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The First Sixth

As promised, this is the first of a new recurring feature here at the DCUMD blog. In the NFL, coaches and analysts often divide the season into four quarters when discussing how their team is doing. For example, the Redskins were a good 3-1 in the first quarter of their season, but finished 1-3 in their fourth quarter. In the MLS though, it's a little bit more complicated because 30 games doesn't easily divide by four. So I figured it would work out just as well to break the season into sixths, and we'll reflect back after the conclusion of each sixth to see where the team is standing. This will allow us to take a different perspective on the season and to track our thoughts on the team as the year progresses.

Results: 1-1-3. 6 GF, 6 GA

Standings: Currently in fourth place in the Eastern Conference

Statistical Leaders: Luciano Emilio (3 goals), Chris Pontius (1 goal, 1 assist)

Most frequent lineup:

What we liked:

  • The Rookies - Chris Pontius and Rodney Wallace each started every game and combined for a total of 892 minutes out of 900 possible. They have each contributed immediately, and have done a fantastic job at filling in for the injured Fred and Quaranta on the wings. Soehn will have some real tough lineup decisions to make when the team returns to full strength.

  • Ben Olsen returns - United is at a big advantage over last season in that we've got Benny leading by example on the field instead of just cheering from the sidelines. It was Ben Olsen who scored the equalizing goal in stoppage time to tie New England at home. Hopefully this was a huge momentum boost that will carry the team forward into the next stretch of games.

  • The Aging Triangle - The reunion of Christian Gomez, Jaime Moreno, and Luciano Emilio has proven fairly effective in these five matches, including a three game goal scoring streak for Emilio in the middle.

What we didn't like:

  • Failed opportunites - This stat says it all: Chris Pontius had 13 shots, but only 4 shots on goal. The team continues to put itself into good scoring positions, but has failed to convert far too often. Or how about Emilio deciding to shoot when heavily guarded, despite having a wide open Christian Gomez to his right in the Galaxy match? Missing your open opportunities is a terrible reason to miss the playoffs.

  • Disappearing stars - As great as our attacking triangle has often been, we've also seen each of these three stars vanish from matches for long periods of time. Moreno and Emilio are occassionally at fault, but Gomez has been the main offender. Or is it the fault of the rest of the team for failing to get him the ball?

  • The goalkeeping situation - I'm not quite ready to send Louis Crayton back to Liberia, and to be fair, he did earn one shutout, and gave up only 3 goals in his 3 games. But neither Crayton nor Wicks seems to have the consistency to be a top flight goalkeeper. Is it possible that Milos Kocic will eventually be our Varlamov and supplant the veterans?
Defining moment: This image says it all. The first sixth unfortunately was defined by Devon McTavish and Greg Janicki bumping heads while defending a Galaxy attack, and leading to two quick goals within the next 10 minutes as DC scrambled to adjust. The season to date can be summed up by DC United outplaying their opponents, but still giving away points unnecessarily.

Overall impression: At fourth place in the Eastern Conference, DC United is just about where we all expected them to be for most of the year. No longer the elite team in the league, but still very much in the thick of things. From what we've seen in the past five games, DC might be better than their record shows. But we need wins, not just solid performances. For example, at the conclusion of the first half of the Revolution game, all of the ESPN analysts agreed that that was the best half they'd seen out of DC all year, yet the game was scoreless. In each of our three ties, we had chances to put the game away and gain an extra two points, but either failed to convert our scoring opportunities, or failed to shore up defensively. Until United can start to grind out some victories rather than settling for draws against teams they can beat, this season may be likely to end in more disappointment.