DCU|FM Challenge, Part IV - The Very Merry Month of May

When last we spoke, my DC United had come through their first stretch of the season with 3 wins, 2 draws, and a loss. In this next installment of the DC United | Football Manager Challenge, we follow my boys' exploits across the seven games packed into the month of May, 2009...

...And then there was one. For some reason, Mark Simpson's coaching skills just took a nosedive to the point where he's as useless a keeper coach as he is an assistant manager, which means...don't let the door hit you, Mark. I was tempted to offer Chris Armas (already on my staff, in case you'd forgotten) the role, but he doesn't have the tactical chops I want in my number two, so I'm going to see if my English tactical and attacking coach is interested in stepping up. In the meantime, the hunt for a keepers coach begins.

To supplement the coaches, I've established some tutoring relationships, with Jaime instructing Pontius, Namoff taking McTavish under his wing, and, Olsen looking to impart a little "fire in the belly" to Habarugira, one of the only young guys who shows a bit of grit.

FC Dallas: We went in heavy favorites and were up in the third minute, Quaranta crossing for Camara to bundle home from close range. Kyle Davies then saw red on 15 minutes for fouling Camara, but we struggled to find the second until Simms played in Tino, who finished calmly to make it 2-0 in the 36th. The second half was a shooting gallery, but somehow we couldn't find the third. I think "sustained spell of dominance" was the way the match report read. 71% possession? 86% of passes completed? 24 shots to 2? There should have been more goals, but at least some of the scrubs got significant minutes...and a clean sheet at long last!

Zak Abdel, an American keepers coach, formerly of both of MLS's LA sides (and, excitingly, the Los Angeles Salsa in the mid '90's!) is the new man in charge of the netminders.

@KC Wizards: We got assigned El Corrupto, Jair Marrufo, for this one, and I wondered if maybe I should have sent him a Claudio Lopez jersey when things seemed stacked against us in the early going. Moreno was getting pummeled with no cards in sight. A couple of our boys picked up cheap yellows of their own. Camara put one in the net, but had it disallowed for fouling the keeper. And to top it off, the castoff Emilio caused serious damage to Boswell (out for a couple of weeks), but didn't even get called for a foul. Ugh. But then Camara picked the ball up on the halfway line, beat two guys, won a foot race to the box and unleashed a screamer from the 18 that beat Hartman and put us up (and later won Goal of the Week). Minutes later, we get a PK that Jaime dutifully converts. And in the third minute of first half stoppage time, Quaranta caps a break to put us up 3-0 at the half. The second started poorly with James (on for the injured Boswell) gifting them a PK. Three minutes later they grab a second on the break direct off a cleared corner. Explain to me how I have three guys staying back at all times on corners with two others dropping back if needed, and somehow they get a 3-on-2? Despite some testing moments, we survive the next 40 minutes to take three road points.

Toronto FC: The midweek game against KC forced major changes owing to fitness concerns, so I was fully prepared for a bit of a letdown. Fortunately, we still played reasonably well, but Gonzalez had an off day in net, allowing Chad Barrett to beat him to a cross for the opener. After that it was basically us beating the door down for the rest of the match. They were playing a "Mourinho-style" 4-5-1, with an anchorman negating our central attacking midfielder. Looking to change things up and apply more pressure to their defense, I went 4-4-2 as things grew increasingly desperate. With five minutes to go, Camara crossed for Lopez to power home. Lopez went close again in the dying stages, but it ended 1-1.

@Chivas USA: Fully rested, but with Boswell only fit for the bench, we went into the clash of #1 in the East vs. #1 in the West. They bossed the early stages, with Kljestan going close from distance, but we had the better chances on the break. I saw flickers of the deadly "pre-season" Fred in the outing against TFC, so I gave him the start in the #10 slot. It paid dividends midway through the first period, Quaranta played in Camara, who slotted through for Fred to tuck home. Things got worse shortly after that though, when Olsen saw red for a nasty challenge near the half-hour mark. I pulled the disappointing Rogers and tucked Quaranta and Fred in from the wing roles to operate beneath Camara. It was a shooting gallery, with our aging Argentine backup keeper between the pipes (I'd benched Gonzalez for his lame outing last time around), until I switched to a 4-4-1, with Camara left alone up top. Using Camara's speed, we started to look dangerous on the break. Then we hit a patch of possession that ended with Quaranta crossing into a box packed with defenders. Somehow, Szetela (on for the dismissed Olsen) darted through to open his United account. The siege intensified until Braun nodded one home for them on 74 minutes. Not needing a second hint, I put on Boswell to guard against the aerial threat and packed things tight and deep, launching speculative counters for Camara. We survived, 2-1.

I warn Ben about his behavior in the aftermath, though I don't want to completely blunt his aggression by fining him. The disciplinary committee might though--they're reviewing the incident (gulp). We're now nine games unbeaten since losing our opener to LA. Just to keep the fires lit, I've laid into Jakovic a bit in the press. He's not playing badly, but his form is definitely lacking when compared to the other regular starters. He seems a bit put out by my criticism, but promises to up his game.

In other MLS news, the MetroCows went 5-3-2 under interim boss Richie Williams, good enough for 2nd in the East and 3rd overall. Red Bull FO does the obvious and demotes him to assistant to make way for Dave Dir. Awesome!

...and the disciplinary committe has suspended Olsen for two more matches after watching the video of his shocking tackle against Chivas. Oh dear.

Real Salt Lake: Early dominance pays off as Fred plays in Camara for the opener on 15 minutes. We look pretty sloppy in central defense, but I keep the pressure on, hoping to blow this game open early. Unfortunately, Rimando saves them a couple of times, and they start to come back into the game. I opt for more possession and a sustained period of play around their box eventually ends with Russell upending Camara. Tino buries the spot kick for 2-0 with 10 minutes left in the half. Russell then makes amends, burying a header off a free kick (damn leaky defense!), before Camara closes the half by nodding home a Szetela corner. Midway through the second half, nothing much has changed. We've had a couple of looks. They've had a couple of looks. I go with a more conservative 4-4-1-1 and play possession, which makes the rest of the game pretty academic. 3-1 to the good guys and ten games unbeaten.

Camara wins player of the week. He's now notched 8 goals in 11 outings.

FC Dallas (Open Cup play-in): We're on a couple of days rest for this midweek match, and it's only an Open Cup qualifier, so I ring in major changes to the side. Predictably, they grab a cheap first half goal, Burse turns in a Man of the Match performance in goal, and we can't find the target to save our lives despite completely controlling the game. The SoccerPlex is underwhelmed. The loss takes a few games off the schedule though, and the league streak is still alive with my starters rested for the weekend.

The summer silly season is starting to shape up, and I get the party started early, dealing the declining Gomez (he hasn't really featured for me, and was disappointing when he did) for KC left back Chance Myers. Wallace has been playing adequately, but really seems to belong in midfield. Myers is also Generation Adidas, creating some room on the senior roster for additional signings. I'm joining the bidding war for 26-year old Brazilian attacking midfielder/forward Vavá and mulling a move for more midfield bite.

@Revolution: It's a miserable night in Foxboro. 41 degrees in a downpour with gusty winds. Gee, that doesn't play into Nicol's direct Brit-ball tactics, does it? They're all over us early, but Camara carves out a curler from the edge of the box to put us up early. It takes them 15 minutes to respond, but they inevitably do. Fred then spurns a golden chance before the break before Boswell pops up to direct a corner home. 2-1 at the half. With the conditions, I decide to go 4-4-2 and put my two burners (Rogers and Camara) up top to try and catch them on the counter. It almost comes off immediately, but then we come under sustained pressure, surviving two point-blanks and a Dube goal ruled offside before somehow Ralston, of all people, makes a near post run and nods in a corner. Unbelievable. Confidence is high though, so we come back into it immediately, finally going ahead again when Reis parries a Camara drive onto Rogers' waiting left peg. I expect them to pepper us for the remainder of the match, but the second half disappears into a series of corners for us and two glaring misses by Lopez (on for the disappointing Fred) as we dominate. It all comes undone at the end though, as Jakovic makes an ill-advised pass across the defense to Boswell deep in stoppage time. The Revs don't even blink, pouncing and finishing after one touch. Dejan gets an earful in the locker room.

We enter the international break week on an eleven match league unbeaten run and with news that the Brazilian Vavá will be joining us when the transfer window opens in a couple of weeks. Sadly, LA have caught us at the top of the table (with a game in hand) despite scoring about half the goals that we do. Dir's Red Bulls are also nipping at our heels. The defense needs help, and I'm really starting to sour on Jakovic. But at least we're not Houston...


Think I'm making a mess of this? Grab a copy of Football Manager 2010and have a go yourself. Then write it up and post it to your own blog or send me a copy and I might post it here on FBF...

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