Nov 9, 2012

The Veteran and The Rookie

DC United is the highest seeded team left in the MLS Playoffs.  After downing the New York Red Bulls (AGAIN!!!), and ensuring the the trophy case in Harrison, NJ remains empty for another year, DC United are two games away from not only their first appearance in the MLS Cup match, but hosting the game as well.  The Houston Dynamo certainly have a say in that.

But last night, in what can only be described as a roller coaster of a match, DC United's veteran and rookie made magic in the dying minutes of the game.  Robbie Russell and Nick DeLeon, two players who probably could not be more different, combined for a lovely goal that put the Black and Red into the Eastern Conference Finals.  

Russell played a far different role last night than I think usual for him.  On multiple occasions Russell would foray forward, in a similar but distinctly different manner than Andy Najar.  I think Ben Olsen, tactically, may have thought that his counterpart, Hans Backe would expect the less speedy Russell to stay at home more than Najar would have, and thus Olsen slipped the reins on Russell.  

Russell though was clearly thoughtful about the effort's going forward.  He selected his runs well, particularly taking the acres of space in the right channel leading to the only goal of the game.  But Russell was also smart enough to get back quickly, even thought center backs, Brandon McDonald and Dejan Jakovic had him covered deep and Perry Kitchen as well.  

Where Russell relies on experience and practice to make his mark felt, DeLeon was almost all instinct last night.  Not just on the goal, but also in his midfield play.  Ben Olsen ordered DeLeon (who usually starts on the right flank) to switch with Chris Pontius in order to get Pontius more involved in the play.  Initially the move worked well as Pontius was able to get a couple good chances in.  But on the goal, DeLeon was flashing across the penalty area, looking for that cutting pass.

But admidst all the hubbub of the goal and with win, there has been little about how hard that shot was to not only get on target but get past Luis Robles.  Robles was in the right position, but DeLeon had to take a pass that was moving away from him, away from goal and then turn his hips AND get enough power on the shot to edge it past Robles.

Rumor has it that Andy Najar might be sitting out the next series against Houston.  If that is the case, Russell will have his hands full with Brad Davis, so he might not have the authority to go forward, but that might be just as well, at least at BBVA Compass.  

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