United Recap - Runnin' on Empty

Two of the hottest teams in MLS met last night as the Black-and-Red faced off against the juggernaut that is the Houston Dynamo. Unfortunately, I was only able to catch the second half, but the pattern of the game save for two early United chances seemed to be that United was able to possess the ball but not do too terribly much with it that looked threatening, while Houston conceded a bit of possession, but were able to look dangerous when they did have the ball and built up a head of steam running at the United back line.

Some good and bad points for United:
  • There were some tired legs out there for United, particularly as the second half wore on. Ben Olsen in particular looked completely gassed after his efforts for the US in Venezuela.
  • The defense looked more solid than it has recently. That has a lot to do with Boswell's return from international duty, but there are some other factors. I'm still not sold on Gros as the long-term solution at left back, but he was tracking back better in this game than he has previously. Vanney may not be quick and may give away some dumb fouls because of his lack of mobility, but he's calm on the ball and distributes well, which helps our possession game. McTavish wasn't as threatening as Namoff can be going forward, but he was very solid in defense at right back and I'd be comfortable playing him anywhere along the back line. If Burch can pan out as a solid back-up at left back, it will do a bit to alleviate the depth issues along the back line, though another backup centerback and a true left back sure would be nice.
  • Addlery and Emilio play too much of the same game to be an effective partnership. I wonder if maybe playing Fred as a withdrawn forward in place of Addlery may have been a more effective use of personnel in order to create the missing link between midfield and the front line. Let's hope that Moreno doesn't miss a beat and comes back to MLS in the same form he was demonstrating for Bolivia.
  • When Gomez is squeezed out of the game, we need Fred and/or a creative forward to pick up some of the slack and force defenses to adjust. That wasn't happening in this match. On the other side of the midfield equation, I think that we need someone who can be more of a destroyer against sides like Houston. When Houston got the ball, particularly with DeRo, and to a lesser degree with Holden and Mullan, they took off running at the back line. Carroll can be effective at clogging spaces and can get in a tackle or two, but he's not the type to single-handedly wreck attacking moves by the opposition.
  • Houston is extremely well organized and positioned to cut off passing lanes, which should have been further cause to insert a withdrawn forward in place of having two "high" forwards that we couldn't get the ball to in the first place. Having a more fluid set of players operating between the midfield and forward lines may have pulled at Houston's shape a bit. On a related note, the smaller pitch dimensions help Houston to stay compact and organized. On a bigger field, United may have been able to stretch them out a bit.
  • The Dynamo are very physical, which is not something that we've dealt terribly well with in the last couple of years. I thought that this DC team didn't seem to shirk the challenges and fought back a bit, definitely an encouraging sign.
So, a loss, and they're always disappointing, but 1-0 away to the best team in the league at the moment with shifting personnel, combined with a tough road week, shouldn't be too hard to swallow. Next week brings the other Texas table-toppers to town (ooh, alliteration!) and I'll be making the pilgrimage south to RFK to see the match live with my little family. This'll be my daughter's first United game and we're going to sit on the loud side - close enough for atmosphere, but far enough away from the SE's and the Barra that we shouldn't get hit by any UFO's ;-). Should make quite the impression on a four year old!


  1. @ your points concerning Fred slotting in at withdrawn forward: this makes sense to me, but does it to Soehn? Consensus seems to be that Soehn really wasn't making the smartest strategic decisions out there. I guess the heat was getting him, too.

    Hope the young one enjoys the match! (Wear something black, yeah?)

  2. Yeah, he didn't exactly ring in the changes when things were obviously not working, did he? All part of the learning curve I suppose.

    I'll bring something black for her for the evening, but we're going to be spending the day at the zoo and I'm assuming it'll be typical DC July weather (90's and humid ;-) so I wouldn't want her in black all day.