Tampa Bay Sports Day

DC United widens its chances with improved strategy

The pivotal CONCACAF Champions League match at RFK Stadium Thursday demonstrated the value of training time for DC United and the helpful contrast of their unusual rest break with their opponent’s travel travails.

Soehn's new strategy paid immediate dividends Thursday

Coach Tom Soehn used the 10 day break to drive home the importance of wide play through consistent training and was fortunate to have an opponent well suited to allow his players to grow comfortable with it. His youngsters executed the plan with discipline and effectiveness to pull out a 3-0 victory which gives United the tiebreaking edge over Marathon.

Over the past several months DC United has very slowly improved its use of the flanks to build its attacks. While Tino Quaranta and Fred showed increasing discipline to stay wide as August and September slid by, and Bryan Namoff began more frequent overlaps down the sideline, their teammates seemed not to reward their efforts with proper service.

Then on Thursday night a Marathon team, wearied by long travel from troubled Honduras, provided a perfect foil to test United’s willingness to work the entire field. DC’s Coach Tom Soehn played a young and energetic lineup which provided the rapid transition to force Marathon to constantly adjust to a multifaceted attack.

Soehn admitted the previous problem with a predictable central attacking mindset, “Over this course of so many games, we’ve created some bad habits, where we haven’t been using the width. And not being able to work on it in training, or not having the time to do it, makes it difficult.

“We had a week to really focus on the strength to stretch the field to change the point of attack, and today I saw a real difference in that.”

As United chose to attack by encouraging both wings to play forward, Marathon chose to defend what amounted to their two goal lead in the important head-to-head tiebreaker. Both group dynamics and their travel fatigue drove the decision by Marathon’s coach to absorb pressure in their end, hoping to exploit United’s depleted defense with counterstrikes.

He pointed out that his team had taken an eight hour bus trip to fly out of Guatemala, only arriving at 1:30 on Thursday morning. Both coaches based their strategies on sound grounds, but the confluence of fatigue, several key first half saves by Josh Wicks, and the first strong sign of total team play by United gave the home side a 3-0 victory.

Ben Olsen was understanding, but willing to exploit the convenient reality, “They had a long couple of days getting here and unfortunately for them, they weren’t 100 percent. But we’ve played teams that weren’t 100 percent in the past and we haven’t taken advantage of them.

“It’s important when you do get these chances, when you play a team that’s down on their luck a little bit, you have to punish them and we did that tonight.”

Quaranta shared his teammates’ pleasure with DC’s performance, “With four (defenders) we have to get our outside backs involved and use the width. We did that tonight. We were smart. We were disciplined going forward and kept a good shape. We will break teams down here no matter who we play.”

He volunteered that there was room for improvement in exploiting the full width of the field,
“Absolutely. We can only get better. The guys who stepped in tonight did well. You can build off these types of performances. It’s very positive in the locker room right now. We put ourselves in a position to do what we need to do to advance.”

The squad has three days to rest up for Sunday’s clash against San Jose at RFK on Sunday at 3:00 PM. Advancement in another competition, the MLS playoffs, hinges on United’s continued improvement in understanding the value of full width play and applying it throughout a contest.

DC — Luciano Emilio 1 (Avery John ) 47
DC — Jaime Moreno 1 (Santino Quaranta ) 55
DC — Luciano Emilio 2 (Ben Olsen ) 71

DC — Avery John (caution; Reckless Tackle) 26
MAR — Mario Beata (caution; Reckless Foul) 82
MAR — Mario Berrios (caution; Reckless Foul) 83
DC — Dejan Jakovic (caution; Dissent) 88
DC — Jaime Moreno (caution; Reckless Foul) 90
DC — Jaime Moreno (ejection; Second Caution) 91+
MAR — Glen Brown (caution; Dissent) 91+

Game Stats
CD Marathon / D.C. United
Total Shots: 9 20
Shots on Goal: 5 9
Total Saves: 6 5
Fouls: 18 12
Offsides: 4 2
Corner Kicks: 7 9

Referee: Silviu Petrescu
Referee’s Assistants: Darren Clark; Daniel Belleau
4th Official: Baldomero Toledo
Time of Game: 90:00
Weather: Cloudy -and- 80 degrees
Attendance: 5,280