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Who Am I and Why Am I Here?

Greetings from Estadio RFK's training grounds, where the weather is warm, the sun is out, the spirits seem incredibly high and the press corps is doing some major MLS stat crunching for tomorrow's advance. More on that later.

Wanted to give a quick introduction. Many of you know me from the D.C. Sports Bog, our sort of offbeat, irreverent look at local sports. Many of you might not realize that I used to be an actual reporter; my last beat was Maryland football and George Washington/George Mason men's basketball.

Well, for the next month or so I'm going to try to be an actual reporter again. I'll be filling in for Goff in his absence, both in the paper and on the Insider. I'll be doing much, much less of the goofy stuff I've done on the Bog, although some of that might slip in here. There are a few concerns you might have:

1) I still have to post over on the Bog, and I'm already pledged to certain non-DCU events. For example, Sunday afternoon I'll be in Landover, which means another reporter will be at Estadio RFK to file the match report. I'll also have to go out to Ashburn for several Redskins practices, and to Ballston for the Caps, and so on. But I'll do my level best to keep some regular D.C. United reports flowing on the Insider. Soccer editor Jon Denunzio will also chip in with some national and international thoughts, and Goff will be with us from China. Since the Insider clearly has the most articulate and cleverest commenters of all our sports blogs (and I'm not just saying that), I trust that we'll manage to keep this thing going until Our Leader returns.

2) I'm clearly not an Insider in the sense that Goff's an Insider. So, for example, I won't be posting player ratings after matches. I haven't seen every game this year, and I'm just not sure that would be fair for me to do. If any of you want to form an executive committee and e-mail me your ratings so that I can create a composite, I'd be happy to tabulate and post the results. E-mail me if interested. Obviously, this requires a certain level of dedication and sophistication, so only contact me if you're serious.

Now, for actual soccer stuff. Tomorrow's advance will attempt to discuss Tom Soehn's substitution and lineup patterns, and whether this year's side will be fresher heading down the stretch than last year's. A few numbers for your consideration.

Through 23 MLS games last year, five DCU players had started all 23 games. Through 23 games this year? Zero.

Through 23 MLS games last year, 15 different lineups had been trotted out. Through 23 games this year? Twenty-one.

Through 23 MLS games last year, DCU had fielded the same lineup in consecutive MLS games eight different times. Through 23 games this year? It's only happened once, in the Dallas-Chivas back-to-backer that just wrapped up.
And even in those games, Emilio, Ben Olsen and Jaime Moreno all had early trips to the bench (not always happily, I might add).

I'll have some player and coach comments about this in tomorrow's paper, but for now I ask you, do you support Soehn's approach? Do you worry about a lack of consistency with all the changes? Do you think the team looked burned out at the end of 2006? Do you think this year's team looks any fresher?

Oh, one more stat. Through 23 games last year, DCU had 13 wins. Through 23 games this year, DCU also has 13 wins. But you might recall that in the final nine games last year, DCU only recorded two wins. We'll see if this year turns out differently.

By Dan Steinberg  |  September 8, 2007; 11:20 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  
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Next: Watching the Eagles

Comments

Well, if they can get the 14th win tomorrow after such a gruelling schedule in the last weeks... that will pretty much make it worthwhile right there.

Unlike some others, I think the Supporter's Shield is a great accomplishment and I really hope the team gets it. I value it about equally with the MLS Cup.

Sunday's game is huge for the Shield.

Posted by: RB | September 8, 2007 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Precisely who will be in the press box at Estadio RFK in your/Goff's place?

Posted by: Section 410 | September 8, 2007 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I'd appreciate soccer viewing insights from any one on the DC/Arlington sports bar options for Sunday. Trying to catch both United and US-Brazil, and I'm hearing about lots of football/rugby, conflicts, tape delays, etc.

If I've got it right, United-Rev starts at 3pm and may be shown live on Spanish broadcast, but not in English until evening tape delay. US-Brazil starts at 4pm.

Any bars that would be showing both United and US live? And perhaps would even have audio for the US match????

Thanks!

Posted by: speculation | September 8, 2007 12:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm not a fan of Soehn. DCU has the best record in the league despite their coach. His substitutions are tactically baffling and cause the players to look confused at certain times. 20 different lineups in 23 games is an example. None of the players are able to get comfortable with their role (or know their role for that matter). In my opinion, this DCU team has way more talent than last year. They should certainly have more wins and Soehn substitutions and lineups are to blame.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 8, 2007 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Dan,

The first order of business is to form a committee? On the internet? Good luck with that Bud.

I feel that we can't compare this season to last until the end. If we wash out of the playoffs in the first round, then we didn;t make any progress, despite the signings. If we win the MLS Cup, how can we complain - well, I'm sure we'll find a way.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | September 8, 2007 12:26 PM | Report abuse

lucky bar is always a good place to watch an USMNT match ... they usually have the sound up and my guess is they get telefutura, so the United game should be on as well, the only problem I could see is the opening NFL weekend, but lucky bar is always taking care of the futbol folk first and foremost ... good luck!

Posted by: littles | September 8, 2007 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I'll happily take the other side and say that Soehn has done an excellent job. Among the reasons for all the different lineups are all of the various injuries (including all those hammys), national team call ups, and suspensions. It's not like he could have fielded the same line up in all those games even if he wanted to.

All of the experimentation has allowed for certain players to step up and shine. Would Nowak have discovered Burch's talents and used them? Would McTavish have gotten the opportunity he has received from another coach? Players know that you will get a chance and if you are not performing well you are likely to sit. How is that a bad thing?

The team leads the league in goals. And has a stingy defense. This is MLS. Who would the naysayers want to coach this team who is actually a plausible possibility? We're not going to get some big name expensive Euro coach. And I'm not sure those sorts of guys succeed given the structure of the league and the limits of the roster and the salary cap.

While some of the sub choices have been surprising, especially early in the year, the team is leading the league. All of the speculation over players not knowing their roles, is just that, speculation. Are you interviewing all of the players and asking them if they know what's going on? Of course everyone wants to start and play every game. I would be worried if they didn't. At this point in the season I actually think some guys could use more rest, not less. Soehn has done a decent job managing minutes.

What more do you want? We're not going to win every match 4-0 in this league. That's the fact.

Posted by: Glenn | September 8, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

SPOILER ALERT: Euro qualifying

For those of you without FSC and who can't wait for Steinbog's complete match report on Sports page 1 tomorrow.

Russia 3: Macedonia 0. First goal 6', two more to close the second half as Macedonia stopped playing defense.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | September 8, 2007 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Glenn. Great analysis. Not every substitution has been a good decision, but I think the different lineups have been a benefit to the team in the long run.

Posted by: Shatz | September 8, 2007 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Dan - Just wanted to let you know that I love "Blog Show". Like the new schedule for it, too. Keep it up, man. Good stuff.

Posted by: SB | September 8, 2007 2:27 PM | Report abuse

agree with glenn. additional thoughts:

flexibility is important and you don't get it if you don't experiment.

the season can wear on the team and keeping people fresh and fighting for spots is very important.

i think chicago did a great job of this last year as well. i wonder how our lineup change numbers stack up against theirs last year.

Posted by: hokie soccer fan | September 8, 2007 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Dan is going to be a busy, busy man this month. Good luck, buddy.

About Soehn, I also agree with Glenn.

Here are some challenges that Soehn has dealt with successfully this year:

- Despite several players having to play unfamiliar roles, he switched us from the 3412 we had used since Hudson to our current 442 (and that after playing the 3412 throughout preseason and our early games).
- Successfully teaching Fred how to be effective on the wing.
- Helping Burch realize his potential at left back (something Sigi Schmid and Greg Andrulis both tried and failed at).
- Having the guts to bench longtime starters like Boswell and Carroll when it was time to do so.
- Embracing the team's attack-first policy without giving away goals (unlike, say, Kansas City)

He made some bad moves early on, but has shown the capacity to learn quickly from his errors. The players seem to like him, and he has no conflict with the front office. Soehn hasn't been amazing, but he has been pretty good for a first year head coach and seems to improve quickly. Frankly, the people saying he isn't good have no leg to stand on.

Posted by: Chest Rockwell | September 8, 2007 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Mr Steinbog,
Since I am grateful for all you are doing for the Soccer Insider, the DC SportsBog, and in the paper, I am going to stop instigating and accusing you of trying to steal Goff's job.

You're welcome.

Posted by: sitruc | September 8, 2007 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Whoa, my bad, it's actually 21 lineups in 23 games.

Posted by: Dan Steinberg | September 8, 2007 5:43 PM | Report abuse

I have found Kitty O'Sheas in Clarendon to be a great soccer bar and I am sure they will show the game tomorrow.

Posted by: J | September 8, 2007 7:23 PM | Report abuse

"Successfully teaching Fred how to be effective on the wing."

Riiiiiight. Did you see him Thursday?

Posted by: Mastodon Juan | September 9, 2007 10:04 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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