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Superliga Matchday Three: DC United – Atlante

To call DC’s performance tonight a disappointment is major understatement. From my personal perspective as I discussed on the 2Gs show with Graham and Peter on April 10th I have a certain expectation from DC in these sorts of competitions and no expectations from other teams in MLS. (in the case of that match we were discussing Houston’s loss to Saprissa, and I summarized that I expect DC to fly the MLS banner high but don’t expect that from any other team) But times have changed and as a supporter of the league I must adjust my expectations to the reality of today: DC United has become a bad team these types of events while the rest of MLS must be lauded for their efforts at improving the league’s image.

Prior to Saturday DC United had never once lost at RFK Stadium to a team from the Mexican League. Now in three days they have lost twice.

Second Half

Contrary to expectations DC United has come out flat and Atlante take a 3-1 lead on a wonder goal by Christian Bermudez. United then begins to press leaving even more space at the back then previously. DC’s line is playing as high as possible and is susceptible to Atlante’s counter attacking especially since they are such a talented passing side. Atlante gets opportunity after opportunity and fails to get a fourth goal.

DC’s attacking players seem to be running out of idea in the attack and are consistently giving the ball away. Luciano Emilio takes advantage of some sloppiness from Atlante who instead of valuing possession try to start a quick counter attack after Federico Vilar saved a free kick. Jaime Moreno steps in front of a sloppy ball, and feed Luciano Emilio who scores a goal befitting of a player of the highest caliber: which Emilio is especially by MLS standards.

A frantic finish ensues with Zach Wells making a few clutch saves to keep DC within a goal and Gonzalo Martinez racing back to break up a goal at the last minute after a DC corner. United has their chances but Vilar is true to the occasion making a few key saves. United’s loss all but eliminates them from possible advancement to the knock out stages.

First Half

Given the expectations heaped on DC United by the MLS brass and by many others about the red and black being the premier club in North America, this match is a must win. DC United won the CONCACAF Champions Cup in 1998 and reached the final of the short lived CONCACAF Giants Cup in 2001. Since then however it’s been one disappointment after another, whether it was Troy Perkins gaffe at Jalisco last year that cost DC a trip to the Champions Cup final, The blowing of a two goal lead in the two leg series against the same Guadalajara team in the Copa Sudamericana, or multiple shots hitting the post in an effort to defeat Pachuca in this year’s Champions Cup semifinals.

The most striking aspect of Tom Soehn’s squad selection is that Jaime Moreno starts the match in the midfield where he finished Saturday’s loss to Guadalajara. With Marcello Gallardo ailing, Soehn obviously wants a calming presence on the ball. Francis Doe starts in Moreno’s customary spot alongside Luciano Emilio in the DC attack. Gonzalo Peralta is again out injured for the red and black which will test the DC defense and the unreliable Zach Wells.

DC start the match having a hard time maintaining possession and not keeping a decent looking shape. Atlante on the other hand seems to have shook off the doldrums of the Superliga opening loss to Houston and is looking sharp early. Atlante finally breaks through as Gabriel Perreya plays a wonderful through ball to Luis Gabriel Rey. Atlante has two more good chances to score on jailbreaks through the DC backline but Zach Wells makes a good save and on the other chance Rey is caught offsides.

United finally settles down around minute twenty and begins to maintain some decent possession. Finally on an opportunity started by Jaime Moreno, Francis Doe finishes. This goal is a credit to Tom Soehn’s decision to drop Moreno into the midfield to stimulate the attack that was lacking for much of Saturday’s match.

The game then takes on a real attacking flavor with both sides pushing forward and creating chances. DC backline seems better organized but Atlante has a passing rhythm a lot of MLS sides do not posses challenging DC’s newfound defensive structure. This results in a gaol for Rey in the 44th minute thanks to the quick passing of the Atlante midfield. Devin McTavish gets turned around easily and like the first Atlante goal this lead to several minutes of sustained attacking by Atlante until the half time whistle sounds mercifully for DC. Once again in the major competition against a Mexican side, United have left themselves with little option but to go all out and attack. Last year in the Copa Sudamericana, DC United has Guadalajara down two goals and let them off the hook and this year in the Champions Cup and Superliga they have done the opposite digging an early hole which has generally been too deep to climb out of.

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  1. Chop

    July 16, 2008 at 1:28 pm


    I was about 10 feet away from Soehn when he made those comments and I can assure you he meant every word. In a lot of ways Soehn is very much like his predecesor Peter Nowak when dealing with the media. You can genuinely see and feel his emotions. He’s much more personable than Nowak, but at the same time he plays his cards very close to the vest and doesn’t reveal too too much.

    Last night was different though. He was ticked off at the effort. There’s not too much he can divulge in regards to his feelings about United playing in SuperLiga. He has to tow the company line. Of course he’s going to appear as though it’s important. He said as much last night. But in all honesty, this tournament is a waste of United’s time considering what else is at stake this season.

    They have the Open Cup semi-final on Aug 12th and in order to play that match they will most likely have to send their reserve team to the Meadowlands to play Red Bull on the 10th. Red Bull is a team that United pounds with regularity and the thought of having to chuck away three points is disgraceful and shouldn’t be necessary.

    but thanks to the tools at the MLS office, they had the entire month of July off so they can play a tournament that means absolutely nothing. Therefore, they have to crowd the rest of their MLS schedule plus potential Open Cup dates and the CONCACAF Champions League into a two month period that will yet again zap all available energy and United will once again stumble over the finish line.

    Kartik, keep up the good work. I have listned to every single one of your episodes and though I disagree with you and especially Denholm on a good deal of things, I respect the job you do and putting it out there for all to hear and read.

    You have me e-mail address. Please contact me as I would like to come on the show sometime. I have been doing a podcast on our website for years. Take a listen sometime (available on iTunes and through our website) and let me know what you think.

  2. kartik

    July 16, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Steve Goff reports on Tom Soehn’s comments:

    “There is no sugarcoating anything,” Coach Tom Soehn said. “The performance, especially in the first half, was atrocious. There was no commitment, no passion. We came out flat all over, and that’s unacceptable. . . .

    “Today we accomplished all the things we did when we were 2-7 [in the regular season]. That’s the team we looked like today, and that’s not good enough.”

    As I have said before whether or not certain fans view this competition as a glorified exhibition, DC United takes every international especially when a trophy is on the line seriously. These last two performances have been an all time low for the team. Injuries hurt but some of us who have watched this league since the beginning expect more from United and more importantly United expects more from United. I’m sure Soehn feels the heat and his comments were on the money.

  3. kartik

    July 16, 2008 at 8:12 am

    Right Chop. Who can forget that in 2005 down in Chile. That’s really when this slide started for United regarding international competitions.

    In 1998 DC United BEAT Toluca who at the time were kings of Mexican Football. United also beat somebody from mexico in 2001, cannot recall whom to get to the finals of the CONCACAF Giants Cup.

    Guadalajara has won one title in the last ten years. The same for Atlante. Neither team has the accomplishments of Pachuca, America or even Pumas the last ten years.

    It’s difficult to claim as some do that MLS is making so much progress and the standard has improved as rapidly as many try and claim when MLS’ best teams aren’t getting the results against the best sides in Mexico on their home grounds.

    The injury/suspension excuse works for Houston more than DC. United still had more than in enough in their arsenal to perform better. But they seemed tactically naive in both matches which is surprising because I think Soehn had gotten his tactics right in past matches in Mexico itself, but playing such a high line in both matches w/o peralta was disastrous.

    Also factor in the fixture congestion and it would be nice if DC gave everyone a rest on Saturday and called it a day on Superliga.

  4. Football Detective

    July 16, 2008 at 1:49 am

    DC United did nothing tonight to “discredit the league” – that’s ridiculous.

    They don’t have the depth that they once did that’s for sure and Moreno isn’t 25 anymore.

    Missing Gallardo and Peralta was the difference but you can’t fault their effort.

  5. chop

    July 16, 2008 at 1:19 am


    tough to say United “gave up a two goal lead” against Chivas when they were down a man in the first leg. They lost the series on the away goal rule.

    In 2005, they blew a two goal road lead at Catolica. That was the bigger crime. At least last year United did tie 2-2 on aggregate with Chivas.

    That being said, United once again fails to show up when the lights shine brightest.

  6. USA in 2010

    July 16, 2008 at 12:14 am

    Look Kartik, you and others have made a living out of inflating DC’s profile.

    For years they’ve gotten nothing but handouts from the league. Albright wanted to play there so Miami gave him to them.
    Convey wanted to play there so San Jose had to give his rights to them.
    Quaranta the same.
    Adu the same.

    The salary cap in recent years hasn’t applied to them since the league still feels guilty for gutting the original DC team making RDA , Agoos, Pope, Sanneh, etc all move on.

    Now the club lives on reputation alone and commentators like you who degrade the rest of the league to build them up.

    The cold hard facts are plain to see. DC has done more to discredit the league with performances like tonight’s than anyone else in the league.

  7. Roger

    July 15, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    This isn’t the days of El Diablo and Harksie anymore. Moreno and Emilio do a credit to the colors and the club but the rest of the guys are typical MLS throw away players: simply guys to fill out a team sheet with. It’s New England who now scouts the way DC used to.

    Soehn like Nowak is over his head when it comes to these competitions.

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