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The D.C. United debacle continues


Normally, a hard-fought and closely-contested 1-0 loss on the road would be seen as a disappointment but not a disastrous result.


When your team is in the midst of a stretch of five losses in six matches then another loss becomes far more significant.

Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Toronto FC drops D.C. United to 2-7 on the season. How bad a record is that? Consider that D.C. United lost seven matches ALL of last season.

Yep, you read that right. D.C. was 16-7-7 on its way to the Supporter’s Shield in 2007.

This is why Saturday’s return leg against Toronto FC at RFK Stadium looms as what amounts to a must-win for D.C. United coach Tom Soehn, who is feeling most of the heat for the team’s awful start.

I stated earlier in the week that Soehn deserved the entire season to see things out in D.C., but an eighth loss and fifth straight would not only further damage D.C. United’s already hurting playoff hopes, it would also put D.C. management in the position of having to do something to try and turn things around.

We also know what potential head coach is currently available and every lose going forward is going to make the option of bringing back Bruce Arena that much more appealing.

Here’s my question. Will a coach make the difference in salvaging this season or is the current roster just a mess that isn’t going to work together no matter how much you tinker?

We will find out on Sunday just how much life D.C. has left. If the D.C. players go out on Saturday and give a spirited performance that shows signs that a turnaround is possible, then there will still be hope for the season and hope for Soehn surviving it. If D.C. goes out and suffers another lackluster loss, especially at home, I think you will see major changes in D.C.

What do you think the problem is? Is it the players? Is it Soehn? Do you think D.C. is still capable of waking up and turning things around? Share your thoughts below.


  1. Soehn really doesn’t seem to know how to give his players confidence in this system.

    +I agree with Matt that Emilio is receiving the ball in the wrong situations, due to playing too far from the goal.

    +The DC transistion play is very poor. Martinez helped a lot last night by effectively carrying the ball up the line a bit and overlapping at fullback. This is key. Clyde Simms and both fullbacks need to carry the ball forward when the defense is giving them space so that entry passes to Gallardo, Moreno, Quaranta and Fred are happening further upfield. As it is, Simms, Burch and Namoff tend to get rid of the ball as soon as they can and it means that DC’s midfield is too deep. DC does not have enough dynamic off-the-ball players to unbalance a defense when the playmakers are carrying the ball through the middle of the field. This sluggish ball movement is also leading to a lot of sloppy turnovers in the middle third as Gallardo and co play square balls and rush passes/first touches.

    + Furthermore, Quaranta, Moreno, Emilio and Dyachenko (and to a lesser extent Gallardo) all prefer to receive the ball at their feet, rather than running onto it. That is not bad, but you need a mixture. More of those guys need to be willing and able (like Fred) to make quick slashing runs across the field and into the corners to give Gallardo options and space to play balls.

    + I think Wells is a bigger problem than people are letting on, too. His communication is absolutely terrible. He seems too laid-back to be a defensive organizer and with Peralta frequently sprinting as fast as he can just to keep up, the team needs the keeper to speak up. Wells is way too tentative coming off his line, too.

    + I think ultimately the team is going to need to get Martinez and McTavish in the fullback slots and put Namoff and Peralta together in the center. Namoff is a better organizer at this point and he can play effectively in the center if he has to. Peralta is still a useful player, but he is not a great organizer.

    I don’t think that DC can turn this ship around with Soehn in charge. I like Soehn, but he doesn’t have the smarts or the motivational quality that this very veteran team needs. The team either needs a very cerebral coach who can make the veteran’s excited to play and confident in the tactics or a guy with searing intensity like a Nowak or Nicol. Maybe Dave Dir would be a good option. Arena would hate the defensive players at his disposal, although he would probably like the midfield.

    The team really does need a dynamic forward who can get downfield and show the finishing touch necessary to pull attention away from Emilio. With a little more time and space, Emilio will start banging them in again … and he can score from the 15 – 20 yard range if he has a worker bee buzzing around in front.

  2. In my opinion, Emilio showed signs of similar problems last year and at times frustrated me to no end. But it’s easy to forgive mistakes when you knock in 20 goals. Truly, he does look worse than last year, but even then I didn’t think his touch was incredible. He only maintained possession by dribbling back towards the midfield, not by holding off a defender while moving laterally or one timing a ball to the outside mids. His finishing seemed streaky last year. How long was his goalless streak in MLS towards the beginning of the season? His finishing and touch have decreased marginally, but he’s mostly a goal poacher. And they don’t usually position themselves 30-40 yards from goal where Emilio frequently receives the ball this year. He needs to play higher up the field and needs to do better when he has the ball to help the team maintain possession.

    He needs to be partnered with someone quick (not Moreno) so he doesn’t have to hold the ball for 10 minutes with little support. A quick option (like Quaranta) up top would allow DC to stretch opposing defenses and would provide an outlet for Gallardo’s incisive passes.

    Lastly, losing Gros and Olsen is huge with regards to leadership and Moreno doesn’t appear outspoken enough to compensate for their losses, despite his experience. Wells is mediocre, makes some great reflex saves but his positioning and sometimes questionable decision making have lead to several soft goals this year (see Pachuca leg 2, Chivas USA last weekend). I can see where the FO would think Peralta looked like a great prospect if they didn’t watch him much. Maybe he looks great at DII in Argentina, but while he can make some really solid plays in MLS, he is another one who gets caught out due to lack of speed and some poor positioning. Against weaker competition, no problem, but against a decent MLS squad he flounders. I think Soehn has been forced to deal with some serious challenges this year, but I don’t think he’s up to the task. I think he’s appeared out of his depth against teams with comparable talent both years and I hope he’s around for no longer than another 3 games if he doesn’t win the next 2.

  3. With the talent DC has, the coach needs to go. Even with a DC win on sat i’d say he’s still gone by mid-june at the latest.

  4. It’s all summed up to this:

    — The roster turnover was too drastic. Emilio hasn’t been the same. (Neither has Fred.)

    — Gallardo is taking too long to “adjust” to his new role, city, team, and teammates.

    And one Gonzalo turned out to be pretty good, the other hasn’t.

    — The team is clearly missing the bite and hard work of Ben Olsen.

    Nothing more needs to be said.

  5. DC took the three stripes off their jerseys and with it went their winning spirit. I didn’t see the game last night but on the highlight of Dichio’s goal you could tell DC was just mentally beaten down and frustrated. Maybe they didn’t need to revamp so much of the team in the offseason. After all they won the Supporters Shield last year so how much rebuilding needed to be done? First of all they need Olsen back (leadership and ball-winning in the middle). Secondly, their forwards just aren’t dangerous. As a Revs fan, Emilio was scary whenever he touched the ball. Not Angel-level scary, but still. They’re not getting usable balls up to the forwards. I thought they played really hard against Chicago a few games ago in the first half and were unlucky to have nothing to show for it (and to be down at halftime at that).

  6. As a DC fan, I have to say that yes, I don’t think Tommy Soehn is a very good coach. On the other hand, I think the roster is probably an unfixable mess.

    Several posters above have blamed management for signing unproven Latin talent, and in the case of Niell the Midget, I have to agree. However, Peralta and Martinez are fine.

    The real problem is that the players DC has don’t add up to a cohesive unit, as they simply don’t complement each other’s strengths & weaknesses.

    Emilio can’t get going, ’cause he’s not getting service. That’s largely because the wingers aren’t very good at flank service, and Gallardo plays too far back to link up with him.

    Also, Gallardo isn’t really the type of player to beat guys off the dribble and create offense. He’s terriffic as a hub, spraying balls around the field from a central spot. Tragically, these are the things Christian Gomez did do very well, so this compounds his loss.

    I’m a huge Benny Olsen fan, so I can’t deny the negative impact of his absence both on & off the pitch.

    Couple these factors with injuries to Fred & McTavish, Jaime’s absolute lack of mobility, the signing of a keeper who is apparently mute, also the fact that Emilio did get lazy in the off-season, and you have the makings of an all-time worst season for DC United.

    All in all, the biggest factor was that the front office screwed the pooch royally in terms of understanding how its new signings would mesh on the field.

    If Soehn was in fact a good, creative tactician, then maybe he could put together some different formations & game plans that would actually put his players in a better position to succeed. Since he can’t do that, it’s much easier to change the coach than the team. Tommy’s gotta go.

  7. hoyanick- hit the nail on the head…. DCU went out and spent loads of cap space on players untested in the MLS… as seen many times this doesnt always work out well… usually its just 1 maybe 2 players that fit this bill, but DCU went out and got a whole roster full (tad overexageration)….

    off the top of my head i know 5 players in the mix, on top of Fred and Emilio who were new last season… i cant think of a better reason why DCU is doing so poorly is that they have ZERO team chemistry…

    here is a squad who has never played together, with perhaps 7 starting spots taken by new players within the past 2 years… ever wonder why the Revs or Dynamo do so well?? they have the same core of guys with a couple replacements throughout the years… they have chemistry..

    its not a coaching thing, id place the blame on two parties…

    the staff- who’s idea it was to go out and get a handfull of players and expect them to produce quality is absurd… while the coach is definately in the loop, i would place more blame on the front office

    the players- they have no unity and no heart.. they are getting run off the pitch by everyone…

    they’ll pick it up eventually, but will it be soon enough to not force a “MUST WIN EVERY GAME” situation LA was in last season?? dunno

  8. No one has said anything about Jaime Moreno. Last night, I noticed when DC was looking to quickly counter attack and he would get that ball everything just would stop there. He would take 4+ touches on the ball and either find someone square or negative. He repeatedly would hold the ball until he was double marked and lost in quite a few times in those situations. Although he isn’t the only problem, he is definitely not looking like the old Moreno of yester-year. I think they need a strong central midfielder that is willing to do the dirty work. Someone like… oh Brian Carroll, Oh wait thats right! He plays for the CREW now! hahahaha Poor DC.

    In all honesty though I hope they beat TFC 5-0 on Saturday.

  9. Take a look at DC’s salary outlays.


    Problem 1: Olsen (long-term injury; makes 215k) and Fred (short-term; makes 210k) have been injured during this losing streak. Total unproductive salary value: $425,000

    Problem 2: Majorly OVERpaying for unproven Latin talent.

    Example 1 – Franco Niell makes $150k. This is a guy who has been about as productive as Rod Dyachenko, who makes $33k. DCU got a bad deal with this one. The sad part is that such a small guy should be the one who is chasing Gallardo’s long balls – but Niell is small, but NOT fast.

    Example 2 – Gonzalo Peralta makes between $180-$200k. Is this slow bruiser worth five Bobby Boswells, who make makes $33k? Why would we assume that a defender from a 2nd Division squad in Argentina would be good anyways? What exactly does DCU management think about the talent level of MLS/Americans if they are willing to shell out that sort of cash for a lower-level Argentinean?

    Problem 3: Signing bargain-basement Americans and asking them to take spots in the starting line-up. After management spent all that money on Niell, Peralta, etc, they didn’t have much left for guys who toil in MLS and make about 75k – 100k, but who know the league and are motivated. On the other hand, when you look at the value you get for Burch/McTavish (who play for $30-40k), they start to look like the best deals on the team.

  10. Also, Simms has been struggling in D-Mid. Primarily responsible for both goals in 2-0 loss to Chicago this season.

  11. I think Arena’s shadow and hunger to repay RB is now too great for Soehn to survive the season no matter what. Their expectation for MLS Cup glory and nothing less is tied to the delusion of grandeur they formed at the beginning of the season, when they saw their team on paper. I think many of us, DC supporter or not, had to agree the team looked great on paper. However, this delusion continues to hold, that they are still the best team in the league, regardless of their record and loss of key players from last season. Seems they’ll only change their expectations with a new coach, who’ll be given a bit more leeway, and who’ll be able to take some of the pressure off the players.

    But even so, I think it’s a mess no matter who replaces Soehn. Too many new players & the expecation for said players to gel quickly = all sorts of chemistry problems when they don’t.

    All that said, nothing is sweeter than watching DC finally suffer in some miniscule way thru something barely touching what we’ve come to know and hate as status quo here in NY. The times, are they a’changin…? 🙂

  12. WHY???

    Pivotal player Olsen has not recovered from off-season injury to play.

    Emilio in funk/not getting service

    Lots of new players take time to play well together.

    Injuries to Gallardo and Fred have disrupted the team; only last game are both back in starting lineup

    As talented as Gallardo is, Gomez seemed to be better fit for team’s style of play


    Yes but harder with Olsen not in the picture.

  13. Homey, I’m not working on a Steve Morrow exclusive. Now, if he calls me, I’ll certainly interview him, but I don’t think I’m on his speed-dial.

  14. Gotta agree that Emilio is a big part of this team’s start to the year. While he did enjoy better service last year, being supported by a more cohesive midfield, he still looks lost out there. That chance he put over the bar that Amit mentioned really should have been put away. The thing that sucks the most for DC is that they’re not going to get much for Emilio now.

  15. DC is gonna be in trouble – has anyone looked at their upcoming schedule? – TFC, NE, Houston, Chicago, and LA — Tommy Soehn wont be walking on the yellow brick road if you know what i mean… Gallardo last night couldnt even get a single ball over a TFC defender’s head – I say give Emilio a chance – he will end his streak and lack of quality soon enough – as for the offseason… whats this rumor about Viduka coming to DC???

  16. Did Emilio just party it up in the offseason or what? Was last year just a lucky streak?

    I know DC have a lot of new additions, but one would hope the new additions could at least turn in a .500 season and build from there.

    This just makes the Morrow firing at FC Dallas look even more ridiculous.

    Ives, you working on that exclusive interview with Morrow?

  17. D.C. United’s biggest problem this year has been the ineffective play of Luciano Emilio. He had a chance in the TFC game yesterday that he would’ve put away last year that he skied high. D.C. United needs to find a capable forward. It might be in the team’s best interest to look at a MLS guy like Jeff Cunningham who is dying for first team action.


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