Tampa Bay Sports Day

MLS parity on display with 3-3 thriller with TFC

Parity has provided a plethora of ties in Major League Soccer this season, which among others has meant that each game remains in the balance until the last second. That state of affairs has made Coach Tom Soehn’s attempts to rebuild DC United especially risky.

His choice to build the future by playing rookies often, even when not absolutely necessary, should pay dividends later, but makes for nail-biting and frustration in the meanwhile.

In recent years, United has been a central attacking team, but this year the rookies have influenced play into a more balanced mode through their disciplined wing play. Still, Toronto chose to play the first 20 minutes as if they faced the former DC team.

Their defense began in earnest almost 15 yards into their own end of the field. The significant compression of play clogged the middle passing lanes and even restricted the effectiveness of the occasional good wing play that United has begun to favor.

In particular, Fred was energetic in his reentry into the starting lineup, but his running featured too much dribble and his inside play fed into Toronto’s obstructive tactics. Fortunately for United, they got a few good bounces and broke through for the game’s first goal.

While the lead was clearly earned by far superior possession and creation of multiple chances, many were marginal and the score came from a scramble, not the cute passing that DC had slid into favoring.

Rodney Wallace stepped up his game and sustained great effort through the entire 90 minutes as demonstrated by his two assists. Faced with a very fast and physical Marvell Wynne, he often beat the Toronto defender with superior ball skills and mental and technical quickness.

A further example of a benefit from playing rookies came as the entry of Chris Pontius for Fred later in the game created a more effective offensive flow as his wide play joined with both teams’ vision of victory to open up chances that allowed United to tie the game.

So much for the positive. On the flip side, Soehn volunteered that, “We obviously made some key mistakes. Not many, but the ones we made really cost us.” It was simple, “The communication, it’s gotta be better on both sides.”

The coaching staff has yet to pick a keeper sweepstakes winner, “On any given day you can say one guy’s better than the next. It’s up to us to figure it out.”

While Louis Crayton has the resume and great reflexes, he tends to wander and has created some anxious moments. His youngest challenger, Milos Kocic, was the goat on this night despite a strong first half.

Kocic took full responsibility for allowing Dwayne DeRosario to make a spectacularly creative shot the turned the game into an unexpected contest. Bryan Namoff explained the impact, “The goal, it was a trigger point—-Momentum was completely on our side—-Once that goal was scored, we were taken off guard.”

Kocic provided the details, “It’s my fault—Dejan (Jakovic) did a good job shielding him and I thought I had a clear ball and somehow he (DeRosario) put his leg out. I didn’t see his leg and I was expecting to catch the ball. I guess I should have tried to catch it higher but the 18 yard box was right there—so that’s why I stopped a little bit.”

Namoff, who started as Captain, recognizes the difficulty of changing keepers, it causes a higher error rate, “We need to maintain that certain level without those quirky little mistakes. We need to learn to limit some of those plays.”

In this instance, “Milos has only played a couple of games and you can say that communication with Dejan was limited.” In rare cases, a team may rely on a defender to direct traffic, but Namoff wisely noted that, “The goalkeeper can see the entire field and can give the communication to say ‘away’.” Or to claim the ball or cite an outlet.

For his part, Jakovic explained part of the problem with DeRosario’s extraordinary run through DC’s defense to score his second spectacular goal. From his perspective, his defensive responsibilities rose significantly when Danny Dichio entered for Nana Attakora-Gyan, “It looked like they playing with 3 up top.”

Add to that Dichio’s size and the youngster had many responsibilities and only a single experienced defensive midfielder to help him, “He’s definitely a physical presence. I was just trying to body him more than winning it.” His earlier tight marking of DeRosario had to relax in the presence of yet another threat.

As United pressed forward to try to reassert control of the game, the Canadian international began a charge through the thinned out DC midfield. Namoff had to slide inward to attempt to slow DeRosario, but he was a bit late.

Seeing Clyde Simms trying to help him double up and realizing that his decision had to be instantaneous, he acted quickly, “I lunged in and he took a cut across and Clyde didn’t have a chance to get to it because he hit it so quickly.”

Soehn has been fortunate to have as much success as he has with his lineup changes. He is correct about the quality depth of the team and has wisely taken a longer view. He understands that rookies will make mistakes and points will be lost because of them.

The players accept that present risk will foster player and team development as the rookies see more game time. They seem willing to tolerate some current disappointment along the way.

As long as the players continue to work for one another, a theme that permeates their responses to questions from the media, Soehn’s choice of the long view has a solid chance to succeed.

Match Facts

Toronto FC at DC United
May 9, 2009, RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.

Scoring Summary:
DC — Ange N’Silu 1 (Fred 2, Rodney Wallace 2) 9
TOR — Dwayne De Rosario 2 (Stefan Frei 1) 52
TOR — Adrian Serioux 2 (Amado Guevara 4) 63
DC — Chris Pontius 3 (Rodney Wallace 3) 86
TOR — Dwayne De Rosario 3 (unassisted) 87
DC — Jaime Moreno 3 (penalty kick) 92+

Toronto FC — Stefan Frei, Marvell Wynne, Nana Attakora-Gyan (Danny Dichio 76), Adrian Serioux, Marco Velez, Sam Cronin, Amado Guevara (Rohan Ricketts 88), Kevin Harmse, Jim Brennan, Dwayne De Rosario, Chad Barrett (Pablo Vitti 46).

Substitutes Not Used: Brian Edwards, Fuad Ibrahim, Johann Smith, Greg Sutton

D.C. United — Milos Kocic, Bryan Namoff, Dejan Jakovic, Devon McTavish (Chris Pontius 74), Marc Burch, Fred (Santino Quaranta 59), Christian Gomez, Clyde Simms, Rodney Wallace, Luciano Emilio, Ange N’Silu (Jaime Moreno 64),

Substitutes Not Used: Louis Crayton, Greg Janicki, Avery John, Ben Olsen

Statistical Summary
D.C. United Toronto FC
Total shots: 9 (Luciano Emilio 2,
Ange N’Silu 2) 10 (Dwayne De Rosario 4)
Shots on goal: 7 (Ange N’Silu 2) 7 (Dwayne De Rosario 3)
Fouls: 10 (Fred 3) 6 (Marvell Wynne 2)
Offsides: 4 (Rodney Wallace 2) 2 (Jim Brennan 1,
Dwayne De Rosario 1)
Corner kicks: 9 (Christian Gomez 9) 5 (Amado Guevara 5)
Saves: 4 (Milos Kocic 4) 4 (Stefan Frei 4)

Misconduct Summary:
DC — Fred (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 40
TOR — Jim Brennan (caution; Dissent) 92+
DC — Chris Pontius (caution; Reckless Foul) 94+
TOR — Dwayne De Rosario (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 94+

Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee’s Assistants: Greg Barkey; Jason Cullum
4th official: Andrew Chapin
Time of game: 1:50
Attendance: 15,652
Weather: Cloudy -and- 83 degrees