Despair, Part III | a DC United Match Reaction

"Look on my works, ye once-mighty, and despair." 
     - Onalfomandias

Sure, there was a fightback, aided mightily by a fidgety Union defense and some shocking goalkeeping, but shipping three goals to a brand-spanking new expansion team has to have even the most "glass half full" amongst the punditry sharpening their knives. There are three really big questions that I'd like to have answered...

  1. Did Onalfo see enough evidence from Tino in wide areas that he's going to make a shift to a two-holder midfield with Tino either wide or tucked beneath a lone striker? There were still gaps with Barklage and Morsink, neither of whom is a reliable ball-winner in midfield, but the space and freedom that was afforded, both in the wide areas and beneath Allsopp, certainly made a difference to our attacking threat. I'm going to just float this out there though I know some will disagree vehemently: I don't mind Morsink, though I'd rather have him paired with a dynamic ball-winner. Though his defensive effort is often ineffective and he does have a tendency to cough up the ball in uncomfortable areas, his range of passing and vision are still evident.
  2. Does anybody in the brain-trust have a clue about how to organize a defense? Even before the prospective "general," Pena, limped off (Bum Hammy Hammer, making its presence felt), we looked completely out of sorts, leaving massive gaps, committing a string of stupid, stupid, and even-more unbelievably stupid fouls in dangerous areas, and affording the Union far too much time and space in midfield. And how about that marking on the first goal? Oh wait...what marking? Jakovic seems to be hitting the sophomore slump with relish.
  3. When does Kasper get the bullet? I don't know if Castillo is just used to a slower game, but he certainly doesn't look like much of an upgrade over Fred on the left side of midfield. And Allsopp? He had one decent chance, but I didn't see much else from him that makes me think he's going to even hit the 10-goal mark. Carey Talley? A cruel, cruel joke.
Some other thoughts...

* I wonder if it's time to give Graye/Adams a run at left back. Wallace certainly looks a dangerous player with the ball at his feet, running at defenders in their own half, even if he tends to cut back and slow things down too often. But in his own half? Lumped balls to nowhere. Acres of space waiting to be exploited. Burchie? Is that you in disguise? With experience, maybe he'll learn to distribute and defend, but at the moment, I think he's more of an asset on the left wing, certainly more than Castillo is. And yes, I'm fully aware that I've been calling for Wallace to get a solid run at left back. Caveat emptor, dear reader. It won't be the last time.

* Terry Vaughn had an even more puzzling array of decisions than he normally does. I'm not going to apportion too much blame here since both teams were stuck with his baffling inconsistency (letting hard fouls go and then carding a player less than a minute later for a more innocuous challenge, for example), but Philly did seem to get a fair amount of home-field "assistance," even over-riding linesmen much closer to the action than he was.

* Julius James is a red card waiting to happen. When he wasn't busy laying out our own guys, his flying elbows had me convinced that he would walk sooner rather than later, particularly with a flopador of the class Alejandro Moreno belongs to on the field.

* Credit where credit's due. The Union's second on the counter was a tremendous bit of play that exposed us horribly. Of course, I also thought that Castillo, playing cover at the midfield stripe, was supposed to have wheels. Live and learn, I suppose.

* I still don't see enough movement off the ball. We play a static, passive game, waiting for gaps rather than taking the initiative and forcing them to open. 

* Our crosses in the second half were better, particularly since Pontius was in position to do what he does so well: arrive late. In the first half, they were a useless series of aimless balls to motionless targets. 

* Hmmm. An expansion team plays with more togetherness and understanding of each other's movement and tendencies than we do. Awesome!

* Moreno was much more effective coming on as a sub.

So where to from here? There's still time to pull out of this tail-spin. I seem to recall Soehn finally realizing he couldn't play three at the back a couple of years ago after a few poor results, and the team stringing together a hot streak that ended in a Supporters' Shield. Not that I think we'll be able to do the same (still holding out hope, Shatz?), but a playoff spot shouldn't be an unrealistic goal...yet. But there need to be some serious changes in how this team plays before that becomes a possibility. Does Onalfo have the chops to implement them?

Sadly, I'm not sure he does. At least he made reasonably effective changes in this game, so there's one tiny glimmer for the unrepentantly optimistic among you to pin your hopes to. For my part..?


(You had to know that was coming...)


  1. Here's my question. How can Castillo explain this?

  2. Changes need to happen, for sure. Watching the highlight Castillo position has given me a thought...maybe we ought to move to him up front to energize our obviously lethargic attack.

  3. "How can Castillo explain this?"
    For one thing, time and space afforded by less athletic, lower quality defenders who don't press as much as MLS defenders do. And before you go all "but what about Frankie Hejduk" on me, think back to some of the decidedly average folks who've burned Hejduk recently; cat's not all he used to be (and the motor never made him a great defender anyway, it just masked his faults...sometimes).

    "maybe we ought to move to him up front"
    Or, and here comes the big point number two, play him wide and higher with fewer defensive responsibilities. In the current system, he doesn't have the freedom to do what the videos suggest he does best. The sooner Onalfo goes to two holders and unleashes the wings, the sooner we'll see the best out of Tino and possibly Castillo as well.

    Having said all that, I've witnessed precious little in the five matches or so that I've seen of Castillo to suggest that he's going to have a big impact on MLS. Here's hoping I have to taste a little crow on that, but I doubt it...