DC United just finished beating up on the New York Red Bulls 4-2 with a hat trick by….. BEN OLSEN!!!
I must admit, I was extremely afraid of this match. The Red Balls have been playing some very good soccer this first part of the season. From the first match, you can see very clearly the organization and structure that Bruce Arena has brought to the team. Everybody knows their role, and they play within themselves. Basically, just do your job and everything else will follow. They’ve been very tough to crack and offensively have been very efficient. Arena has even gotten production out of Clint “Cletus” Mathis who so far this year doesn’t look like he just came from the bar right before the match (he’s still earning red cards though…). Youngster Jozy Altidore has been a speedy handful and Juan Pablo Angel has done nothing but score goals since he transferred from Aston Villa over in in England.
Having said all that, they’ve also got some issues. Several of their players are O L D and/or prone to injury or both. Mathis is a ticking timebomb of team cancer and Claudio Reyna is often injured (missed several games this season). Van Den Bergh, Schopp and Watereus are old, hate the heat, and have been prone to injury (Watereus missed a few games already). So the test will come as the summer rolls on and these older guys start to literally feel the heat. They have also been just decimated by injuries on defense and they’ve got guys like Van Den Bergh and Stammler who aren’t used to playing back there.
So my hope was that we could take advantage of their back line and maybe try and get behind them. The only other team to do that so far this season has been Kansas City (with EJ and Marriano) and they clocked them 3 or 4-1.Of course, we have not been able to a) get behind any defense at all this season and b) get wide on any defense this season. So I was concerned that we wouldn’t be able to take advantage of a potentially mediocre defense and that we would let in some goals by Angel and Altidore.
I’m happy to say that my concerns were addressed.
First off, Fred and Ben Olsen made a concerted effort not only to stay wide, but also to get behind the defense. Olsen’s first (of THREE!) goals was due to him getting behind his inattentive defender for the header. Fred, on his off foot, was consistently pushed up against the Pink Cow’s right back. He had several semi-breaks where he would sneak in on the wrong side of the defender. And of course, if you can get the defense to turn and chase, you are in command. He combined really well with Luciano Emelio, Jaime Moreno and Christian Gomez, probably the best he has looked since he’s been here. His level of play continues to get better as he understand the other players and fits in with what coach Tommy Soehn wants.
The defense was solid. I think Bruce Arena did us a favor by not starting Altidore. As it was, he drew the second yellow (on a crap call btw) on Bobby Boswell shortly after coming in. We really have no one on our defense who can match up with him speed-wise. Angel was kept in check for the most part, the goal he scored was after we were playing down to 10 men and Justin Moose was covering him. A mismatch if ever there was one…
Facundo Erpen had a great match today. It seemed like at first he was manning up against Clint Mathis (which I found rather odd), but when good ‘ol Cletus decided to linger, and I do mean linger, in midfield he took up Angel instead. To me, this is the best thing Erpen does. Just pick a guy and mark him. If he gets to thinking too much about who he should be covering, thats when you start seeing bicycle kicks in your own penalty area. He muscled Angel around a bit and closed him down at every opportunity, giving him no time or space. I was also a bit afraid when Boz got red-carded, but Erpen kept the defense nice and tidy for those final 15 minutes.
I must say, for all the preaching I do about Moreno needing to sit down, he played an absolutely awesome match for us today. He did today what he hasn’t done all season… He kept the ball moving either by dribbling or passing, and he did it quickly. I don’t think he had a single turnover, where usually I’m yelling at the TV at least 3-4 times per match that he held it too long. Maybe this was due to our greater numbers forward and he had more options. Maybe the defense of the MetroScum was just that bad. Maybe he just was feeling it today. But an excellent match nonetheless.
Emelio, Emelio, Emelio. Finally. He’s been close for the past 2-3 games to getting that goal. He missed another one early in this game with a clear shot, froze the keeper, and just pushed it wide. He then had another turn (beautiful) and didn’t get enough on the ball from 8 yards out to beat the keeper. Seems like he was just trying a *little* too hard to score. Hopefully now that he’s gotten this goal, he can relax a little bit and the other goals will come. He’s been doing everything else really well, serving as a target, spreading the ball around, combining with other players, working hard defensively.
I’ve got a good feeling about this win. We showed a lot in stepping up to this team who has been leading the conference from the beginning of the season. We took it to them, made them step back on their heels a bit from the git-go. They tied the game at 1-1 on a lack of composure for a minute (seems to happen every game) as we failed to clear the ball properly yet again. But the rest of the match was controlled by us. Even down to 10 men, we kept the pressure up, guys were running balls-out all over the field. Fred, Olsen, Moreno, Gomez… all those guys were taking turns making 40+ yard sprints upfield and it paid off as we outscored them 2-1 while playing short-handed. It looked like the New Jersey Red Steers just gave up about the 75th minute. They looked demoralized and dejected and frankly, beaten down.
Great performance in front of a great crowd of over 18,000.