Tampa Bay Sports Day

United finds its rhythm against FC Dallas 2-1

The ideal soccer team mixes experience with energy and enthusiasm. Against a struggling FC Dallas, DC United demonstrated just how well Tom Soehn has begun to approach that ideal this year.

He has taken the adversity of early injuries to key players and managed to integrate willing young learners to transform the team’s style in a critical way.

It shows up in two similar dynamics. The first is more rigorous attention to maintenance of width and overall team shape. The second is the positional flexibility which the former demands.

Soehn explains the value of the latter, “Those guys move around. We try to do that a little bit more and give our team a little freedom. I think it’s harder to mark when you’re not sure where they’re coming from.”

However, positional change has its risks. One’s teammates must have the vision to hold their own shape. It was Soehn’s good fortune to have Ben Olsen return to service this year alongside a now experienced Clyde Simms.

Benefitting from their wisdom and energy to cover and direct traffic, rookies Chris Pontius and Rodney Wallace have rapidly grown into the disciplined wide midfielders which United has lacked in recent seasons.

Olsen ascribes it to exceptional team chemistry, “The young guys in particular have done a great job, coming in and doing their job and being good personalities.” But it’s more than just personalities.

A veteran at 24 years of age, Tino Quaranta sees both sides of the picture, “I think Tommy’s done a great job and I think the guys have responded well to what Tommy’s trying to accomplish here.

“I think last year there was kind of a misunderstanding of certain guys who were on their own page and I think now we understand that to win games we all have to be on the same page, especially in this league where it’s so competitive.”

He noted that young players came into camp willing to buy the Soehn system and accepted that, “It’s not just about you, it’s about the team. That’s gonna take you a long way—We talk about that a lot here and it seems this year we’re doing it.

“The players on the team understand. We’ve been around long enough with pre-season and a couple of games under our belt we know what guys can do and everybody seems to do what they have to do to win games.”

Both Quaranta and Pontius had to change specific positions several times as situations or substitutions changed requirements. Tino found himself at creative mid and forward and even sometimes covered the defense as if playing wide midfield, “Every time someone got tired, I had to go somewhere else.”

Although the flexibility that Soehn has encouraged might seem to place a greater burden on his defensive midfielders, Simms believes that because DC’s rotating of players confuses opposing defenders, “I think it makes my job easier. When those guys are interchanging —-that’s going to allow them to be open and give me a good option.”

He further explains, “We’ve been playing this formation for a while now and guys know what their roles are. If someone gets pulled out offensively they know that they need to cover for that player.”

Pontius has learned quickly about team shape because, “We work on that a lot in training. Rod and I want to stay out of the middle and give Christian and Jaime and Luci their room to work with. We don’t want to crowd the space.”

He continues, “If we stay out wide we can make runs in behind their fullbacks and get on the end of some balls.”

It’s a simple, but effective conundrum for the opposition, “We give Luci and Jaime room to do their thing. If they turn, then they’re open. If their defender crowds them, then we’re open on that side.”

Positional flexibility also requires mental flexibility, “Every play is gonna be different. You gotta take what the defense gives you.”

In the end it’s a simple game. But, like good musicians, the players need the proper key, a good director, and a lot of practice to make the music beautiful.

Match Facts

FC Dallas at DC United

May 2, 2009, RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.

Scoring Summary:
DAL — Andre Rocha 1 (Dave van den Bergh 2) 28
DC — Jaime Moreno 1 (Bryan Namoff 3) 56
DC — Jaime Moreno 2 (Christian Gomez 1) 66


FC Dallas — Ray Burse, Marcelo Saragosa, Drew Moor, Daniel Torres (Steve Purdy 67), Blake Wagner, Andre Rocha (Eric Avila 79), Dax McCarty, Pablo Ricchetti (Peri Marosevic 75), Dave van den Bergh, Kenny Cooper, David Ferreira,

Substitutes Not Used: Kyle Davies, Bruno Guarda, Josh Lambo, Alvaro Sanchez

D.C. United — Milos Kocic, Bryan Namoff, Dejan Jakovic, Marc Burch, Chris Pontius, Ben Olsen (Christian Gomez 58), Santino Quaranta, Clyde Simms, Rodney Wallace, Luciano Emilio (Greg Janicki 84), Jaime Moreno (Andrew Jacobson 74),

Substitutes Not Used: Louis Crayton, Thabiso Khumalo, Devon McTavish, Ange N’Silu

Statistical Summary:

D.C. United / FC Dallas
Total shots: 17 (Jaime Moreno 5) / 10 (Dave van den Bergh 3)
Shots on goal: 9 (Jaime Moreno 3) / 3 (3 tied with 1)
Fouls: 13 (Santino Quaranta 3,
Rodney Wallace 3) / 8 (5 tied with 1)
Offsides: 2 (Luciano Emilio 1,
Chris Pontius 1) / 1 (Dave van den Bergh 1)
Corner kicks: 7 (Jaime Moreno 7) / 8 (Dave van den Bergh 5)
Saves: 2 (Milos Kocic 2) / 7 (Ray Burse 7)

Misconduct Summary:
DAL — Kenny Cooper (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 45
DC — Dejan Jakovic (caution; Reckless Tackle) 62

Referee: Ricardo Salazar
Referee’s Assistants: Adam Wienckowski; Steven Taylor
4th official: Hilario Grajeda
Time of game: 1:49
Attendance: 14,225
Weather: Cloudy -and- 65 degrees