Problems with DC United Attack

Discussion in 'D.C. United' started by Liverpool_SC, Oct 22, 2003.

  1. Liverpool_SC

    Liverpool_SC Member

    Jun 28, 2002
    Upstate, SC
    Before the season, I got into a slanging match with New England fans over whose team would score more goals this season.

    I argued that Twellman was for real, but that 20-something was an unreasonable repeat performance and that Joe Max-Moore and Wolde Harris were unlikely to combine for more than 15 either. Of course, I didn't anticipate Chad Brown, Pat Noonan or Brian Kamler making the contributions that they made . . . . I thought that New England would score around 40 goals, when they actually netted 50 (including two own goals).

    I thought that DC United would score about 12 more goals than their 37 (to this point). Naturally I anticipated five or six more from Earnie, the same from Q1 and more output from Eskandarian or whoever else replaced (hah) Ali Curtis as our go-to forward.

    Here is my analysis for why DC United disappointed on offense:

    Set Pieces - Etcheverry really hurts the team by taking so many of the corner kicks and free kicks. He simply doesn't do a very good job in that role any more. With Nelsen, Petke, Ivanov, Kovalenko, Olsen and other excellent strikers of the ball with their heads on the team - we should have scored more goals from set pieces.

    Playmaking - Etcheverry did not advance the ball quickly enough to provide the support, through balls and ball holding that our active forwards (such as Stewart, Curtis and Eskandarian) required. Too often he slowed the ball down and held the ball too deep while they were making their runs and once he did advance, the opposition had recovered and there was little space for the forwards to create separation.

    As a result, way too many of our goals came through our midfield - either on shots from outside shots or on secondary runs that allowed them to pick up rebounds after the forwards just cranked shots on goal (though they didn't often have good scoring chances). There was period during 20 game mark when our primary goalscoring threat was coming through Quintanilla and Olsen (not as advanced midfielders, but as flank midfielders playing on their off-foot sides)!

    There has not been a lot of fluidity to the offense as it transitions from the middle third to the final third of the field. I expected that there would be more fludity, as I thought Etcheverry would be in better shape and/or that Convey would take over as the full-time attacking midfielder. Though he scored his share of goals, Etcheverry's passing and playmaking were not as good as I had hoped. I thought he was in good shape and that he would play with pride, not be proud as he struggled to play. Unfortunately for Convey, the last half of our season has been pretty much a waste for him, though somewhat understandably.

    Holding/Target Forward - Unfortunately, we again spent close to half the season with Ali Curtis functioning as our primary forward! I don't understand how we ended up in this predicament, but our lack of a suitable holding forward really cut down our production. Cerritos has added a great deal of stability to the offense - but we still have not scored at a tremendous clip.

    Negative Tactics - I didn't count on so much bunkering on the road, either. Trask still tends towards a defensive system. We don't play boomball, but we also don't make enough use of quick ball movement and forward momentum. As a result, the team really bogs down in transition from the defensive third to the middle third and again from the middle third to the final third. I counted on Ivanov and Nelsen contributing better to link-up play in the first third and Etcheverry, Convey and Olsen contributing better to the link-up play between the middle third and the final third.

    Another unexpected disappointment - I thought that DC had a number of players who were going to be aggressive at taking defenders on with the ball at their feet. Etcheverry is too slow to stretch a defense with the ball at his feet - he can beat guys, but he can't get by them quickly enough to create odd-number breaks! Olsen has dropped attacking dribbling from his repertoire. Alegria and Quintanilla are also not quick enough to be extremely dangerous with the ball at their feet. Bobby Convey can and occasionally does flash this skill, but he is better in a quick-touch passing game.
  2. eltico

    eltico Member

    Jul 16, 2000
    Sweet. Another thread whose central point revolves around Etch. Can't have too many of those.
  3. Liverpool_SC

    Liverpool_SC Member

    Jun 28, 2002
    Upstate, SC
    Um. I list lots of other factors.

    Plenty of these things that made it harder for Etcheverry to do his job:

    +lack of holding forward. In his hey-day, Etcheverry always had Moreno who could hold the ball as well as anyone. There was no-one that could do that until Cerritos arrived.

    +poor link-up play in the first third of the field. The timing and quality of passes from the back of the field is crucial to setting up the timing of an attack. Many times, this role is very subtle, but ic cannot be overestimated in importance. The runs made by the forwards, the amount of time the playmaker has to be on the ball, the distance he has to carry the ball, the flexibility (when and how far they can break) that wide midfielders have to move upfield all depend greatly on the passing quality and comfort on the ball of the defenders and/or anchor midfielder. I think that DC United could have benefitted from an upgrade here.

    +I fault the other midfielders (not just Etcheverry) for not attacking defenders on the dribble. When flank midfielders can hold the ball and pass a defender, it gives the rest of the team time to fill into the middle of the field and provides opportunities to create odd-man breaks and laybacks to the center midfielders. Too often, we didn't have enough "ideas" from our flank midfielders. And we don't have the personnel to be a crossing team (unless Cerritos and Martins suddenly learn how to put headers on goal during the run of the play).

    +I fault our tactics - though Etcheverry and his personal strengths determine some of the tactics to a large degree.

    +I fault Bobby Convey.

    Hudson stated himself that this team (especially on the attack) revolved around Etcheverry. As a result, if we don't score as many goals as we should - you have to examine how Etcheverry did or did not contribute to the low total.

    But my analysis isn't a knee-jerk reaction against Etcheverry. Our deficiencies in the attack (and 1.27 goals per game is a deficiency) are a factor of team play - not individual play.
  4. JuanMa

    JuanMa Member

    Jul 22, 2003
    Can we rename this thread to:
  5. JuanMa

    JuanMa Member

    Jul 22, 2003
    The problem with our attack is mainly our attitude towards playing offensive soccer. We play too conservative, hoping for a tie. Even at home!

    Once we got Stewart+Cerritos to work up front for a couple of games, we moved Stewart back to midfield and put Martins there instead as the sole true forward.

    Re corner kicks, MAE has taken 94, Stewart 34 and Hristo and Bobby 15 and 13 of them. I think the corner kick issue is not just a MAE problem. Shared problem...
  6. Knave

    Knave Member+

    May 25, 1999
    ... Moderator's Note ...

    This is becoming unreasonable. Either engage in the discussion that Liverpool_SC has set out or ignore this thread.

    Liverpool_SC put a lot of thought into his post. It's a shame he's getting such undeserved knee jerk reactions. Indeed, as far as I'm concerned they amount to trolling and flaming. On the one hand they're just belligerant assertions about the character of this thread and on the other they effectively impugn the character of the poster as an "Etch basher". I'm not going to tolerate this level of discourse on this board anymore because at this point it's effectively shutting down any debate.

    In the end, Liverpool_SC put thought into his post. Please give him the courtesy of putting thought into your responses.
  7. SABuffalo786

    SABuffalo786 New Member

    May 18, 2002
    Buffalo, New York

    How is he bashing Marco when all he is doing is telling the truth?
  8. Sachin

    Sachin New Member

    Jan 14, 2000
    La Norte
    DC United
    Personally, I think our offensive woes have more to do with not shooting the ball than anything else. Think about this: We've earned more corners than any other team. We're getting the ball into the box, but not shooting it at goal.

  9. Sanguine

    Sanguine Member

    Jul 4, 2003
    Reston, VA
    The problem with DC United's attack is that DC United does not attack.
  10. GUTuna

    GUTuna Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Washington, DC USA
    Our attack was starting to come together late into the season. We were more dynamic and hard-charging. This all came together during the match away vs. Metro.

    The next game Olsen went down, and it killed us. Olsen had really regained his form and was the key for us in the attack. He was getting behind the defense, stretching the field with his speed, and being aggressive shooting the ball.

    This led to many other positive developments. With Olsen attacking one side, Quintanilla often found space on the opposite side to launch an opportune cross or get off a shot. Additionally, this allowed us to play Stewart and Cerritos up front in a pairing almost everyone would agree was the best we've had this season.

    With Olsen down, and his offensive/defensive work rate absent, our attack has sputtered. We've had to pull Earnie back to midfield to compensate.
    We're not nearly as good in transition. This is not a knock on Etch or Kovalenko individually, but I just don't have confidence with the two of them in the middle. That combination leaves us defensively vulnerable in the middle. Without a comparable threat on the opposite wing, Quintanilla has been shut down because he doesn't have the speed to get down the wing as well.

    Also, I too have been dissapointed in Convey. This has been the time he needed to step up and propel this offense. Yet we've only seen flashes. I know he's been sick, or down from his failed transfer, or misused by Hudson. But the point is that if this team was going to continue to thrive after Olsen went down, it needed strong, near dominating play from Convey in the midfield. We haven't seen it.
  11. eltico

    eltico Member

    Jul 16, 2000
    Liverpool, I'm sorry, I was trying to be a sarcastic goof, as I often am between classes when I do all I can to avoid doing anything remotely scholastic or productive in nature.

    Anyway, that said, I think the biggest problem is the conflicting styles among our most important attacking players. Really at no point have Etch, Stewart, and Convey appeared to be on the same page. Target forward and tactics aside, when the three players you intend to rely on for substantial contributions to the attack can't seem to connect at all with one or another, you're in trouble.

    One can claim that we then need to pull at least one of them out and try and keep down the clutter of conflicting styles in the center of the field, but all three have missed time this season, and it's not as if we improved dramatically with one out as opposed to another.

    Additionally, I agree with GUTuna that with Olsen out, we lose a guy whose importance to our attack cannot be understated. He scored against SJ, he scored against the Metros, and he creates chances for himself and others with his relentless work rate. We really cannot replicate that on the right side with him out.

    Unfortunately, all this leaves us needing to find goals from other sources. Free kicks and corners, penalties aside, have been jokes, and neither Cerritos nor Martins are good enough (a la Moreno circa 97) to get it done themselves.

    I'm hopeful that we can get into the playoffs, but I will be surprised if we manage to score two goals in one game the rest of the season.

    Here's to DC coming out on top of 1-0 games.:)
  12. BroonAleMagpie

    BroonAleMagpie New Member

    Apr 14, 2000
    Fairfax, VA
    We have a great replacement for Olsen. He's got Ben's enthusiasm, his speed, his aggressiveness, as much or more stamina (at least with Ben coming off injury, as he has been for the last couple of years), and just as good a set of skills (maybe more than Ben has shown this year--he's been a bit rusty).


    We need to move Dema out wide and put Namoff on, either as D-Mid (I Like him there, but I know some don't) or as a defender, freeing up Ryan, maybe, to move to D-Mid.

    We would boost our offense tremendously, give Dema a role he can really sink his teeth into and deliver on, and present our last opponent with a run for their money. We should work on this this week, and put Dema out on the wing at the start of the match on Saturday.

    Time to take the hood off our hawk!
  13. BudWiser

    BudWiser New Member

    Jul 17, 2000
    Falls Church, VA
    Unfortunately, Dema can't play. Goff said:

    "Amid the feisty play, Dema Kovalenko, perhaps United's most important player, received a yellow card that will force him to sit out Saturday's finale"
  14. doneshufflin

    doneshufflin New Member

    Nov 13, 2000
    Washington DC

    Great post. I'll disagree about Olsen and him not attacking, but this is not an Etch bashing post. The only reason that people are saying that is because some see Etch as a soccer god and they can't let go.
  15. doneshufflin

    doneshufflin New Member

    Nov 13, 2000
    Washington DC

    Dema is not a wing player at all. He is a withdrawn forward or an attacking midfielder. If Hudson was bright he would move Dema forward and let Namoff take the role of D-Mid.
  16. Liverpool_SC

    Liverpool_SC Member

    Jun 28, 2002
    Upstate, SC
    Re: Sensitivity

    I wasn't arguing that Olsen hasn't been attacking - he has done a great job knocking in goals and keeping opponents honest with shots from the outside. His work-rate is great too . . .

    But he has not been running past guys with the ball at his feet. He has resorted to more lateral passing and passing the ball backwards than he used to and he is not dribbling at people the way he used to.

    Some of this may be due to tactics. Some of it may be due to tentativeness coming back from injury. Hope that Beninho comes all the way back following this ankle knock.
  17. eltico

    eltico Member

    Jul 16, 2000
    Olsen was struggling through most of the season, but against SJ and LA at home then the Metros on the road, he was our most dangerous player going forward. The goals he scored against SJ and Metros were vintage "Old Bennie." We miss him badly out there.
  18. Cweedchop

    Cweedchop Member+

    Mar 6, 2000
    Ellicott City, Md
    Re: Re: Sensitivity

    Liverpool, first off, great thread that deserves a long hard look..

    As for the above comments, I've been saying this in print and on the radio show for months now..

    Ben Olsen was and is the key to this team.. You're right, early on this season there was definite hesitation in taking players on and attempting to stretch the defense.. However, right after the All-Star break, Olsen really began to do the things we all were wishing he had been doing all season and it's no coincidence that this team was playing it's best soccer during August/September..

    It's also notable to see that we haven't won a match since Ben's injury against the Mutts at RFK

    In general though, this team definitely lacks an offensive mentallity.. That's not to say they don't have the weapons to do it, it's just that for some reason it doesn't seem to click.. This team has had a handful of matches were they have looked very good going forward but it's mostly defensive play and I really don't have a problem with that considering we don't have one menacing forward on this roster.. We do what we can.. But the lack of shooting on goal comes from the lack of opportunities to get forward due to the defensive nature of this team and we need to find that balance next season..

    I think we have the pieces to do it, aside from a stud goal scorer..
  19. Red&Black

    Red&Black Member+

    Aug 30, 2001
    Lot 8
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    Burkina Faso
    the biggest problem in our attack, even given our finishing woes, in my opinion has been the pace of our play through midfield. we simply play to slowly too often through the middle of the field. even if we are able to exploit a problem in a team's shape, we usually don't move the point of attack quickly enough to that part of the pitch. we did do that well at the swamp last month but we really haven't done it that way.

    our attacking play from the flanks is ok but through the middle we have had problems. often we have poor shape in the middle players pressed back and too far to play dangerous balls. as also pointed out above, you simply can't blame any one player for that, 6 or more players played in a way that allows that.

    we never put enough balls really hard to the box, we have guys on the team, too numerous to list, who are good at getting the ball in those type of situations and scoring. still too many searching balls to the box not played in a way to take advantage of our strengths.

    i think we have to get both kovalenko and stewart up near the goal more. martins actually has won a decent number of balls with his back to the defense, somebody needs to play closer to him when we play that ball.

    another problem is, we really haven't developed that guy that can play the dangerous ball from the back. ray has had guys like bishop or even mckinley that can play a good ball to space not well organized by the defense. our backline guys are better at overlapping and running forward than playing those long kind of balls. i think that frustrates what ray tries to have the team play like.
  20. Knave

    Knave Member+

    May 25, 1999
    The other way to say this is that we never really replaced Agoos. Even our most dangerous defenders - Reyes for example- isn't the kind of player that can begin the attack out of the back. He's a hybrid winger - not a passer. The only two players who do that at all are Namoff and Ivanov but neither consistently (or consistently well). But back in the day I'd venture that Goose was often as instrumental to our attacking play as Etch. That sort of dynamic attacking out of the back is something that we miss today and that may be partly why we instead seem always to develop attacks so slowly now.
  21. JoeW

    JoeW New Member

    Apr 19, 2001
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Liverpool, I too overestimated our offense this year (as did many folks--didn't Jeff Bradley right that while he was unsure what kind of team we'd be, we'd be a team people would pay to see--instead we've been a team only the home fans can really appreciate most of the time).

    I'd offer a few other thoughts.

    1. We're very bad off the ball. You wouldn't think it b/c this team works hard and has some smart people on it--very few "raw" players (Eskandarian, maybe Barclay, Carroll). But we don't run off the ball well.

    2. No clear system of play. I wouldn't put it down as our best players have different styles. B/c Moreno and Lassiter had different styles. Heck--Rammell and RDA had different styles. Instead, to quote Hudson quoting Stewart--Earnie was frustrated b/c he expected more organization on the field. Instead, we're a bunch of jazz artists all improving at the same time but not in the same key.

    3. I totally agree about weak outlets from defense.

    4. We've not gotten "cheap" goals (the easy ones you get when the other team is asleep or on a quick counter). Our long ball efforts are futile (despite having 2 guys--Stoichkov and Etcheverry who might have the best distance service in MLS) b/c we don't counter well (make quick runs into space, don't transition well, and are weak in the air unless we bring up our defenders). We're a slow team (especially if you substract Olsen, Convey and Reyes--who are out or have been more a lot of the season). Plus we have a tendency to do square passes. The result--we have to work for everything we get.

    5. None of our forwards has played with confidence. As a result, we get our points from guys like Petke or Nelsen--or off of PKs.
  22. revelation

    revelation Member+

    Dec 17, 1998
    FC St. Pauli
    FC Sankt Pauli
    I don't think we have to look further than the following play to see the "issues" of our attack...(or lack thereof...)

    Center D (or Keeper) plays wide to the outside back.

    Outside back holds the ball as the opposing team collapses on them.

    Outside back passes to the central D.

    Central D plays wide to the opposite outside back.

    Outside back holds the ball as the opposing team collapses on them.

    Outside back passes up the wing to the marked midfielder.

    Midfielder passes to the marked central midfielder.

    Central midfielder passes to the same side marked outside back.

    Outside back passes to the central defender.

    Central defender passes to the opposite outside back...

    repeat ad infinitum...
  23. JoeW

    JoeW New Member

    Apr 19, 2001
    Northern Virginia, USA
    I have real problems with the idea that Ben Olsen is the key to our attack. Maybe if he was Robert Pires or someone like that, okay. I totally agree he makes a big difference. But he's not a great creator, has never been a frequent goal scorer, doesn't have a great cross. He should be someone who augments the attack, not someone who is the key to it.

    And to argue that the pace through midfield is too slow--I agree that it is. But if that was the case, it would cost us on counter goals and slow down the attack. But we'd still be effective against bunkering teams. To focus solely on the pace through midfield is to probably put too much blame on Etcheverry.

    If you look at our attack, there is clearly talent here. And technical ability (I keep thinking back to the KC comments about how we're a team of piano players and not enough piano movers--we have more technical ability and vision of the field on our roster than maybe half of MLS combined). And the heart is there. And there is a lot of work.

    But runs off the ball aren't rewarded. The vision of what people seek to do on attack isn't shared or consistent. There are some key limitations (no real target man earlier in the season, weak in the air, poor speed by attacking players). There is a reluctance to just put the ball on goal (not very stylish but sometimes grabbing a goal from a long range bomb that bounces off a defender or the GK is screened gives you the space to be more creative and stylish). With the exception of only a few matches, the attack as been nothing but a struggle all season for this team.
  24. eltico

    eltico Member

    Jul 16, 2000
    Joe, I agree that Olsen was certainly not the key for much of the season, but for that stretch where we were playing very, very well, Olsen did many of the things you say we need to do.

    The pace through the midfield picked up when we had Olsen playing at his best, closing down space, moving the ball quickly, taking players on. Without Olsen, from the home match against the Metros on, we've looked like the team of May, slowly plodding through the midfield, not pressuring the other team, unwilling to take players on.

    His shot against SJ that proved to be the gamewinner was the exact type of shot you (correctly) say that we need. Olsen, playing with aggression and confidence, takes those kinds of shots, and his enthusiasm for doing so diffuses to the other players.

    The attack in the home matches against LA, SJ, and the away match against the Metros was anything but sluggish, and the common denominator in those three games that we have lacked recently is a rejuvenated Olsen.

    Now the pressure on Etch, Stewart, and Convey to step up is even greater. At least one of them has to start providing the energy and confidence that Olsen did. If they don't, we'll be lucky to slip into the playoffs, and if we do that, I wouldn't book any bets on us being knocked out in the first round.
  25. BroonAleMagpie

    BroonAleMagpie New Member

    Apr 14, 2000
    Fairfax, VA
    Re: Dema

    Well, that would be news to the Fire and its fans, who saw him play as a wing half most of the time he was there, and very successfully too. I agree he would be an excellent choice for striker, too, and he can play at a-mid, but IMO his speed, his ability to break tackles, and his shooting are stronger than his distribution (though that's not bad either).

    I stand corrected though on the card situation. :( We're in it deep. And of course this is the crucial game, and the one where I may finally be bringing half a dozen new proto-fans. <sigh>

    Props to Liverpool and (almost) all the posters here for a really interesting, thought-provoking thread.

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