Tony's take: Change is good
in their previous home game -- Nowak started Christian Gomez and Freddy Adu together in the center of the midfield. In that match, Adu had his best performance as a professional, scoring a goal and setting up two others. In the following match on the road against New England, the two started together again, but that time, neither one seemed to guide the offense and United fell 1-0. For last weekend's match against Kansas City, Nowak made a change.
Nowak started two defensive center midfielders instead of two offensive one. Brian Carroll and Clyde Simms had been playing the same position for D.C., with either one in the starting lineup. Against the Wizards, Nowak started them both together behind Christian Gomez. The additional defensive support behind Gomez enabled him to move forward into the attack without being overly concerned with his defensive responsibilities. He clearly enjoyed the extra freedom as he scored two goals late in the second half, including the game-winner.
Adu wants to start -- and he should want to start -- but it is hard to argue with his impact coming off the bench. When he entered the match against Kansas City, his first touch of the game led to Gomez's second goal. Adu took the ball near midfield and went flying at defenders. He zipped past one, angled past another and rolled a perfectly weighted ball into the path of Gomez, who cut back around a sliding defender and finished easily for the game-winner. Adu is upset when he doesn't start, but if he continues to take out his own anger or frustration on opposing defenders, it will only mean more victories for United.
Gomez has been a critical part to United's attack, but he had not been having much of an impact. In the five games leading up to this weekend, Gomez had zero goals and zero assists. Perhaps the change from Nowak was specifically intended to jump start Gomez. Whatever the reason, the decision paid off for United in an important Eastern Conference victory.
D.C. United are not out of the forest yet. D.C. beat Columbus a few weeks ago at RFK Stadium in a beautiful display of soccer, but then proceeded to have an average performance against New England the following week. The good news for the Black-and-Red is that for the first time this season, the club will play back-to-back home matches.
Consistency has been the biggest problem so far this season for United, and now, as the season heads to the midpoint, it would be a very good time to begin the first winning streak of the year. In the final moments of the match last weekend, Josh Gros received an unjust second yellow card, suspending him for the upcoming match against FC Dallas.
The absence of Gros means that once again Nowak must come up with the best options for the staring lineup. The outside midfield position vacated by Gros could be filled by a number of players -- maybe Adu, maybe Dame Kovalenko, or maybe Santino Quaranta. But there won't be nearly as much debate about who will be playing the attacking center midfield role.
Tony Limarzi is a contributor to dcunited.com. He is also the voice of D.C. United soccer, calling all of the Black-and-Red's games live on WMET.