Sunday, March 13, 2011

2011 Pre-Season Worries

What Me Worry?

DC's season is about to begin and, like last year, I thought I would make a list of things that are losing me sleep at night and giving me ulcers.
  • A bunch of young players who have never played together play like a bunch of young players who have never played together.
  • Charlie Davies isn't fully recovered and won't fully recover.
  • This might be United's last season in DC.
  • Players like Morsink, Ngwenya, and Brettschneider who have been on-form in pre-season lose that form.
  • Bumblebees.
  • The "competition at every position" unsettles some players.
  • Bill Hamid is athletically gifted, but unable to make himself into a keeper.
  • Coach Olsen equates "heart" with "talent" because he had both, but not all his players do.
  • I run out of money and miss a lot of games this season.
  • Losing at the beginning of the season becomes a habit again.
  • Pontius' form last year was a reflection of his abilities and not his injuries.
  • I can't find a way out of my dead-end job.
  • Injuries, particularly in defense.
  • Najar stagnates or succumbs to the pressure and regresses.
  • Unknown unknowns.
  • Key rookies can't hack it in the big leagues.
  • The new general admission policy in the Nest turns it into Barra-lite.
  • Speaking at my brother's wedding.
  • Losing players for the Gold Cup.
  • Simms and Morsink just aren't good enough anymore for MLS.
  • Where did this red spot come from? Is it cancerous?
That's all I've got for now. I haven't looked back to see how valid my concerns were last year. I know some were way off (Wallace and Pontius being too good to stay in MLS) and some were unfortunately prescient (Moreno good enough to play, but not good enough to be useful). We'll see how it goes this year.

The Season Begins

We Win Pre-Season

DC won the Carolina Cup Challenge! We dominate pre-season!
That's not entirely fair; DC wins lots of games that don't matter, not just pre-season. Before any observers get too excited about United's undefeated pre-season, they should realize that DC was undefeated in pre-season last year and DC's competition this year were colleges and some of the worst teams in MLS last year (Chivas USA, Chicago, and Toronto). It's great for team morale to get those W's, but that's not what is really important. Nevertheless, I think DC did have a fair successful pre-season.


Last year, during the pre-season, all of DC's goals came from Jaime Moreno. Alright, maybe not all. But he was the only one to score in the Carolina Cup Challenge and that turned out to be a harbinger for the season - no one scored. This year, Ngwenya, Pontius, Davies, Brettschneider, and others have put the ball into the net. This is a very good thing. Also, Brettschneider looked quite competent during the pre-season and that looks good for DC's long term plans.


DC looks to have a lot of good options in defense. The sole weak spot appears to be left back where the choices are Marc Burch or Woolard. Kitchen has looked quite good. I haven't seen much of Brasesco, but those who have have been quite pleased. Jakovic looks to have tossed off much of last season's lethargy. Jayner doesn't look too bad, although I think he is spending too much time on the ball. Ethan White and Chris Korb have also looked very decent as cover at the very least. Although, DC's defensive frailties last year were not particularly apparent in last year's pre-season, they rapidly became so during the season.


Coach Olsen has instituted competition for every spot on the field. Which is great in theory, but I also think that he has been fortunate to have the talent to do so. The strikers that DC acquired in the off-season have all shown fairly well, quite well in the case of Brettschneider. DC is loaded in the midfield, particularly on the wings with Najar, Quaranta, Pontius, Boskovic, Junior, and Fred all competing for playing time. That said, Dax McCarty seems to have a lock on the central "midfield engine" spot. Although Boskovic played in the position last season, Olsen has stated that he intends to play Boskovic on the outside. King is a central midfielder, but doesn't really appear to hold a candle to McCarty. Fred has also played in the creative central midfield role and may give McCarty some competition, although how much remains to be seen. The central midfield spot does appear to be up for grabs with Morsink playing well and challenging the ever-reliable Simms for the position.

What to Expect When You're Expecting

This line-up looks much stronger than last year, but what to expect from this season remains to be seen. It also raises the question of what to expect from the season opener against Columbus. I'm not certain - DC is a completely redone team. It is also a very young team. I believe it completely plausible that the first half of the season will be extremely rough for United and that they will drop points that they probably should not while the team learns to play with one another and gel and while some of the rookies and younger players gain confidence and experience. Columbus is not the team that they have been in years past. A number of the reliable players as well as their playermaker, Schelotto, have left in the off-season. In fact, they looked relatively weak against Real Salt Lake in the CONCACAF Champions' League games earlier in this pre-season. Under other circumstances, I would say that if DC is going to have a successful season, three points against Columbus at home should be expected. However, I have to allow some slack for all the new faces. Instead, if the first game is to be a harbinger of the season (and there are plenty of reasons for it not to be), I think the focus has to be on the creativity and the extent to which the players are on the same page. The extent to which DC appears to play coherently as a team may indicate whether DC fans will have to grind their teeth through July and hope for a strong finish and the following year or whether DC will be competitive for the whole season and really bounce back from last year's disastrous season.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Honestly, I'm Not Trying to Be A Downer

Please don't misunderstand. The Charlie Davies signing is exciting. Where previously I had reconciled myself to not seeing a number of the D.C. United games, I am now trying to figure out how to wrangle the funds together to see them all. That said, Charlie Davies is not the answer.

What is "Leg?"

If "Charlie Davies is not the answer," then I should probably define the question. The problem is that D.C. United is rebuilding. The D.C. attack has suffered for the past three years as Jaime aged, Gomez left and aged, and Emilio. . . I don't know, discovered a love of hot dogs? Although D.C. is a young team, it has no returning strikers from last season. They have no homegrown or young strikers that are on-going projects that will yield returns in seasons to come. In every other position, D.C. has young and promising players and/or "project players" learning the in background, but D.C.'s projected starting strikers are has-beens, never-weres, and Charlie Davies (a might-be). McCarty and Najar are promising goal threats, but they both have historically played out of the midfield. A potent midfield offense is probably essential, but also insufficient.

Davies Could Be Big, Big, Big, Big Bugs

Yes, that's a They Might Be Giants reference up there; you can judge me, it's fine. Davies might be the real deal; he could be a giant in this league. The problem, as I see it, is if he is good, he's not going to want to stick around - he's had his foot into the European game and will want to return. If European teams don't want Davies, it will probably because he has not recovered from his injuries and is not the player that he was. It is possible that there may be a happy medium in which he is a decent-enough MLS striker, but isn't good enough for a European club. More likely, he will either be too good to stay or not good enough to do the same. So, the team should probably assume that he is not going to be around for the 2012 season and D.C. is back to be looking for a reliable scoring option at forward again.

Stanky Icing

I am not saying that D.C. should not have signed Davies. Not signing him would have been a mistake. But D.C. needs options behind him to rise through the ranks and try to fill his shoes in the next season. D.C. needs a striker to learn from Davies and to learn the trade while Davies shoulders the majority of the goal-scoring burden. Davies himself would be perfect if D.C. were still looking to advance in the CCL. Because he is most likely a one-year deal, Davies is a perk, a crowd pleaser, icing on D.C.'s rebuilt cake.

New Faces?

It may be that United will pick up another striker to fill the role I have described, but I see that as increasingly unlikely. Fear not, however, as there are pre-existing options. Rookie draft pick Blake Brettschneider is getting a look from Olsen and the staff. He scored a couple of times in the most recent pre-season game, but predicting future performance from pre-season games is something akin to Santeria. Nevertheless, he is a potential option. Also, D.C. has two young and promising players in Pontius and Najar who have, at times, played as forwards. While both have spent considerable time playing on the wings, D.C. has a relative surplus of talent on the wings and just signed another winger in Fred. To me, this indicates that one, if not both, of them will be considered a striker and spend most of their time on the pitch as a forward. If I am correct, then I my guess is that it will be at least Pontius. Whether a new signing or a young existing player, Wolff, Ngwenya, and Davies should not be accepted by the Black-and-Red faithful as D.C.'s primary strikers this year or D.C. is going to be back to square-one when it comes to scoring in 2012.

*An Aside - I am watching this Olimpique Marseille - Manchester United Champions' League game and I have to say - OM's third/Champions' League kits last year were absolutely bad ass. I know that the teams want their supporters to buy new merchandise every year (see: D.C. United's third jersey), but they really should have kept last year's jersey.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

D.C. United Preseason

Is There Such A Thing As A "Loud" Offseason?

So, D.C. United was horrible last year. If you missed that, then there is no real reason for you to be reading my posts. Not that there is otherwise. Anyway, DC United has not been quiet in the off-season, beginning with signing Ben Olsen as permanent head coach (a process that was handled poorly and was slightly embarrassing). I'm tempted to list all the changes because there are so many, but I want to talk/write about some of them. Let's jump in, shall we?


United shed a number of players. Underperforming and highly-paid strikers, Pablo Hernandez and Danny Allsopp are gone. Not highly-paid, but still underperforming striker Adam Christman was sent packing as well. Jaime Moreno was rather ignominiously forced into retirement, a move that angered a number of the D.C. United faithful, particularly in the way it was handled. Maybe - he's looking for another team that will have him for one more season. At any rate, he is not on the team roster. So, of D.C.'s strikers from last year, none remain. Not surprising for a team that had record-breakingly bad offense.
Much of the midfield remained intact. Rodney Wallace (who wants to be a defender) was involved in a trade to Portland and Carlos Valera was waived. Neither was a large part of the team last year (Wallace was injured and Valera joined with much of the season elapsed). Boskovic, Najar, Tino, Pontius, Simms, King, Morsink, Shanosky are all still with the team.
In defense, Pena (yes, he played for D.C. United last year) is no longer with the team. Recently, Julius James was waived which surprised many who felt that he was D.C.'s best defender for the later part of the season (and was far cheaper than Dejan Jakovic, his partner in central defense).
Troy Perkins was sent to Portland. Although many expected Perkins' season to improve from his previous one, his massive salary was moved off D.C. United's books in exchange for another 'keeper.
To all of these players, I wish the best. They were part of a poor team that may have made everyone look worse than they were. I suspect all of them will have greater success elsewhere.

It's Either Cold or Hot, often Humid, the Infrastructure Is A Bad Joke, Traffic Is A Nightmare, and Housing Prices Are Ridiculous

"Welcome to D.C." to a number of players (for expectations, see the section heading above). Having no strikers at all, D.C. picked out two forwards in the "re-entry drafts" - Joseph Ngwenya and Josh Wolff. Neither of these strikers are jaw-dropping acquisitions. Wolff has been and probably will continue to be dangerous, but he is past his prime. Ngwenya was never able to convert his athletic prowess in goals - here's hoping he has a renaissance season, but I wouldn't bet on it.
The big acquisition in the attack (and overall) has been U.S. national team striker and Sochaux man, Charlie Davies. Long story short, the night before the final 2010 World Cup qualifier, Davies was involved in a horrific traffic accident in D.C. One of the other passengers lost her life and Davies was horribly injured. Horribly. The sort of injuries that most of us would use to stay on disability payments for a half-dozen years. Davies, however, is possessed of mutant healing powers and was mobile in time for the World Cup (although not fully fit by all estimates except his own). He feels that he was not being giving the opportunity to regain his starting spot at Sochaux and has come to D.C. to prove to the world (and Bob Bradley) that he is the blazingly fast and ruthless striker that he was before his injuries. He is a risky acquisition - he is possibly fragile or may not have and never will fully recover from his injuries. Ben Olsen took a long hard look and has decided he is worth risk. If Davies is fit and performs, he can almost single-handedly end D.C.'s scoring drought.
The midfield has had two big signings - the first being Perry Kitchen, who probably will not be playing in the midfield, but as a central defender. Nevertheless, he played as a defensive mid last year and I'm including him as a midfielder for now. Olsen and his counterparts in the DC brain-trust considered him to be the best overall player in the college draft and thought he would be picked before their number three pick. He wasn't and now D.C. has him.
The bigger signing, no offense to Mr. Kitchen, has been that of Dax McCarty. McCarty was involved in a trade for Rodney Wallace. McCarty is only slightly older than Wallace and was part of FC Dallas' drive to the MLS Cup last year. He recently captained the U.S. national team (it was a B/B- team of young players being examined by Bob Bradley) in a friendly. He also scored a sick bicycle-kick goal in U.S. team training camp which was captured on film and has D.C. fans salivating into their beer cups (don't look for bicycle kick goals from McCarty during the season; it is his creativity, youth, and skill that has us drooling).
D.C. also recently added Fred to the roster - not an exciting addition and one that has had a far-from-unified fan response. Personally, I don't have a big problem with it - he was overpaid when he was here last, but I assume that has been corrected and I do think he is an MLS-quality winger, lack of scoring notwithstanding.
D.C. has not made any dramatic moves in defense. A Uruguayan defender, Rodrigo Brasesco, lauded by those who follow South American football more closely than I do, has been added and is expected to easily earn a starting position. As I mentioned earlier, it appears that Kitchen will be competing for a spot in central defense as well. D.C. also acquired Chris Korb in the draft, but he is expected mainly to provide cover. Similarly, Daniel Woolard was added to the roster, but is not a projected starter. Home-grown defender Ethan White was also added to the roster; he too does not figure into the starting eleven picture at this point and is projected to be a reserve.
In goal, D.C. made two acquisitions while actually only attempting to make one. United acquired Steve Cronin from Portland in exchange for Troy Perkins. It seemed a reasonable trade as Perkins had been disappointing and D.C. had been attempt to acquire Cronin before Perkins became available. Unfortunately, Cronin has broken his wrist in pre-season and with Bill Hamid still recovering from shoulder surgery (he'll be back soon, but the first few games are questionable), the Black-and-Red were considering putting me in goal after my showing in our indoor league last year. Fortunately (unfortunately for me), D.C. had acquired recently-retired Pat Onstad, not as a keeper, but as a goalkeeping coach. He has agreed to come out of retirement for an unspecified period, I assume simply to kill my dreams of ever sharing the field at RFK with my heroes.

So Much for Closure

In conclusion, there is far too much left to write for this to be concluded properly and I hope to write more. Of course, since I haven't written since before Christmas, more frequent posting may be unlikely. Nevertheless, I have plenty of thoughts, comments, and concerns before the season really starts going. I have left off a couple of the other United acquisitions and releases, aiming mostly to hot the big ones. In terms of D.C.'s adding and dropping of players, I have to think that D.C. has done a pretty good job. There remains of the question of who will stick the ball in the net if Davies isn't 100%, but Olsen and company have added some exciting players and D.C.'s suddenly young team looks to have improved upon last season.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


So. This is something I have been looking to write about, but i have held back because I don't feel like I have all the facts and I don't think anyone really does, but I have very strong opinions on the matter. Now let me start by being very clear that I am not from England, and I have no direct ties to Tottenham other than being a fan of the club for several years now. I have no family from the area and I certainly don't live there.

The Olympic Stadium debacle that has been brewing in England has been a very controversial issue over the past few months. Tottenham, West Ham and Leyton Orient are trying to get this stadium for use to play football in. I will state my opinion here, and I believe that the only club that I think has true rights to the stadium is Leyton Orient, and I get the impression that they don't really want it either, but simply want to make sure that Spurs and West Ham don't get it. I do not want my team to move from N17 to Newham. I am with Tottenham MP David Lammy in that I believe it would be wrong for Spurs to keep the name Tottenham if the leave the area. With this in mind, I am seriously opposed to Tottenham taking the stadium.

From a the angle of Tottenham, I think it would be a mistake on several points. First, I think it would put significant pressure on West Ham and Orient and would seriously put Leyton Orient's survival as a club at risk. This is wrong in itself. It also breaks rules of the Premier League and Football League. Daniel Levy has said Spurs will be leaving N17 no matter what. Why? What is keeping us from completing the Northumberland Development Project that has been developing for several years now? This is a point that has yet to be answered and really needs to be. The club does so much for a very downtrodden area and would most likely destroy that area by leaving.

From a fan standpoint, I think the move is unthinkable. First, one of Spurs major gripes against Arsenal is that they moved to our area of London and think they are something more than a South London club, and we do hold that against them. We would be no better, and as a club who tries to take the moral high ground and claim we are a better club, we would be just as bad if we moved. I also believe that White Hart Lane holds a great deal of history and it would be terrible to leave it all behind. The beauty of the NDP was that it would keep us at our home where we have been for a century. The other big thing is that the NDP would help to make N17 a much nicer place to be and would hopefully help to bring new transport links to an area which is somewhat isolated in a city with the best subway system on earth(when they aren't closing stations to repair everything).

I am a big supporter of the We are N17 group as it is doing things in a nonviolent and very rational and reasonable manner. The club has been ignoring the fans so far and I want more answers. Most Spurs and Hammers fans want nothing to do with the Olympic Stadium and I am in that group. So here it is. Say no to Stratford. We are N17.

We Are N17Visit and sign the petition

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tangerine dreams

I feel awful that I so drastically underestimated Blackpool when I relegated them at the start of the season. The tangerines have not only been one of the most suprising teams, they have also been the most exciting. Ian Holloway has put together an amazing team with spirit to burn. They also shockingly play lovely, attacking football.

There have been a number of complaints that the Barclay's Premier League is not a quality league, but I think it is. With teams like Blackpool, West Brom, Spurs, and Chelsea, we are getting to witness the game as it should be played. The beautiful game exists somewhere other than Barcelona. I think the sad part is that teams like Manchester City can be at the top of the table when they can be seen playing such ugly and negative football. The same can be said of Manchester United as well. Since they haven't played particularly well as most would expect, they seem to play a bit negatively. I personally hope that one of the positive teams will win the league this year, and I hate to admit it, but I'd prefer Arsenal to Man City or Man United if those were my only choices.

I think another really positive sign that football is going in the right direction is that teams like Bolton, Wigan and Newcastle who are usually considered physical team, are all playing football to differing levels of success. But to see these teams trying to play the beautiful game as it was intended is a bright point. And it is good to see that there is only one player in those three teams that I really believe is a thug and a bit negative. Tiote for Newcastle is a walking red card and I was discussing him with someone and argued that I think he is a blight on what is a very positive side in Newcastle. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh, but even Joey Barton is doing well, when he's not punching his fellow professionals.

But back to the team that brought me to post today, Blackpool. With the transfer window open, it is a breath of fresh air to hear Holloway making sure that his squad stays together when he said that it was ridiculous to see the teams below Blackpool trying to buy his players. He's right. Why should Charlie Adam go to a team that might actually go down when his team is fighting for a top ten finish. It would be nice to see more players and managers have enough spirit to stick with their team and not simply chase money. Pride and glory will always be worth that bit more.

Go on you Tangerines! Just please be nice to my Spurs.... :)