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Behind Closed Doors

I would love to tell you all what occurred at United practice this morning, except the club closed the session to the media, presumably to work on tactical and lineup changes.

Nonetheless, here's a bit of news:

Midfielder Clyde Simms, out the last two games with an ankle injury, practiced at regular pace and should be available Thursday against New England. However, defender Devon McTavish sat out again with a hip flexor. "I've felt better," he said. "We'll see how it feels tomorrow."

Also, before I share some comments from players, coaches, front office personnel, just wanted to pass along that club investors Victor MacFarlane and Will Chang are getting involved in United's effort to raise money for the Virginia Tech memorial fund. The team has made jerseys with their names on the back -- Chang is No. 88 and MacFarlane is No. 77 -- and will add them to the online charity auction on the team's Web site. In addition, both execs will match the highest bid on a player uniform. So if the Gomez jersey brings in $10 million (kidding), they would throw in another $20 million. (You get the idea.)

Also, keep an eye on late this evening for my big-picture story about United's situation.


Trade talks? "No, but whether you are winning or losing, you are always looking to make your team better. That's the reality of pro sports. Internationally we are always planning for the next transfer window and that's no different now. Right now, we're saying our next priority is Thursday's game. That's our focus. ... Any decision you make you want it to be a long-term decision and obviously when you bring a player in, you have to accommodate the player and make a change. We're not there."

"It's not about [getting] one player or a designated player. It's about collectively as a group doing the little things that we need to do to be successful and doing them consistently."


"We've got to shore things up and stop giving away goals. We spent two weeks addressing that, and as I watched [Saturday's game], I think my initial comments were that it was better and then I watched it again and I'll still say it wasn't good enough. We're going to address it, but for me, it's more about a mind-set of what we're going to be about as a team."

"I keep speaking of this thing called passion, and you watch our fans out in Columbus sitting out through the rain, I liken some of the passion they have in relation to what we're doing on the field."

The attack in Columbus? "More or less when I evaluate it, I don't think we were doing a good enough job with our reactions when balls turned over and it was too easy for Columbus to get out."

Changes this week? "You'll have to wait until Thursday."

Lack of passion? "That's the most disappointing thing. To hear people say we don't have passion is embarrassing to our organization. For someone who has been here a while and has seen what this club has been about, to have a team go out there and not put the fight and the passion that this club deserves, again is simply embarrassing and has got to change. That's the basics, that's got to be there."

On Soehn: "Tommy knows what he's doing. I feel bad for Tommy. I think we're letting him down. Tommy has done a good job with us and it's all about our mentality as a team and individuals, and how we can get that fight and that passion back."

Lineup changes coming Thursday? "We don't know yet, but can any of us really blame him if he did? Probably not. We need some sparks and maybe that's a way to go about it. We shouldn't have to resort to that because we have great players and we are a good team."

On Nicholas Addlery: "I think he's been great. He comes to training every day and gives passion. He came at the right time. The coaches saw that and rewarded him for the hard work he's done. He makes it very difficult for our backs at training. He's busy, he's strong and he's hungry -- he's hungry to play, he's hungry to stay in this league. In that sense, he's been a blessing to all of us. We need more guys who are hungry to play and knock people out of positions."

By Steve Goff  |  May 1, 2007; 2:05 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  
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Tom Soehn's quote about passion and the fans is the exact same thing I said to Kevin Payne at halftime in Columbus.

Posted by: Chico | May 1, 2007 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Basically they are saying they are not motivated and do not know how to get motivated. This is not good.

Posted by: Ron | May 1, 2007 3:20 PM | Report abuse

It's good they are talking about passion. Now if we can see it without talking about it then the other things can probably be fixed.

Posted by: DCUinCT | May 1, 2007 3:21 PM | Report abuse

i know it's only 3 games in, and the sky is still well above us all, but is it worrying anyone else that Tommy keeps repeating the same things over and over and over and.. zzzzzzzzz... all the "what we're about'' and ''passion'' talk is becoming a little unsettling. Laurence Olivier needed passion. DC United needs to change formations and remember how to string more than 2 passes together.

Posted by: d, dc | May 1, 2007 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Passion is great, but shouldn't we worry that focusing on this as the problem will lead us in the wrong direction. After all, if its just passion that is missing, as soon as we get passion we'll start winning. However if the cause has something to do with the skill level, formation, stamina, health, or chemistry of the team, more passion is meaningless. Does this make sense to others? All the talk of passion may really prevent us from figuring out some core problems for the team.

Posted by: Dan | May 1, 2007 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Maybe what United needs to do is what a hockey team would do in this situation: fight. I don't mean literally, with fists, etc. But they need to get a little manhood into their game. Someone on that squad needs to get sick enough of losing to get physical, tackle aggressively, push back: BE A MAN! The only person I've seen that from so far has been Fred.

Posted by: Grotus | May 1, 2007 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Chico for coach (no offense to Tommy)!

Posted by: Hunter R | May 1, 2007 3:52 PM | Report abuse

one other thing... picking up on what Chico said, one very positive thing about having such passionate fans is that, IMO, the management of the team will be quick to act to change directions, if it comes to that. Just like in every aspect of life, when you care deeply about something others get that. When DC gets its own stadium, this franchise will be a gold mine.

Posted by: Dan | May 1, 2007 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Gotta agree with Ron.

A little concerning to hear a lot of folks say they lack passion but don't know why. Brian Carroll admitted to the same.

Given that the team has been making this same observation since the opening day loss in Colorado, this is starting to sound like a bad session of group therapy.

Posted by: Mickey | May 1, 2007 3:58 PM | Report abuse

The truth is, the passion was all Freddy. And now Freddy's gone.

Posted by: Arrrlington | May 1, 2007 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Dan, passion *is* the core problem with this team. Its not the only problem as you correctly point out, but it is the core problem. Of course, DCU probably does need to make some tactical adjustments. But unmotivated soccer players can habitually ballwatch, turn the ball over, fail to defend, fail to win 50-50 balls, fail to plug passing lanes, fail to concentrate enough to make key saves/stops, pass too much instead of shoot on those rare occasions when they do get in the box, stand around while opposing attackers fly by with the ball on the flanks, phone it in because they are unhappy with their contract, etc. etc. just as easily from a 4-4-2 formation asn they can from an ill-suited 3-5-2 formation.

Bottom line, the players who dont care enough better start, or the DCU FO will get players in here who do, and there will be a ton more losing in the meantime. These guys need to realize this is DC United, the best and most decorated football club in the history of the United States. Every player needs to remind himself and steel his mind with the reality that when you pull on that black shirt, you give your very best for 90+ minutes and leave it all on the field, or go play minor league soccer or get traded to Real Salt Lake.

Posted by: Ron | May 1, 2007 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Freddy was just another spoke in the wheel, nothing more.

Posted by: Darth Hater | May 1, 2007 4:21 PM | Report abuse

As the British would say, what a bunch of rubbish. Actions speak louder then words. Go and perform, and let those actions speak for you.

Posted by: DC United Fan | May 1, 2007 4:23 PM | Report abuse

As the British would say, what a bunch of rubbish. Actions speak louder then words. Go and perform, and let those actions speak for you.

Posted by: DC United Fan | May 1, 2007 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Dang, Ron...

I'm really motivated now for my bike ride home! Thanks!!!

Posted by: d, dc | May 1, 2007 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Class move by the owners, both with the jerseys AND with the matching funds.
Tell you what, United, we'll handle the passion in the stands, you take care of the winning on the field.

Posted by: Lonnie | May 1, 2007 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Passion is like chemistry. You don't have it when you're losing. I guarantee that if they start winning, and scoring, they'll have these mythical properties restored.

Posted by: RK | May 1, 2007 4:35 PM | Report abuse

I think that a big part of what's been happening is that the guys haven't gotten over the loss to Daddy Chivas in the CONCACAF Champions Cup SemiFinals. The time has come to move on and start living in the here and now.

Posted by: Steve | May 1, 2007 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Dan I'm not sure I agree with your statement
"the management of the team will be quick to act to change directions", in fact I think the passion--from the Supporters Groups, the rest of the fanbase, on through the organization including Will and Victor gives United to more stay the course. United has pretty much stayed the course throughout its existence. Coaches have been given long periods of time, players long periods of time, etc. The "idea of football" United has also remained very consistent over time. I think this passion binds people to the course--that certainly doesn't mean results aren't expected, in fact they are, but you are given the loyalty and backing to get the job done. United has certainly made changes--replacing two coaches but no one can say they didn't have a good go of it. This certainly isn't LA where unproven management pushes the panic button in a heartbeat.

Posted by: BigRob | May 1, 2007 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Steve - how often does united have closed door training sessions? does this portend significant changes for thursday?

Posted by: pat | May 1, 2007 5:28 PM | Report abuse

It has happened a few times at United and is very common with the U.S. national team. Other pro teams close practices regularly.

United's reason for doing it today and tomorrow is, I believe, the Soccer Insider (seriously). When I am at practice, I am going to write what I see and I am going to post it here right away. I will not agree to any pre-arranged deals with the club. So when they want to keep things out of the public, they will have to close practice on occasion.

Yes, I think we will see changes Thursday.

Posted by: Goff | May 1, 2007 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Goff, they just want to have a scoop for a change. You hop online and blog before he's even out of the shower.

Seriously, the whole passion nonsense gets fixed with a couple benchings of people who never had to compete for a spot on the pitch. Sit Gomez or Moreno for a spell and their passion will come back quickly. It's the lineup that's far more interesting.

Posted by: LeesburgSoccerFan | May 1, 2007 6:00 PM | Report abuse

When I hear passion, I read hustle. Right now, these players have zero hustle. Move to meet the ball and stop with the lazy passes already. A five year old makes those kinds of passes, not professionals. You lose the ball? You fight, scrape, pull, punch and run your a** ragged to get it back.

Maybe they think they're so much better than the rest of the MLS that it's like playing children and there's no need to hustle or make crisp passes. If so, wake up guys.

I want to see a nice blue collar work ethic from the boys on Thursday. That is all.

Posted by: Kevin | May 1, 2007 6:48 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree with both BigRob and Chico. Both comments are spot on. As for me, I'll be in section 135 supporting United through thick and thin. I'm just praying the thick takes place of the thin sooner rather than later. I have United's back.

Posted by: DB | May 1, 2007 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Good to see Ben's comments on Adderly. I agree after seeing him in the reserve game in Columbus.

Also, was good to see Dominic Mediate playing again. He had a nice, tidy 90 minutes in the reserve match. Crunched Duncan Oghten for us, too. Wilson had his moments, too.

If it's passion DCU is looking for, the Reserves had it on Sunday.

Posted by: Cannonball Adderly | May 1, 2007 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Well, I guess that saves me a trip down to practice in the morning...

Posted by: Dave Lifton | May 1, 2007 10:09 PM | Report abuse

fill the gatorade buckets with passion juice

Posted by: grumpy | May 1, 2007 10:13 PM | Report abuse

There's a lot more wrong than a lack of passion; this is just a bad team with many problems. The record doesn't lie, since the all-star break of last year the team is something like 3-10-1. That's the worst record in MLS over the period so 0-3 is only the recent news. We aren't good defensively, offensively, in goal, the FO or the coaching staff. Everyone other than the fans groups that are associated with DCU needs to do some soul searching.

Posted by: tex | May 1, 2007 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Boys- We'll have 6 points before the week is out and be right back in the thick of things. I also believe Carroll is done pouting about Europe and realizes that he is by no means to quality for DC United and MLS. He knows that one more game costing amateur pass and his a$$ will be riding pine.

Posted by: Mountaineer Pride | May 1, 2007 10:31 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the "hustle" comment above. It pains me to watch when Moreno loses possession and doesn't fight to get the ball back. I ache when every single team member doesn't run/fight/get pissed like Olsen does on every play.

I don't think Moreno should be captain. Sure, it's a somewhat ceremonial position, but it also can be the personality of the team. Moreno's off and his heart doesn't seem in the game. Benny is the team's voice, or should be. He's the first to kick his teammates in the rear and give them he** for not playing with intensity.

I say put Addlery up front with Emilio and bring Moreno in as a super-sub, if needed.

Thank you, and good night.

Posted by: Beaker | May 1, 2007 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Mountaineer Pride -

You think that Carroll has one more game to prove himself? Judging by how Soehn handled the Erpen situation, I'd say we should expect Simms (or Moose) out there Thursday night. Carroll's head just hasn't been right this season. He's covering less ground, intercepting fewer passes, and is turning the ball over so often that you wonder whether he remembers what team he's on.

On the matter of formations, I agree entirely with Ron. Set them up any way you like, we just have too many players who are mentally off right now. Sometimes, the solutions in soccer aren't down to formations, or this player over that player; it can be as simple as the squad not playing up to its abilities. This is a great example of that.

Thursday night's game has plenty of factors that, alone, would be great motivation. We're on national TV at home. We're playing the team that, along with us, has been best in the East over the last 3 years. Established starters are getting yanked at halftime and benched in subsequent games, so guys are playing for their jobs. Our team's beating heart (Olsen) is hurt and embarrassed at what's gone on so far and will surely demand that it stop. If the guys can't stand up and be accounted for after that, you do have to start worrying.

Posted by: Chest Rockwell | May 1, 2007 11:00 PM | Report abuse

I think we will know a lot more of what's going on with this team and this season after the two games this week. Until then, I think we should all show up the games, lend our support, and see what comes out of this weekend.

Posted by: Diego R. | May 1, 2007 11:34 PM | Report abuse

i hate when coaches use as a fallback excuse "we arent playing with passion." to me that is really 'i dont know what the f@@@ is happening right now and we are losing so im gonna cop out and sa it about passion and effort' spare me the cookie cutter i dont care if you're the highest paid or lowest paid player speach. sounds like a panic button. it just puts undue pressure on the team. be confident, maybe tweak a thing or two, sit a player who is not performing, but have some confidence that jaime and league mvp and emilio are going to suceed. all these people calling for gomez to be benched and for jaime to sit are crazy, who are they really going to put in, walker, or deroux, c'mon. fans, coachs, have some confidence in the best club in mls history. -thanks

Posted by: jay | May 1, 2007 11:37 PM | Report abuse

Since I'm still not in the mood to discuss DCU play on the field, I just wanted to say the owners adding their own jerseys and matching the highest bid item are class moves and the Hokie Nation appreciates the gesture. More than $20,000 was raised by the nearly 4,000 in attendance at the University of Richmond Stadium for the exhibition between Virginia Tech and the Richmond Kickers. I don't want to turn this into a negative post, so I won't comment on the officiating and the linesmen....

Posted by: sitruc | May 2, 2007 2:17 AM | Report abuse

How about your "hungry & motivated" Best 11 then, everyone? Mine is:

Adderly Emilio

Casal Olsen Fred Gros

Namoff Boswell Erpen McTavish


Sit Gomez, Carroll, Jaime & Perkins down and explain to them that they've played their way out of thier jobs, now they must prove why they deserve them. See if they pout or support with enthusiasm. It's a test of thier character and loyalty, just like watching the last 4 games has been a test of ours.

Posted by: Grotus | May 2, 2007 7:50 AM | Report abuse

Excellent post BigRob!

Posted by: Hunter R | May 2, 2007 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Nolly. Are you kidding me? The hottest striker in MLS is Taylor Twellman. Nolly's not ready for that.

Posted by: David | May 2, 2007 11:02 AM | Report abuse

erpen boz namoff
olsen simms gomez gross
moreno emilio

60 minute mark sub in for moreno, and slide gomez up and fred up and olsen inside and maybe put in moose....

Posted by: ben | May 2, 2007 11:41 AM | Report abuse

I would say the problem is the coaching; in my opinion the coach has to know which playing formation (3-4-2 or 4-4-2) should be used for a particular game, he has to know any one player where any one could be used better, he has to know the playing stile the mentalite of any one player; with those parameters make a good team for each game. A good coach do not make what the people saying.
DC United have a lot of fanatic people here in Orlando Florida, we want to see again the good team from the last years.

Posted by: Gil | May 2, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Formation, formation, formation. The players in this team can not play a 3-5-2 our defense is to weak and when we put players like Gros in the defensive line how can we attack on the wings. The last game was the worst coaching I have seen in years. There is only one to blame Tom Soehn. Passion, attitude, inspiration comes from the top and Tom Soehn has none of it.

Posted by: Morenowho? | May 2, 2007 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Totally serious about Nolly. He may not be ready, but Perkins has been crap. Crap. He needs to get hungry again, just like the rest of them. Ride the Pine, Perkins! Say hi to Erps while you're there!

Posted by: Grotus | May 2, 2007 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Ok, first of all let me start by thanking BigRob and Ron for their comments. Of all the thread discussions that I've seen here in SI this has been the most productive for me.

The issue here seems to be that there are two competing threads of conventional wisdom on why United is in its current funk. On one side you've got folks arguing that it is tactics and formation and the fact that other teams' tactics have adjusted to ours, to their betterment. On the other side you have the lack of passion/hustle/heart wisdom which says that guys on the team are not giving everything they have; they're not "fighting for the shirt" as it were. Both ideas can be supported by looking at our results vs. MLS opponents over the end of last season and the start of this one. At the end of last year some argued that since we had secured a playoff birth in July(?) the intensity dropped off from players because the rest of the regular season didn't matter (lack of passion) this, those folks would argue, led to us being off our stride when it mattered. Then there are those that say teams finally figured us out and that they began to adjust to our tactics and that this has carried over to this season.

Now the question is which is it? I would argue that United's results in the CCC point to the fact that this is a tactical/formation/skill issue. We got very good results against teams that were not familiar with our tactics and players. I buy the argument that the CCC loss to Chivas impacted our first game against Colorado, but we're now three games into the season. Were we that put off by the loss? I'm not sure.

Maybe in the end, these two issues have combined to give us what we have now? But, I return to my original point which was to warn that if we decide that this is all about passion with nothing to do with other issues, we may be hoisting the wrong sail as we search for better results.

Posted by: Dan | May 2, 2007 2:02 PM | Report abuse

BigRob, re: my statement about managment, I think I was not as clear as I wanted to be. I beleive that the actions of this new group of owners/investors shows us that they "get it" when it comes to the franchise that they have. If, and this is a big if, they are told that we need to make changes (of any magnitude) they will do it. I think their actions thus far have said as much.

I think that it is clear that players come and go and that fans (at least the fans here) are loyal to the team. Yes the team has been loyal to players, but the ultimate focus has been on the team. So, in the end, the loyalty and support and approval of the fans is what will most often resonate with owners/investors, because they are the ones who supply the $$$ that sustains the team.

I'm not sure if I'm making the same argument as before, a different one, or trying to clarify. I am sure that United, even with our current situation, are one of the best long term prospects in American sport. I'm pretty sure that Will and Victor did that calculus too, potential development windfall aside.

Posted by: Dan | May 2, 2007 2:11 PM | Report abuse

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