So what went wrong?
Not terribly much if you consider my expectations going in. I made a bunch of pre-season changes and expected that it would take awhile for them to bed in. I fully expected to suffer the first third of the season, start to play well through the summer, get clothes-lined by the Champions' League congestion, and make a decent playoff run.
It took us a while to get going, but we did better than I expected early on. When it all came together in the late summer, I was shocked at how well we were playing. The defense suddenly tightened up, we couldn't stop scoring, and the wins just kept coming, regardless of the opposition. My expectations were raised, perhaps fatally.
We peaked too soon and hit the roadblock at precisely the wrong time. If that stretch of five games in twelve days comes a little earlier, then I think we have time to recover before the playoffs. Unfortunately, I think that stretch stole the form from a couple of key players. That, combined with being too dependent on a streaky lone striker, hurt us in the post-season.
Our best team?
Over the last stretch Sosa was starting to settle and displaced Szetela, and Habarugira only came into his own in the late summer, with Wallace being the left back for most of the season. The supporters' best XI was as listed above, but with Wallace at left back. They picked Boswell as their player of the year, and I'd be tempted to agree, though Camara, Simms, Vavá, and Rogers would be strong rivals in my mind.
For those interested, the tactics I used were basically my adaptation of a Dutch-style 4-3-3 with a few tweaks. I started with the basic 4-2-3-1 Deep provided by the game, tweaked the passing to be more direct and the pressing to be higher. I used the "rigid" philosophy as I didn't want players wandering aimlessly about. We were more the clockwork Ajax of the 90's than free-flowing total footballers of the 70's, letting the ball, rather than individual flair, do the damage.
The defenders and goalkeepers were generally on their default orders, though one or both of my centerbacks were designated "ball-playing" types when I expected to control possession and my opponents to sit deep. The holding pair were also usually on default orders, though sometimes I gave Szetela "deep-lying playmaker" orders and Simms an "anchor man" role if the opposition featured a deadly playmaker. The wingers were given "winger" orders to keep them on the touchline and pressuring fullbacks, save for when were were counterattacking, when they became "defensive wingers". The middle two attackers were usually on their defaults, allowing them to interchange, the striker often dropping deep as the attacking mid rushed into space.
In-game, I usually started by telling the guys to maintain possession and work the ball into the box. At home, we generally took an attacking strategy if we were favored. If were were heavily favored, I went with control, and if the odds were even or in the opponent's favor, I played standard until I got a feel for how the game was progressing. On the road, we started standard if slightly favored or on even odds. If we were underdogs, I went with the counter, and if were were heavy favorites, I usually attacked from the start to try and rock them back before settling into the counter.
Our corner routines were nothing special, just one center back on the keeper, the other attacking the near post, the striker attacking far post, and the defensive holding mid attacking from deep. The fullbacks and the supporting holding mid stayed back, while the two attacking mids who weren't taking corners (one of them usually was) were lurking outside the box looking for scraps.
In the final reckoning, our leaders were:
Appearances: Boswell, Rogers, and Camara all appeared in 38 matches, though Boswell started all but two of his to rack up the most minutes played.
Goals: Camara had 23 in all competitions, Vavá 9, Moreno 9, Boswell 7, Rogers 5, and Quaranta 5. All others had below 5, though Pontius gets a shout for his 4.
Assists: Rogers led the way in assists with 12, while Vavá racked up 9 in a half-season, Quaranta and Camara both chipped in with 9 as well, and Habarugira, despite only making 21 appearances, mostly as a defender, laid on 6.
Man of the Match: Camara took home MotM honors 7 times, while Boswell won 4, and Quaranta 3.
Passing Accuracy: Simms connected on 84% of his passes (and no, they weren't all backwards or lateral, he did have three assists).
Tackles: Simms led the way at 2.45, with Sosa at 2.33 the only close competition.
Dribbles: Rogers strolled with 4.35, with Quaranta at 3.50 and Pontius at 3.20 in distant second and third.
Shots on Target: Camara led the way at 53%, though Boswell and (shocker!) Fred were close seconds at 52%.
Yellow Cards: Namoff led the dubious way with 6, while Szetela amassed 5, and Simms and Quaranta both had 4. (We finished third in the fair play standings behind Dallas and the Crew.)
Red Cards: Sosa and Olsen each had one. That's it.
Average Rating: Boswell led the way at 7.26, Vavá a close second at 7.23, and the surprising Habarugira third on 7.16.
I'm disappointed that the only thing we have to show for the season is the Supporters' Shield, even if I didn't expect it when I started this journey. We got about as far as I would have expected in the playoffs, though it feels disappointing to have had such a dominating season, only to go home before the big dance, sort of like Columbus did this past year. On the positive side, the only expectations Payne set for me were qualification for the quarterfinals of the Champions' League, and we achieved that. He expected a mid-table finish in the league as well, and I certainly delivered more. Of course, he then tried to lowball me by extending my current contract at the same dollar figure. I, naturally, laughed in his face and demanded a raise. When he regretfully said he couldn't, I rejected the offer. I'm still locked up through 2010, and I do plan to continue this game, so we'll see if he can find some change in the sofa or petition Uncle Will or something.
Perhaps I'll post less-extensive updates as it goes, and we'll see what the next year brings for my DC United. Also, stay tuned next week as one of your own takes up the burden of the DCU|FM Challenge here on FBF...
Vamos (Virtual) United!
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