I'm just back from a couple of days out of town and loving what my DVR has dished up so far. Heavy storm activity in the area means I'll be having to catch a re-broadcast of the US match as the satellite is pretty intermittent here. In any case, on with some quick impressions of the DC - Metrobulls match.
First, I'd like to send a shoutout to Brian "Poopstains" Hall, who always manages to "fill his pants" (in Hudsonian parlance) when the time comes to make a crucial call. No specifics, but let's just say "less than impressive" for a man who is supposed to be among the best we have here in the States. And while we're on the subject of a load of Bull...
I wonder what Arena was thinking when he started Mathis over Altidore? The kid caused major problems, ejections, scoring chances, whatever - when he finally got on the field. Not that it mattered too terribly much as DC still managed to "win" 2-1 with him on the field. The ejection of Boswell is going to make next week interesting as Soehn will have to reshuffle the deck a bit. Maybe a chance to see Burch or McTavish on the backline?
Three major positives come to mind immediately:
(1) The stars came out
And isn't it about time? Moreno and Gomez, in particular, played head and shoulders above what they have been so far this year. Tracking back on defense, launching the counter, possessing the ball - all the good stuff we've grown used to and it was back with a vengeance. Emilio got in some dangerous positions, put his shots on target, and was finally rewarded with a return to the scoresheet. And yet the real beneficiary of all this starpower was "everyman" grafter (in the British sense!) Ben Olsen, whose efforts were rewarded with a first career hattrick. I'll have to check the tape, but it occurs to me now that it may have been a "natural" - one with the head and one with each foot, but I may be wrong on the second being with the left.
(2) Width, width, width
Finally! United has been generally stagnant in trying to force things up the gut. In this game, they finally started to get wide. It was a bit hard to tell from TV (what little of the game Comcast showed us between head shots, replays, and focusing on players who had just been fouled while the game raged on ahead of them) but it looked like Gomez played deeper and allowed the wide midfielders (Benny and Fred) to push higher and the midfield seemed much more fluid, with players swapping positions and alternating forward runs.
(3) The counter is back!
Oh United counterattack, how we missed thee! Finally, we started to see some decisive, quick play on the counter and Fred really started to play well with the rest of the team. Flair, imagination, technique - all were in full flower and yet...
There were still too many turnovers in midfield and the defense was caught with its virtual pants down a few too many times. If Angel had buried that first chance that fell his way, who knows what the result would have been? Despite some of these lapses, I think Tommy Soehn may have just figured out the formation to make this team tick the way we all imagined it might in the early, frigid days of the pre-season.