Going For Coffee | a DC United Match Reaction

I hesitate to call this a "match reaction," since I wasn't devoting my full attention to the game for the full 90' and was dealing with a stream that kept cutting out on me, but I'll provide a recap for those who missed the game, and then move on to some overall thoughts...

Match Recap

The first half was predictable "pre-season" play with bad touches, disjointed possession, tentative attacks, and more knocking it around in midfield than goalmouth action. United probably shaded possession for the majority of the half and had slightly better chances, though RSL just missed connecting on a handful of counterattacking moves.

0-1 RSL (Findley): RSL player goes down in the box (Grabavoy?) without much contact (Morsink?). I was talking to my wife with half an eye on the game at the time, but it didn't look like much. Without the benefit of replay, however...

RSL came more into it as the half came to a close, but couldn't double their lead. United started the second half on fire, dominating possession with some slick passing moves and taking the game to RSL, both with the ball and without. RSL's offense dried up under a series of long balls and offsides whistles. Still, the United onslaught petered out before they could find the equalizer.

RSL swapped out about six or seven guys on the hour mark, presenting a soft underbelly of scrubs for what was a largely unchanged United lineup to savage. Sadly, the new legs seemed to invigorate RSL, and United were pushed onto the back foot.

1-1 United (Moreno): A McTavish through ball found Quaranta streaking through a gap in the defense. One-on-one with Rimando near the edge of the box, Tino tapped it lamely against his former teammate, only for Rimando to make a complete hash of the clearance. Moreno pounced on the loose ball and chipped it home into the empty net.

The game started to open up more. Tired legs on United's side, young ones on RSL's. Half chances started appearing, with United more able to exploit the flanks than in the first half, though RSL won a series of corners.

2-1 United (Moreno): What's with the corner kick goals? Somebody (Cristman?) rose to meet a Quaranta corner, headed it down towards the far post, and Moreno deflected it home.

RSL had a few more chances, the best coming late on with Perkins able to get in the way of a tight-angle chance.

Chippy game. Few chances. Just win baby?

Talking Points 

* The formation looked much like I expected given the pre-season match reports thus far...

... Morsink sat behind the the three higher mids, with Quaranta having free reign to make marauding runs forward. Moreno tended to drop deep while Allsopp sat waiting on the shoulder of the last defender (where was Pontius?). I liked that we're pressing higher and with more energy when the opposition in is possession, though I thought were were maybe too eager to get the ball forward in the first half. The second demonstrated better patience and more coherent attacking play, allowing us to create more width in attack. Between Pena (if he signs) and Jakovic we may have the best ball-handling pair of center backs in the league.

* On the subject of Pena. He looked to be struggling with the RSL attackers' pace early (though, to be fair, Findley and Espindola are among the quickest in MLS), but after some initial struggles, settled nicely. I lost count of how many times we caught them offsides, though whether that's due to over-eager RSL attackers or good coordination between Pena and Jakovic is debatable.

* Quaranta in the attacking midfield role is going to be a project. I love his runs when he breaks from the middle (see: our first goal), but he just doesn't have the patience to play-make. His first instinct is to blast away from distance. His second is to hit a killer ball that might not be on.

* Likewise, Wallace is going to be a project at left back. He commits way too many fouls, gets caught with the ball in bad positions, and too often resorts to the hopeless long ball. Of course, maybe he's just basing his play on what he saw from Burch last year (zing!). But you have to balance the bad with the good. When he overlaps on the left flank, he does so with speed and hits an inviting low, driven ball.

* Old Man Moreno. So he had two goals and an audacious bit of trickery to lift a ball up to himself for a volleyed cross, but too often he was caught dallying with the ball. Is it a concern that the team seems to want to play at a higher pace while he wants to slow things down, or does the juxtaposition of that patience with the "hurry up" nature of the rest of the team confuse defenses? This jury's still out for me, but I find it frustrating that I want Tino to slow down and Moreno to speed up.

* Najar is a good little player. He did more at the right mid spot than Barklage did, and generally looked eager for the ball and willing to take guys on. A highlight? Beating three guys on the dribble before racing off down the right flank.

So, we played their starters pretty even and trailed to a questionable PK, but managed to beat their scrubs by a couple most of our starters still on the field. (shrug) It's pre-season. Still, you like that the guys managed to come from behind, and the second half was certainly a more impressive display than the first.

Anybody else catch the stream?


  1. I only caught the last few minutes (about a minute before Moreno's goal, give or take). I had figured there would be no video, so I was out and about.

    I'm glad to see us win, and score on corners (which appears to be our best method of attack at this point). Najar didn't look like a boy amongst men. Other than that, it's hard to judge much since I came in so late. I'm really frustrated that I didn't get to see Pena, but reading that he showed class on the ball and that we caught RSL offside a lot is a good sign.

  2. I caught ten minutes or so, long enough to see that Pena still has an engine and Castillo has some tricky moves. I was disappointed to see us give the ball away so often.

  3. Anywhere to watch a replay of the game?

  4. About the best thing to say regarding Pena was that standard line about defenders: "he didn't stand out." In other words, there was only one time I noticed him struggling with Findley for pace (he did manage to win the ball with a final lunge though). On the ball, he never resorted to the hoof, always distributing with precision and working the ball around the back comfortably. There weren't any huge gaps in the middle that Findley/Espindola could exploit. Morales was a negligible influence on their attack, save from set pieces.

    I wasn't particularly impressed with Castillo. He didn't look out of place, but he wasn't terrorizing defenders either. Perhaps the fault of Onalfo's system?

    The feed I caught was a choppy TFC online stream: single camera, no production, RSL guy doing play by play. I doubt they'll replay it, and I don't see that anybody did a cap in any of my usual online haunts, but I'll let you know if one pops up.

  5. I caught the 2nd half via the stream. Couple of talking points for me are the ones you really already touched on. The one other thing that I noticed was that we seemed to be playing the ball up the right side a significant amount more than the right. McTavish and Najar(what a little player he could be, yay?), and Quaranta/Moreno were way more involved in the attack and possession game than it seemed Wallace, Castillo, and Allsopp/Cristman were. I was looking forward to seeing Allsopp and Castillo, and they both did fine when the ball was on their side for the most part, but it also seemed as though there side of the field was smaller or something...

    I was also impressived with Morsink's quickness and hustle. He was making tackles, for better or worse, all over the midfield and then finding open players to outlet the ball to on the wings. Leads me to believe that Szetela is going to need to work hard to earn his minutes this season in the midfield.

    In the back, I was looking forward to seeing Pena, and he seemed to do fine, not spectacular, before coming off for James, so I'll defer to what Fullback said for that analysis.

    Jakovic, however, looks to have improved even more over the offseason. He was calm and collected over the ball and just seemed to take the ball from RSL players at will. This could be the season that he develops into the dominate ball winner that he has the potential to become.

    Shades of young Rimando on the first goal.... going walkabouts whenever he felt like it :) I believe the ball may have deflected off of Cristman, who applied pressure, before Jaime chipped it in.

  6. I think the anlaysis of Pena is lacking in some crucial areas. Both he and Perkins were verbally and physically leading and organizing the team. This was a huge difference from last year. It stood out clearly in the middle of the first period when the video caught Pena talking and gesturing and repositioning Wallace and others, and they even appared to be providing guidance up top to Moreno and the attack helping provide good outlets especially when Moreno would drop back. RSL was able to make some potentially dangerous counters but as opposed to last year generated very few dangerous shots or crosses because the positioning and organization prior to and during the RSL counter was significantly improved.

    One game does not indicate a trend but it also looked like the midfield was sending the ball back to Jakovic, Pena, and Perkins for restarts considerably more in the past. This was probably the best part of our possesion game. Onolfo spoke shortly after his hire about building from the back, and at least this game seemed to indicate his commitment and progress in that area.

    The back 4 and Perkins along with the midfield look more organized, disciplined, confident, and far less frantic than last season.

    Lets hope its an indication of continuous and substantive improvement.

  7. I didn't catch Pena directing traffic, but then the feed was cutting out on me, so I might have missed it. What I did notice, and mentioned in a comment above, was that there were far fewer gaps in the back line, which points to Perkins, Pena, or some combination thereof.

    Like you said, one game doesn't indicate a trend, but we seemed rather comfortable dealing with a club looking to stretch us vertically, something we had issues with last year. I'll be interested to see how we cope with teams that look to test us with width.