Sunday, July 29, 2007

United Looking Better -- D.C. United played much more confidently, although United only managed to tally one goal, in beating Club America, during tonight's SuperLiga action. Christian Gomez played a truly inspired game, despite taking an ugly, vicious elbow in the 34th minute, that had him repeatedly running to the bench to ice the side of his head. Gomez set up the lone goal, as he headed Ben Olsen's crossing pass back across the goalbox, where Rod Dyachenko ran onto it, blasting a low drive for the decisive goal.

Kudos have to go to Gomez, who attacked consistently throughout much of the game, and narrowly missed scoring himself, on a couple of efforts. This was Gomez' best game since the MLS season got underway in April. Marc Burch played another strong game. Burch's crosses continue to pose danger for opposing defenses, and Luciano Emilio should have scored with a header on one of them. Burch also created a decent chance for himself, with a good run behind the defense. I am sure that Coach Tom Soehn is taking notice, and we can expect Burch to be a regular in the lineup. Josh Gros did a good job controlling the ball and setting up the offense, and Dyachenko turned in his best effort in a United uniform, before being substituted for Clyde Simms.

Perhaps the best news was the surprise of seeing Dominic Mediate take the field, to help run out the final minutes of the game. It's almost exactly a year since Mediate suffered a badly broken leg, on a vicious tackle that wasn't even whistled for a foul. It was wonderful to see Mediate get another chance at an MLS career, despite being released by United earlier, in the preseason. Mediate had several touches, and showed both quickness and deftness with the ball. His return gives Coach Soehn much better midfield options, coming off the bench.

United has a tough challenge on Wednesday, taking on the Dynamo in the final match of group play. United needs at least a point to guarantee advancing to the SuperLiga semifinals. Of course, since Morelia gained a tie with Houston, if D.C. ties with Houston on Wednesday, and Morelia beats Club America, that would leave three clubs tied with 5 points...and the result unclear. So, United may need a win to advance.

Against the Dynamo, even gaining a tie will be no small task. United must shut down Dwayne DeRosario and Stuart Holden, and try to deny the ball to Houston's deadly forwards. At the same time, United really needs to show it can attack Houston's defense. No team has done that in over a month, not in the MLS, nor in the SuperLiga (Houston did give up a second-half goal against Morelia, but that came off a freakish, horrible error by the Dynamo's back-up goalkeeper, in failng to hold on to a loose ball). This will offer United a chance to show it can compete with the Dynamo. Even though the other teams in the Eastern Conference have been loading up with foreign talent, United is still the team most likely to earn a berth in the MLS Cup, where the likely opponent will be the defending champion Dynamo.

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