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Soehn's Approach

With his team winless after two Champions League matches, in a tight race for an MLS playoff berth and still battered by injuries, how will United Coach Tom Soehn approach the next four weeks of regular season games and CONCACAF competition?

Here's what he told me today:

"The regular season does take precedence. We need to make the playoffs and we are going to put ourselves in the best opportunity to do that."

Translation: United will not concede its four remaining CL matches, but some starters will clearly be saved for MLS play.

Weighing all the factors, do you agree with his strategy?

By Steve Goff  |  September 26, 2008; 3:38 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  
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Comments

Of course. Even if we tried in CONCACAF, we'd still lose. We're worse than a D3 team. The sky has already fallen!

Posted by: Mark R. | September 26, 2008 3:46 PM | Report abuse

At least he's being honest, but if United doesn't care about the CCL then they can expect about 3000 fans in green and not much else when Marathon comes to town.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 26, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

absolutely. Its going to piss people off who bought tickets the to CCL matches, but its what they gotta do. The playoffs are way more important. No one anticipated the struggles this club would be having at this point. Of course, save the regs for mls, play the reserves for ccl.

Posted by: kristin | September 26, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

If Soehn treats the rest of the season like he manages a game then he won't do anything. Sad, just sad, bet it is time for him to go.

Posted by: lprevolution | September 26, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

i figure if we don't make a decent run at the playoffs, soehn is gone.

Posted by: mizage | September 26, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Get rid of Soehn.

Bring in Spencer.

Posted by: Phillip | September 26, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Yes. The US Open Championship already secured a berth in next year's CONCACAF Champions League.

Focusing on making the league playoffs is entirely justified & appropriate.

Posted by: RP | September 26, 2008 4:01 PM | Report abuse

If United didn't care about the CCL, then we wouldn't have put so much stake in winning the Open Cup.
Forget the playoffs! THEY'RE A JOKE

Posted by: andrew | September 26, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

If United didn't care about the CCL, then we wouldn't have put so much stake in winning the Open Cup.
Forget the playoffs! THEY'RE A JOKE

Posted by: andrew | September 26, 2008 4:03 PM
-------------------------------------------
Huh? The MLS playoffs? Isn't the point of playing games to make the playoffs. Until they give the cup to the regular season champs, we will have playoffs.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 26, 2008 4:18 PM | Report abuse

With a berth in next year's tournament already in hand, I think DC can afford to treat this year's CCL as a learning experience; there's not a dire need to make it all happen right now. Next year DC can come back to CCL with hopefully more health, luck, and experience. In a way, they can focus on CCL, next year's edition.

Posted by: Dan in FL | September 26, 2008 4:21 PM | Report abuse

If United didn't care about the CCL, then we wouldn't have put so much stake in winning the Open Cup.
..........................................

Doesn't this confuse two separate CCLs? United can still care very much about the *next* CCL, which is the one that is linked to this year's USOC, and for which DCU will presumably be better prepared.

Posted by: The Jeff | September 26, 2008 4:21 PM | Report abuse

PLAYOFFS?

Posted by: Jim Mora | September 26, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse

You can only play one game at a time.

Posted by: dadryan | September 26, 2008 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Common sense: Unlike some clubs in Europe, DC United is not rich enough to consider itself above its domestic league. MLS is the master, therefore the playoffs are paramount. There was nothing, really, in Soehn's comment.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | September 26, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

there's really no other choice is there?

We've been fielding half-strength teams for a while now.

What happened to Pat Carroll? I thought he was fine for a rookie but he's not even been on the roster lately. Surely he's better than #15. And that long throw in is a serious weapon.

Posted by: Glenn | September 26, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

"There was nothing, really, in Soehn's comment."
-------------------------------------
Is there ever? Other than "ten players and a goalie"?

Posted by: dadryan | September 26, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Reality Bites.

While it'd be nice to contend for both, the loss of six points, with 4 goals against and two tough CCL away matches on the table, PLUS injuries across the board, Soehn's hand has been forced.

Fold em for the CCL this year. Play reserves and get them tuned for an MLS Cup run.

We're in CCL play in game next fall already d/t the USOC Championship.

We're in the

Posted by: delantero | September 26, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

We need to focus on the playoffs so we can make Champions League. We can't focus on Champions League because we have to make the playoffs. And round and round we go. What's the point of playing in a League/Championship you have neither the resources or the will to win?

Posted by: noname | September 26, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Just forfeit the non-MLS games - provides much needed rest and wouldn't impact the result of the games anyway.

Maybe DCU can sneak into the UEFA Europa League - seems every other third rate club in the world is now eligible.

Posted by: Hmmm | September 26, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

I guess this shows that CCL has a long way to go.

I have never seen a team, representing a fledgling league, send out the B side for a European champions league game.

This shows no respect for the competition.
However, I understand Soehn's position.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 26, 2008 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't our situation this year illustrate everything that is wrong with the MLS? (the Summer schedule, the low salary cap that doesn't allow for depth, the draft system that doesn't enable teams to actually use their youth systems, etc.).

Posted by: Dave | September 26, 2008 4:36 PM | Report abuse

If United didn't care about the CCL, then we wouldn't have put so much stake in winning the Open Cup.
Forget the playoffs! THEY'RE A JOKE

Posted by: andrew | September 26, 2008 4:03 PM
__________________________________________

Uhhh... isn't the whole point of the amking playoffs, the whole point of playing in the league???? Winning the Open Cup set us up for a spot in NEXT year's Champions League. It had nothing to do with this year. Therefore, screw the CCL and lets get to the playoffs.

Posted by: kristin | September 26, 2008 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Actual translation:
We are conceding the four remaining Champions League games. We aren't forfeiting, because that would get us in trouble with Jack Warner. But we will put the 11 least suitable human beings out there that we can while our real players rest for MLS matches.

Posted by: Nathan | September 26, 2008 4:40 PM | Report abuse

CORRECTION ABOVE: the whole point of MAKING THE playoffs.

Posted by: kristin | September 26, 2008 4:40 PM | Report abuse

The playoffs are important!

Posted by: Mickey Mouse | September 26, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I can't stand this team or outlook right now. CCL should be our top priority. DC is playing against top teams for a chance to go to a bigger tournament. Bag MLS and go after this tournament!

Posted by: EMP | September 26, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Uhhh... isn't the whole point of the amking playoffs, the whole point of playing in the league???? Winning the Open Cup set us up for a spot in NEXT year's Champions League. It had nothing to do with this year. Therefore, screw the CCL and lets get to the playoffs.

Posted by: kristin | September 26, 2008 4:38 PM
---------------------------------------------

If you want to be champion of the league, win the Supporters Shield, not the playoffs. The little four game tournament doesn't tell you who was best throughout the whole season.
I know winning the Open Cup gets us CCL next year... just trying to say that we obviously regard it as important.

Posted by: andrew | September 26, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I don't like it but I guess I agree. Wishy-washy, huh? Yeah totally ambivalent.
See, I know a full squad takes both Saprissa and Marathon. It is frustrating to have given up points to them. They were not that good. Cruz may be a different story.
I also think a full squad can get thru the palyoffs and into a championship game - but I worry that we may have to face Houston in the 1st round - great reward there.
So, I guess DC is in a tight spot. I wish they would run out a full squad each and every 3 days. But I know they can't. So give everything to MLS. Really blood the young guys in CL away games. And earn every freaking point left at home in CL.
At least give it a try..........
Crap I've changed my mind 5 times in the last 3 minutes.
"Just win, baby."

Posted by: marksman | September 26, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse

We know what you meant kristin. aynone hwo criticizes typos on the internet is an idoit.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | September 26, 2008 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if Olsen has ever tried playing on crutches?

Posted by: Fisch Fry | September 26, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

"I have never seen a team, representing a fledgling league, send out the B side for a European champions league game."

Other than leagues from disaggregated nations - and even the individual teams have long histories - I don't know of any fledgling league represented in the UEFA CCL. Can you cite an example?

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | September 26, 2008 5:01 PM | Report abuse

I think we'll put out a respectable team in the home games, but the road trips will be ugly. The travel is doing as much damage as anything else, so I figure guys like Moreno and Emilio will be allowed to chill at home instead of flying many hours to play on turf (Saprissa) and in Mexico City's delightful air (Cruz Azul). Of course, this almost certainly means the results down there will be ugly.

Like I said before, tanking one competition means advancing in the other is the absolute minimum tolerable result. If we give up on the CCL and miss a playoff spot, I'd imagine it would be time to start choosing whether I want to brandish a pitchfork or torch in the angry mob that will be forming.

Posted by: Chest Rockwell | September 26, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Last year we were the best team Apr-Jul and look what that did for us in Oct. Winning MLS is about being healthy. IF we can get some starters back and put a streak together, then we have a chance to win the title.

Forget the CCL; it's just money for the league.

Posted by: Friendship Blvd | September 26, 2008 5:06 PM | Report abuse

"precedence" this, focus that, whatever.
Look at the recent league performances. Our team defense is sh-te.

How is this for plan:

WIN ONE GAME,
please.

Then, try to win the next one.

Posted by: footiefan101 | September 26, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Soehn is correct in emphasizing MLS regular season games over the ConcaChampions games. I just wish he could figure out that Gonzalo Martinez should play in central defense, not wide on the left.

Since Year 1 winning MLS Cup has ALWAYS been priority #1 for every team in the league. Does it mean the most powerful team wins every year? No, but that happens in all US sports where teams like the NY Giants can win Super Bowls or the St Louis Cardinals can win World Series trophies.

Our Open Cup win was nice but it's far below the playoffs in importance. Just look at the lineups we used and the teams we faced. Against Rochester, with a half-reserve side, we were able to ride Marc Burch's shooting past USL Rochester. Against Chicago we played several reserves against a team that featured even fewer normal starters than we did. Then we got lucky in having both the semifinals and finals scheduled at RFK and beat a Revs team almost completely made up of reserves before beating a competitive USL Charleston team at home in the final.

I went to all our Open Cup games this year and even got to drink from the Coffee Pot trophy after we won. But in no way, does winning the US Open Cup compare to having a strong postseason in the MLS playoffs.

No one will rest key starters during MLS playoffs. Some might get called in for World Cup qualifiers (direct your complaints to MLS scheduling office) but all teams involved will focus all their energy and available talent on winning.

The timing and scheduling of the ConcaChampions Cup was always going to make it an awkward and inconvenient tournament for MLS teams. Even if a team did well and advanced through the fall stages it would have to compete in the latter stages next spring with a new roster and a team in pre-season development stages.

Posted by: garbaggio | September 26, 2008 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I-270.
you are totally missing my point. the focus of my comment was not whether there were fledgling leagues represented in Uefa CL. i understand the disparity in finances- MLS versus Europe.

However, when a smaller club or a club from a less prominent league makes UEFA Champions league, it is an opportunity to compete against the best clubs in the region and represent themselves and their league.


CLL is an opportunity for MLS to become a more respected league in the region. Success there could lead to recruitment of better players from this region (for DCU and MLS). In addition, it could bring in more fans.

There are plenty of soccer fans in the US right now that don't bother watching MLS because they feel it's poor soccer. Many Mexican fans follow Mexican league but don't bother coming out for MLS matches.

If MLS teams can play quality soccer in these CCL matches, some of these fans may gain interest in their local MLS team.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 26, 2008 5:31 PM | Report abuse

MLS playoffs should be the priority. DC will have another chance next year to try their hand at CCL glory, but there is no way they are pulling off anything in it this year. If they keep trying they will just end up killing their chances at MLS Cup and lose both. Play the reserves in CCL (as if we really had a choice given the injuries) and get the starters as healthy as you can for MLS games.

Posted by: elopingcamel | September 26, 2008 5:53 PM | Report abuse

DC are already in the CCL next year by winning US Open Cup. CCL leads to World Club Championship.

What is the point of winning MLS Cup? To get to the CCL. If you are a real fan/player, you don't think Superliga/CCL games are much better in quality and intensity than MLS games ? Why would you placate yourself to second rate quality matches, i.e. MLS games.

The words coming out of Soehn's mouth sounds like those of a loser and not a winner. A winner expects to go into every match with the thought of winning it,
and not making excuses before the ball is
even kicked.

Posted by: Charisma_Man | September 26, 2008 6:25 PM | Report abuse

This could have all been avoided if DC had better team management. Meaning from the start of the season you have your obvious starters start but when we are leading (for instance) have a bench player come into the game.

Rest your starters earlier in the season. And dont send them in when they are still slightly injured. Really develop the bench players so that when injuries happen to your starters you will have an okay backup cuz we all know that towards the end of the season and heading into playoffs there are going to be a ton of injuries.

If you prepare and manage your team talent correctly it wouldn't matter if you took Tino out at the half and put in Kirk because you've taken the time to develop Kirk enough to fill in for Tino.

Posted by: Krista | September 26, 2008 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Im glad to see they have made a choice, because it had to be made. It sucks that it had to be done but it did because we just dont have the players and bench to do everything. If we would have kept on trying to do both we would have not done well (worse than we are currently).

5th in the East isnt the worst thing in the world because we probably stand a better chance getting through them then making it out of Columbus, NE or Chicago.

Posted by: LN Hunter | September 26, 2008 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Im glad to see they have made a choice, because it had to be made. It sucks that it had to be done but it did because we just dont have the players and bench to do everything. If we would have kept on trying to do both we would have not done well (worse than we are currently).

5th in the East isnt the worst thing in the world because we probably stand a better chance getting through them then making it out of Columbus, NE or Chicago.

Posted by: LN Hunter | September 26, 2008 6:51 PM | Report abuse

It makes no difference what he says he is going to do. This team is not talented enough to make it past the first round in the playoffs.

Posted by: peridigm | September 26, 2008 6:52 PM | Report abuse

WAIT IM LOST, SO HAVE WE BEEN TRYING AND STILL CANT GET A GOAL IN THE CL, now what will happen lose by 10. Soehn is a Joke

Posted by: dc fan | September 26, 2008 6:57 PM | Report abuse

What a joke mr.coach Tom is, he needs to GO NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: alkan | September 26, 2008 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Soehn the front and back doors are wide enough fo you to leave ............!
we love DC to much

Posted by: Rene | September 26, 2008 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Nice to see all the freaks are out on the blog tonight. Losers.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 26, 2008 7:39 PM | Report abuse

its not tommy's fault so many of our guys are injured.. he's doing what he can with who he's got healthy. i know i wouldn't want his job right now.


Posted by: JB | September 26, 2008 7:45 PM | Report abuse

How about the FO giving free tickets or majorly discounted for the CCL? Perhaps the FO can give only the BB and SE the deal.

That would be a nice gesture.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 26, 2008 7:59 PM | Report abuse

On the free ticket suggestion:
Before Joe Public FC knocked out the Revs, the Revs had sent free tickets to all home games for the first group stage to season ticket holders. We all know how the Revs games went, but it was a nice idea. Revs STH pessimists would say "the front office knew we were going nowhere", but it was a nice gesture. DCU should follow suit. If that is impossible at this point perhaps they could give free playoff tickets to season ticket holders this year. It would be at most two games, but it would also be a nice gesture.

Posted by: tsingletonvt | September 26, 2008 8:16 PM | Report abuse

I absolutely hate the idea that in a cup competition, especially an international one, we would not give it our best. One of the things that has always set DC United apart is our commitment to taking foreign competition seriously.

That said, I completely understand. And it sucks big time. The combination of a ridiculous schedule and the injuries have reduced us to this--and forced the club to make a mockery of the culture and commitment that has always set DC United apart from other MLS teams.

Posted by: JoeW | September 26, 2008 8:28 PM | Report abuse

Other than leagues from disaggregated nations - and even the individual teams have long histories - I don't know of any fledgling league represented in the UEFA CCL. Can you cite an example?


-------

Russia.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 26, 2008 8:41 PM | Report abuse

Let's see . .

we lose off and on Gallardo, Peralta, Moreno, Fred, Olsen,

And if Arsenal loses Van Persie, Fabregas, Adebayor, Gallas, and Denilson . . .

Doubtful they could compete in Champions League and Premiership .;.

While in no way are these players of equal caliber, they are all starters and of better quality than the reserves of their respective clubs.

Posted by: delantero | September 26, 2008 9:48 PM | Report abuse

@ Anonymous | September 26, 2008 5:31 PM

I get your point about teams from small leagues trying their best against the giants. I did not understand which "fledgling" leagues you were referring to. Perhaps "fledgling" was not the correct word.

@: Anonymous | September 26, 2008 8:41 PM

The Russian league may be a fledgling, same for the Croatian league. But teams that play in those leagues (Spartak Moscow, Zenit St. Pete, Dynamo Zagreb) are not newly formed.

As others have said, DC has to make a choice, given the roster and the injuries. Other teams may have to choose in the future as well. And as long as MLS is the single-entity boss, teams will always choose playoff success over CCL success.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | September 26, 2008 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Obama just said "fledgling." Everyone have a drink.

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | September 26, 2008 10:17 PM | Report abuse

As long as we keep playing pin the tail on the donkey defense it doesn't really matter who puts on the shirt, now, does it...

Posted by: spike_2.0 | September 26, 2008 10:38 PM | Report abuse

Geez Bre Pettis sure has an amazingly nerdy show on History channel eh?
Lot's of people don't watch Mexican soccer mind you flocks of anonymous posters because we have no emotional attachment to it and because we are disgusted by it's gaudy commercialism and Hacker style... No pun intended.

Posted by: dadryan | September 27, 2008 12:07 AM | Report abuse

As usual, Chest Rockwell has it right. The only pragmatic course is to aim for the MLS playoffs. This year.

On a side note, I've always wondered what Chest's true identity is.

Posted by: Kire | September 27, 2008 12:39 AM | Report abuse

I don't understand this whole just saying forget the CCL, why? Every other team cares about it in the region. I mean, it takes you to the a World Championship. Shouldn't that be our goal? Whats the point trying to qualify for the event so when we get to it we don't care. People won't care outside the U.S. that you won your league, they will care if you win the champions league. Also, its six matches and you are through. Then there is time to regroup before the quarterfinals all the way in next year and get better players. The timing is good for the champions league. I say send out a full strength team against Cruz Azul cuz we still havwe a fighting chance with a win. A loss or tie, then we can start playing reserves cuz then it would almost be impossible to come back from that. One last shot againt Cruz Azul. If we pull off the win we could potentially be tied for 2nd place in the group.

Posted by: alex | September 27, 2008 12:54 AM | Report abuse

If you want to be champion of the league, win the Supporters Shield, not the playoffs. The little four game tournament doesn't tell you who was best throughout the whole season.
I know winning the Open Cup gets us CCL next year... just trying to say that we obviously regard it as important.

Posted by: andrew | September 26, 2008 4:46 PM

No matter how much you wish we were the EPL we are not. The ONLY way to be league champions in MLS is to win MLS CUP. PERIOD!

Get over it already.

Posted by: Matthai | September 27, 2008 9:21 AM | Report abuse

If you want to be champion of the league, win the Supporters Shield, not the playoffs. The little four game tournament doesn't tell you who was best throughout the whole season.
I know winning the Open Cup gets us CCL next year... just trying to say that we obviously regard it as important.

Posted by: andrew | September 26, 2008 4:46 PM

No matter how much you wish we were the EPL we are not. The ONLY way to be league champions in MLS is to win MLS CUP. PERIOD!

Get over it already.

Posted by: Matthai | September 27, 2008 9:21 AM

--------------------------------------

Just as the EPL could care less about the World Championship - it only matters to teams from "lesser" continents. And for all you people who wish the regular season counted as our championship, I would implore you to call Bob Kraft up and ask him how much he values 16-0, outside of a now useless trademark.

Posted by: AJ | September 27, 2008 11:20 AM | Report abuse

No coach should make a public admission like this. He has to treat every game as all important - at least in public.

This weekend's game is huge. Nothing else matters now. Lose to Dallas on Sunday and the playoff slot slips away. That game should be the only focus. Win and win now.

Posted by: oz4dcu | September 27, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Soehn's comments are just further proof that the DCU team management is dishonest. All we hear from them is how important it is to measure the team against international competition. It was this philosophy that drove them to make winning the USOC such a high priority so they could qualify for international competition that they are now going to tank. At what point does Payne stop making excuses and understand that the people he hired to build and run this team are squareley to blame for this terrible underachievement? And please do not blame injuries: that is a reflection on how the team is managed in the medical/physiotherapy area. Every team suffers injuries in all sports. The teams that succeed are the ones that rise above them. Also, do not overlook red card stupidity in MLS games and the effect on the international games. Burch's idiotic red card in the MLS game game means that someone will have to fill in for him in the next MLS game who might otherwise be counted on to play 90 in an CCL game. Undisciplined teams are reflection on the head coach, and at some point he has to be held accountable for this fiasco.

Posted by: lgm6986 | September 27, 2008 2:11 PM | Report abuse

I think Soehn's right. Our focus should be on getting to the playoffs and winning the league.

Let our younger players get some fast experience by playing them in the CL. Rest our starters, keep them healthy. 9 games in one month, that's a pretty rough schedule.

We know that DC is a better team than what they have shown so far. I dont know if it's totally Soehn's fault. I do question some of his decisions, but I'm not the coach. We need better depth on the team. Only way that's going to happen is to develop our younger players, by giving them a chance on the field with international games.

Posted by: dogboy | September 27, 2008 2:51 PM | Report abuse

The international comp was important until our lineup got turned into swiss cheese and teams started making the yearly push for the last playoff spot

Posted by: Darth Hater | September 27, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

DC should just maintain position and go out West for the playoffs. If Houston advances in the CL, they will be weaker which bodes better for us and would allow the Crew, Fire and Revs to batter each other.

Posted by: Darth Hater | September 27, 2008 8:26 PM | Report abuse

John Spencer & Paul Mariner please send resumes asap....

Posted by: Soehn The Exit | September 27, 2008 10:13 PM | Report abuse

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