Here is a (semi) frame by frame breakdown of the Crew’s goal against DC United yesterday. I likely won’t do this very often (altho it was kinda fun), but I thought it signified both United’s new dedication to team defense, and also our continuing folly by making mistakes at crucial times. See the images below the break…

First, we see Olsen at the bottom of the screen with the ball trying to pass it upfield. Not sure where he was going with it. Namoff is just off-camera to the bottom right, having moved upfield in support of the attack.

Whatever Benny was trying to do… didn’t work. the Crewzer heads upfield with Carroll coming over from the center of the field to cut him off, Namoff and Olsen are in hot pursuit.

Namoff catches up to the Crewzer and wrestles for the ball. Carroll has very nicely cut off any passing lane to the other Crew forward (Kamara?). Benny still trails the play. At this point, DC United has good numbers, 4 defenders against the Crew’s 2 attackers.

Namoff has won the ball at this point. Notice that there are 5 United players on screen and only 2 Crew players. That means there are EIGHT Crew players who are behind the ball as we try and transition into offense. Also, notice that none of the United players on camera are known as being “great” with the ball. Olsen is probably the best here, but you’ll notice in this sequence he never touches the ball.

Namoff who was moving centrally, plays a square ball to McTavish. Gros who is off-camera to the upper right is beginning to trudge back to offer some wide support. Two of United’s three central midfielders are effective covered right now as both Carroll and Olsen have yellow shirts right next to them. McTavish has no clear “out” to move the ball upfield. Notice also, that 2 of the 3 United defenders have a yellow shirt right on top of them.

McTavish is about to play the ball upfield. Notice that each of the United defenders has a yellow shirt on them. Olsen and (to a lesser extent) Carroll are still covered. The closest midfielder to McTavish is a good 15-20 yard pass away. The numbers on-screen are much more even 5v4 in United’s favor.

The ball has been played up by McTavish (shown by white arrow). The midfielder checking back I think is Gomez, but it’s hard to tell. He cannot safely play the ball directly back to a defender (“play the way you’re facing” is a tried and true mantra) since they are all marked by a yellow shirt. His only option is a square ball to Gros (top of the screen) or Carroll (center of the screen). The guy covering Olsen is just off-camera.

I think it is Gomez who is checking back to the ball here (shown by little white arrow). If it isn’t Gomez who has tracked back, then it is likely Moreno since Hendrickson has obviously followed him which then begs the question, “where is Gomez?” and “Why is Moreno checking so deep?”. Regardless, he has laid off the ball to Carroll (nice flick, btw) and turns upfield as if to “give and go”. Now we see where all those Crewzers were hiding. Fred, Olsen, Gomez??? are all all covered. Carroll is about to be sandwiched between two Crew players, and his only 100% safe outlet is to either hoof it upfield, or play back to the defenders. He will choose instead to thread the needle past the very long-legged Hendrickson.

As I look at this frame, you really see what the plan is. Every United player has *at least* one man on them, and several players are absolutely surrounded. If each stripe of cut grass is about 10 yards, that means that 16 of 20 field players are within a 20 yard stretch of field. It seems like Carroll has made a smart choice about *where* to play the ball. The 2 strikers have one defender on them and if that ball makes it over the group, there is a fast break opportunity of 2v2. Quite frankly, I like those odds. But the pass never clears the forest of FIVE Crewzers between Carroll and the strikers.

Hendrickson collects the errant pass here (shown by white arrow). Carroll realizes his mistake and steps up to challenge.

Instead of containing the play, Carroll is blown by with a simple give and go. In the blink of an eye it is 5v3 Crew’s advantage. Olsen and Fred are in hot pursuit. Boswell and Namoff are off-camera to the left with no one to mark yet. McTavish starts to head back to goal but he has a runner over each shoulder. Gros is also heading back at the top of the screen. It looks ugly.

Namoff now steps up to challenge. Boswell and McTavish are dealing with the two Crew runners at the top of the screen. Namoff has to contend with Hendrickson and another Crewzer while being aware of the Crewzer to the bottom of the screen. Literally, this is Namoff vs three Crew. It starts to look really ugly.

Namoff too fails to contain the play and is also blown by. At least though, he stops the progress of the ball carrier (“Either the Ball or the Man. Never Both”). Boswell and McTavish are now on the wrong end of a 3v2 and that still leaves the Crew winger who is all by his lonesome. Fred and Olsen are still in hot pursuit, but Olsen was slowed by the collision between Namoff and a Crew player. Gros is gaining, but still too far away to help. It is beyond ugly at this point. Now we are talking absolutely hideous.

Boswell has to decide whether to stay inside, or commit to the winger as clearly, Fred will not make it in time. Perkins starts to move to reduce the potential shooting angle. Boswell has already been forced to choose “Do I help outside, or stay at home” many times this season. He has been damned either way, and this time is no exception. In hindsight, he may have been better off staying home and letting Perkins deal with the shooter and hope Fred gets back in time to bother the shooter. Notice the odds are now 4v2 in favor of the Crew. There are FIVE United players chasing the play, too late to do any good. This is ugliness that makes Medusa look like a super-model

After a little hesitation, Boswell commits to the outside, just as Fred closes the gap. Of course, Hendrickson (who at this point has made a 50 yard sprint) is wide open at the penalty spot. United players are still trailing the play. There are 2 United defenders (Fred, and Boz) on the Crew winger, and only one (McTavish) on the other 3 Crew attackers.

Hendrickson takes a shot, Perkins couldn’t quite get there but luckily McTavish is there to block the shot. Unluckily, it goes in the air to Gros who has just caught up with the play and he inexplicably heads it straight back to Hendrickson at the penalty spot. Olsen and Namoff have not caught back up with the play.

There are now 7 United players in the box, and 4 Crew players. And of course, the ball falls right to Hendrickson. Carroll has overrun the play and arrives just in time to be caught in the frame as Hendrickson doesn’t miss on his second chance.

Final score… 1-0 Crew.