Categorized | Match Reports

DC United falls 2-1 to Philadelphia’s tighter play

Posted on 07 June 2012 by Steve Long

To judge from post game comments by DC United coaches and players you might think the team’s major problem was that they didn’t work hard enough. That description of events doesn’t quite capture what really happened. While Philadelphia may have played marginally harder than DC, the real key was execution. The Union’s was poor and United’s was worse.

As is typical of US Open Cup matches, this one was a war and Philadelphia prevailed. As DC United Coach Ben Olsen put it, “They wanted it, they fought, and it’s just a poor overall execution from the team and myself.”

The intensity of Open Cup matches is especially evident in battles for midfield control and it was there that the Union was stronger. Under siege as soon as they got the ball, United’s players displayed an appalling error rate as passes more often than not found opponent’s feet.

Philadelphia responded in kind, displaying a nearly identical ineptitude in pass completion. The apparent sloppiness in both teams’ offensive efforts may be laid in part to the frenetic play and some actually sharp defending. The desire was there from both teams, the accuracy was not.

Olsen was willing to take some blame, conceding that his own preparation should also be examined, “I’ll look at myself first and our staff first, but we have to realize that that’s not good enough. Too many guys were on their own page today. We were cute all over the field.”

While players made a fair number of runs to open up space or to free themselves to receive passes, the actual passes were usually a few degrees off or just a bit too hard to reach. Most of that is simply a weak response to a hard working opponent and it can only be fixed with well-structured practices and disciplined player attention to the rhythm of the game.

The cliché says that one should work smarter, not harder. In reality, the team that prevails will be the one that works both smarter and harder. Olsen intends to work himself harder to become smarter, and then apply what he learns via good training, “I have to get working harder, and the guys are certainly going to work harder.”

He considers the result as a wakeup call, “All the little things that got us success up to this point – we forgot about tonight. There were signs that we were forgetting about that over the last couple games and we have been squeaking by. Tonight we didn’t squeak by and it’s a good thing.”

Midfielder Perry Kitchen agrees with him, “Our last few games we were kind of dying down. This can end up being a good thing for us because we have to realize that we aren’t where we want to be at, and if we don’t play well, we’re going to lose.”

It all comes down to whether Olsen learns the right things, applies them in hard training, and thereby helps his players play both smarter and harder. He can count on one thing; his next opponent, the Philadelphia Union (at Philadelphia on June 16th), will be working just as hard. Peter Nowak saw the same game and knows that his own players will need to execute better.

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