Check Out My Fence! | a DC United Match Reaction

Admit it.

Your expectations were low going into Houston, in the heat, with Houston's two best players returning from Gold Cup duty. I was right there with you. But my expectations were nowhere near as low as "shipping three goals in less than five minutes." So what abiding memory are we left with from this game? Do we bemoan a lame defense and a goalkeeper that looked like Han Solo frozen in carbonite? Or do we choose to take comfort from the heart and passion United showed in fighting back to make this a one-goal contest? Instead of reacting specifically to this match, I'm going to break this down into a three-part assessment of United as a whole, with this match as a measuring stick, beginning with...

Tommy Tactics and the Defensive Suck Machine

Look, I'm as pleased as punch that we're alive in the playoff hunt. My pre-season expectations were grim. And I realize that we've had some impressive games in the 3-5-2, but enough is enough. Three at the back leaves us far too vulnerable to speed and width in attack. The only justification that I can find for playing this way is that it allows us to feature Gomez in the #10 role with little defensive responsibility behind two strikers. But that ignores the fact that Gomez is not the player he was and that others, namely Fred and Quaranta in the wide areas, will shine brighter when they don't have to cover a whole damn flank and can focus on offensive production. Likewise, by removing the central playmaker and freeing up attackers in wide areas, we force defenses to make harder decisions than "mark the #1o." Which leads us to...


So would it seem like a massive over-reaction to say that we need to wean ourselves off Gomez/Moreno? I prefer to think of it as a practical move. We've got a solid young core that can play with pace and energy. While they may not have the technical quality and savvy of the old guard, they do force teams to react to us, rather than just waiting us out. And there can be a role for either (though not both) Gomez or Moreno in a 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1 as a creative central pivot around which a dervish attack revolves. But do we schedule the future for right now? Can't we wait it out and focus on maintaining what has been, to this point, a decent, if not spectacular season? Depends. Do you want to watch the last poignant and heroic gasps of great warriors that will ultimately fail, or do you want to see a young and hungry United that may also fail, but in doing so will learn valuable lessons for the future while all the while pruning the dead wood? And that brings us to...

Scrambling for seats on the Bandwagon

Who's going to say it first? Okay, maybe I'll just whisper it. "Hey Will? Kevin? Psst! Tommy's a lost cause." Too dramatic? Perhaps. But it feels like it's time for new blood. Yes, yes, the spirit of the second half performance was tremendous, but it just seems that every time we seem to be making progress, we get slammed back...hard. Was going into the half down 3-0 the reason we rested so many players and got ourselves into a Champions' League hole on Tuesday? Yes, Tommy might navigate the treacherous waters and deliver an Open Cup and a playoff spot, but I don't see us doing any damage once there. The mental lapses are too frequent and too readily punished.

Am I crazy? Does one slack five minute span on the road against the best team in the league mean we should tear down the edifice? Maybe we just need to add another defender, right? Maybe it was the heat? Maybe we just miss Clyde that much in midfield? There are ready excuses. But I'm getting tired of fishing for them. Sure, maybe I'm being too quick to question what seems to be a team full of spirit and camaraderie, and Tommy deserves major credit for the accomplishment, but these consistent "shut off" periods have to be laid at somebody's feet.



  1. Couldn't catch the game, caught the highlights. From what I could tell, we looked quite a bit more confused about our tactics tonight than usual. Our goals: a fluke (Emilio's first), a piece of individual brilliance (Fred), and a corner-kick scramble (Emilio's second). The highlights indicated nothing impressive about our team cohesion--especially in contrast to Ching's linkups with everyone orangeman on the pitch. But considering that we've not only lost our numero uno ball-winner (and therefore the foundation of our offensive movements), but replaced him with someone still new to the franchise (only Szetela's second league match for DC), team cohesion was always going to be in question, and that's something that Soehn can't entirely control. Case in point: Namoff's multiple miscommunications with Wicks. Can't hold Soehn responsible for that. (What's up with Namoff lately?)

    Furthermore, the foremost reason Houston walked away with all three is the specious penalty call. Time and time again, MLS referees have bilked hard-working teams out of points they should have earned. I think this season is especially deserving of a post-hoc review of penalties.

    Do I think Soehn deserves to be removed from his post? Well, no.

    Do I think his coaching deserves the increased scrutiny it has been facing these last few weeks? Well, yes, which is notable because this is exactly where he was last season. At this point, Soehn's career as head coach of DC has become characterized by doubt.

  2. Hey I can jump on a bandwagon as well as the next guy, but I don't get "Fire Soehn" after this one. Don't be so quick to blame the coach when the players are more to blame.

    Given Simms' injury and Wallace's suspension, I thought Soehn put out a pretty darn good starting lineup, and his halftime changes were the only reason why we kept the game close. What would a better coach have done differently?

    I agree with you that we seem to be at a crossroads right now. 4-4-2? 3-5-2? There's room for both, it depends on the situation. I think we've got the personnel right now to go either way. But this team in a 3-5-2 formation doesn't seem to be championship bound, so maybe it's time for a change.

  3. Was Stuart Holden skipping after he scored that PK? There's no skipping in soccer!

    Keep Soehn for now and lets hang onto Moreno and Gomez too. The young pups will get their chances to play and mature. They might as well be on the field with someone who knows what to do with the ball. They will learn all the faster.

  4. @DM
    - Szetela was a late sub, Jacobson (who's been with us all year) got Simms duty in midfield.
    - Oduro did "fling" himself a bit on the PK, but that call gets made 60-70% of the time methinks (80-90% in MLS).

    "What would a better coach have done differently?"
    - Maybe not taking an entire half to figure out that he didn't have the right horses to compete in a 3-5-2?

    "Keep Soehn for now and lets hang onto Moreno and Gomez too."
    - Why do I keep getting echoes of the Marco debacle of the early Naughts?


    Look, I can appreciate being patient and the need for consistency in management and playing staff, but there has to come a point when the consistent defensive lapses and tactical letdowns have to be laid at somebody's feet. Considering the players we've been through, I think there's more than enough cause to suspect that maybe it's not entirely the players' fault.

    Sure, the ship may be damaged goods in places, but if the hand at the wheel is uncertain and can't communicate where he wants to go, the ship's going to crash regardless of whether it's a limping old crate or a gleaming, streamlined beast.

  5. We need a head coach. Tommy simply isn't. He's a well meaning guy who knows how to keep the guys liking him and trusting him. He worked well as assistant to Nowak, who pushed us to greatness before working us to the ground.

    Since he took over, he has maneuvered the ship just well enough to keep himself from toppling over the side. We can do better.

    ps. We are Such a drama team this season. Charging comebacks, stupid concessions, boring play, moments of brilliance, rookie stuff, basically we aren't a winning team, just an unstable one. I don't care it it's a 4-4-2 or a 5-3-2, (yes, it exists) we need better management. And stable, defensive players+ winger.

  6. Fullback,
    All good points but this is not the time to fire the coach. It would be more prudent for Mr. Chang to point out that this team MUST grab 12 to 14 of the available 18 home game points from 8/22 to season end. That would propel them to the post season on a roll. If the coach can resort to a formation that suits the players and not his dream of being different and get it freaking done then he will have my vote to stay. If they keep playing like they have these last 3 games then he should be sacked for a better tactician.

  7. Reasonably stated, Dave, and I too hesitate to call for a firing when the club is in a decent league position and seems to have a good team spirit. My frustration stems from Soehn's continued tactical misadventures and having the only sort of consistency come in the form of defensive dallying and miscommunication.

    I just don't see these problems being cleared up with Soehn at the helm, and that limits our chances to do any real damage this season outside of reclaiming an Open Cup which, let's face it, isn't exactly high on the to-do list of MLS clubs.

    Maybe we should wait till the off-season to bring in new blood (both players and coaching staff), but I can't help but think that maybe letting somebody else kick the tires for a dozen or so games to make a dark horse playoff run and assess where he needs to make changes over the winter might result in a better 2010.