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United Wins, 2-1

In his first match since returning to D.C. United, Christian Gomez scored on a free kick in the 58th minute and Clyde Simms added a goal from 35 yards eight minutes later during a 2-1 exhibition victory over USL1 Puerto Rico tonight. The host Islanders converted a penalty kick in the 90th.

DCU LINEUP
Platter; Namoff (Mediate 71st), new trialist Anthony Peters (Danso 76th), Janicki, Burch (Wallace 46th); Pontius (Olsen 46th), Jacobson (Gomez 46th, Barklage 89th), Simms (McTavish 71st), Fred (Quaranta 46th); Moreno (N'Silu 46th), Doe (Emilio 46th).

As for the defensive situation.....

Way back when -- oh say, three weeks ago -- when D.C. United was on the verge of finalizing a contract for Brazilian veteran Roger, Coach Tom Soehn commented: "One of the most intriguing qualities about him is his leadership. ... The experience is something we desperately need."

Since Roger's abrupt departure for personal reasons, United has offered trials to young defenders from Southern Polytechnic State University in Georgia and West Virginia Wesleyan via the University of Kentucky. Nothing against those fine institutions, but not exactly the backgrounds that would sufficiently fill the void. Team President Kevin Payne and GM Dave Kasper say the search for a veteran back continues, but with the regular season set to start in a month, United's backline might not get that injection of leadership and experience the club has been seeking until this summer. We'll see if anything develops in the coming weeks.

How concerned are you about United's defensive depth and experience?

By Steve Goff  |  February 21, 2009; 9:01 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  
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Comments

As long as they stop looking for defenders from South America I'm fine with whoever they find. Lets look at their last their defenders from down south. Erpen: would make great plays to make up for some ridiculous debacle that he cause three seconds before. The Peralta and Martinez: part of the worst back line that DC has had in recent memory. I realize the salary cap makes it difficult to aquire decent players from Europe but they payed Peralta and Martinez well. With that kind of money DC should be able to recruit a central back from Eastern Europe of Scandinavia.

Posted by: bighungry | February 21, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

I'd say that's a legitimate win, as I think the Islanders are prepping for Champions League. They are a solid side, although I can't say who played for them tonight.

I'm not worried as much about "defensive leadership" as I don't think it matters as much as cohesion, which can and should be taught and drilled into the keeper, the back 4, the midfield, and the forwards.

Plus, wasn't one of our best CB's a young Kiwi kid from Stanford via Greensboro College?

Seems like he's been doing well enough . . .

Posted by: delantero | February 21, 2009 9:14 PM | Report abuse

What's to be concerned about, the team has recently beat the mls league and mls cup champions' and a team in the champions league.

Posted by: decoi | February 21, 2009 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Benny went 45 minutes!
Gomez scores off a Free Kick!

Posted by: delantero | February 21, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

What's to worry? It's the same defense that allowed 51 goals last year. We can afford to let in 51 goals can't we?

Posted by: LostinPotomac | February 21, 2009 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Yes.

Posted by: mddeblois | February 21, 2009 9:38 PM | Report abuse

How concerned am I? Very. Our starting back four consists of one reliable veteran (Namoff), a youngster whose only real qualification is not being as bad as everyone else was last year at CB (Janicki), a utility player being used in his 3rd or 4th best position (McTavish), and a conversion project that, despite this being the 4th MLS season he'll play left back, is still considered a work in progress (Burch). This group needs on-field guidance like I need water and oxygen.

I do think that, without the language barrier and with fairly predictable players (Martinez last year was apparently a mystery even to our own squad), the cohesive unit delantero is talking about will be easier to accomplish. However, with this group I still see a fairly modest ceiling, no matter how good the tactical/defensive work is in practice. The communication problems didn't just happen between the guys we have now and our Latin defenders; they were endemic. This is because there was no authoritative voice setting things up in the back. The lack of a true leader in the back is, by far, this team's #1 weakness, and everyone in MLS knows it.

As for today's game, it's promising to see that everyone of note was fit and able to play, and we scored 2 apparently remarkable goals. Considering the bulk of my comment here is on defense, I'm also pleased to see that we only conceded an injury time penalty. Puerto Rico's very, very direct style is based on physicality, speed, and skipping the middle third. These kinds of opponents usually give us fits, because they put our defenders in situations that require quick thinking and successful 1v1 defending.

I also like that that El Disco was given a full 90 minutes to prove himself. I have never understood giving trialists a half or 30 minutes in a game; even if the guy appears to be below the standard needed in practice, I feel like seeing a trial player in a real situation is the best indicator of his talents (or lack thereof).

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | February 21, 2009 9:42 PM | Report abuse

If any jackhole complains about Goff's supposed "pro-DCU" bent at any point in the next three months, could someone please link them to this post.
Thanks for raining on our parade Steve... Personally I was excited about Peralta's size in the sweet smelling haze of that first match vs those Jamaicans in the CONCACAF Cup last preseason, only to be let down by his total oafishness. I honestly like our odds with another unknown kid popping up, and throwing down. We got some decent results out of plenty of reserves in the tail end of last season. Nothing to play for, and everything to lose... I like those odds. The pressure in my mind and eyes is enormous and I think the cream is going to rise to the top.
Maybe I'll be wrong. You won't catch me thinking we're screwed cuz we cant find some Grandpa to marshall the back. Maybe some Locals can hold the line and give us something to be proud of... or at least something to drink about other than our keeper.
Blah, blah.
DC United wins! New guys getting it done! The sky isn't falling yet Steve!..
You going down to the Challenge Cup big man? I owe you a beer.

Posted by: DadRyan | February 21, 2009 9:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm concerned about the failure of Roger to work out.

We might get some good results from the current group. Our problem last year had less to do with talent, and more to do with a combination of organization and shell-shock (Wells probably set back the entire unit's confidence and aggressiveness with his errors). You don't need big budgets to have a good defense. That said, we certainly need more depth centrally. And I suspect that against a good attack (with a player or two who sees the field and they make good runs), we'll be badly exposed.

As for the recommendations of where to (or not) get talent, folks need to stop being so reactionary. Talent from Eastern Europe? Done--we signed Galin Ivanov--remember or Hairy Chested Bulgarian? As for Scandanavian and Euro talent, we've tried that route as well (how many times has Berhalter turned us down, we've had trialists from Denmark and Norway on the backline). And no, all of our S. American defenders haven't been failures either--Diego Sonora was a fine addition. There is talent all over the world. And the truth is, an experienced, aging defender who can no longer keep up with the pace in the Premiership or La Liga but still has 2-3 years now as an organizer and leader--those guys are out there. We just need to find the right fit.

I might also add that one year, DCU boasted a backline of 3 NT members (Agoos, Pope, Llamosa) and we had the worst defense in MLS. It's not all about pedigree and rep.

As it is, we're thin centrally on the backline and I worry about the lack of organization--the lack of a leader back there. Now, if Crayton does a good job controlling his area, we may discover we've got our defensive organizer.

Posted by: JoeW1 | February 21, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

I would like to know who gave up the pk and how?

Posted by: DCUnitedFootball | February 21, 2009 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Glad Olsen went 45'. Glad Moreno did too. Very comforting to hear that Gomez scored on a free-kick on his first game back, and nice to hear that Simms can still unleash one from 35 yards that hits its target.

A veteran defender would be the cherry on top, but it sounds like we have a tasty Sundae anyway.

Posted by: WorldCup | February 21, 2009 10:10 PM | Report abuse

As long as United keep scoring more goals than they let in, a lack of defensive leadership is not a problem. Unfortunately, that's not really a strategy you can depend on, so put me in the "concerned" camp.

Posted by: Kenobi | February 21, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Tommy should probably put his place on the market already.

Posted by: lord_dorpaldonger | February 21, 2009 11:11 PM | Report abuse

Peters looks like a leader -- who is going to say no to that guy???

Posted by: Reignking | February 21, 2009 11:19 PM | Report abuse

How concerned are you about United's defensive depth and experience?
_________________________________________
Very concerned-United's #1 problem with no immediate solution in sight.

Two comments ring true above-Chest's summary and Potomac's comment that we gave up 51 goals last season in MLS play. We could do so again with these starters-can't we get a professional CB to mentor McTavish and Janicki?

Posted by: Towson_Tiger | February 21, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

Somewhere I read that Tommy went to Namoff and asked him to step up, be more vocal, and provide that backline leadership. He's the experienced veteran back there, but I don't think he is a natural holler guy. (Nothing against him; neither was Eddie Pope.) But maybe Namoff can indeed be the vocal organizer, even though that's usually the job of a central defender, not a wing defender. Of course, as Namoff ages, we may see him move inside. Agoos did, after he left us.

Posted by: b18bolo | February 21, 2009 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Wait, this peters guy is 25 and has never played pro ball? (btb says he was born in 83) no wonder he was MVP of his conference, a man against boys. Do we really need another converted forward? (oh, and just the image of a 6'5'' midfielder is amusing in and of itself) maybe that means he has some decent footskills. But he's not going to contribute much right away to an already weak defense, I wouldn't suspect. That said, having him and N'silu on the end of free kicks into the box does sound fun.

Posted by: joshuaostevens | February 22, 2009 1:29 AM | Report abuse

On a different note, has anyone heard about any changes to the mlslive.tv service? Price increase? More games?

Posted by: addick | February 22, 2009 1:31 AM | Report abuse

oh yes, I would say I am concerned.
At some point we will go through a scorring drought, and we are going to need the backline to be solid to get through it.

Posted by: jjfooty | February 22, 2009 2:14 AM | Report abuse

Emilio: Inconsistent
Moreno: Old and oft-injured
Gomez: Old and didn't play at CO
Olsen: Pretty obvious
Quaranta: Forced to play wide and stinks at crossing
Fred: Same as Quaranta + poor finishing

Defense: The same as most of last year except Janicki.

I'm in the worried camp, except that I believe United has a lot of salary cap left.

Posted by: notafembot | February 22, 2009 2:44 AM | Report abuse

GOFF, can we get a poll asking predictions for # of SIMMS goals outside of 25 yards? i am guessing 5

Posted by: jay-jay | February 22, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

"Gomez: Old and didn't play at CO"
___________________________________

Well, he was an All-Star last year, so he did play. When Smith came in at Colorado last year, they obviously didn't get along, so he sat. Plus, GBS is ancient compared to Gomez. I'm not saying he's the answer, but don't dismiss him because of last year.

Posted by: SonicDeathMonkey | February 22, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

addick: I think it will be free this year (the internet streaming version)

Posted by: Reignking | February 22, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

I'm less worried about the back line this year because I was one of those last year heaping praise on what I thought would be a solid defense. I was way off, but the young guns from last season are a year more experienced. Crayton's got enough of a background to help coordinate the guys. I'm cautiously optimistic.

Posted by: DrBeaker | February 22, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Back line: Burch and McTavish may be works in progress, but the progress they did make last season is undeniable, as they were among the few to remain upright through last season.

But fans have every right to be concerned. With Martinez gone, DC lacks a defender with consistent ability to run at the opposing defense, which, AGAIN, is going to create problems for the offense. Let's hope Burch can continue to develop this part of his game, to add to his fine swinging-gate crossing.

The hole in central defense is a chronic problem, and I haven't seen anything to indicate Janicki is the solution. On a team that already has speed and skill issues, he's flat-out slow (the Postmaster General could be seen scouting him last year, and can certainly offer him more money), doesn't defend particularly well, and doesn't move the ball particularly well. Unless there is some hidden quality I don't see, he's Peralta without the hospital bills.

Not counting out the youngsters -- they all deserve a crack at major minutes -- but a proven vet in that CD spot would be a big step forward and lift the entire lineup. The MLS has come a long way, and a team like DC can't simply expect to compete while papering over this weakness.

Posted by: otm_shank | February 22, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Has anyone found a breakdown of how the players looked anywhere online? Curious to hear how the trialists and new players are hanging.

I'm also trying to find a pre-season schedule, also to no avail. Link anyone? Though it did just sink in that we're 4 weeks from the first game.

I should try this again after the 2nd coffee.

Posted by: eadc | February 22, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Obviously concerned about lack of depth at D, but more concerned about endurance. The core of this team is aging or has health questions. I'm afraid we'll get another year like the last, when management publicly gave up on Concacaf and then the "exhausted" team choked on the league.

Posted by: oz4dcu | February 22, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

eadc: here's a match summary at BehindTheBadge...
http://www.behindthebadge.com/2009/02/preseason-match-3-summary-dcu.php
I don't know about a complete preseason schedule, but DCU is going to participate in the Carolina Challenge Cup down in Charleston in early march, they'll be playing Real Salt Lake, Toronto, and Charleston...
http://www.charlestonbattery.com/welcome.asp
Three different matchdays, double headers. 15 bucks for bleacher seats, 25 for box. They give deals if you want to buy tickets for more than one matchday...

Posted by: DadRyan | February 22, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Guys -- this is MLS. The team's not going to be amazing everywhere on the field. The team just needs to compete hard, and our best players will provide that extra spark.

Posted by: RB1982 | February 22, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

What's the over/under on how long Tom Soehn lasts this year?

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | February 22, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Also, anyone know whether or not Burch developed a right foot over the offseason?

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | February 22, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

So let me get this straight, we're just going to pretend like last year didn't happen?

Posted by: alan19 | February 22, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

RB1982,

1999 DCU was pretty amazing all over the field. In fact, if we had to combine our 1999 and 2009 teams, I dare say only Crayton, Namoff, and maybe Fred would start from our current roster.

Posted by: notafembot | February 22, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

The young guys have to step up. They have enough experience to do so. They all just need to do it. McTavish, Janicki, Burch - you guys have to make it happen this year. We don't have the margin for error for any one of you not to step up and play great.

Posted by: mddeblois | February 22, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

How concerned are you about United's defensive depth and experience?
---------

Very.

Posted by: NattyBo1985 | February 22, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

As for DCU's lack of defensive depth; too bad they didn't offer Jay Needham a senior rooster spot when they had the chance.

Posted by: cjneed | February 22, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

trading boswell was one of our worst mistakes. He was young and damn good compared to what we have now.

Posted by: doh1 | February 22, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

doh1 - not to mention cheap!!!

Posted by: Beckster1 | February 22, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I think the real question is, is anybody worse off defensively? Maybe LA.

And next year, when Moreno retires, and Gomez gets worse, and the rest get older, I think lack of planning will stand up and say, "told you so."

Posted by: UnitedDemon | February 22, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Lossing Boswell and Perkins was two huge mistakes. Getting rid of Gomez in favor of outside talent was another. I don't have enough inside info to say one way or another but all of these mistakes happened after Soehn took charge.

Sooooo I don't see him lasting the year. Either he is making bad decisions or the Payne doesn't listen to him. Either way there is a lack of effective leadership. I hate to point the finger, but it's Soehn's fault.

Posted by: bighungry | February 22, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

UnitedDemon:

For what it's worth, I'm currently unimpressed with the following MLS defenses (in no particular order):

Seattle (Marshall and Graham are potential starters; nothing more needs to be said)
New England (their whole approach changes without Parkhurst, and Badilla is a below average MLS defender)
New York (Leitch and Boyens are potential starters; nothing more needs to be said)
Toronto (center backs at this point: Harmse and Velez)
Dallas (Torres was already a flop in MLS once, and other than Moor their starters are mediocre or worse)
Colorado (mediocre outside backs, and Ihemelu is erratic)
Chivas (even more vulnerable to speed than we are; traded for Jazic, who was part of LA's disaster last year)
LA (little depth for a team relying on ancient Sanneh and sick note Dunivant; Gonzalez will have very steep learning curve)

Throw us in, and that's 3/5 of the entire league. Thus, you should be happy that we're not alone!

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | February 22, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

..and from the MLS Vice-President of Spin, "We predict many high scoring games this year, a real treat for our fans, sponsors, and television partners."

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | February 22, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

bighungry, your first sentence is somewhat debateable, but United didn't get rid of Gomez for outside talent.

Posted by: sitruc | February 22, 2009 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Boswell had one off year, but he cost league minimum, was the defender of the year the year before and has turned arounded his performance. Wells was thought to be a decent keeper and that turned out to be not the case. It's Monday night quarterbacking, but none the less we got robbed. We gave Houston a good center bak and got nothing in return.

Perkins wanted to go to Norway granted. So I can't blame the team for selling him to Valarenga. But Wells and Crayton aren't as good as him. He did let in some soft goals in his last year, but overall he is a solid keeper, which is why he is a fringe national team player. AND my pick for the thrid string keeper for South Africa 2010 if nothing dramatic happens.

DC let go of Gomez in favor of aquiring a DP. He wanted more money. If I remember he was making $300k and wanted league max for a non-DP so that'd be $400k. DC obviously didn't think he was worth it and though they could do better by looking elsewhere.

What were the problems last year? Scoring consistently and consistently letting in goals. Galardo being injured all year made it difficult to have a stable attacking partnership. In the back the our defense was horrid especially the two imports and Wells. Thus if we kept Boswell, Perkins and Gomez we would have at least made the play-offs. Which isn't saying a lot since we almost did anyway.

At least we won the US Open Cup not that anyone cares...

Posted by: bighungry | February 23, 2009 7:42 AM | Report abuse

"As for DCU's lack of defensive depth; too bad they didn't offer Jay Needham a senior rooster spot when they had the chance.

Posted by: cjneed | February 22, 2009 3:29 PM"

I immediately thought of Needham, too, but you can't knock management for not paying him what he wanted. Economics tied their hands to a large degree. Puerto Rico paid the kid more, and he was untested in the pros. Not a good buy at the time.

Now, however, I think it would be. He was named USL Rookie of the year in 07, and seems to have played well in Norway last year. One problem: I'm pretty sure his rights have expired, so DC has no claim to him.

Posted by: grotusmaximus | February 23, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

@ addick RE: MLSLive

IIRC there was a statement towards the end of last season that says they are revamping it and are actually going to make it free this year.

Posted by: BKMD | February 23, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

@ addick RE: MLSLive

IIRC there was a statement towards the end of last season that says they are revamping it and are actually going to make it free this year.

Posted by: BKMD | February 23, 2009 8:58 AM
That's great news if it's true by the way! Now if we can get the clubs on board to provide live streams of any Open Cup matches they may be in, instead of just crossing our fingers they'll be playing a USL side and getting free streams on their website, we'll be golden.
In my opinion if United could do anything with their new website, it would be that!

Posted by: DadRyan | February 23, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

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