Friday, October 17, 2008

Magic in the Air, tonight. Wow. I haven't posted since January, but events tonight merit my posting outside of the Washington Post's Soccer Insider blog, or even the Daily Kos -- and, while it's a momentous time in politics, I'll stick to sports tonight...

Tonight, I watched DC United stage one of the most memorable comebacks in team history. Then, I got home and watched as the Red Sox completed one of the most memorable comebacks in baseball history.

As for the United game -- I'm afraid to call that awesome, because it was even better than that. Here's how it went: DCU playing as well or even better than they've played all year -- creating the best chances they've had in weeks or even months, but unable to put it in the net. In the second half, they go on a break so promising it seems like there's no way they won't score, but Emilio somehow manages to give it up. The Revs come back with a great counterattack, leaving United goalie Louis Crayton helpless to prevent Twellman's goal (by the way, I've now looked at those replays several times and I'm 100% convinced the Revs' play was onsides all the way -- just a really well-timed run).

So, now it's looking incredibly grim, as United is on the brink of elimination from playoff contention. Coach Tommy Soehn looks to his bench and finds some magic. Jai-me Mo-reno! Jai-me Mo-reno! The fans feel it, too. What followed was almost too good to be believed.

Two magnificent goals by Francis Doe. Sprung by Jaime's pass, he puts a serious move on the defender, and then makes a great shot to beat Reis, who left just enough room at the near post. Second goal -- by rights, Doe probably should have gone down with Parkhurst pulling at him, hoping the ref would have the sense to call a penalty. Instead, Doe refused to go down and trust in the refs. He fought to stay up and get the ball. He broke free from Parkhurst's cluthces, and then he struck an incredible shot to beat Reis, this time high to the far post. Doe struck it hard enough to leave Reis flat-footed, but with enough touch to sneak in under the crossbar.

The fans? Sheer ecstasy! Utter Bedlam! I threw my beer in the air, after Doe's first goal! I never throw my beer. There are no words to adequately describe the thrill after Doe scored the game-winner.

When I got home, I was thinking I ought to promise to name a child, boy or girl, Francis Doe. If he never does anything else to remember while wearing the DCU kit, we'll never forget his performance tonight. Doe will always have a place in our hearts, indelibly carved there tonight.

If I might add -- I thought Doe actually looked really good all game. Even before his goals, I thought it was his most skillful performance of the year. Very encouraging for the young Liberian. It's possible that United has really scored in scrounging up some talented young African strikers who were overlooked by other MLS teams -- the Liberian, Doe, and the South African, Boyzzz Khumalo. Certainly, the team's new goalie, Louis Crayton -- also Liberian - has been an instant sensation.

While the much ballyhooed off-season South American signings were busts, as was the trade for Wells, United came up with some surprisingly good player acquisitions during the season, bolstering a team that was on the verge of total collapse. It hasn't been pretty, but the team is moving into a strong position to claim the final playoff spot on the final weekend.

Louis Crayton's spectacular diving save on a free kick, midway in the first half, was the #3 play on SportsCenter's top plays tonight. It definitely deserved to be there. It's too bad the folks at ESPN didn't also recognize how extraordinary Doe's performance was. Either of those goals could earn MLS' Goal of the Week. Right now, I'm still giddy and tempted to say "Forget Schelotto". If United makes the playoffs, maybe Doe should get the MVP vote -- and, yes, just on the strength of one incredibly thrilling and unforgetttable game. Ok, I might be exaggerating a little...

Columbus -- look out -- there's a big, bad, black head of steam headed your way...

Absolutely magic tonight.

Lest I forget -- the Boston Red Sox somehow borrowed that DC United magic to stave off elimination tonight, too. Trailing 7-0 with 2 outs in the 7th inning, the Bostons mounted the biggest comeback ever in a postseason elimination game. In my book, this ranks up with the comeback against the Yankees in the 9th inning of Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS (down 3 games to none) -- the greatest series comeback in any sport -- as well as the Mets' comeback against the Boston Red Sox in the 12th inning of Game 6 of the '86 World Series. The fourth best comeback? Might be the Red Sox' rally in the 9th inning, facing elimination against the Angels in the '86 ALCS. Funny how all of those involved the Red Sox, no? They're a special franchise. So is DC United.

There was magic in the air tonight.

Monday, January 14, 2008

DC United Remakes Roster -- United is undergoing some serious changes. It's not clear if the team is getting stronger, but they're certainly not getting any younger.

Most obvious will be changes in goal. The red, white and black's sparkling young goalkeeper, Troy Perkins, has gone off to try his hands in Europe. United replaced him by dealing 2006 defender of the year Brian Boswell, to Houston, in exchange for the Dynamo's back-up keeper, Zack Wells. In addition, United is reportedly on the verge of bringing in a veteran Peruvian goalkeeper, Jose Carvallo, to back up Wells.

The team's defense will remain largely the same, except that Boswell is to be replaced by an aging Colombian international, Gonzalo Martinez. Midfield is a question mark. With a visa and plane tickets already in hand, Juan Sebastian Veron backed out of a deal with United, leaving United with no plan B for bringing in a top international to fill the team's Designated Player slot. This jolt makes it more imperative that United re-signs Christian Gomez. Indication are that Gomez will return.

The front line continues to be anchored by Luciano Emilio. Jaime Moreno has reportedly signed up for another go-around with United, but he will be fighting for playing time. United has brought in a new striker, from the Argentine Primera division, the truly diminutive Franco Neill.

Although there is no official word on their return, United seems likely to bring back Moreno and Gomez, because they have no other options. This is an aging team, and isn't getting younger, replacing Boswell with the 32 year-old Martinez. This leaves United with two starting defenders in their 30s, and a host of midfielders and strikers that are probably on the downside of their careers.

Worse yet, United doesn't have a top draft pick. However, the team could remedy this, if United is giving up on using their DP slot.

The Galaxy have the fourth pick in the draft and seem to be lining up Luis Figo, but they need a DP slot. United could make that swap, and bring in a young talented player to bolster a rapidly aging roster. If LA is interested, and DC really has no one in mind for the slot, why not jump on this?

DC United will have to move on this. My guess is there will be several teams interested in dealing their DP slot.

With KC losing Eddie Johnson, they're going to want a young star in the making. No one is fool enough to think they can afford to sign a DP, nor is there much chance that anyone worth signing is going to come to KC -- maybe in a few years, with a new stadium, but not while they're playing in a minor league baseball park.

The Rapids might also think about dealing their DP slot. Denver won't be attractive destination, except possibly for a Mexican. Of course, there are those Borghetti rumors... Of course, Toronto, or San Jose might also be willing to deal their DP -- even Houston might consider the possibility, but they'd likely reject it, given the number of international competitions the team will be playing.

Personally, I'd love to see United find someone worthy of the Designated Player slot. The team lacks depth, and the quality of the top 11 isn't overwhelming. United could do with improvement at any position. However, if that slot is going to go unused, United should seriously consider dealing the slot before Friday's SuperDraft. Perhaps United management thinks DC has a realistic chance of signing a top international -- perhaps Veron has expressed a commitment to come after the Copa Libertadores. If that's not the case, then I would suggest United make the deal, assuming the Galaxy are interested.