Well that was certainly more like it, though I was beginning to get worried that we weren't going to finish anything from the run of play. Can we all just wipe the sweat from our collective brows and allow the shakes to subside just a bit? It's all going to be okay, right? Ummm, right? Hey, wait a minute! You can't be serious man. We put down another 4-1 thumping at home and you're still not satisfied? You suck! I'm outta here. Catch you later when you sober up . . .
. . .
Phew! Glad that guy's gone. Now, let's get down to business and do the usual post-game rounds . . .
* Jaime Moreno is class. And ice-cold to boot. Okay, I can see that little chip PK when we're up a goal, maybe two goals. But at nil-nil with the team's confidence low and the boys desperate to get on the board? Christ, what a pair the man has! Beyond the penalties, Moreno was in fine form, holding the ball, spraying it about, running at defenders, and even getting back on defense a few times. A real captain's performance to lead United to victory.
* So is the year-long 4-4-2 experiment now dead and buried? Soehn/Nowak were pretty wedded to three at the back for a couple of years, and it certainly looked pretty decent today for a window between the opening stages and the middle of the second half. I'll forgive the beginning of the match because the team was low on confidence, were probably focusing on not losing any cheap goals early, and needed to work themselves into a passing rhythm. But in the latter stages of the game, we saw why the 3-5-2 will not always be the answer. When we're up against a cautious or defensive side (or one with little wide threat), three at the back works for us. But when RSL started to push men forward late and get balls out wide attackers in forward positions, the three were pulled apart, leading to chances from those wide attackers or from midfielders bursting through the exposed middle. Not good. It'll be interesting to see where Tommy goes from here because . . .
* Soehn's not afraid to pull the trigger on changes. He made the formation change to get Gallardo into the attack more, which certainly paid off. At times on the break in the second portion of the first half, we were starting to look like our old selves again. And Gallardo proved that he's more than just a set-up man with some wicked shots, including the Goal of the Week candidate that he rocketed past Rimando. Soehn also wasn't afraid to make a first half substitution when he saw something he didn't like. Did he pull Stratford because, measure for measure, the Bard wasn't stacking up, or did bringing on the slightly more defensive Burch for Fred give license to insert a more attacking central mid? Or did Tommy just want to go for the jugular? I'm going to go with a combination of #1 (we were dragging Stratford like a broken leg) and #3 (and more power to you, Tommy, for having the killer instinct).
* Tino and Burch were doing good things in the wide areas. Particularly Tino, who was looking to attack his defender and get shots off, something that's been missing from our wide play. Both of those performances are very good news as it means that we've got some selection headaches to worry about--in a good way of course. I think Tino leapfrogged the injured McTavish for the right wing spot, which drops McTavish back to utility man status where he can push multiple players for their starting spots. And Burch was effective enough to worry Fred (here's hoping his injury isn't too bad). I'd almost be tempted to pull Gallardo back beside Simms and let Fred link the midfield and forward lines, but Gallardo was too good in that attacking midfield spot, and I don't think Fred values the ball enough. Compare that to Gallardo, who not only picked up the ball and ran with it, but also knew when to hold it up and look for teammates or hit the long cross-field ball. Good God, if only Olsen were healthy so we could slot him in beside Simms. Alas, but wishing won't make it so!
* Emilio is still in the doldrums. Which makes sticking four in the net all the more impressive, but has to remain a worry. If the rest of the offense can continue to produce, it won't be a problem, as defenses will have to pay attention to our other weapons and Emilio will finally get the space and the chances to overcome the funk and start producing. The question is: how long to you give him to beat the funk before you give somebody else a go? I'm not that concerned about running Doe out there too quickly (though having speed up top would be a novelty), but I wonder what Niell would be able to do if he weren't paired with Emilio? Just food for thought.
* The wobbles at the back continue. I was never terribly confident in Perkins, but Wells has me even more nervous. He doesn't seem to come for the ball nearly as much as I would like, and his communication with his defenders seems to be borderline atrocious. Sure you can blame his high-school Spanish when it comes to Los Gonzalos, but there were times when Simms, Stratford, and Namoff sure could've used a shout. And despite a much improved performance over his last two outings, Peralta still had moments that worried me a bit. That said, we were reasonably solid until they started pouring on the attack in the latter stages.
* Losing the Ben Cup sure is a bitter pill to swallow. I'm sure the team is just absolutely in tatters at not being able to lift the cup this year--I know that it was pretty high up the priority list for this season's goals. Ah well, I'm sure our missing Ben [Olsen] would've been able to pry the cup lose from the evil grasping claws of the Royal Minions. Next year boys, there's always next year.
Well, I guess that's about it. A great result for United that takes the pressure off a bit, but I'm still not entirely convinced that we're out of the tunnel yet. There were too many questionable moments at the back and miscommunication that had the red warning lights flashing all over the place. Emilio is a shadow of his former self right now, and I'm not sure if we've quite figured out what tactics are going to work best for us in the long run. But it is a long season, and we've got a few months yet to really get things rolling before we hit the tournament pile-up in the summer. So let's all raise a glass to better days ahead and a steady climb up from the foot of the table. Vamos United!