What Happens When Lightning Strikes

Discussion in 'D.C. United' started by ursula, Jul 15, 2005.

  1. ursula

    ursula Member

    Feb 21, 1999
    Republic of Cascadia
    This is my response to Knave's thread on the team and Goff's midseason assessment. This may go a bit but since I have several patients with needles sound asleep I have a little time...

    One thing I read several times here lately goes something like, "DCU is a .500 team that got lucky (or lightning struck) at the end of last season." That may be true but unfortunately the various writes of sentences like that never explained why that 'ol lightning struck. It seemed like the writers thought it was random chance that somehow gifted United with the MLS Cup last year.

    I emphatically disagree with that.

    There were definite reasons why the team won it all last year and why this year the team hasn't been able to sustain that excellence with notable exceptions (as Goff noted) in the wins over Chicago and New England. Generally those reasons have to do with how the offense was (and is) constructed much more than how the defense was (is) doing- though the defense has impacted the team too.

    To understand how the offense has impacted the team's fortunes one has to at least vaguely understand how a team- any team- scores on a regular basis. Basically a team needs to have multiple avenues towards goal. The fewer ways a team can threaten opposing defenses the easier it is for defenses to shut them down. The various offensive avenues include: 1) dribbling & passing up the middle, 2) moving the ball up the flanks then dribbling or passing the ball on the ground, 3) crossing the ball for an air attack, 4) forward pressure on the other team resulting in quick turnovers, 5) quick transitions from defense to offense before the opposing defense takes over, etc. You get the idea and can probably say this as well as me.

    Now back to United.

    Phase 1

    Go back to the beginning of last year. The midfield and forwards looked like this:


    The first thing that should be noted is that this lineup and every lineup since is not good in the air. This is big. It's a handicap. It makes it so that the team must have oither ways to attack defenses and those ways must be better than if they also could use the air.

    In addition this first offense was hampered by several factors:

    1) Esky and particularly Adu were young and not confident they could score against MLS defenses.

    2) Neither Dema nor Benny were true a-mids. (Dema did however score all but one assist from this set up.)

    3) There was a disconnection between the wingers and the forwards.

    To sum up, basically the offense had to go through Moreno on the ground to other players who were not primarily scorers, or from those players to Moreno who looks to dish rather than score usually. Most of the goals were scored as a result of forward pressure- which the team did very well. Thus it is not surprising that the team struggled to score usually and a .500 record naturally followed.

    Phase 2

    After a multi game transition the team mutated into this:

    -----------------Gomez (Adu)

    This is when the proverbial lightning struck and it struck because of the changes in the offense, not by some random chance:

    1) Gomez was a huge upgrade at a-mid.

    2) Eskandarian found his confidence.

    3) Stewart developed a rapport with the forwards and Gomez.

    4) To a lesser extent, Olsen and Carroll both provided timely forward passes.

    Of these reasons, #1 and #3 were the two catalysts. Gomez and Moreno developed a quick bond that opposing defenses had a hard time stopping. Both being good at dribbling and passing in tight spaces they were just quicker than opposing d-mids and central defenders. If one of them got stopped, the other sprang free. However the addition of Earnie to the offense was almost as big. This presented a whole new avenue of attack- from the flanks. And Stewart did it both by threatening to score and by feeding the ball into the front three.

    Between Gomez and Stewart (and Moreno), Eskandarian got his confidence because he was that much more open. Alecko can't really create his own shot by dribbling past more than one defenders so he needs his teamates to distract opposing defenders. Think how well that worked in MLS Cup, able to turn on Garcia 1v1 because Conrad and Guitterez etc had to worry about Moreno and Gomez and Stewart (who caused the 3rd own goal.) Kansas could shut down Moreno and still give up three goals.

    This was a very finely tuned offense. Note that the wingers didn't contribute much at all.

    Phase 3

    In the offseason, Stewart left to be sort of replaced by Gros and Guppy (and Dema was hurt for a long time):


    Most of us here (including me) didn't think the offense would stagnate much, but it did:

    - The loss of Stewart with the possible addition of Guppy being hurt so much resulted in almost no flank play.

    - As a result of that opposing defense could concentrate on the three forward players, Gomez, Moreno and Esky (and Adu). This most affected Esky who can't take more than one defender at a time. His goal production simply stopped. As stated under Phase 2, Gros and Kovalenko can't supply much in the way of offense from with wings.

    So with fewer avenues to attack the opposition (much like in phase 1- the beginning of last year) the team has scored less frequently and hel-lo .500!

    Phase 4

    But there is a glimmering of a phase 4 and it happened in the good victories over Chicago and NE:


    The simple change from Esky to Tino is huge folks as they are very different players. In essense, Tino brought back flank play, as the froward triangle, all very similar players in passing ability, move across the width of the field in passing the ball to each other. This opens up spaces for them to run onto, spaces that result in 1v1 challenges that they will often win. Goals become possible again.

    But this lineup is only most of what I exect in a fully realized phase four. I expect two more changes:

    - Guppy will become the starting left winger over Gros. I was dubious of The Gupster at the beginning of the season but not now: With the front three of Gomez, Moreno , and Quaranta moving so fluidly over the width of the attacking third they will often be in a 1v1 poosition for Guppy to cross to them. That's an entirely different sitiuation of the front three of Moreno, Gomez, and Esky clotting up front for a cross.

    -Dema moves to a central mid position. I always found it odd that Nowak moved Dema to the wings as he just can't generate offense from there. But he can add bite up the middle. I don't ecxpect to see Nowak always start Dema in the middle but it will happen enough to help.

    Because of this:


    I'm feeling optimistic. This group minus Guppy already has beaten the best in MLS. If they are able to start together for an extended run- like phase 2 last year- this team will go far.
  2. Shark

    Shark Member

    Mar 12, 2004
    Leesburg, VA
    ....I don't know if I should read this or ro avoid the reading just shout out a loud...

    ..HELL YEAH!!! What she said gosh dammit!!!!
  3. BigKris

    BigKris Member

    Jan 17, 2005
    Falls Church, VA
    Dude, that is, like, incredibly analytical. I don't know whether to rep you or to tell you to seek professional help. In any event, I know better than to question you, so I'll take your word for it.
    Although, I have to say, (especially from having been at the game tonight) I wonder whether the 36-year-old Guppy can play substantial minutes in the humid, hot, humid, humid-hot, (did I say humid?) weather that DC can generate in mid-summer.
    Also, from what I've seen of Nana, he's a talent. How do we get him on the pitch?
  4. Th4119

    Th4119 Member

    Jul 26, 2001
    Annandale, VA
    Pretty much the lineup I've been gunning for. I would like to see Quaranta and Esky fighting it out for the striker spot, Olsen on the side and Carroll/Simms in the holding mid.

    It's definitely got potential. Great post in all, Skip.
  5. jason1551

    jason1551 Member+

    Apr 9, 2003
    Columbus, GA
    DC United
    Great post, but I'm still not sold on Kovalenko starting. He just hasn't shown the same bite that he had last year, either on the wing or in the middle. I would rather see Olsen in his spot and Gros on the right. That gives us good wing play on both sides, and it puts our strongest wingers and midfielders on the field at the same time.
  6. Th4119

    Th4119 Member

    Jul 26, 2001
    Annandale, VA
    I saw Dema with a little more fire tonight. Maybe DCU can fill us in because I believe he suffered the identical injury as Kovalenko, but is it possible Dema has just been tentative on his foot, not wanting to slide tackle and cut at full force until he regains full confidence in it?

    I know that's usually the case more with ligament injuries, but it would seem to make some sense.
  7. onefineesq

    onefineesq Member+

    Sep 16, 2003
    Laurel, MD
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I'm still not sold on Guppy starting. Guppy is simply too slow to be a regular starter in this league. I almost fell out laughing when Guppy made a nice move, after coming in late in the San Jose game, to get by a player by about 8 yards ........ and then get caught from behind in the next 10. Guppy is a player that we're going to have to give spot minutes to. The depth he provides will be sorely needed with US Open Cup games, a couple of friendlies, and Sudamericana games coming up, in addition to the MLS games. Undoubtedly he will have to start some of these games. However, to believe that DCU should be relying on an older player, coming off injury with tired legs in the heat of summer to be the de facto starter is at best ................ a specious idea.
  8. ursula

    ursula Member

    Feb 21, 1999
    Republic of Cascadia
    Well that old Fish is the weakest part of my arguement to be sure. I've heard tell that it gets a bit humid in DC. ;)

    BTW, Adu filled in okay for Quaranta this time.
  9. United_Caps_Fan

    United_Caps_Fan New Member

    Apr 25, 2004
    Alexandria,VA 134/35
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Cannot even FATHOM (PHATHOM?) reading that in the condition I am in given that I just got home from a 3-0 United WIN, and after hours. UGH! NO offence, but ill read it later. :eek:
  10. BBBulldog

    BBBulldog Moderator
    Staff Member

    Jun 25, 2004
    Dinamo Zagreb
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    I'm too drunk to read it but I'm sure it's a good posrt
  11. JoeSoccerFan

    JoeSoccerFan Member+

    Aug 11, 2000
    Invokes this visual image -

    Wow! Great analysis as usual Skip!
  12. Barbara

    Barbara BigSoccer Supporter

    Apr 29, 2000
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States

    Ursula's a boy.
  13. MightyMouse

    MightyMouse BigSoccer Supporter

    Jun 19, 2003
    Island paradise east of the mainland
    FC Barcelona
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Ursula, so what you are saying, in few words is... DC United should beat Chelsea with double digit numbers? Personally I think DC should take the foot off the gas by around the 10th goal so that we don't make the Permiership chamions mad as they might not want to come back to MLS land. Onyl 10 goals... NO MORE!!! You hear me Mr. Moreno? Get your hattrick and just be nice ok!!!
  14. ursula

    ursula Member

    Feb 21, 1999
    Republic of Cascadia
    But damn cute.
  15. MikeLastort2

    MikeLastort2 Member

    Mar 28, 2002
    Takoma Park, MD
    People who write that last year we were a .500 team that got lucky are full of crap.

  16. Daniel le Rouge

    Daniel le Rouge New Member

    Oct 3, 2002
    under a bridge
    There's all kinds of things that are right with the analysis, but wrong with the lineups.

    For starters, there's no speed up top and on the flank when you've got the Guppy/Quaranta combination on the pitch. Sure, 'Tino's got some wheels, but both Esky and Fred are considerably faster. Furthermore going from Gros to Guppy just detroys the speed factor down the left flank.

    What you end up doing is trading an ability to cross to a striker with height for BOTH your quick transition game AND your high press. To properly execute a high press, you've got to have a fast and mobile midfield sitting behind your front line. Otherwise the forwards have to drop deeper, and your high press becomes a midfield press. Adjusting for Guppy means conceding another ten yards to the opposition--in effect, your press line moves from 30 yards out to the top of the center circle. More space to concede, more space for your counter to cover, more time for the opposition's defense to close you down. Not everyone is going to give us as much room as San Jose did last night. So we have to be able to attack that space with speed.

    That said, I really like what 'Tino adds to our offense. My thought would be to leave the forward line intact, since the triumvirate of Jaime, Fred and Gomito FINALLY seemed to click a little last night. Leave Gros on the left, but push 'Tino out to the right. Dema/Ben/Simms/Carroll are going to have to duke it out for the last two spots. The good news is that they are all pretty capable players. Finding the right blend is Piotr's job.

    What that idea does is give you that back-door run that Dave and Johnny Ace were talking about last night--the one we don't currently have going.
  17. ryankozlowski

    ryankozlowski Red Card

    Apr 30, 2005
    Conneaut Lake, PA
    for one thing.. your analysis or story that i could only keep my eyes open for the first 27 paragraphs is wrong. Just put your confidence in coach Nowak. The guy won a championship in his first year. It is difficult putting all these players that DCU has that are all alike in the postition they want and getting them to click. DCU has the best combination hands down of about six guys that can play forward or midfield and score alot. What I saw last night against San Jose on the television was the best soccer I have seen played by a MLS team in a long time. I live in Pennsylvania.. but actually washington is the closest team and I plan on coming down for Chelsea VS DC United.

    Seriously last night was class football.. and basically last week.. at least the first half was class.. The possession game, DC plays good possession soccer. Its halfway thru the season. Right now we are tied for third. And if you keep playing like that things are going to go right. I would not be surprised if DC is close to first come playoff time. The only team I think can lift a finger with how DC played last night in the east is New England. Chicago really doesnt have enough talent, metrostars, kansas city.. no.

    What your seeing when u watch DC United compared to the other teams in MLS is a high class team. Actual cheering sections. You guys sounded loud last night to. And just kick ass possession soccer. I think how Adu is playing lately.. Brillant passing and touches.. he will not be off the pitch.. he took eskdarian spot right now.. no offense. but u cant keep adu off the field how he is passing. i liked gomez and dema in the midfield like that..

    keep things like last night.. Just looked world class. Really how soccer should be played.. I dont really see anyone stopping DCU.. get optimistic seriously.. watch some other teams play.

    and guppy.. are u kidding.. what is wrong with freddy and moreno?? hello.. were u watching last night.. frankly i would leave eskdarian on the bench for now.. u dont mess with 3-0 results.. and seriously.. DC United should trade one of them.. because someone is going to get pissed when their sitting the bench and freddy is playing the whole time..

    and Quaranta shouldnt see the field again..
  18. Kenobi

    Kenobi Member

    Jul 11, 1999
    DC United
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    With one line, you just discounted everything else you said. "Have some confidence in coach Nowak"? How about having some confidence in coach Arena? If he thinks Quaranta is worthy to play for the national team, why the hell would Tino's club coach leave him on the bench? One player is not going to change the entire on-field chemistry of a team unless he's Zidane or Ronaldinho.
  19. JayRockers!

    JayRockers! Member+

    Aug 4, 2001
    As Comcast pointed out on their SportsNite program. DC United is 16-8-6 since acquiring Christian Gomez. Lightning certainly has struck, in the form of an Argentinian Midfielder. 51 points will win you a conference most years, or at least put you in the playoffs. And 13 goals is a pretty good number, too.


  20. ryankozlowski

    ryankozlowski Red Card

    Apr 30, 2005
    Conneaut Lake, PA
    I dont know what Arena sees in Quaranta
    he's a good player, dont get me wrong.
    he's a good option off the bench. But, I mean right now I couldn't point at one guy from last nights game and be like your the weak link.. That's where Quaranta should go.
  21. Lanky134

    Lanky134 New Member

    Oct 25, 1999
    134, 3, 6
  22. Th4119

    Th4119 Member

    Jul 26, 2001
    Annandale, VA
    Well maybe if he stopped posting about how dreamy Clint Dempsey's smile is there would be less confusion.
  23. jason1551

    jason1551 Member+

    Apr 9, 2003
    Columbus, GA
    DC United
    How about Dema? Y'know the guy that's been invisible this entire season.

    I would rather have Quaranta on the right wing than Kovalenko anyday. He'll make the far-post runs that Dema won't, and he has shown better skill on the wing than anybody else we've put out there this season w/ the possible exception of Olsen, who, while ideal for the spot, just doesn't have the same speed and intensity out there since his injuries. Besides, Olsen is a better ball-winner in the midfield.
  24. ursula

    ursula Member

    Feb 21, 1999
    Republic of Cascadia
    You know, when he walked by me, just a foot away from brushing my hand, he glanced at me with those gorgeous bedroom eyes and said, "duh".

    I knew right then my life's purpose was to be by his side.
  25. ursula

    ursula Member

    Feb 21, 1999
    Republic of Cascadia
    A lot of good thoughts here. Let me reply to a couple of them in no particular order.

    - I purposely left off talking about Fred for the reason that you alluded to, that he hasn't yet meshed well with Gomez and Moreno and thus hasn't yet been essential for the team (though very flashy and fun). If that is changing however (and last not was encouraging though it needs to develop more) then yes I can see Tino on the right wing. He's flexible.

    - Now onto the main point, that of speed. Yes Guppy + Tino slows the team down. Since we haven't seen how slow, I'm still thinking that's a good combo with the skill outweighing the slowness. I definitely think the added skill outweighs putting Esky into the lineup as I see Esky as gumming up the middle of the field too much unless we have more attach (real attack) down the flanks. IMO Esky's speed is not used as well as it could for this team. I'd rather a speed player like our old Rocket Roy(with a better first touch) who's flirting with the offside line all the time unnerving opposing defenders. But then again we haven't seen much of a Guppy/Esky combo to be definitive here either.

    Adu I just wrote above. If he does learn to integrate then his speed would be good- provided however that he plays as a real forward and not drop back so goddamn far.

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