Results: 1-2-2. 9 GF, 11 GA
Standings: Third place in the Eastern Conference
Statistical Leaders: Christian Gomez (3 goals, 2 assists), Luciano Emilio (3 goals), Bryan Namoff, Jaime Moreno, and Fred (1 goal, 1 assist each)
Most frequent lineup:
What we liked:
- The Christian Gomez of 2007 - In the first half of the season, there was a wide variety of candidates for DC United's MVP: Quaranta, Pontius, Moreno, Gomez, maybe even Wicks or Jakovic. But at this point, I think Christian Gomez has emerged once again as our all-around best attacker, and the legitimate force that we'll need to stay level with our Eastern Conference competitors who each have dynamic attackers of their own in Chicago (No-neck), Columbus (GBS), and Toronto (DeRo).
- The return of the 4-4-2 - One of my New Years' Resolutions for 2009 for the club was to bury the 3-5-2. The club has yet to embrace that recommendation, as our personnel this year has been more appropriately aligned with a three-man backline. But the second half of the Houston match saw the return of the 4-4-2, with surprising success. Only time will tell though whether or not we start using this formation more often than just after giving up three goals in five minutes. I've hypothesized that it might be best to use a four-man backline when playing on the road against a strong attacking team (like maybe against Toronto next week?). Never the less, surely it's a good thing that we now seem to have the ability to play in multiple formations at different times, and that we're able to adjust when necessary.
What we didn't like:
- Where is the star power? – To put things in perspective, during this five game stretch, Jaime Moreno and Santino Quaranta each only started one match, and Luciano Emilio only started two. Those are three of our top scorers who didn’t see nearly enough time on the field. Of course this isn’t entirely the coach’s fault for keeping them away. Quaranta was out fighting for his nation at the Gold Cup and Emilio was suspended for one match due to a certain water bottle incident. I understand the desire to involve the rookies more, but Soehn should look at these disappointing results and take it as a signal that he should be getting Moreno onto the field as much as possible.
- Conceding multiple goals – Not only have we now gone seven straight league matches without posting a shutout, but we also had three multi-goal matches in this stretch of five games. Relinquishing a two goal lead in San Jose is indefensible.
- Disappointing reserves - We knew this would be a difficult part of the schedule when Quaranta and Jakovic were called up for Gold Cup duty, and that problem was exacerbated by minor injuries to Moreno, Emilio, and Simms. So we were counting on reserves like Ange N'Silu, Boyzzz Khumalo, Andrew Jacobson, and Greg Janicki to step up while filling in for our regular starters. Some of these players were adequate while on the field, but N'Silu and Janicki were particularly disappointing in their appearances.
Defining moment: I've got two of 'em. Bryan Namoff's own goal, followed later in the same match by his diving header against Colorado at home. These two goals epitomize the back-and-forth nature of four out of the five games we faced in this stretch. Namoff's resiliency was what propelled the team to a win in that match, and we saw that same sort of resiliency two weeks later from Emilio, coming off the bench with a head of steam to bring us one goal away from tying Houston after being down by 3.
Overall impression: United's 1-2-2 record in the fourth Sixth is a bit misleading, because this stretch of the season also included three Open Cup victories to return DC to the Final, and a home-and-home series victory over Firpo to return DC to the Champions League group stage. These wins have now guaranteed that DC United will play more matches within the 2009 season than any other MLS team. DC will play 45 matches (not including preseason), while the most any other team will play is Houston with 39. There's certainly pros and cons to that fact. Fatigue will be an issue during much of the playoff push over the next two months. But when the CCL and Open Cup are all over, our players should be in better shape than anyone else, and the international experience should benefit these guys for years to come. As for making the playoffs though, a lot is going to depend on the form of some other clubs. There is some new competition out there from teams like Toronto, Seattle, and Colorado who aren't normally in the MLS playoff hunt, and if they can maintain consistency, we could be in for a tough fight at the end of the season. I can see already some potential must-win matches in our future (10/3 Chivas, 10/17 Columbus).