campeones anuales de las diferentes ramas deportivas, lo que consideramos el perfecto aliciente que todo altleta se merece por sus denodados esfuerzos para coronar logros y laureles deportivos y si esos reconocimientos vienen del personaje que conduce el país se hacen doblemente valiosos en su reflejo de sus esfuerzos deportivos hacia su comunidad y en especial hacia sus juventudes deportistas.

El presidente Obama hizo derroche de conocimiento en la materia futbolera. ¿Tiene buenos asesores que le preparon el libreto?..No lo creemos por su espontánea fluidéz, además de un muy fino sentido del humor. La muestra la dejó plasmada cuando rememoró con claridad los esfuerzos de Los Angeles Galaxy para lograr el título emelesero del 2011, matizando este recorrido con bromas sutiles al inglés David Beckham.

El histórico Palm Room de la Casa Blanca presidencial en el corazón de Washington DC, estaba a tope de invitados, dirigentes y funcionarios que tienen las rienda del fútbol en los Estados Unidos pero nos llamó a atención de numerosos chiquilies futbolistas y entre ellos destacaban muchas….muchísimas caras hiapanas que no habíamos visto en otras ceremonias similares.

Cabe mencionar que los niños fueron recibidos inmediatamente después de este reconocimiento por la primera dama de la nación, Michelle Obama, en lo que llamaron “Soccer Clinic and Health”. Positiva la iniciativa de la primera dama fomentando las práctica del soccer entre la niñez ya que sus dos hijas son practicantes de este deporte en su escuela y tienen la la familia presidencial de arriba abajo para no perder ningún partido escolar. Imaginanos no solo a la familia presidencial en este familiar correteo del balón sino todo lo que conlleva para mantener la privacidad familiar.

En lo que respecta al Galaxy el presidente Obama fue prolijo en destacar el recorrido triunfal del equipo campeón mencionando las cualidades de cada uno de los jugadores en sus respectivas posiciones destacando en especial a las estrellas Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan y en especial bromeando con el inglés David Beckham. Destacó igualmente a los hispanos del equipo Omar González y AJ DeLaGarza, con pronunciamento muy americano de sus apellidos, pero se la pasamos…entendible.

“Debo sinceramente felicitar muy personalmente a cada uno de Uds. Su brillante esfuerzo de conjunto que los hizo salir campeones. Teniendo tantas estrellas individuales fueron capaces de poder agruparse como un solo ente y salir campeones entregando su valla invicta sin goles en 17 oportunidades. Eso es lo meritorio” subrayó el mandamás estadounidense.

“Colmaron todas las expectativas” continuó el presidente…” Hicieron un trabajo perfecto para combinar individualidades y hacer un equipo sólido. Fue un trabajo muy duro pero que valió la pena” destacó.

Al presidente Obama se despachó a sus anchas, con trato amable y muy familiar para con los campeones. Mostró fluido conocimientos del fútbol y todo el acontecer de la MLS, sorprendiendo a propios y extraños.

Por lo dicho por el presidente lo catalogamos como un buen hincha del fútbol con características especiales y refleja lo que sin duda el fútbol significa en cada persona, no importando el estatus donde se mueva. A Obama el fútbol lo mueve con la misma intencidad que a cualquier ciudadano común. Eso es lo mágico del rey de los deportes.

Lo que puso la nota de algarabía total fueros las bromas que se gastó el presidente Obama con el astro inglés David Beckham con sus 37 años, como “un jóven en el equipo”…”David es un gran ejemplo para nuestras familias, y atletas en especial, de buen deportista y buen padre de familia” destacó para finalizar con bromas sobre su linea de ropa interior.

Beckham, al igual que el resto de los presentes, no pudo aguantar las risas ante las bromas de Obama…“Fue gracioso. Embarazoso, pero gracioso”, dijo Beckham con una sonrisa a los miembros de prensa después de la presentación del Presidente. “[Obama] hizo algunos comentarios sobre mi hoy: la ropa interior, ser papa de unos chicos y mi barba”.

“Él es muy carismático, es un gran personaje y es un honor para nosotros reunirnos con él”.

“Es increíble. Es un gran honor para cada uno de los jugadores, el club, la franquicia, el ser invitado aquí después del torneo”, dijo el astro inglés. “Pienso que es una gran tradición que los equipos vengan aquí porque uno sale de conocer al Presidente y es una motivación; motiva a querer regresar el próximo año. Espero que lo hagamos porque fue un gran día, un día de orgullo para todos nosotros”. Le tomamos la palabra.

United and Galaxy Shoot Blanks

DC United, and coach Ben Olsen extended their unbeaten streak to five games after a 0-0 tie in the HDC against the league leading LA Galaxy. DC had arguably the better chances on the night, but both sides share the points after a rather desultory affair in the Toolbox.

DC United runs their record to 4-4-4, with merely two less wins than they had all of last season, as they blank the LA Galaxy in the Home Depot Center in Carson California. United had some golden opportunities to snatch away all three points, but couldn’t convert and had to settle for the scoreless draw.

Interestingly, DC United was the aggressor pretty much all night long despite playing rock solid defensively as the road team heading into the league leading team’s den. United exposed LA with some quick counters pretty much from the opening whistle until the very end, but could not finish when it counted, nor could LA capitalize on their relatively sparse chances either.

United, playing in their all red third kits for the very first time again displayed a suffocating defense to squelch out almost anything the Galaxy came up with in terms of offense. Now, neither team was sharp in the final third, but DC certainly came a lot closer to a goal than LA.

In a chess match first half, DC nearly got on the board with a shocking early chance in the 3rd minute. Josh Wolff had burst down the right side behind a scrambling DeLaGarza and launched a wicked cross to Pontius on the far post wide open, but the ball sticks under his foot and he can’t get off a shot until far too late.

In the 25th minute, Najar also exposed that right side with a bullet cross to Wolff just behind DeLaGarza, but again, Wolff just missed the final touch that might have sealed DC’s victory.

In the second half, LA brought on Jovan Kirovski for the injured Juninho (ankle) and immediately the Galaxy assumed control of the game for the next 15 minutes, but none of their opportunities amounted to even a shot on goal, so DC weathered their storm nicely.

Momentum again swung towards DC as they took advantage of some LA mistakes. A long throw in the 63rd minute incredibly bounced its way through the box to Wolff on the back post, but his shot was just shanked wide.

United’s best chance of the evening came a in the 81st minute though as Wolff collected a perfect counter opportunity and sent Davies perfectly in on goal, but after Davies rounded the keeper and Gonzalez, he rushed his shot well wide to squander DC’s best chance of the match.

United’s Andy Najar had a wide angle shot well saved in the 86th minute but the writing was on the wall that this game would end in a tie.

The tie extends DC’s unbeaten streak to 5 games, something they haven’t done since 2008 at least. United’s next match is at home versus the San Jose Earthquakes next weekend.

DC Face a Galaxy Missing Some Stars

DC United coming off a rousing win in Portland to extend their unbeaten streak to four games, heads into the Toolbox to face the Western Conference leading LA Galaxy who have won four in a row on their own current six game unbeaten streak. But the Galaxy will be without some keys players, and DC pulled off a tie last time they faced LA behind a late Charlie Davies (pictured) penalty kick .

No doubt about it. If you’re going to play the Galaxy, better to do it when they are missing Landon Donovan, and DC will have faced their most bitter league rival both times this year without the greatest player in US history being present, as he missed the miraculous 1-1 draw DC pulled off against the Galaxy earlier this year in RFK. This time around Donovan as well as goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts will be missing due to Gold Cup duty.

United is missing their most experienced defender as Dejan Jakovic is with Canada in the Gold Cup (if his injured hamstring suffered last night against Ecuador doesn’t keep him out of that too), and it’s very likely captain Dax McCarty (groin)and team leading scorer Charlie Davies (hamstring) will see limited action if any at all.

Still, those guys were out against the Timbers and that didn’t stop DC from executing a pretty suffocating defense, that was undermined by some sketchy refereeing, but getting some timely scoring in a lively 3-2 win over Portland barely four days ago to extend their unbeaten streak to four games, after tying both Dallas and Colorado and defeating Seattle 2-1 all in RFK. DC is also the first eastern team to win a game in the western time zone so far this season.

LA is another matter; however, as they have a similar invincible streak of their own going at home, but are the far more polished and accomplished team over all to this point in the season, Donovan or no Donovan. LA is leading the league (albeit they have seemingly played half their schedule already!) and is riding a three game shutout streak, all grinding 1-0 victories.

DC coach, Ben Olsen does have some decisions to make in replacing Jakovic on defense and possibly in whether or not he inserts McCarty and/or Wolff or even the recently healthy Charlie Davies back into a winning lineup.

Rookie Perry Kitchen is the most obvious choice to replace Jakovic, but that would leave the right back spot up for grabs. Rookie Chris Korb performed there admirably recently and seems a shoe-in for the job. But interestingly, Uruguyan disappointment, Rodrigo Bresesco was active for the last match in Portland and he did play very well at his natural right back position against Ajax in a friendly a couple weeks ago, and there’s always third year man Brandon Barklage who could find himself in the mix if he’s playing well at the moment in practice.

As for McCarty, I think even he would say he needs to earn his way back into the starting lineup. Not only did Stephen King play very well in place of him in Portland, but Dax himself has been pressing too hard and not playing well himself even when fully healthy so far this season. Wolff is a bit more of a no brainer as he scored the winner in Portland off the bench and clearly earned his way past the enterprising, but limited Joseph Ngwenya. I also think Davies is still not ready for a start, so feisty rookie Blake Brettschneider should stay in the starting lineup.

So, my money is on Wolff and Brettschneider patrolling the forward line, Andy Najar, King, Clyde Simms, and Chris Pontius from right to left in midfield. Then in defense, I think it’s Korb and Daniel Woolard bookending Kitchen and Ethan White in central defense in front Bill Hamid in goal. Quite possibly the youngest defense in MLS history, with Woolard being the only guy over 20 and only field player not a rookie, all up against a Galaxy offense leading the league in scoring (albeit having played more games than anyone else).

LA, on the other hand has to replace Donovan, and his torrid scoring of late. Forward Miguel Lopez scored the winner in their most recent match in New England and Chad Barrett has incredibly found his scoring touch, even the venerable Juan Pablo Angel has recently found himself on the scorer’s sheet recently, so perhaps scorers for LA are set.

But, can they replace Donovan’s engine and determination in midfield? Beckham is Beckham. He will hack, hector, and also hit unbelievable passes that win games, but not perhaps if he is the key player to shut down. Juninho stepped up last time Donovan missed games and allowed Beckham the space to be Beckham. It remains to be seen if he will do so again.

I expect the Bruce to play Lopez and Barrett at forward, Beckham, Juninho, Birchall, and a Mike on the left, either Magee or Stephens, my money is on Stephens. In defense, LA is relatively thin. Former Rookie of the year, Sean Franklin on the right, former rookie of the year, Omar Gonzalez and his UMd running mate AJ DeLaGarza in the center and iron man Todd Dunivant on the left in front of long time backup Josh Saunders for Ricketts in goal.

So, looking at the matchups, it is not really too bad. I suspect DC will play ultra defensively to protect their extremely young backline, but if it keeps LA frustrated enough for Beckham and/or Juninho to be tossed from the game due to petulance, then it will sway to DC’s advantage to win.

The key to me will be Kitchen and White on Barrett and Lopez. If LA can find them with crosses, DC is in real trouble, as indeed they will be if Kitchen and White commit too many fouls in Beckham territory. If Kitchen and White stay clean and tight, and Woolard niggles Beckham into a fury, LA will struggle to score.

Going the other way, DC will struggle to score too. LA has given up a goal a game so far this year, but not at home where they have outscored opponents 10-4, then again Portland outscored their opponents 10-6 and fell to DC. Still, Dunivant is vastly under-rated and will give Najar troubles, especially if he is helping Korb defensively. Same with Pontius against Frankin, not too promising, especially as he almost certainly will have to help contain Beckham.

Even centrally, it’s a bit of a stalemate. King or McCarty and Simms against Juninho and Birchall, is a push at best. The only glimmer DC has is Wiley Wolff and Battering Brettschneider against Gonzalez and DeLaGarza, as they have the experience and the unexpectedness to surprise the former Terps, if they are even the least bit lucky.

Now, as for trends, best not to even discuss those. DC has the worst winning percentage against LA than any team in league history being 13-17-6 against LA all time, outscored by 10 goals 58 to 48. Not only that DC is 5-8-4 in LA outscored 24-17, and hasn’t won there since 2005. But, they have tied in the HDC 3 of the last five years, including Pontius scoring a lovely curler for his first goal in a 2-2 tie in 2009.

Also, LA as mentioned is 4-0-2 at home having beat both Philly and Houston and tied NY, while DC is 2-3 on the road, but outscored 12-9.

So, if you are a betting man, go for LA to win as they are perhaps the better team overall at the moment, even without Donovan and Ricketts. However, a more savvy number cruncher might just fade DC into a somewhat surprising tie. However, there is a real chance DC can pull off an upset in this one. They stay tight and solid and play within themselves, they can frustrate the Galaxy long enough for them to shoot themselves in the foot and allow Wolff and Daivies off the bench to win the game for them.

Smart money is on the tie.