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Chris Snear

I am one of the few journalists covering soccer, or any sport for that matter, that actually played the game at a high level. And though I no longer play, I love the sport and I love to write. My goal is to make you go 'hmmmm..interesting' or be so furious with me that you write back to disagree...but if you do, be careful because I will write back!!! I started covering DC United and the National Teams in 1997-98, took a hiatus for a few years and then back into it in 2002 and have been sharing my thoughts ever since.


TANGENTS

United Climb To The Top Of The Table Before Well Deserved Break

Written by on May 27, 2012 | 4 Comments »
Posted in DC United, MLS, New England Revolution

Whatever DC United Assistant Coach Chad Ashton said to the starters on the field before the start of the second half, it sure didn’t work. However, Head Coach Ben Olsen bringing on the team’s leading scorer off the bench in the second half certainly did.                           

United ‘s first two goals were from their center backs as Brandon McDonald nodded home a perfect Branko Boskovic free kick on the quarter hour and Dejan Jakovic added the second on a scramble in front off a corner to extend the lead moments before half time.

So the players either ignored what Ashton said it or it wasn’t sound advice. Saer Sene and A.J. Soares scored within the first 5-minutes of the second half to quickly bring the game to level terms.

But on comes Maicon Santos in the 57th minute and four minutes later scores the game winner on a sensational combination with Dwayne De Rosario to give United a volatile 3-2 win. Santos scored eight goals in 30 combined games for Toronto and then Dallas last season; he already has seven in just 13 games this year for United.

The win vaults United a point ahead of the New York Red Bulls and into first place in the Eastern Conference. The Red Bulls do have two games in hand however, but this is the latest United have been at the top of the conference table since July 2009.

Despite the win, United looked tired. They looked like a team that has played 15 games in a little over three months, including six in May that started with a Pacific to Eastern to Central Time Zone road trip.   But the team swept the last three games, all at home, for their first three game winning streak since June 2008.

“That last 10 minutes of the game, I looked down and didn’t know if I had legs,” said McDonald “My lungs were exhausted. It’s good to go on this break – it’s well needed.”

“I think you can hear it in my voice, I am absolutely tired a lot of games in a short period of time but we withstood the demand that was put on us,” added De Rosario. “We can’t get complacent we haven’t done anything yet.”

Tired or not, United is now 6-2-1 at home this year but was less than stellar and it showed in their possession quality and decision making.

“It’s strange because I feel unfulfilled. I think our team feels unfulfilled, but it’s nice to feel unfulfilled and have three points in the back,” said Olsen. “I prefer to look at this as a three-game homestretch that we’ve had, and how we’ve performed over that span, and that’s been very good.”

United is the only team in MLS to have five players with at least three goals and have scored within the first 15-minutes five times this season, seven times within the first 20-minutes. But with the exception of the last 10-minutes of the match, United were sloppy on the ball and played their way into predicaments on the field that were totally unnecessary. 

“We’ve got to find a way to be better with the ball, and keep the ball. Not defend that much…It wasn’t sharp; passing, simple possessions — we complicated the game. There’s a lot of stuff that wasn’t great,” Olsen said. “You’re at home, you want to push the game a little bit and get the early lead and make them chase a little bit. We get the early one and then we get the one right before the half, and usually that breaks team’s backs. Give them a lot of credit for coming out and getting two back.”

But three points is three points and first place is first place for a team that hasn’t given their fans much to cheer about for over four years.

“Mentality, determination, hard work and depth this team has shown it numerous times this year,” said De Rosario. “But if we could play like that, which for me it wasn’t our best performance, and still beat a decent team like New England it shows a lot on our part.”

Other than a U.S. Open Cup match at the Richmond Kickers on Tuesday, United will not restart league play again until June 16 when they travel to Philadelphia. Though unlikely to have played anyway, De Rosario and Jakovic both leave tomorrow to join the Canadian National Team for two upcoming matches.

“I’m not sure if it was complacency at times or just sheer ‘this is the end of a long stretch of us doing a lot of traveling and a lot of games.’ It does catch up to you, so I hope the break now comes at a good time and we can get our legs back and get our sharpness back,” said Olsen.

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4 responses to “United Climb To The Top Of The Table Before Well Deserved Break”

  1. Al Harris says:

    Good to see DC back in the mix and still playing attractive soccer unlike so many MLS teams who are of the “up and under” school of thought (?). DeRo does have me harkening back to the glory days when “El Diablo” did things from the point of the midfield diamond that were just a joy to behold. Time will tell if Ben Olsen has the tactical and man management ability to be a great coach, but at least he has a vision of how he wants the game to be played beyond “get the 3 points” which seems to define most in the league (world).

  2. Chris Snear says:

    That is true…and though I personally like Kevin Payne, he agrees with that playing philosophy as well (though I think he can be part of the problem instead of the solution sometimes). There are a few internal issues but Ben wants them to play and has the options to play many different ways which is rare in MLS. Thanks for reading my stuff and follow me on Twitter!!!

  3. Chris Snear says:

    Completely disagree with that statement. I’ve known Ben since he broke into the league back in the late 90’s and that self-deprecating, sometimes goofy personality is a facade to someone that has a high IQ for the game. Now he does have some issues but they are not of his making right now (like one or two people on his staff he was forced to inherit but that is for another day…). I think the current results are above the level of this team to be honest with you-they have marginal speed, are a bit old in key spots, aren’t very physical, which you have to be in this league, and still give up too many quality chances on set pieces. I don’t know your playing or sports background but mine is extensive and everyone assumes you can just throw talented players together and expect them to be good immediately in dynamic sports like soccer and hockey. Doesn’t work that way-look at the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Capitals and there are several more? (basketball it happens quicker because there are less players on the floor and one or two guys can have a bigger impact directly on the game). This takes time and once he can get his message and his message ONLY thru the entire team (that ties in to the above comment) the club as a whole will be fine. Thanks for reading my stuff though and taking the time to leave a comment! Follow me on Twitter @ChrisSnear

  4. Chris Snear says:

    I agree with you that it’s childish but not necessarily irrelevant and I wasn’t comparing your background to mine because I don’t know you? However, people that have played (or coached or officiated for that matter) high level sports understand certain aspects that people who have not played do not.

    But back to the main point here…and I actually like your three comparisons, especially Martinez. What coaches say and how they act publicly is different than what they do behind closed doors and on the training park. I see Ben on the training ground and how interacts with his players and how he conducts and it’s poignant and productive and effective with the players. Doesn’t mean in the long run he will be successful. Actually of all the United players I have covered in the last 16 years, Olsen, Richie Williams, Mark Simpson and John Harkes are the ones that I thought would coach at this level (the latter is actually the best soccer mind of the bunch but has a long, scattered history with many the US soccer community). You may not like him but “blowhard” is a bit much imo and he prefers to be very unassuming. Am I too assume btw that you are an RSL fan? Good stuff-thanks!

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