Wednesday, July 09, 2008

U.S. Open Cup DC United 2:1 Chicago Fire

Last night I went to see DC United play the Chicago Fire in the U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals. Given the history between these two teams (Chicago has eliminated DC from a number of competitions, including the Open cup in 2006 and the MLS Cup last year), I kind of figured it would get ugly and it did. In the end DC came away victorious after an extra time goal by Bryan Namoff. The MLS story gets most of the details right. So I won't add much to it.

After conceding a soft goal due to a break down in communication between Pat Carroll and Zach Wells, DC United appeared to get organized particularly in the second half. DC had chances all night long, but it was not until Jaime Moreno came on in the 62 minute that things really started looking up. Moreno to Doe for the first DC goal was quality stuff, born of the perseverence of Moreno, Luciano Emilio and Craig Thompson who collectively battled for the ball in the right corner before Moreno emerged with the ball and fired a cross to Francis Doe at the top of the six yard box where Doe put the ball past Jon Busch.

With the regulation time tied at 1-1, the Fire brought on Cuauhtemec Blanco for extra time. But it was DC United's playmaker Moreno that would put DC on top. From a corner on the right side, Moreno drove a head high or so cross to the near post. Bryan Namoff made the near post run and flicked a header into the left side netting for the go ahead.

Sparks flew five minutes later after Fred committed a foul on the Fire's Justin Mapp and receive a justified yellow card for his efforts. I missed some of the scrum that erupted, but the next thing I knew Blanco was on his back after having been shoved roughly by Marc Burch. I knew Burch was going to see the red, but Blanco was given his walking papers also. This story captures the events I couldn't see:
But there was more drama in store as Chicago looked for some inspiration from their own Latin American playmaker, Cuauhtemoc Blanco -- but the Mexican legend merely succeeded in sparking a near-brawl at the end of the first overtime period with a petulant swing at Clyde Simms. Burch vigorously responded to Blanco and both men were sent off by referee Shane Moody.

"There was a foul and Clyde was holding on to the ball and Blanco came over and just swung as hard as he could and hit him in the stomach," said Burch. "And I'm sick of that -- I saw him throwing elbows at Peralta and I bumped shoulders with him and he threw an elbow at me, and when he was on the ground he kicked me. So I was just sick of him. He gets away with a lot of stuff because he's Blanco and he's from Mexico and it's a big name. But he can't do that stuff to my teammates, so I just stood up for them."
I appreciate Burch's comraderie, but with the card, he will be sitting out the semi-final against New England and Burch has been playing well. Blanco was going to be sent off as the Referee's assistant and the Fourth Official saw Blanco's attack on Simms (as evidenced by the nearly one minute conference between the three), so Burch's defense of Simms was unwarrented, although appreciated.

A quick note about the Soccerplex though. Official attendence was a little over 4100 people, but it didn't seem that packed. My family was seated behind the south goal on the earth bowl with probably 700-800 others and it didn't fee crowded. The atmosphere was great, with about 150 or so Barra Brava
supporters there, singing, chanting and drumming all game long, just like at Estadio RFK, but smaller. There were a few Chicago supporters on the earth seating, but everyone was respectful and focused on the match. Aside from the usual overpriced food and drink and the traffic leaving after the match (which wasn't that bad, we say for maybe 10 minutes in traffic), the facility is quality. I have been to the Soccerplex to watch youth games and Washington Freedom matches (far smaller attendence), but the smaller, intimate setting for the U.S. Open Cup matches is great and I am glad that DC does it this way. I would hope that they would play some other exhibition games there in pre-season or friendlies with the USL-2 Club that plays at the Soccerplex, Real Maryland.

Overall, a great night.

DC will play defending U.S. Open Cup Champions (and the best team in the MLS) New England Revolution on August 12th in the Semi-finals. The other semi-final will feature two USL-1 teams, the Charleston Battery and Seattle Sounders. The winner of the U.S. Open Cup gets an automatic berth in the CONCACAF Champions League, so there is something major at stake now.

Player Ratings

Zach Well--6. The miscommunication with Pat Carroll was bad, but three good quality saves redeems his performance. Hey, Zach, a shut out against and MLS side would be nice.

Bryan Namoff--7. Constantly roved the right side, looked good on the ball, and of course a game winner.

Marc Burch--6. Burch is better on the outside, as he currently looks a little soft with balls over the top. Solid tackling though, but stupid on the retaliation against Blanco.

Devon McTavish--6. Like Burch a little soft defending against balls over the back line.

Gonzalo Martinez--7. Like Namoff, providing a solid offensive punch from left back. A number of good opportunities. However, if he is going to continue playing left back, he needs to improve his fitness.

Fred--5. He started well in central midfield but really didn't look all that comfortable in the role as playmaker. I think he was happy when Moreno came in and he could move back out to the wing. He is still off his form and some of the blame has to be shouldered by Tommy Soehn tonight.

Rod Dyachenko--4. I still don't see what Soehn sees in this guy. He is always out of his depth in central midfield, makes poor decisions, bad giveways and cannot see the play develop properly to be in this role.

Pat Carroll--4. Poor communication and poor ball control led to bad giveaways and lack of impact.

Ryan Cordeiro--5. Played okay for the first few minutes, kept wide to keep opening the Fire defense up, but a poor first touch and poor passing doomed his appearance to the first half only.

Clyde Simms--7. He was all over the field and again proved that he is a solid holding midfielder. He is getting better at distribution and at times seemed to put DC united on his back for the dark periods.

Luciano Emilio--7. Although he had no goals, he was a constant threat, betweeen his movement, ball control and tenacity. He had several good chances, but just didn't capitalize last night.

Francis Doe--7. He was energetic and a pest to the Chicago defense. His goal and his willingness to defend and hassle the back line and Chicago midfield made him just as valuable.

Craig Thompson--5 Played wide and kept the Chicago defenders honest. Needs to work on his first touch and passing, but a solid performance.

Jaime Moreno--7. The Bolivian playmaker showed why he is a legend for United. Two assists in about 40 minutes of play.

Gonzalo Peralta--5 He came on after the extra time goal and helped DC keep shape and avoid giving up an equalizer.

No comments: