Archive | September, 2007

Home sweet home. DCU @ RFK

Posted on 27 September 2007 by ASN Staff

RFK reverts to United


© Courtesy MLS

by Chris Snear

At the completion of DC United’s 2-1 victory over CD Chivas in the home leg of their Copa Sudamericana series, the sprinklers kicked in at the north end of Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium with nary a worker in sight. No one poised to roll up batches of sod, no hauling out the soccer goals through the south side ramp of the old joint, as the leaf blowers sweep the trash to the stairs in the lower section.

After a week of nostalgic tributes and sappy farewells for a baseball team that has been here merely three years, RFK is again a soccer stadium.

The Washington Nationals 5-2 victory over the Phillies last Sunday marked the last baseball game to be played in the rickety 46-year-old stadium. The club and city celebrated baseball’s past in the nation’s capital more than its present – and rightly so.

The future is fresh and hopeful for the Nationals, as they prepare to move into their new stadium on the Anacostia waterfront for the 2008 season. The new digs will feature brilliant views, a cozy crowd and up-to-date amenities, something the old horse never really had.

Loaded with character and passion, it decayed for a generation after the Washington Senators bolted for Texas in 1971. However, it stood proud on East Capitol Street, hosting the odd concert and a dozen or so football games every year from its most popular tenant of all time, the Washington Redskins.

But in 1996, it brought life to another kind of football team in DC United. For that one year, the city’s heartbeat and definitive mood-setter for decades, shared the legendary grounds with a team of a different sort, one that would immediately continue the indelible championship procession on the turf at RFK.

The Redskins literally shook the house like no other, selling out the 57,000 plus stadium for every game since the middle of the 1960’s. Their fans were passionate then and hopelessly optimistic today.

However, DC United established their own inspiring, fervent following, winning that first ever MLS Cup on a rainy miserable November day In Foxboro.

The Redskin players didn’t want to leave, United didn’t really want to share, and the Nationals had been looking forward to last Sunday since the official announcement of their new stadium over two years ago.

“I think it’s a win-win for both organizations. They will get to go into their new stadium and we will get the old RFK back (pause) without the pitchers mound, which will be nice.” said DC United midfielder Olsen with a smile.

The pitchers mound still sits on the hydraulic lift that moved up and down, pending on which team took the field that day. It now lies flattened at the corner of the north end penalty area, with the ominous seam around its border in plain view.

It may be old, decrepit and beaten down, but RFK is the only home DC United has known. United were expectedly professional about the Nationals entry after being the only full time tenant since 1997, when the Redskins moved to the character-deficient and miserable FedEX Field in Landover, Maryland

“The idea of having it back to ourselves and not have to worry about the infield. I’m sure the guys are excited about that; back to the way it was. We are going to make sure everything is the way we like it,” said United coach Tom Soehn.


“You get in here and you’re on your home field, you’re out there looking at the field thinking, ‘That might take a hop there, that might take a hop here,’ instead of just being able to play on a flat service…”


The infield dirt, baselines and home plate area are now covered for good with the heavy sod that workers diligently took up after every United match.

The treacherous seams dominated the entire north end of the field, with an empty dirt area and the National’s dugout behind the goal. The stands that formed around the dugout and down the left field line are now permanently shifted to collect the Screaming Eagles and Barra Brava.

The area patrolled by National’s third baseman Ryan Zimmerman so admirably for the last two seasons probably cost United a win during the July 17 SuperLiga match against Morelia of Mexico. Rod Dyanchenko’s low cross from next to the pitchers mound hit a seam on the way to Luciano Emilio, who was alone in front of the net, bouncing off his shin and over the goal.

Troy Perkins had caught a foot on the seam at the other side of the goal a month earlier, allowing a soft shot from current United teammate Jerson Montiero to sneak in the far post in a 3-1 win against Chicago.

“The infield got me,” said Perkins abruptly after that match.

The field will be completely re-sodded after United’s September 29 match against Toronto, when they take to the road for two weeks. The field will be Bermuda grass-based prescription turf, over-seeded with rye to accommodate the cooler season.

“Thank God. It’s stressful,” said Perkins about getting the new turf. “You get in here and you’re on your home field, you’re out there looking at the field thinking, ‘That might take a hop there, that might take a hop here,’ instead of just being able to play on a flat service, an even surface. Hopefully, they’ll do some things to RFK to make the way it used to be.”

The field needs to be put down soon as the stadium will host MLS Cup on November 18th for the third time in the league’s twelve-year history.

“I think everybody is [happy],” said Jaime Moreno about getting the stadium back. “We just want a soccer field, that’s all.”

Chris Snear can be reached at csnear@americansoccernews.net.
© Snear/Cyber Soccer Associates, LLC 2007

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DC Beat Chivas In Copa Sudamericana Opener

Posted on 23 September 2007 by Steve Long

Chivas coach fired in aftermath

by Steve Long

WASHINGTON, D.C. – September 28, 2007 (ASN) Despite going a man down late in the first half, D.C. United added to their one goal lead and then conceded only one to Chivas to pull out a 2-1 win in front of 21,022 fans at RFK Stadium.  If Ray Hudson were the coach, he would have described United on this evening as a “fist of a team.”


© Jonathan Larsen/Diadem Images
D.C. got some measure of revenge for their earlier loss to Chivas, but the job isn’t over yet.

The Copa Nissan Sudamericana brings together some of the finer clubs in the Americas and this game demonstrated how exciting the meeting of superior teams can be. 

The mutually high level of play made D.C.’s heroic second half exploit even more thrilling than the first half, which was exceptional in its own right.

United adjusted to the loss of Marc Burch, who was ejected for earning a second caution in the 44th minute, by starting the second half in a 3-5-1 with Clyde Simms and Jaime Moreno pulling back a bit from their normal locations.

This put too much strain on the wide midfielders, Ben Olsen and Fred and that strain led to the insertion of Josh Gros for Jaime Moreno in the 56th minute.  The formation changed to 4-4-1, but Gros and Simms did make a few forays into offense to keep the Chivas defenders honest.

The game was marked by swift and creative play by both sides as Chivas forced United to match their high tempo.  Simms felt it, “We knew coming in that the level they bring is higher than most MLS games.  After the first five minutes, I looked up and I felt like we had already played 15 minutes. …..Then we all looked at each other and said it was too fast and we need to slow it down.  I think we did a pretty good job of that.”

As the early stage of the game settled into a series of one on one duels intermingled with quick attacks and counters, Ben Olsen gave a demonstration of his patented shooting style.  His grass-singeing screamer found the back of the net in the 23rd minute and put D.C. ahead in the home and away aggregate series.


“At halftime we said, ‘It is what it is and we have to stick it out.’  And the guys did a good job.”

–Clyde Simms


The pace continued high and just before the half, Burch, who had been heavily challenged all night, committed a foul that was just strong enough to allow the referee to caution him a second time.  United had to survive more than 45 minutes of intense and talented attacks.

Ben Olsen emphasized the complete team effort that was required, “Everybody helped out.  Even the guys that usually aren’t our defensive specialists put some work in.  Jaime did it.  Christian did it.  Luciano, Fred was very busy defensively.  And the backs, they just gutted it out.”

Earlier in the season, Olsen had played in a holding/defensive midfielder role and in the interests of free trade, perhaps in the spirit of NAFTA, he licensed his shooting technique to Clyde Simms who put D.C. United ahead of Chivas to stay with a similar low screamer in the 55th minute.

Simms described his opportunity, “I noticed that there was a lot of traffic in front of goal so I just tried to keep it hard and low.”  The defensive midfielders actually practice that type of shot, “Sometimes BC and I get together to get some shots from outside.” 

He got into position so far forward because, “I knew there weren’t any of their players behind me so I wanted to go ahead and press.  That way if the ball did bounce out I could at least apply pressure to whoever got it. 

“Luckily it bounced off one of their players and right into my path”.  He noted that he hadn’t been shooting much, “Tommy would always get on me (to shoot more), but in those games we’d be winning and I told him I’d get it when it counts.”

That he did, and Gros added his appreciation of the role reversal, “Clyde’s a great player and I’m happy for him to get a goal.  The team needed it and he stepped up and did a great job.” 

Chivas continued to press and brought back a goal in the 61st minute.  United coach Tom Soehn decided to further strengthen his defense by bringing in Brian Carroll in the 73rd minute.  From then until game’s end, it was bunker and counterattack.

Carroll made one foray down the left wing and nearly repeated his stunning assist in a 4-2 win over the New England Revolution on 9 September when he fed Luciano Emilio for a flashing header.  His unsuccessful run reflected the disciplined play by United as it was one of only a few, but enough to keep Chivas a bit further away from attack.  

Gros emphasized the common effort, “That just shows the character of the team.”  He feels that, “We let one slip down there last time, when we were in Mexico.  So there’s definitely a little payback that we owe them.  We got the job done getting a win here and now we just gotta go take care of business down there.”

Team philosopher Olsen echoed the theme, “I said before the game this league hasn’t been good at finishing off Mexican teams.  It’s about time some team, and hopefully it’s us, manages to do it.”

The task will not be easy.  Gros commented on Chivas’ wing attacks by Patricio Araujo and Jesus Andres Padilla, “It wasn’t fun at all.  Those guys are some of the fastest players I’ve played against in my whole life.  It definitely wasn’t easy.  I tried my best and hopefully I did all right.”

He will probably have to perform well for a full ninety minutes in Mexico next Tuesday as Bryan Namoff suffered a contusion in his left thigh and was limping noticeably as he left RFK and Burch will have to sit out the return game.

Guadalajara fired manager Jose Manuel de la Torre on Friday, two days after the loss to United. The club is mired in fourth place in its Mexican league group.

Toronto FC comes into RFK on Saturday (7:30 PM) and Burch will be eligible for that game.  With Moreno, Carroll, Gomez, and Gros serving less than full minutes, D.C. should be fresh enough for the game and energized and focused by the level of play they sustained on Wednesday.


1

2

F

D.C. United

1

1

2

CD Guadalajara

0

1

0

Scoring Summary:

DC — Ben Olsen 1 (unassisted) 23
DC — Clyde Simms 1 (unassisted) 55
GUA — Sergio Santana 1 (Xavier Ivan Baez ) 61

D.C. United — Troy Perkins, Bryan Namoff (Bobby Boswell 88), Devon McTavish, Greg Vanney, Marc Burch, Ben Olsen, Christian Gomez (Brian Carroll 73), Clyde Simms, Fred, Luciano Emilio, Jaime Moreno (Joshua Gros 56),

Substitutes Not Used: Nicholas Addlery, Stephen deRoux, Guy-Roland Kpene, Jay Nolly

CD Guadalajara — Luis Ernesto Michelle, Jonny Magallon, Francisco Javier Rodriguez, Omar Esparza (Xavier Ivan Baez 46), Edgar Eduardo Mejia, Patricio Araujo (Jesus Andres Padilla 75), Ramon Morales (Omar Arellano 56), Gonzalo Pineda, Omar Bravo, Alberto Medina, Sergio Santana,

Substitutes Not Used: Sergio Gabriel Avila, Julio Cesar Nava, Jose Antonio Patlan, Alfredo Talavera

D.C. United

CD Guadalajara

Shots

5 (Luciano Emilio 2)

21 (3 tied with 3)

Shots on Goal

4 (4 tied with 1)

6 (Sergio Santana 2)

Saves

5 (Troy Perkins 5)

2 (Luis Ernesto Michelle 2)

Fouls

10 (Greg Vanney 2, Fred 2)

9 (Patricio Araujo 2)

Offside

1 (Jaime Moreno 1)

2 (Sergio Santana 2)

Corner kicks

0

8 (Gonzalo Pineda 5)

Misconduct Summary:

DC — Marc Burch (caution; Reckless Foul) 23
DC — Marc Burch (ejection; Second Caution) 44
DC — Brian Carroll (caution; Pushing, Holding) 78
GUA — Edgar Eduardo Mejia (caution; Pushing, Holding) 79

Referee: Hector Baldaffi (ARG)
Referee’s Assistants: Gabriel Favale; Ricardo Casas
4th official: Alex Prus
Time of game: 1:53
Attendance: 21,022
Weather: Partly Cloudy -and- 81 degrees

Steve Long can be reached at slong@americansoccernews.net.
© Long/Cyber Soccer Associates, LLC 2007

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Rapids Face Rival RSL

Posted on 19 September 2007 by Jeff Cann

Win clinches Rocky Mountain Cup

by Jeff Cann

Commerce City, CO September 20, 2007 — (ASN) The Colorado Rapids are on the outside looking into qualification for the 2007 MLS playoffs. This year’s new format means that only the top two teams from each conference automatically qualify for the playoffs. The other four berths are based on points, regardless of the conference. So despite sitting in fourth place in the MLS Western Conference, the Rapids are two points behind the Chicago Fire for the final playoff position.

The Rapids [7-10-8; 29 points] travel to Utah on Saturday evening to face rival Real Salt Lake [4-13-8; 20 points]. It is a critical match for the Rapids to keep their playoff hopes alive – a much needed road victory would vault them over the Fire. A loss by the Rapids, coupled with a win by the Columbus Crew would push the Rapids two spots out of playoff contention.

The good news for the Rapids is that they have taken a never-say-die attitude into their previous 6 matches. During this span, they won three, tied two and lost one. Most impressive was the tie last Sunday against MLS Western Conference leader Chivas USA. The ten-man Rapids scored a late tying goal after two lightning delays.

With a win over RSL, the Rapids can clinch their third straight Rocky Mountain Cup. The Cup is awarded to the winner of the Rapids – RSL regular season series. It is the only hardware the Rapids have earned in their 12 years in the MLS. The Rapids hold a 6-2-2 lifetime advantage against RSL and RSL has played the 2007 season as if they are a USL team, winning only 4 matches.

The bad news for the Rapids is that this scenario spells danger. Historically, the Rapids struggle to win against teams with fewer points, particularly on the road. For example, they lost to bottom-feeder Toronto 2-1 in June and lost to Beckham-less Los Angeles 3-1 two weeks ago. Both matches were played away from Commerce City.

Finally, in each of the previous three years, the Rapids have failed to win game three against RSL when a win would have clinched the season series and the Cup. Taken together, the money is probably shifting to RSL in the Vegas sports books.

The Rapids will play without captain Pablo Mastroeni and defense man Fecundo Erpen who are suspended. RSL’s Alecko Eskandarian also is suspended. The match kicks off at 7:30 PM MT and will be featured on Fox Soccer Channel.

Injury report

Colorado Rapids
OUT: Dan Gargan (R ACL tear); Herculez Gomez (R ACL and lateral meniscus tears); DOUBTFUL: None; QUESTIONABLE: Brandon Prideaux (L Hamstring Strain); Conor Casey (R Knee Swelling); PROBABLE: Mike Petke (Illness)

Real Salt Lake
OUT: DF Nik Besagno (R MCL sprain); MF Kenny Cutler (sports hernia surgery), MF Nathan Sturgis (L calf strain); PROBABLE: FW Alecko Eskandarian (L hamstring strain), FW Fabian Espindola (R shin contusion), FW Chris Brown (L hamstring strain)

Suspensions
COL- Pablo Mastroeni (Caution Accumulation); Facundo Erpen (Red Card on 9/16)
RSL- Alecko Eskandarian (Caution Accumulation)

Jeff Cann can be reached at jcann@americansoccernews.net.
© Cann/Cyber Soccer Associates, LLC 2007

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A conversation with Greg Vanney

Posted on 08 September 2007 by Steve Long

The veteran defender talks about his new team

by Steve Long

September 5, 2007 (ASN) — WASHINGTON After last Saturday’s fine team effort against Toronto, I asked Greg Vanney whether he was having fun with his new team.


© Mike Murphy/CSA
Greg Vanney was traded to DC for Facundo Erpen

He offered an enthusiastic ‘yes’ and I asked him to elaborate. What follows are his thoughts about DC United and player development.

“There are very few teams in the league that have the players that we have. You look at the front five or six. They’re very comfortable with the ball; they play off each other great. They’re constantly moving, playing one and two touch…and that’s beautiful soccer.

“It makes our job a little bit easier. We have to do a little bit of the dirty work for those guys, but at the same time when you can keep it and create chances then it’s exciting stuff. Very few teams in this league have that kind of firepower. Very few teams ever in this league have had the kind of firepower that we have.”

He expanded on how overall team play is affected, “It comes down to the rest of us doing a good job defending hard and getting the ball to these guys in the spaces they need to let them do what they do.”

On the cute, clever passes that seem to work better now than earlier in the season, he offered that, “I’m not too keen on that, especially around midfield. If it’s something like Fred’s dropping off a ball for Burchy [defender Marc Burch] to hit a shot, then I’ll take that any day.

“But it’s when we get a little bit nonchalant around midfield, and we try something a little cute that turns into a counter attack, those are things that I start yelling at people for because that does put a lot of pressure on us. If we turn around and give up a goal, it lets a team like that back into the game.”

In the spirit of coach Mo Johnston, Toronto had played its usual pressure game and Vanney brought his defender’s mentality to the question. “I don’t ever think it’s OK. If it comes off, then maybe you don’t yell at somebody, but you gotta let them know, ‘Hey, be careful with something like that because that stuff can come back to bite you’.

“It’s sort of unnecessary at times, but I know the fans like it… only at the right times and in the right places on the field is it really acceptable. Other than that, let’s play simple soccer and keep the ball moving.”

Asked about the maturation of Ben Olsen from a fast winger into a player who exhibits control, reads the game well, and applies his energy at high intensity at the right moment, “I think it happens to all of us. It’s happened to Jaime. It’s happened to me. As you get older, you start to play more with your head.”

“You use your legs when you need to, but you don’t rely upon your legs. I think speed and all that stuff, for a defender, it makes up for mistakes that you make because of immaturity. For an (immature) attacker, the speed gets you behind people, but you use it all the time…as you get smarter you recognize, ‘OK, there’s the gap. Now I change my pace’, and that becomes the savvy part of the game.

“You don’t have to run ninety miles an hour around the field all game to be effective, you have to do it at the right times, even if it’s only seventy miles an hour because you’re getting old. That’s how these guys play: Get comfortable on the ball, recognize the space around it, where he can pick up the ball, how to play one- and two-touch, and when he needs to turn it on.

“When he recognizes that he can get behind, then he goes. That’s just the maturity of any player.”


“We have to teach younger players how to think while they’re playing soccer…Our kids don’t recognize that. They just play with their heads down and they run hard and we teach athletics…”


This led to discussion of how today’s college game does not aid a player’s development. Frequent substitutions “make it a rat race. The game’s always a hundred miles an hour. It becomes a physical game and not a thinking game.

“If a guy gets tired we can immediately put somebody else on and that keeps the pace of the game going. Maybe that’s exciting to some people, but in terms of development, I think it teaches players that you can run yourself into the ground and we’ll just bring somebody else on and go from there.

“At some point, our young players have to learn how to think the game and that’s to think over the course of ninety minutes, to make good decisions which don’t always require you to run a hundred miles an hour. It requires that sometimes that you just step on the ball and keep possession.”

Echoing the Bruce Arena philosophy, he added, “It’s a numbers game. If the numbers are in your favor, you attack. If the numbers aren’t in your favor, you keep possession until you find somewhere where you have numbers advantage.

“I think the college game teaches you just to go-go-go. Here, you have to learn to recognize those certain things.”

This led to discussion of the value of the increase in developmental programs among MLS sides and the use of reserve squads to further acclimate players to the professional level.

“I think it’s a step. I think the reserve league is good, though it’s not as if there’s a lot you’re playing for. Where’s the competitive drive for these guys to go out and play right now? Other than that, they’re playing for their job and a spot on the team.

“They’re not playing in front of fans. They’re not necessarily playing to try to win a championship, so it’s tough to come back the next day after the first team has played and give your best performance at full concentration.

“I’d like to see lots of things. I don’t know that a first division can really survive without a good second division or a reserve league that is, at the least, really ultra-competitive. That means that these guys are getting proper rest before games, not sitting through and warming up for half of our games and then coming out and trying to play a game.”

He summed it up, “Whatever we determine is our next step in development, we have to teach younger players how to think while they’re playing soccer….Our kids don’t recognize that. They just play with their heads down and they run hard and we teach athletics…and not how to think while we’re on the field.”

Vanney plans to become a coach after his playing days end, but says he isn’t quite ready for that yet.

Steve Long can be reached at slong@americansoccernews.net.
© Long/Cyber Soccer Associates, LLC 2007

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Colorado pack brooms for Los Angeles trip

Posted on 06 September 2007 by Jeff Cann

Depleted Galaxy hope to stop losing trend
by Jeff Cann

Commerce City, CO September 6, 2007 — (ASN) The Rapids [7-9-7; 28 points] travel to face the Galaxy [3-11-5; 14 points] for an 8 PM MT kickoff. Los Angeles has not scored in 543 minutes of match play against the Rapids and they look to sweep their Western Conference rivals in their third and final match of the year.

Riding a six-game losing streak, Los Angeles has allowed 13 goals in their last four MLS matches including a 3-0 loss to Colorado on August 26. Los Angeles has had a terrible MLS regular season and is unlikely to qualify for the playoffs. Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan was called up to the USA vs. Brazil match in Chicago, also on September 8.

Adding to their problems is a rash of injuries, including superstar David Beckham. He is in the first week of a projected six-week recovery period for a knee injury suffered in the SuperLiga final last week. He is one of thirteen players listed on the Galaxy injury report.

Colorado are tied with the Crew for the final playoff qualification slot. They tried to settle the matter on the field last Sunday, but a late flick-on header by Rapids striker Conor Casey created the 1-1 draw with the Crew, so a win against Los Angeles would help the Rapids in their quest to qualify.

The game will be broadcast live on Fox Soccer Channel.


Probable Line Ups
Colorado
Starters: Coundoul, Ihemelu, Erpen, Petke, Prideaux, Gomez, Sanneh, Ballouchy, Clark, Casey, Kirovski
Substitutes: Thornton, Hernandez, Cancela, Osorno, Peterson, Cummings, Keel
Los Angeles
Starters: Cronin, Klein, Veris, Xavier, Randolph, Glinton, Harmse, Vagenas, Martino, Buddle, Gordon
Substitutes: Cannon, Caso, Jones, Pavon, Tudela, Kirk, Sesay
Injury Reports
Colorado
OUT: Dan Gargan (R ACL tear); DOUBTFUL: None; QUESTIONABLE: Terry Cooke (L Groin Strain), Omar Cummings (L Shoulder Separation), Jordan Harvey (L Ankle Sprain), Pablo Mastroeni (Illness) ; PROBABLE: Conor Casey (R Knee Swelling)
Los Angeles
OUT: Chris Albright (R hamstring); David Beckham (L ankle); Kelly Gray (R calf); Ty Harden (R hip); Ante Jazic (R ankle); DOUBTFUL: None; QUESTIONABLE: Landon Donovan (R calf); Quavas Kirk (L foot); Cobi Jones (R hip); Abel Xavier (L knee); PROBABLE: Edson Buddle (L Achilles); Troy Roberts (R ankle); Kyle Veris (R hip); Peter Vagenas (R quadriceps

Jeff Cann can be reached at jcann@americansoccernews.net.
© Cann/Cyber Soccer Associates, LLC 2007

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