Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
D.C. United gets back to basics
by Ridge Mahoney, May 22nd, 2007 7AM
Subscribe to Soccer America Daily

MOST READ
TAGS:  mls

MOST COMMENTED

Former D.C. United coach Peter Nowak doesn't dwell on style points. During his rookie season as a head coach, his mantra for success was, "soccer is about running and fighting." That approach earned United its fourth MLS Cup in 2004. Jaime Moreno, Christian Gomez and then-rookie Freddy Adu brought grace and skill, but another rookie, Josh Gros, thrilled the RFK crowds with his energy and courage, Alecko Eskandarian crashed through opposing defenses to score 10 goals, demonic midfielder Dema Kovalenko was second on the team with 10 assists, and Kiwi defender Ryan Nelsen epitomized the ruggedness and determination Nowak praised. (Nelsen could also hit a nice ball out of the back, which is another element a lot of MLS teams have lacked.)

Despite posting a 31-17-16 regular-season record in 2005 and 2006 while playing the most skillful soccer in MLS, United hasn't returned to MLS Cup. Nelsen is starting in the English Premier League for Blackburn, Eskandarian plays for Toronto, Kovalenko is in New York, and Gros has been converted to left back in the 4-4-2 formation D.C. favors instead of the 3-5-2 it operated under Nowak.

About the only player to draw consistent praise this season is Ben Olsen, whose persistence and spirit - not to mention fewer tirades at referees -- has kept him in the lineup while Coach Tom Soehn shuttles players in and out looking for solutions.

United 2007 again features a glittering array of attackers - Gomez, Moreno, Fred, Luciano Emilio - yet last Saturday it beat Toronto, 2-1, with the bedrock basics it had drifted away from: hard tackles, tenacious defending, fierce marking.

Like Nowak, TFC coach Mo Johnston wants more battlers than ballerinas. He values skillful play but his first demand is commitment. Roared on by another sellout crowd, Toronto charged into challenges and scrapped for every ball before the fatigue of playing a third match in eight days took its toll. Gradually United fought its way back into the game even though it trailed at halftime.

In the first half, Facundo Erpen raced full-speed with Eskandarian for a long ball played over the top and shielded him from it until keeper Troy Perkins could collect. The crowd howled for a penalty but this was simply a case of a defender using his strength and pace and smarts. Eskandarian scored during a goalmouth scramble a minute before halftime yet United came out of the locker room determined, not discouraged, and eventually took advantage of a tiring opponent.
Just like the not-so-old days.

United equalized with a swerving Gomez free kick that defender Kevin Goldthwaite headed into his own net. Lucky? Yes, except that Erpen was right there and might have scored himself, or it could have gone in anyway, since Gomez directed it on frame as a group of players stormed the net.

United's skill won the match; after a poor TFC clearance, slack marking allowed D.C. to knock the ball around until Guy Roland Kpene hit a crossfield ball that Emilio controlled at full stretch. When he pulled it back, Marvell Wynne's late lunge uprooted his legs. Moreno's penalty earned the three points.

Soehn can tinker with personnel and formations as needed yet United's midfield pressure, defensive resiliency, and depth will determine its success. On Tuesday it learns its draw in the Copa Sudamericana, the SuperLiga beckons in July, and Saturday it hosts Houston, which has lost two in a row by shutout.

 



No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Daily
Video Pick: Wood strikes in Bundesliga debut    
It took 23-year-old American Bobby Wood, who scored 17 second division goals for Union Berlin last ...
U.S. Abroad: Johansson returns in crushing Bremen defeat    
Aron Johannsson returned to action in the Bundesliga for the first time in 11 months, starting ...
USA names roster for U-17 Women's World Cup    
Coach B.J. Snow has named the USA's 21-player roster for the 2016 U-17 Women's World Cup ...
MLS Countdown: Vanney gives TFC reminder    
Toronto FC waited through many seasons and head coaches before finally reaching the playoffs last year. ...
Bundesliga 2016-17: Half the teams have a U.S. player    
From age 17 to 28, from newly promoted RB Leipzig to four-time defending champion Bayern Munich, ...
WCQ Callups: USA battles injuries and suspensions    
The roster for the U.S. national team's World Cup 2018 qualifiers against St. Vincent & the ...
NWSL: Olympians back in fold, mostly    
Off for 26 days because of the Olympics -- except for one make-up game -- the ...
What They're Saying: Laura Harvey    
"It's about someone’s livelihood. It’s about their career. Irrelevant of what the decision is and who ...
What They're Saying: Alex Morgan    
"The players don't control any of the consequences that happen, that are enforced by U.S. Soccer. ...
TV Report: MLS and NFL to air joint lineup    
On Sept. 18, Fox Sports will air two live MLS matches -- Sporting Kansas City-LA Galaxy ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives