Oh, Those Clichéd Halves! | a DC United Match Reaction

Executive summary? Predictably messy first half with the scrubs, dominant in the second half with the extra man and the starters, Moreno brings the class. 1-0 to the good guys. But let's break it down a little more.

The first half wasn't pretty. There were too many gaps in midfield and defense, we had almost no cutting edge, there was no rhythm, and we were losing the possession battle until TFC had a man sent off. Even after the dismissal, though United had more of the ball, they rarely looked dangerous, producing tepid finishes or lame crosses on those rare occasions when they managed a sight of goal.

Line-by-line for the scrub half?

Perkins looked comfortable in net, James and Rice were passable in central defense in that TFC didn't really have any great chances that I can remember, but they weren't exactly an organized brick wall either. Adams, getting the full half at right back, didn't do much of note, while Woolard did much the same in his half-a-half on the left. Graye, who got the other half at left back, at least produced a few forward forays and one well-weighted, curling ball that was, predictably, squandered. I don't know that anybody did their cases a power of good, but Woolard getting yanked after 20 probably doesn't bode well for him, particularly since Graye looked a better option, though that may have had something to do with United having a man advantage at that point.

The midfield wasn't terribly impressive either, though they were a makeshift lot going against the likes of DeRo and de Guzman. Boyzzz and Shipalane worked the flanks. Shipalane had his moments, but Boyzzz killed a couple of chances singlehandedly. DiRaimondo was a big sucking pile of turnover at d-mid, hitting one particularly idiotic cross-field ball from the left flank that probably should have resulted in a good TFC chance, while Yates in the a-mid role managed to show some nice moments of control and had his head up. Up top, Cristman and Allsopp may as well have been invisible for all their bustle.

The second half was day to the first's night.

True, United played with a man advantage. But the manner of their play was what was more impressive. In the first, you'd have been forgiven for wondering which side had the man advantage. The second half left no doubt. United played quick touches, switched the field effectively, monopolized the ball, and probably, were Quaranta less wasteful, should have had more than the one goal Moreno managed to stick in the net after a typically patient piece of play on the edge of the box.

Line-by-line once again...

Perkins had little to do, but did what he needed to without fuss. James, pushed to right back, looked much more comfortable on the ball than I remember him being last year. Wallace was similarly poised on the left and got forward into crossing positions more often than James. Pena and Jakovic were calm, cool, and collected in the middle. Though rarely tested as a defensive unit, this back line can play with the ball at its feet.

Favorite moments? #1 saw TFC in a two-on-two break, Jakovic is on the runner, eying the man in possession, while James closes to help. Jakovic waits, patient, picks his moment, and just swoops in to spear the ball away from the dribbler. Love that kid. #2 saw the defense forward for a broken set piece with Pena and Jakovic exchanging passes and bits of fancy footwork on the right edge of the box.

Shades of total football? The way players were changing positions (Pena swapped with Wallace for one extended sequence, Morsink often dropped deep when James, Pena, or Jakovic pushed forward, the flank players were often overlapping and swapping spots, Moreno sank deep, Quaranta was often the most advanced) almost gives me hope for having something better to watch in the year ahead than the Cavalcade of Rejected Wizards.

Midfield saw Morsink and Quaranta in the middle, where the former impressed me with his distribution and switching of the flanks. Quaranta was energetic as always, but came up empty on the best two chances of the half and generally looked to be forcing things too much. Boyzzz and Barklage split time on the right, with Boyzzz looking much more effective with the starters than he had with the scrubs. Castillo had some moments on the left and seemed to be clicking well with both Moreno and Wallace.

Up top, Moreno started slowly, getting caught in possession a few times before he settled into the flow. Allsopp went the entire second as well, and made a handful of runs, one of which was picked out beautifully by Quaranta, only for a defender to bring Allsopp down. In general though, I didn't think Allsopp did much that contributed to the cause. I'm wondering where Pontius was. Since I've been on internet news blackout so the Champions' League results weren't spoiled, perhaps that's been clarified elsewhere.

Overall Conclusions?

* Sing it with me now, "Same old Pre-ki... al-ways bru-tal."

* That second half really wants me to believe that Onalfo has a plan, and that it's flowing, beautiful, and values possession. But I can't help thinking that this was (a) against 10-men and (b) those ten men were from TFC. Where's that Fox Mulder poster when I need it?

* Three goals in the Carolina Challenge Cup, all by Moreno. We're going to be awfully disappointing if we're relying on 36-year old legs to score the lion's share of the goals.

* Nothing I've seen from our right-sided options makes me think that Quaranta wouldn't be the best option there. Tino's a dynamic presence in the middle, but he's not an ideal fit. If we land Pena, that's the biggest glaring hole in my estimation.

And you?


  1. Hopefully we'll see that Pena's been signed in a couple days. He'd be a strong addition.

    Quaranta really struggled to build something through the middle--in the first and in the second. I really prefer him out wide.

    Didn't see much from Rice, except for one play where he charged upfield to try to preempt a TFC attack only to fluff the tackle and leave James vulnerable. Didn't see any of his acclaimed aerial ability, but TFC wasn't playing a crossing game.

    Allsopp is like a sturdier Emilio. He seems to be able to work well with his back to goal. I wonder how he'd do as a false nine? Hold up the ball, wait for Pontius or Quaranta or Castillo or whomever to break inside, and then feed them something sweet into the box? Then again, that was one of Moreno's favorite roles last season.

    Speaking of, Moreno is so calm on the ball: wait for one defender to slide prematurely, wait for another defender to slide prematurely, and then curl it inside the far post. Always dangerous inside the 18. It's true you don't want to count on a 36-year-old to be your top scorer, but surely he'll be adding to his record goal count this season, and more power to him.

    Cristman's got great work ethic. I wouldn't be surprised if he starts, and well that he should: work ethic is something that we've been lacking up top for seasons, IMO.

    I agree: Graye over Woolard. In fact, based on his confident dribbling and willingness to look upfield, I think Graye has real potential. Here's hoping he settles quickly.

    Biggest worry after the game: where is Pontius? Didn't hear much about him during the USMNT camp, haven't much about him during preseason. Is everything alright with him? Personal issues? Nagging injury? I'm growing anxious to hear what's up.

  2. I read somewhere that Pontius has a slight strain in a hammy, so the team is taking no chances with him. Hopefully that's the extant of it.

    Boyzzz needs to stay away from that left touchline - the guy's got great energy and hustle, but woe to that left foot of his. Shipilane didn't do much other than dribble past a couple defenders... into the corner, where he'd lose possession. I like Khumalo as depth up top and on that right side.

    Not to echo the inestimable Chest Rockwell, but I would like to see Barklage get a run-out in the middle with Tino out right. Barklage showed some flashes in the center of the park last year (granted, in the US Open Cup) - and shifting Tino out of the pressure-spot might free him up to do more when he has those opportunities.

    I can honestly say I cannot wait to hear that the team has signed Pena. With his knowledge/positioning/skill and Jakovic's speed/skill combination, I'm pretty excited about not giving up a million bone-head goals this year. That moment you describe, where Jakovic ran with his man, waiting for the right moment to dispossess, has become pleasantly common with #5. He's as good as anybody in the league the last couple years at taking a guy's lunch money without fouling him. Love that kid.

  3. I'm getting optimistic about this season, hoping we sign Pena after a new CBA is announced immediately followed by a DCU stadium annoucement!!! :)

  4. I've said for a while that I think Barklage is the most intriguing option to replace Olsen. He has skill, heart, discipline, field vision. Just needs to gain experience, and he should be a mainstay in the midfield.