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DC United outwork FC Dallas for 4-1 win

Posted on 31 March 2012 by Steve Long

DC United opened its season against four of the stronger teams in MLS and the results until Friday night’s were predictable. Two losses followed by a tie showed that the team had some defensive competence, but lacked scoring punch. Then FC Dallas came to town.

With Chris Pontius still a half step short of full effectiveness and Andy Najar still away with Honduras, United Coach Ben Olsen had to rely on two young wingers to make good things happen. Just as Pontius and Rodney Wallace stepped up in their mutual rookie year, the kids came through.

A significant part of their impact came from their comprehensive aggressive play. Danny Cruz, a mixture of Olsen and Josh Gros, was modest about his efforts, “Just trying to contribute. I try to put the defender under as much pressure as I can.

“I feel if he’s back on his heels then he’s not gonna want to be going forward. I try to work as hard as I can and at the end of the day when my number is called and I’m coming off the field, I’m gassed and I gave everything that I have.”

On the other side of midfield, seventh overall draft choice Nick DeLeon was confronted by a winger who puts most of his opponents on their own heels, Brek Shea. He dealt with it calmly, “Once you step on the field, he’s just another man like I am.” Deleon did concede that, “He’s real technical, strong left foot, and long legs. He’s a lot bigger in person.”

After the first game, player-coach Josh Wolff noticed the dearth of wide play and indicated that the staff was working on it. The youngsters performed as asked and trained, and the result was more space for the team’s central operators and strikers.

He explained, “I think you saw it pay dividends tonight. We stressed it during the week and it took a little while for it to open up. That’s how these games typically are and in the second half things tend to slow down a little more and create gaps. We took advantage.”

The duo’s emergence has created a nice dilemma for the coaches, “Absolutely. We have the personnel. Chris and Andy have a different skill set, very aggressive, very good one-on-one dribblers and I think Nick and Danny bring a little more bite to the position, a bit more aggressiveness trying to dig things out in the corner and get in there and get some crosses and certainly get into space behind the backs.”

Wolff agrees wholeheartedly about Cruz’ Olsen and Gros qualities, “He’s certainly got a big engine and that’s something that we lacked in our first game or two. It was clear that a guy like Danny out on the field makes us better. Whereas he might not be as technically sound as some others, he’s got a willingness and a fight that not many possess.”

He summed up the prospects for the season, “At the end of the day, he’s a very dangerous player on the field. Tonight was great; he and Nick were fantastic.” Noting that each opponent provides challenges, he likes the choice of having Najar and Pontius come off the bench or start, “The team has gotten deeper. For a coach to put his stamp on a team, it takes a year or two.

“I think we’ve got a good group now. It’s only one game, but we’ve been saying it for the last couple of weeks that we‘re not panicking here. As the games come, more comraderie, more chemistry comes.”

Both Cruz and DeLeon played together in the Arizona Olympic Development Program (ODP) and that mutual understanding showed perfectly when DeLeon beat a series of Dallas players and looked up to see Cruz rushing to goal and pointing to where he wanted the ball. The finish was poetry and gave Cruz DC’s third goal of the night.

On the other hand, the provider of the opening United score struck it from way out with a great individual effort. Maicon Santos likes to do that, “Every game with DC United I’ve been trying to shoot from long distance; that’s what I do.”

He then struck the teamwork note in describing his header off Dwayne DeRosario’s cross, “We know each other. He knows where I’m gonna be and I know where he’s gonna be.” Yet another example of improving chemistry.

For his part, the always dangerous DeRosario drew his customary close marking which paired with strong play on the wings to draw attention to give others space. He said his runs were meant primarily to free himself up but also had an intended side-effect, “That’s just to be expected and I’ve just got to be smart in terms of making space for other players.”

Wolff sat out the proceedings with a slight groin tweak, noting that with several team injuries already, “It’s a long season. We have 34 games, we have 12 reserve games, we have Open Cup games. My role first is to be a player.” The rest provided a chance to emphasize his coaching mode.

In that role, he would, “Help guys, work with guys. I’ll continue to do that even when I’m playing. Finding the balance is obviously going to be critical. At this point whatever I can do to help guys better themselves or gain a bit more perspective or be different on the field is good.”

Olsen continues to learn, just as his staff and players do. Wolff puts it simply, “There’s a few ways to skin this game and I’m still trying to figure some ways out. If you can learn things here and there from other guys it can help you go a long way.”

DC United still has that long way to go, but with good teamwork and solid training the early steps seem promising.

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DC United outworks FC Dallas for 4-1 win

Posted on 31 March 2012 by Steve Long

DC United opened its season against four of the stronger teams in MLS and the results until Friday night’s were predictable. Two losses followed by a tie showed that the team had some defensive competence, but lacked scoring punch. Then FC Dallas came to town.

With Chris Pontius still a half step short of full effectiveness and Andy Najar still away with Honduras, United Coach Ben Olsen had to rely on two young wingers to make good things happen. Just as Pontius and Rodney Wallace stepped up in their mutual rookie year, the kids came through.

A significant part of their impact came from their comprehensive aggressive play. Danny Cruz, a mixture of Olsen and Josh Gros, was modest about his efforts, “Just trying to contribute. I try to put the defender under as much pressure as I can.

“I feel if he’s back on his heels then he’s not gonna want to be going forward. I try to work as hard as I can and at the end of the day when my number is called and I’m coming off the field, I’m gassed and I gave everything that I have.”

On the other side of midfield, seventh overall draft choice Nick DeLeon was confronted by a winger who puts most of his opponents on their own heels, Brek Shea. He dealt with it calmly, “Once you step on the field, he’s just another man like I am.” Deleon did concede that, “He’s real technical, strong left foot, and long legs. He’s a lot bigger in person.”

After the first game, player-coach Josh Wolff noticed the dearth of wide play and indicated that the staff was working on it. The youngsters performed as asked and trained, and the result was more space for the team’s central operators and strikers.

He explained, “I think you saw it pay dividends tonight. We stressed it during the week and it took a little while for it to open up. That’s how these games typically are and in the second half things tend to slow down a little more and create gaps. We took advantage.”

The duo’s emergence has created a nice dilemma for the coaches, “Absolutely. We have the personnel. Chris and Andy have a different skill set, very aggressive, very good one-on-one dribblers and I think Nick and Danny bring a little more bite to the position, a bit more aggressiveness trying to dig things out in the corner and get in there and get some crosses and certainly get into space behind the backs.”

Wolff agrees wholeheartedly about Cruz’ Olsen and Gros qualities, “He’s certainly got a big engine and that’s something that we lacked in our first game or two. It was clear that a guy like Danny out on the field makes us better. Whereas he might not be as technically sound as some others, he’s got a willingness and a fight that not many possess.”

He summed up the prospects for the season, “At the end of the day, he’s a very dangerous player on the field. Tonight was great; he and Nick were fantastic.” Noting that each opponent provides challenges, he likes the choice of having Najar and Pontius come off the bench or start, “The team has gotten deeper. For a coach to put his stamp on a team, it takes a year or two.

“I think we’ve got a good group now. It’s only one game, but we’ve been saying it for the last couple of weeks that we‘re not panicking here. As the games come, more comraderie, more chemistry comes.”

Both Cruz and DeLeon played together in the Arizona Olympic Development Program (ODP) and that mutual understanding showed perfectly when DeLeon beat a series of Dallas players and looked up to see Cruz rushing to goal and pointing to where he wanted the ball. The finish was poetry and gave Cruz DC’s third goal of the night.

On the other hand, the provider of the opening United score struck it from way out with a great individual effort. Maicon Santos likes to do that, “Every game with DC United I’ve been trying to shoot from long distance; that’s what I do.”

He then struck the teamwork note in describing his header off Dwayne DeRosario’s cross, “We know each other. He knows where I’m gonna be and I know where he’s gonna be.” Yet another example of improving chemistry.

For his part, the always dangerous DeRosario drew his customary close marking which paired with strong play on the wings to draw attention to give others space. He said his runs were meant primarily to free himself up but also had an intended side-effect, “That’s just to be expected and I’ve just got to be smart in terms of making space for other players.”

Wolff sat out the proceedings with a slight groin tweak, noting that with several team injuries already, “It’s a long season. We have 34 games, we have 12 reserve games, we have Open Cup games. My role first is to be a player.” The rest provided a chance to emphasize his coaching mode.

In that role, he would, “Help guys, work with guys. I’ll continue to do that even when I’m playing. Finding the balance is obviously going to be critical. At this point whatever I can do to help guys better themselves or gain a bit more perspective or be different on the field is good.”

Olsen continues to learn, just as his staff and players do. Wolff puts it simply, “There’s a few ways to skin this game and I’m still trying to figure some ways out. If you can learn things here and there from other guys it can help you go a long way.”

DC United still has that long way to go, but with good teamwork and solid training the early steps seem promising.

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TFC Heads to the CCL Semi-Final!

Posted on 15 March 2012 by Mahmoud Shoblaq

Following the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final tie, Toronto FC headed into LA with a big task after getting a 2-2 result at home! Having to overcome the 2 away goal deficit or simply winning the match was never going to be easy.

 

With a slow start to the match Ryan Johnson took advantage of a great chance to give TFC the 1-0 lead in the first half. The second half on the other hand had a different feel, where LA realized they had to rise up to the occasion and started putting plenty of pressure on TFC  leading to an own goal by Harden. TFC was resilient with Ryan Johnson continuing to put his stamp on the game and setting up Nick Soolsma for Toronto’s second goal and the game winner!

 

Toronto FC’s game flaw consisted of their high back-line that they were lucky not to have LA penetrate. A non fatigued Galaxy side would have punished this Toronto formation. On the other hand, TFC’s defense dealt well with the crosses into the box in this match in comparison to the home tie, with Kocic playing a major role in controlling his box and keeping the ball out of his net.

Man of the MatchMilos Kocic

All in all, a decent Toronto FC performance versus a softer LA Galaxy led to this result. The next round in the semi-finals versus Santos Laguna will be a difficult task especially in the away leg!

 

Toronto FC will now remain on the road and face Seattle on Saturday before returning home for their MLS home opener which leads into the first leg of their CCL semi-finals.

 

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Last minute goal sends DC United to a 1-0 opening loss

Posted on 12 March 2012 by Steve Long

It was a classic opening game. The fans came hoping to see signs of a rebirth with new acquisitions and a team style that had finally gelled. They went away disappointed as DC United remained mired in the same ineffective scoring rut that ended the 2011 season.

Kansas City was superior in possession and earned far more good shooting chances. Their own early season rust rendered most of their shots inaccurate, but their possession game was generally sharp and confident. They pressured well and anticipated DC well.

When they had the ball, they exploited the full width of the field. Both teams’ wide midfielders remained wide for the first ten minutes and the possession battle that often begins any MLS game was hard fought and fairly equal.

After that time, United’s Chris Pontius and Andy Najar fell into the same trap that they have for the past two years as they drifted inside, seeking to find more of the ball, only to compress the space available for maneuver and thereby denying creative players like Branko Boskovic room to operate effectively.

From that time forward DC United became the gang that couldn’t pass well and were only saved from a multi-goal defeat by the fact that KC was a gang the couldn’t shoot straight. The conference leaders did encounter a DC defense that seems stronger than last year.

The current back four were under pressure for much of the game and generally covered well, accounting in part for the imperfection of Sporting’s shooting efforts. The same midfield compression that stifled United’s creativity also affected their opponents as the KC attackers were usually in somewhat crowded quarters.

In short, Sporting’s buildup benefited from their better exploitation of width, but United’s defenders were strong enough to pressure KC’s shooters into weaker shot selection and accuracy.

For their own part, DC United’s creative crew, Dwayne DeRosario and Hamdi Salihi were well out of sync. One could almost hear them thinking before reacting when attackers must be proactive to be effective. The real rhythm that makes for scoring success was simply not there.

There were bright notes. Holding midfielder Perry Kitchen was heavily involved throughout the game and generally effective in breaking up or deflecting KC’s buildups. On the other hand, his central midfield compatriot Boskovic seemed ineffectual and was barely noticeable. He spent the game seeking space which was not there. He joined DeRosario and Salihi among the frustrated.

Already an insightful veteran and a cagey creator, Josh Wolff has just been appointed as a player/coach. We conversed at some length on what he has observed when I asked about the team’s failure to exploit width. He acknowledged the problem noting that it is just the beginning of the season, “The only way you can get those sort of things sorted out is to rehearse it, not just in practice, but against real opponents.”

He said he will need to review the videos, but, “We emphasize it (midfield width) as well….Our wide guys are good isolated one on one guys, so the discipline to stay wide, to let the game come to you and the spacing to our midfield and defenders needs to continue to grow. Again, we’ve got a few new guys out there so we haven’t had the time or the repetitions to really get it right. Fortunately for us we’ll get the videos out and take a look at it.”

He believes that new striker Hamdi Salihi, “needs service and we’re gonna have to learn how to construct plays for our wide guys where it’s not just a one on one 30 or 40 yards in and they go and beat a guy to whip one in.

“We’ve gotta create opportunities and advantages for those guys to get good clean looks and balls to whip in to guys like DeRo and Salihi. Their job is to get on the end of it. Over the course of their careers they’ve been extremely good at it.”

He summed it up, “So, there’s plenty to work on. I don’t disagree with the fact that you’ve got to use the width better. Salihi’s attributes are what they are and if we can sort out what’s behind that with service, I think it will be good down the road.”

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TFC Preseason Squad

Posted on 21 January 2012 by Mahmoud Shoblaq

Toronto FC ASN is on Twitter @TorontoFCasn! Follow us for live game action, breaking news and headlines covering Toronto FC, Canadian soccer and  MLS.

 

This is just a short post to give everyone a heads up on who is/will be in camp during Toronto FC’s preseason.

This information is gathered through various internet sources and reports. (players’ twitter accounts, translated articles, rumors etc.)

This list will be updated throughout preseason!

I will start off with the list of players not ‘officially’ signed with the club, followed by the list of those that will be given a trial and lastly a list of signed players.

As the lists indicate there are 26 + 1 (Lindsay is inactive due to long-term injury) official squad players with 2 expected to sign, leaving 2 roster spots available for several new players (most likely academy products).

LAST UPDATE: FEBRUARY 3rd, 2012 – 5:00pm

Players expected to be signed:
Stefan Vukovic (Academy product) – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Efrain Burgos, Jr. (2011 Draft Pick) – CONFIRMED IN CAMP

Players expected in camp for trials:
Michael Green (2012 Supplemental Draft Pick)
– CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Tristan Jackman (Academy product) – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Chad Bush (Academy product) – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Quillan Roberts (Academy product) – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Brandon John (Academy product) CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Tyler Pasher  (Academy product) CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Sergio Camargo (Academy product) – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Jay Chapman (Academy product) – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Jordan Hamilton (Academy product) – CONFIRMED IN CAMP

Current Squad (Under Contract):
Milos Kocic
– CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Stefan Frei – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Torsten Frings – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Terry Dunfield – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Julian De Guzman – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Eric Avila – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Ryan Johnson – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Danny Koevermans – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Joao Plata – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Ty Harden – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Ashtone Morgan (Home grown) – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Matt Stinson (Home grown) – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Doniel Henry (Home grown) – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Nick Soolsma – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Keith Makubuya (Home grown) – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Oscar Cordon (Home grown) – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Adrian Cann – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Elbekay Bouchiba – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Richard Eckersley
– CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Jeremy Hall (New Signing) – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Reggie Lambe (New Signing) – CONFIRMED IN CAMP

Geovanny Caicedo (New Signing)
– CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Miguel Aceval (New Signing) CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Luis Silva (New Signing – 2012 Draft Pick) – CONFIRMED IN CAMP
Aaron Maund (New Signing – 2012 Draft Pick)
– CONFIRMED IN CAMP

Dicoy Williams – CONFIRMED IN CAMP

Nicholas Lindsay (Home grown) – Reports indicate he will be out for the 2012 season.

 

This post was written by @MahmoudShoblaq of @amersocc and @TorontoFCasn.

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Where is TFC at today!?

Posted on 04 January 2012 by Mahmoud Shoblaq

Toronto FC ASN is on Twitter @TorontoFCasn! Follow us for live game action, breaking news and headlines covering Toronto FC, Canadian soccer and  MLS.

After the end of the season, changes were expected  and several players were released while others were signed. Toronto FC still has missing pieces to fill but here is a brief look at the current squad, important dates and other news/notes.

Some rumors and News:
-Krzysztof Krol
formerly of Chicago Fire has stated on his twitter last week that he is heading back to MLS and coming to Toronto, whether it was to negotiate a deal or just for a trial that is unknown. Yet he said he is interested in returning to Chicago, but Toronto were the ones showing interest. Nothing official from MLS, or Toronto FC as of right now so it will be interesting to see what this leads to.
Reports last week have indicated that Victor Turcios has a trial set with Toronto FC and will be reporting on January 23rd if his trials in Europe don’t go well. 
News broke out today that Dicoy Williams has signed on for next year, with his salary and what he has shown this is not a complete surprise. Let’s just hope he is healthy soon and is just as good as we last saw him.
The 2012 TFC Away kit was released by Work Soccer Shop today and can  be seen here: http://www.worldsoccershop.com/29144.html. This was expected as it was displayed at the 2011 home opener. This design was the winning design of the contest Adidas and Toronto FC hosted. Personally I am not a big fan of some minor things, but I do not hate it either.

It is evident that Toronto FC is looking at defenders more than anything right now. Pre-season is not that far off so the players should be coming in soon whether as signings, trades, draft picks or trials.

After a long wait, CCL ticket prices are expected to be released on Friday January 6th 2012.

The 2012 adidas MLS player combine occurs from January 6-10th with the MLS Super Draft on January 12th, and supplemental draft is January 17th. With TFC’s two first round picks it is expected that they will go for the best available rather than a defender. But it is really hard to predict what Winter and his staff do especially with the possibility of trading these picks + a player or two for decent established players. 

Lastly, it is expected that Toronto FC players are set to report to camp on January 23rd 2012. Below is a list of some of TFC’s scheduled games.

Pre-season Games:
vs. Orlando City SC – February 25th 2012 6pm ET
vs. BK Hacken – February 28th 2012 6pm ET
vs. FC Dallas March 1st 2012 6pm ET
Possibly a game on March 3rd time and opponent TBD.

CONCACAF Champions League:
vs. LA Galaxy – March 7th 2012 8pm ET (Rogers Centre)
vs. LA Galaxy – March 14th 2012 10pm ET (The Home Depot Centre)

MLS Season: (Full Schedule http://www.torontofc.ca/news/2012/01/reds-open-mls-season-march-17)
Season Opener
vs. Seattle Sounders March 16th 2012 10pm ET (CenturyLink Field)
Home Opener
vs. San Jose Earthquakes – March 24th 2012 1pm ET (BMO Field)
Games vs. Montreal ImpactApril 7th 2012 1pm ET (Montreal Olympic Stadium), June 27th, 2012 7:30pm(Saputo Stadium), October 20th, 2012 2pm ET (BMO Field)
Trillium Cup vs. Columbus Crew – March 31st 2012 2pm ET(BMO Field), August 11th 2012 7:30pm ET and October 28th 2012 4pm ET (Columbus Crew Stadium).
Game vs. WhitecapsJuly 11th 2012 7pm ET(BMO Field)
Home Closer vs Montreal Impact on October 20th, 2012 (BMO Field)
Season Closer vs. Columbus Crew October 28th, 2012 (Crew Stadium)

Voyageur Cup:
vs. FC Edmonton – May 9th 2012 time TBD (Foote Field)
vs. FC Edmonton – May 16th 2012 time TBD (BMO Field)
Cup Finals May 23rd and 30th 2012.

Current Squad: We have 26 players, leaving room for at least 4 new signings depending on trades etc..
Milos Kocic
Stefan Frei
Richard Eckersley (Status of new deal still unknown)
Torsten Frings
Eric Avila
Terry Dunfield
Ryan Johnson
Danny Koevermans
Joao Plata (Status of new deal still unknown)
Ty Harden
Andy Iro
Ashtone Morgan (HG)
Matt Stinson (HG)
Doniel Henry (HG)
Nick Soolsma
Julian De Guzman
Peri Marosevic
Jeremy Hall (New Signing)
Reggie Lambe (New Signing)
Dicoy Williams
Nicholas Lindsay (HG)
Keith Makubuya (HG)
Oscar Cordon (HG)
Adrian Cann
Elbekay Bouchiba
Mikael Yourassowsky

 

This post was written by @MahmoudShoblaq of @amersocc and @TorontoFCasn.

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Final DC United game summarizes season and points to next year

Posted on 23 October 2011 by Steve Long

In DC United’s final action of the 2011 season, Josh Wolff headed a ball just off the top of the crossbar following two smart and precise passes nearly tying the conference leaders and saving some face for a side that has watched its season fade into frustrating “might have been” moments. Somehow, it was a fitting conclusion.

Game after game down the stretch, something would go wrong, usually in the last few minutes. Chances to score fell just short of realization or inattention to defensive duties let an opponent pull out a win or a tie. Coach Ben Olsen has an inexperienced squad and is himself still learning.

It showed all season as the team gradually gained better shape and style, only to slide into ineffectiveness toward the end.

The coach took most of the burden on himself, but was sanguine about future prospects, “It was a pretty good performance overall. We know what we need; I know what we need for next year. But it’s not as much as you guys think. I still have a lot of confidence in this group of players.”

The players have always shown the most obvious signs of Olsen’s influence; they play with grit and persistence. Their failures have been not with heart, but with smarts. Experience brings wisdom, and neither the coach nor the players are quite yet where they need to be.

A winter of reflection and study by players and coaches combined with the acquisition of a few key pieces that Olsen has his eye on should justify the coach’s optimism. Olsen has always been more cerebral than he lets on, but his knowledge built up over years will take time to communicate.

This year he has struggled with the actual teaching techniques, when and exactly how to structure practices to create a shape to fit both his team’s and the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.

We saw a hint of his thinking on Saturday as he sent out an unusual formation as described by Tino Quaranta, “We changed our formation tonight which was encouraging I think for not working on it. Call it 4-3-3 or 4-5-1, whatever you want to call it. I think the guys responded well. We created chances.”

Stephen King, who got to ply his trade in central midfield, liked the idea, “I think it was good. I think it was something worth trying. Maybe going into next season we’ll work on it in preseason and see if that’s the direction we want to go….

“Playing against a team that does clog the middle a little bit and plays with 3 central midfielders we thought that we could counter their formation with what we did….We definitely noticed that there was a lot of space out wide especially when we’d switch the ball quickly to Andy or Austin or Tino early on….It’s something we looked to do.”

Austin Da Luz agreed, “I think with a little more time we can be successful with that formation. We’ll see what happens. At the end of the day it does make for a more exciting game. It opens up a little bit more and it can be a good thing.”

On the flip side of the argument, Kansas City’s coach, Peter Vermes cited the downside if the formation drifts too much in the 4-5-1 direction, “I think it was a little hard for [Dwayne De Rosario] because he was a man on an island tonight playing as one up top.”

In theory, the wide midfielders should alternately either draw coverage from the center or go poorly marked, with advantages flowing from either development. Both responses increase space for an attacking side to exploit.

DC United is one of the shorter and less physical sides in MLS, explaining a major weakness that was on display Saturday when Sporting Kansas City scored the game winner. Set pieces require at least some size to defend and also to attack.

Interestingly, one of United’s most anticipated improvements for next year will feature the slim, gritty, and clever Perry Kitchen. His skills in the defensive midfield position are such that he is expected to be one of the best in the league as he grows into the role. Yet, he indicates that he has no intention of spending the winter putting on pounds of muscle.

He believes that enough international stars at the position are built like him that he is best off going with his natural skill set. He may well be right, and if so, Olsen would do well to look for a large strong central defender to join the also slim Dejan Jakovic in the back line.

Scoring Summary:

KC — Matt Besler 2 (unassisted) 54

Sporting KC — Jimmy Nielsen, Chance Myers, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic, Kei Kamara, Roger Espinoza (Davy Arnaud 46), Graham Zusi, Julio Cesar, Omar Bravo, Teal Bunbury (C.J. Sapong 68).
Substitutes Not Used: Michael Harrington, Lawrence Olum, Jeferson, Soony Saad, Eric Kronberg.

D.C. United — Bill Hamid, Chris Korb, Ethan White, Brandon McDonald, Daniel Woolard (Marc Burch 46), Andy Najar, Perry Kitchen, Clyde Simms (Austin Da Luz 17), Stephen King (Josh Wolff 75), Dwayne De Rosario, Santino Quaranta.
Substitutes Not Used: Blake Brettschneider, Charlie Davies, Joseph Ngwenya, Joe Willis.

Misconduct Summary:
KC — Roger Espinoza (caution; Tactical Foul) 26
DC — Perry Kitchen (caution; Reckless Tackle) 34

Referee: Alex Prus
Referee’s Assistants: -Eric Proctor; Corey Parker
4th Official: Mark Kadlecik
Time of Game: 1:49
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-56-degrees

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Committed DC United goes down swinging as 1-1 tie falls short

Posted on 20 October 2011 by Chris Snear

Nearly every DC United player collapsed to the soggy RFK Stadium turf at the final whistle knowing that their 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers was not good enough to keep their playoff hopes alive. To their credit, United left everything they had on the field as a dramatic but often maddening push throughout the second half got the equalizer but was simply not good enough to forge the home side ahead.

“It’s funny; it was basically my pre-game speech. Let’s go down swinging; let’s show the people that we are completely committed out there and we’ll need to push it to the limit to get this result,” said United Head Coach Ben Oslen.

United will now miss the playoffs for a club-record fourth consecutive year.

Dwayne De Rosario, with his right ankle heavily taped and noticeably limping after being kicked in the first half, scored his league leading 16th goal of the season for a brilliant equalizer in the 73rd minute after Kenny Cooper had given the Timber the lead with an easy header in the 24th minute.

“It was disheartening. It is but it isn’t in the sense that we showed some fight,” De Rosario said. “Yeah it was basically both teams having chances at the end. We definitely had some great opportunities, and if we had a little more hunger and a little more fight, we finish those chances. Those are things we really need how to learn – to commit to that final ball and get your body behind it.”

After taking a good ball from Josh Wolff, De Rosario drifted to left side of the penalty area, took a turn and beat former United goalkeeper Troy Perkins with a definitive strike to the near post.

“If Dwayne De Rosario doesn’t get MVP of the League there’s something wrong. Plain and simple,” said Timbers coach John Spencer, who coached De Rosario during his time as an assistant in Houston. “For the last three months of the season since he came here he’s been the best player in the League by far – a country mile. He needs to win MVP.”

United thought they had what would surely have been a season saving goal in the 89th minute but Blake Brettschneider header was disallowed when he was correctly ruled to be in an offside position. Perkins came out to play the original shot and ended up going past Brettschneider thus leaving just one defender as the cross was played in.

Cooper’s goal was much simpler, as he slipped between McDonald and Ethan White to nod home an equally simple but perfect cross from another former United player, Rodney Wallace, from the left flank.

Regardless of the implications, the game was apparently destined to be played in wet conditions. The match was originally scheduled for August 25 but was postponed due to Hurricane Irene and on this day, a steady rain all day drenched the Washington metropolitan area but stopped shortly before kickoff.

Despite United’s comprehensive attacking posture with De Rosario playing behind Josh Wolff and Charlie Davies, neither team managed to create more than a half chance through the first 20 plus minutes with one exception. McDonald rifled a header just over the bar off a Santino Quaranta corner kick that disturbed the netting enough to cause an unfounded roar from the home crowd in the 10th minute.

Andy Najar made a strong run with his usual touch of flair down the left flank in the 34th minute, but his right footed shot targeted for the near post from inside the penalty area was not equal to the quality of the run.

Quaranta had an even better opportunity in the 42nd minute but that also went awry. After a strong cut back dribble around Lovel Palmer at the top left corner of the penalty area, his left footed attempt across the face of the goal somehow bounced over the extended foot of a charging Wolff and then skidded just wide of the far post.

But the real drama and thrills did not come until after the break.

“It was a bit of a blur those last 20-30 minutes, and the whole second half,” said Oslen. “But I am extremely proud of the guys tonight – I can’t believe nobody scored down that stretch. The amount of chances that were going on was pretty remarkable. I have to look at it, but it seems that we had the better ones. It just wasn’t our night. Troy [Perkins] came off with a couple of saves, and they did well to put their bodies in front of us on some and we didn’t do well with some finishes as well.”

Knowing it needed a goal quickly in the second half, United formulated significant stretches of coordinated attack but could not find the final idea or execute the final ball to get through Portland’s solid defensive structure.

When White’s lay off for De Rosario in the penalty area was woefully off the mark, the Timbers counter nearly produced the sure clincher in the 60th minute but Kalif Alhassan’s late-contested whistler from the top of the box went just wide of the right post.

Shortly thereafter, hobbling or not, De Rosario muscled his way around a much bigger Mamadou Danso but as another defender closed down the space, he got bumped and fell to the turf but not enough for referee Jair Marrufo to point to the penalty spot.

“It felt like a schoolyard game at the end,” said Quaranta. “Every time we got the ball going forward I felt like it was going to be a chance to score.”

Portland thought they had the go ahead goal just seconds later but Brian Umony’s attempt from close range hit under the crossbar and came straight down but clearly did not cross the goal line.

Umony scampered into the penalty area uncontested seconds later but Bill Hamid came up with a tremendous save to keep United’s hopes alive in the 85th minute. Hamid made an even better reflex save a minute later to deny Bright Dike who fired from with in a crowd but straight away from 14-yards.

In extra time, De Rosario beat Perkins to a bouncing ball but his shot toward the open net was blocked by an alert Eric Brunner.

De Rosario sent another ball across the face of the goal seconds later that Joseph Ngwenya got onto but his foot was clipped by a Portland defender and the weakened result was knocked away by Perkins and Blake Brettschneider’s desperate follow up was blocked.

United will conclude this year’s efforts against conference co-leader Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.

Scoring Summary:
POR — Kenny Cooper 8 (Rodney Wallace 2) 24
DC — Dwayne De Rosario 16 (Josh Wolff 7) 73

Portland Timbers — Troy Perkins, Lovel Palmer, Eric Brunner, Mamadou Danso, Rodney Wallace (Mike Chabala 79), Eric Alexander (Brian Umony 63), Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara, James Marcelin, Kalif Alhassan, Kenny Cooper (Bright Dike 84).

Substitutes Not Used: David Horst, Jorge Perlaza, Steve Purdy, Jake Gleeson.

D.C. United — Bill Hamid, Chris Korb, Ethan White (Joseph Ngwenya 89), Brandon McDonald, Daniel Woolard (Austin Da Luz 71), Andy Najar, Perry Kitchen, Santino Quaranta, Charlie Davies (Blake Brettschneider 51), Dwayne De Rosario, Josh Wolff.

Substitutes Not Used: Stephen King, Kurt Morsink, Clyde Simms, Joe Willis.

Misconduct Summary:
DC — Brandon McDonald (caution; Tactical Foul) 58
POR — Bright Dike (caution; Reckless Foul) 85
DC — Austin Da Luz (caution; Reckless Foul) 90

Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee’s Assistants: -C.J. Morgante; Frank Anderson
4th Official: Jose Carlos Rivero
Time of Game: 1:50
Weather: Rain-and-68-degrees
Attendance: 14,317

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Unimaginative play leaves DC United wanting

Posted on 17 October 2011 by Steve Long

There are three reasons why a team may be unworthy of making the playoffs. They are a lack of talent, a lack of effort, and a lack of intelligent play. DC United has the talent, but puts out too much effort in poorly focused play.

In July, there were a couple of games when the team could be described as bereft of ideas. While players usually moved effectively to support teammates on defense, there were too few runs off the ball on attack.

Then things improved as coach Ben Olsen gradually brought his team along to a point in early September where they were making such runs for one another, not only in defense, but also in possession and on attack.

Somehow, that fluidity went away and United’s play and results have suffered greatly.

Perhaps fatigue played a part as United had two spurts of crowded play. Olsen pointed out that, “Flying back from Vancouver after a tough loss, I thought there were some heavy guys out there to push through it. The game plan was to grind it out, and we did it.”

However, the Fire were also tired and thus fatigue combined with mutual decisions to contest midfield aggressively, causing play naturally to become narrowed. Both teams played hard, but both also played unwisely.

Dwayne DeRosario, a hard working and clever player was hard on his teammates, “It’s frustrating because you want to see that commitment, you want to see that passion and desire to win every ball – to do whatever it takes to stop a shot or block a ball to stop a play – but that isn’t the case and I don’t see that right now.”

His viewpoint reflected mostly on Chicago’s exceptional defensive efforts. In a most unusual statistic, DC United took 13 shots of which 8 were deflected by Fire defenders almost immediately. Only the penalty kick was on goal

In contrast, the Fire had no shots deflected. Their errors were normally wide, high, or saved. They were not particularly worthy of the points they obtained either. Only incisive play at the very end redeemed their poor shooting earlier.

Team qualities, fatigue, and coaches’ recognition of both meant it would be a grinding game.

Olsen’s comment reflected that, “I thought they put a lot of numbers in the midfield – it’s a lot of work in there. That’s why we put some of the guys in early, to deal with that. We had to push the game and I thought we put the right guys in to get the game changed. I think everything worked out, except the last couple of minutes.”

The game opened with a few long forays by both sides and then deteriorated into narrow contests over possession. Width of play was lacking for the first twelve minutes. Then the Fire’s Marco Pappa started to exploit the space on Chicago’s right wing. His DC United counterpart, Austin Da Luz’ responded well, also playing wide.

Sadly, the good shape lasted for about another twelve minutes until both teams lapsed into a shortsighted, narrow style again. The emphasis on control distorted intelligent play and worsened the fatigue factor.

The surest way to save energy is to let the ball do the work. Certainly, pressing the ball is necessary and will concentrate players. Still, once one has possession it is far easier to let the ball do the work by making or finding space with wide play and insightful supporting runs into that space.

Late game fatigue leads to lapses in concentration and Olsen is certain to emphasize the need to maintain focus throughout United’s last two games on Wednesday and Saturday. In Vancouver, United gave up a goal in the first minute. At home, they lost focus late. Neither lapse is excusable in a professional team.

While players must accept responsibility for their own efforts and decision making, it is the role of the coaching staff to set them up for success. In the next few days, Olsen and company must somehow return the team to the intelligent play they had so recently displayed.

With two consecutive wins, a novel idea this year, and a Red Bull loss, United may yet see the post-season action they have thus far not merited.

Scoring:
DC — Dwayne De Rosario 15 (penalty kick) 90
CHI — Sebastian Grazzini 5 (Gonzalo Segares 4) 92+
CHI — Diego Chaves 5 (Gonzalo Segares 5, Orr Barouch 2) 94+

Lineups:

Chicago Fire — Sean Johnson, Michael Videira (Yamith Cuesta 19), Josip Mikulic, Jalil Anibaba, Gonzalo Segares, Logan Pause, Sebastian Grazzini, Daniel Paladini (Diego Chaves 89), Marco Pappa, Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro (Orr Barouch 73). Substitutes Not Used: Corben Bone, Baggio Husidic, Pari Pantazopoulos, Jon Conway.

D.C. United — Bill Hamid, Chris Korb, Brandon McDonald, Perry Kitchen, Daniel Woolard, Andy Najar, Stephen King (Marc Burch 75), Clyde Simms, Austin Da Luz (Santino Quaranta 57), Dwayne De Rosario, Josh Wolff (Charlie Davies 79). Substitutes Not Used: Blake Brettschneider, Joseph Ngwenya, Ethan White, Joe Willis.

Misconduct:
CHI — Josip Mikulic (caution; Reckless Foul) 46
DC — Andy Najar (caution; Reckless Foul) 76
CHI — Orr Barouch (caution; Dissent) 78

Referee: Jorge Gonzalez
Referee’s Assistants: Greg Barkey, Matthew Kreitzer
4th Official: Terry Vaughn

Attendance: 16,548
Time of Game: 1:52
Weather: Clear and 66 degrees

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It’s time for DC to play free

Posted on 11 October 2011 by Chris Snear

There is no more time for talking, no more tactical or technical points of soccer to sort out and direct learning is going to have to be put on hold. It’s very simple: its win time and that’s it for DC United.

That’s all there is to do at this point and what exacerbates the situation is that winning still doesn’t guarantee you anything after all of the point squandering that was done earlier in the season.

“I’m tired of looking at the standings and what we need and what other teams need; we need to win now. It’s pretty simple,” said United Coach Ben Olsen.

United (9-10-11, 38 points) are currently 6th in the Eastern Conference with four games remaining and two games in hand on every team ahead of them. They travel to Vancouver for a late Wednesday game then return home to face Chicago on Saturday, who stand just a point behind United.

United are likely to take on Vancouver without the league’s leading scorer, Dwayne DeRosario (14 goals), who may not be fit for play after a hectic travel schedule with the Canadian National Team. Central defender Dejan Jakovic (R hamstring strain) is listed as questionable but is “hopeful” according to Olsen and may be healthy enough for consideration by game time.

After squandering points on a regular basis throughout the season, especially at home, United have no one but themselves to blame for this predicament. Whether it’s giving away leads and settling for draws, a league wide problem not exclusive to just United, or just diabolical mental breakdowns, they have been pushed to a state of singular focus.

On a positive note, they have had a nice break to get healthy, clear their heads after two divergent loses on the road and to get ready for these last four matches.

They crawled back to level before halftime after conceding two early tallies to Philadelphia before failing to hold on for what would have been a worthy point. United took the lead late in the first half two days later at Columbus before conceding two, including an unlucky own goal for the equalizer, to drop another winnable game.

“I don’t look at those two games as bad efforts. We made some mistakes and down the stretch when you tend to make mistakes, you get punished. I’m not disappointed in the effort overall but we need results now so in one way we know what we have to do now and that’s a good thing,” Olsen said.

Regardless of the results, at some point these mistakes have to go away or unfocused may be just who they are this season.

“Ties on the road are good,” said Josh Wolff. “Ties at home are not so good… When you get to this point in the season it would be nice to be in before these games start but like I said to a lot of the guys you are not in the playoffs until you are in and you are not out until you are out. We lost our way a bit in two games on the road where we were in position to get some points and we let them go.”

Young or old, tired or spry, that doesn’t matter at this point either. “Throughout some of these games we lose our focus and our concentration and it’s not just one play. A play may lead to a goal but it’s usually a compilation of many things,” added Wolff.

“You keep pressing and try to make the points that need to be made with the entire group; it’s the group being able to assess it and make more plays that are there to be made. The last game we didn’t do that and we need to and we got punished for it.”

United still have the youngest starting XI in the league but that excuse, though perhaps still viable, is irrelevant as well. “I don’t think they know any better but these playoffs are not easy to make,” Santino Quaranta said about the team’s young players.

“We haven’t been in the playoffs in a couple of years so you try and stress to them that getting there is not easy and it’s been a long year and you try and reward yourself with something.”

Finally, the finer points of technical and tactical soccer are for another day and time as well. It’s all about making plays and the plays that win games. “It’s not technical; we’ve been through all that stuff. You know what you have to do. It comes down to one-on-one battles and more mental stuff for us, like can we see a game out,” Quaranta said.

“This has been our problem this year; 1-0 against Columbus…we should probably see that game out. Guys are getting real uptight and I am getting more uptight; you are thinking more about every play, every situation instead of playing on instincts and playing free.”

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