United showed well, but their defensive lapses would ultimately prove fatal. Moral victories aside, the loss to Chivas hurts because United probably should have taken this to extra time. Without further ado, here are the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of last night's loss in my (admittedly biased) eyes.
The Good: United held the ball well and moved it about pretty well. There were passages of slick one-touch stuff and Emilio and Moreno provided outlets up top and maintained possession on a fair amount of the somewhat wild clearances from the back.
The Bad: Despite all the possession, chances were at a premium. Now, it has to be said that Chivas are a nice team with a quality defense, but a lot of the time United had the ball, it seemed like they were just content to hold it, rather than try to create something. Another factor to consider is that while Chivas were content to play off of United a bit and wait for the counter, MLS teams are typically going to press a bit more. This will create more opportunities for United on the counter and leave them more space, but they will have to move the ball quickly to take advantage of that space.
The Ugly: Distribution from the back needs to be better - there were far to many clearances that fell to the feet of the Chivas midfield. Along with the relative lack of depth at the back, this is the biggest weakness I see in United at this point.
The Good: Substitutions - full stop. Soehn actually gave significant time in an important match to a promising youngster AND subbed Moreno out when United needed a goal late. With the clogged fixture list facing the club, getting quality time from the fringe players and keeping the important cogs fresh is going to be vital this year.
The Bad: Tactically, it wasn't such a bad decision to play Simms wide as we negated Chivas' flank play for the most part. That said, he didn't offer much in the way of penetration or crossing. It's hard to say if Fred was ready for more minutes or how he'll perform defensively, but maybe he should have been brought on earlier to provide a bit more attacking impetus. Gros going down early was a blow and probably threw a bit of a wrench into the tactical plan because we really don't have another two-way wide player like him that is effective both on defense and in the attack. Bringing in DeRoux basically opened up the left side to the Chivas attack.
The Ugly: I can't really fault Soehn too much for anything here. If the mistakes at the back are minimized, I think DC takes this to penalties at the very least. The team played well and while they didn't create as many chances as they could have, they certainly showed well and gave probably the best (if not best, at least they're in the top 3) team in CONCACAF a good game. The fact that United were able to play "their game" for the most part should give them huge confidence going forward.
The Good: United played well, though they seemed to come a bit unglued in the later stages, owing either to fatigue/altitude or desperation. Gomez was not a influential as United fans are used to, but the good news is that DC doesn't NEED Gomez to play well in order for the team to play well. This is a really good team and baring injuries to key players, they should run away with the Supporter's Shield this year.
The Bad: The defense needs to be stronger. Perkins made three really good saves, but made one horrible mistake on the Chivas winner. Erpen had his usual quota of brainfarts. Boswell made the requisite slip or two. And the defense as a whole needs to work on clearing the ball to players in black shirts. The good news is that when they actually found the black shirts, those they found were able to hold the ball and dish off to advancing teammates pretty effectively.
The Ugly: As I stated before, we're only an injury or two away from disaster. In particular, I'm looking at the back. If Erpen or Namoff go down, I think McTavish and/or Wilson could cover, but if Boswell goes down, what happens? Erpen to the center? That's a recipe for disaster. The other weak link is Perkins. Nolly has potential, but I'm not sure I want him as the starter for any extended period of time.
Despite the disappointment of crashing out of the Champion's Cup, I'm still very excited to see what this team does to MLS opposition. Stay tuned for my MLS predictions later this week, as the Fullback Files figures out how the rest of the pack will sort out behind DC United this season.