I was perusing the MLS Cup and USMNT thread and I came across this interesting comment by Ghost: Ghost here brings up a very important question for us internet nuts in evaluating players and possible future nats coaches. How do we project possible future players or coaches into the team? Do these folks have the right stuff? To be specific here: How difficult is it to compare Wolff and Eskandarian? IMO it's not fair to project Josh Wolff's invisibility in the MLS Cup. It's also not fair to say that Esky is a better prospect. Why? Because their performances are so dependent on how their coaches set their respective teams up that to then project how these players might produce on a different stage (international) and under a different setup (that of Arena) is really really really hard. Let's look at the game and the two teams. First DCU. As Eric Wynalda astutely pointed out on yesterdays broadcast, Peter Nowak has in mind a certain way to play and he stuck to it all season regardless of injuries or call-ups or whatever. Those of you who remember the season's first TV game (Quakes @ United) basically saw the same thing in that game as they saw yesterday. That "thing" that system of Nowak's focuses on basically destroying the opposition's midfield creativity. He puts five guys in the midfield. He sets up those five guys so that they take away the other team's ability to attack, reducing the other team to basically route 1 soccer. They cut down on short through passes. They cut down on any opposing player dribbling through midfield into the final third of the field. Thus the opposition's forwards are cut off, rendered invisible. What happened to Wolff yesterday also happened to Donovan (playing as a forward) in week one. In the week before yesterday's game, reporters and folks here would talk about the speed advantage KC's forwards had over the DCU defenders. But they failed to see that Nowak's system rendered that speed advantage moot as long as United's defenders knew how to position themselves. Nowak's been doing this all season, as I said above. As a DCU fan, I've watched most of those games on TV. As the season went along it became apparent to me that the main thing holding United back from dominating MLS was playing time together for the players in the system. This was aggravated by both injuries (like Nelsen was out for several weeks) and also a bunch of the players had hardly any professional time (Esky, Carroll, Adu, Gros, etc). But I kept seeing glimpses- halves of games- where it started to click (like in the first game). Then, about two/three months ago, it started clicking big time and the team's confidence began to grow. Then I started looking for opposing coaches adjustments. You know what? I saw exactly one coach- one out of nine coaches in MLS- who seemed to have a clue on how to attack Nowak's DCU. Steve Nicol. In the last two Revs/United regular season games, Nicol had started out in a 442 and promptly was dominated by DCU. But in each game Nicol adjusted to a 352 and he got his players to play differently. Then came the semifinal game which so many have said was one of the best games in MLS history. It was made good because Nicol attacked DCU from the get-go and he attacked United form multiple places on the field by a whole variety of players. It helped that Nelsen wasn't there. But more importantly he had all his players moving forward aggressively because he learned from experience that one to three players attacking DCU just get shut down. Because he learned this, John was able to deliver a relatively short cross into Twellman for that volley goal and quite a few times NE was able to menace DC's goal. (Though it must be said that although NE really put pressure on DCU in that game, they never scored again except in unusual circumstances- the Carroll hand ball PK then that god awful marking on Noonan's corner kick goal. So you could say that DCU's gameplan worked reasonable well still.) So before MLS Cup I was thinking that, hey, Gansler's a smart guy. He would have seen what Nicol did and would put together a game plan of similar nature. Well maybe Gansler's not that smart of a guy. He just played right into Nowak's plans. And so Wolff and Arnaud got cut off. But that was only half of it since by so easily conceding the midfield to DCU and it's one touch passing, they started to chase DCU's skill players and as with most professional teams, you can't do that for long before the goals started flowing. So in spite of The Demanator, game, set, and match to Nowak's DCU. Esky looks great and it's not just because of Moreno, but because KC's defenders were on their heels and through the system that Nowak imposes, that normally happens which leads to forwards getting good looks which, invariably leads to forwards gaining confidence. So while I think Esky should be looked at for the Nats, I think 1) you can't evaluate Wolff from this game but 2) you can evaluate Nowak and Gansler. I said this on the "Arena replacement" thread and I'll say it here: Nowak's system is what made Chicago so good for years. And it's the system which Sarachan doesn't do anymore and neither does Bradley, and both of them are the worse for it. To go further: Nowak was the true brains of the Fire, not Bradley. I'll go even further: by 2006, if Arena steps down, the coach with by far the best resume in MLS will be Peter Nowak- if Poland doesn't take him first. What Nowak has that Arena also has is that he makes his players more effective then they are normally. They love to play for both coaches because they bring out the best in them. What's more, they can blend in highly skilled players like Moreno with less skilled guys like Petke (or Wee One in Arena's tenure) and have them work together. And this quality is what determines success in international play for a team like the USA, who, although talented, will never be confused with England or Spain in terms of talent for several years now. Arena, Yallop, and now Nowak. The three best MLS coaches so far.