Tag Archives: DC United

Six Degrees: Vampire Weekend

Compared to last week, this game was refreshingly free of both the inane and the absurd, so I think there will be a lot less comedy from me. Which is a shame, since my soccer analysis can be both inane and absurd. I’ll give it a try anyway.

1) I wouldn’t call this the prettiest game we’ve ever played, but we still won, 2-0, didn’t we? Part of that is because DC United sucks. But it’s also because we’re a very good team, and very good teams win the ugly ones.

Why was it so ugly? Well, from what Coach Porter’s saying, the loss of Diego Valeri required us to play a more direct style, with less possession, more punting, and a slightly uglier aesthetic. If you look at the statistics, you’ll see that DC had a higher percentage of possession, more total passes, and more shots. Fortunately for us, every time DC got the ball in front of the net, they blew it, spraying shots at everything except the goal. We were lucky. If we give up those kind of opportunities to a good team, we lose.

2) Possibly we gave up so many chances because we had a new guy in the back four. Pa Modou Kah is certainly a lot more experienced than 20-year old Andrew Jean-Baptiste, but he’s also only been on the team a week and a half. He’ll be better next game.

But what about that next game? What happens when Futty Danso comes back from his red card? Does Kah stay in? Personally, I think he should. Jean-Baptiste makes me a little nervous, always wrestling with guys back there. He seems like a penalty kick waiting to happen.

And I like the idea Kah and Futty back there together. This whole “Great Wall of Gambia” thing we’ve got going on is fascinating. But I will admit, there are questions. For starters, who’s in charge, Futty or Kah? More importantly, will they have theme music and costumes? I think they should wear vampire teeth. And yes, I’m completely serious. Think of the intimidation factor. The opposing team will hear rumors that we’ve got two big tall Gambians back there, but they won’t know what to expect. How could they? Does anyone know what happens when you play two Gambian centerbacks side-by-side? Maybe they grow vampire teeth. I say we give it a try. (Editor’s Note: I love African football)

3) Three words. Rodney Freakin’ Wallace. The guy’s a machine, isn’t he? Non-stop energy, from start to finish. I saw him rockin’ it on the left side, the right side, forward, back, middle. He’s everywhere. You know how much I love Diego Chara, right? Well, everything Chara does for our defense, RFW is doing for our offense. And how about that goal, eh? An absolute laser right between the goalie and the near post. That’s a world-class strike, right there. Does MLS give an award for Most Improved Player, because if so, they might as well start inscribing the trophy right now.

4) Also fabulous: Darlington Nagbe. For years we’ve been begging him to be more aggressive. Well, Valeri’s absence Saturday must have flipped that switch, because Nags came out firing. I love it when he’s got the ball at his feet and decides to pin his ears back and run straight at the defense. He’s a blur. His aggressive play and shots from distance really opened things up for the rest of the team. The question now is whether this sort of energy will continue once Valeri’s back on the field. And should it? There’s a side of me that wonders if perhaps everything we saw versus DC was a one-time thing.

5) Case in point: we started the game with two strikers – Ryan Johnson and Frederic Piquionne. You’d expect them to be the scorers, right? Except they weren’t. In this weird, direct offense we had Saturday, the scorers became the playmakers and the playmakers became the scorers.

RFW’s goal? That happened because Freddy Piquionne got the ball, held it for a few seconds, let the defense rush out to stop him, then flipped a nice little pass to the suddenly wide-open Wallace. One missile strike later, we’re up 1-0.

Nagbe’s goal? Similar, except this time it was Ryan Johnson holding the ball, pulling the defense to him, then lofting it forward. Nags fights off not one, not two, but three DC defenders, then sends it through the keepers legs.

I’m starting to wonder if there really is no single, definable offense that we can call “Porterball.” Caleb Porter seems to mix it up just a bit for every single game. And when we face Chicago, with Valeri back on the pitch, I’m sure that, once again, we’ll see something new.

6) So, we lost to Montreal way back in early March. Since then, 11 straight games without a loss. When does it end?

Probably not against Chicago. It’s a road game, yes, but Chicago’s really not that good.

After that, we host Dallas, who only have the best record in the league. Still, it’s at home. I say the streak’s safe for that one.

It’s the next week when I think we finally lose. We visit the LA Galaxy on June 19th and, lemme tell ya, they could not have looked better this Sunday night, destroying Seattle 4-0. They dominated every aspect of the game. Offense, defense, set pieces, possession. They looked like the best team in the league. So if our streak has to end – and it does – then I think it’s against LA.

But until then, let’s enjoy ourselves, right? I saw some heavy legs against DC, so I think we’re having our week off at just the right time. Take it easy, boys. Spend these next two weeks getting healthy, then come back against Chicago tanned, rested, and ready to go.

And please, please, PLEASE bring your vampire teeth.

A Tale of Three Cities

As they did two weeks ago, the two clubs sharing the initials PTFC went 2-o against the respective opponents this weekend.  This weekend the two matches shared more than just the results.

The Portland Timbers fought out a 2-nil win against D.C. United in Washington, while up in Tukwila Thorns FC eked out a 1-nil win against the Seattle Reign.  In both games the Portland clubs looked less than dominating.  In both games, though, the Portland clubs looked very much the way competent soccer teams look; doing what they needed to scratch out a win even when not quite playing their A games.

The Timbers’ win at DC is well covered by the Stumptown Footy crew, and (I hope) that Kevin will have his usual piercing analysis to bear on what was for much of the match a scrappy and – at times – downright scary business.  The seasonal loss of Silvestre is still being felt in back and the temporary loss of Valeri was a problem in midfield.  For all that the new centerback Kah had a solid match the backline looked adrift at times and the midfield was unable or unwilling to help out much.  Against a better team the Timbers might have fared much worse.

But.  The point is that the Boys didn’t fare worse.

One reason is that Rodney Wallace must have heard every word we said about him last season and resolved to make us eat Every.  Single.  One.

Num num, Rodney.  You’re having a Comeback Season to date, and I am happily chewing away.

One other was Darlington Nagbe, who had a terrific match and channeled his Inner Trencito on the goal, a lovely bit of calm skillcraft that impressed me more every time I watched the replay.

The entire side managed to play well enough to turn back a D.C. side that is a rather sad remnant of the glory years of the Nineties.  This is a team in horrible disarray, and having watched our own team break down in similar circumstances last season I have nothing but pity for them.

So long as we can still beat them.

The other PTFC opponent, the Seattle Reign, is perhaps even worse off than United.  Stuck at the bottom of the table with no wins and only a single point, the Reign had the misfortune Saturday to be the better of the two sides for much of the match and certainly the first half and to have come away with absolutely nothing.

Perhaps because of her form the preceding two matches Nikki Washington was dropped from the side that ran out at Starfire on Saturday, Angie Kerr getting the start in her place.  Otherwise Thorns FC played somewhat similarly to the style that had worked against the other Washington club, the Spirit, the preceding weekend; lots of play through the middle of the pitch with Christine Sinclair freed from her trequartista role to do more direct attacking.

However it was the Reign that had the better chances in the first half.  The Portland midfield still hasn’t really found a way to keep possession when pressed, and the Reign could easily have gone ahead in the 62nd minute, when Liz Bogus put a hard diving header on frame that LeBlanc did well to palm away – only to deflect the ball out to Seattle’s  Noyola, whose well-struck shot was likewise saved.  Seattle worked the ball into Portland’s 18 again within a minute and had three rapid-fire shots blocked, any one of which might have gotten past LeBlanc.

On the other end Thorns FC wasn’t able to work the ball into any sort of dangerous position; Solo, playing in goal for the first time this season, made only two saves.  Of Sinclair’s six shots only one was on goal.  This futility was a combination of Portland’s inability or unwillingness to spread the defense and Seattle’s tight marking and opportunistic defending, and the match looked headed for a scoreless draw and Seattle’s second point when one of perhaps the softest penalties I’ve seen in twenty years of watching soccer gave Sinclair a simple sidefoot tap-in for the away points.  Solo contributed to the moment with the mawkish display of time-wasting she put on before taking her line for the PK, her most notable effort of the match.

Against Sky Blue a Thorns side playing this poorly might have lost 3-nil.  Against Kansas City we might have seen no better than a draw.  Against hapless Seattle the team played well enough, just well enough to win with the help of an atrocious make-up call (the referee had missed a painfully obvious Seattle handball earlier) and that was enough.

I have a lot of sympathy for the Seattle Reign supporters.  The “Queen’s Guard” is suffering through a worse version of what the Timbers Army suffered last season.  They, and the Barra Brava supporters of D.C. United, could probably sit on the ground and share some sad tales of the deaths of queens and former MLS kings.  Their cities are suffering the worst of soccer times.

And ours, perhaps shockingly, certainly delightfully, is enjoying the best of soccer times; two teams having seasons of hope, two teams having – so far – seasons of Light.  And its noisiest authorities – the Timbers Army and the Rose City Riveters – happily insist on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

There may be defeats and disappointments ahead, perhaps, but sufficient to the day will be the evil thereof; onward, Rose City!