Monday, July 11, 2011

Much Needed Catching Up

After missing several weeks, jumping right back in is a precarious task, but I will brave the frigid water of blogging...and in the smoldering heat of summer and get back in the saddle. Even before going on hiatus, I went away from previewing and then reviewing matches. I expect to continue that discontinuity for the most part. However, the season is looking pretty good for United after a couple of trades.

Despite my personal belief that DeRo is one of the league's best midfielders, this trade was a real shock. Early in the season, Dax's energy was much needed in the center of the field, but after the first month, what he was delivering was something less than what was expected or needed. In fact, he started to remind me of the section in Soccernomics where Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski discuss the tendency to over-value redheaded players. Specifically, they state that redheads stand out on a soccer field differently from players with black or blond hair. Scouts and other players see them more and can more easily pick out what the redheads do. Sure there are great soccer players out there with red hair, but Dax is just "pretty good".

If you compare DeRo and Dax's successful passes last Saturday to each other, the difference between them is clear. DeRo is involved all over the field and his passes are distributed pretty evenly. In contrast, Dax's passes, were almost all from the defensive middle to either the wings or full backs. Even DC's defensive midfielder Clyde Simms moved around the field more and distributed the ball more broadly than Dax. I do not know how Dax will pan out in New York, but it may be to his benefit to play under a guy like Kyle Beckerman (at RSL) at some point; a tough center-mid playing in a withdrawn position.

The addition of Brandon McDonald is also welcome, and has shorn up our defense the last few weeks. At 25, he provides some experience and greater physicality than our injured young roster. I still feel Julius James got screwed in the off-season and suspect our defense would have been better earlier if we had kept him. However, in MLS we do not need to dominate the table, just fight to make the play-offs; preferably high enough in the table to avoid the mid-week wild card round. With the international transfer window opening on 14 July, we will see if United selects one more player to shore up the defense in order to make up for injuries.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Coming up on the All-Star break, DC United are again plagued with a boatload of injuries. I will not harp on this too much, but we now have Blake Brettschneider's on the injury report with a concussion. I wonder if along with the cliche journalists and soccer geeks once repeated like a mantra ("DC United plays with a certain style"), we will soon start to hear sexy new catch phrases such as "wounded like United" or better yet "get yer head injury on".

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