May 8, 2009 MLS DC United vs Toronto FC pregame (from MLSnet.com)
Soehn not yet concerned with standings
United coach putting focus simply on winning
Charles Boehm / MLSnet.com
WASHINGTON -- Tom Soehn thinks it's too soon to call it a clash for first place in the East. But Saturday night's meeting between D.C. United and Toronto FC at RFK Stadium nonetheless looms large for United as they look to consolidate their position at the top of an Eastern Conference that is shaping up as yet another tightly contested race in 2009.
"I think it's really early to talk about that," said the D.C. boss when asked about standings implications on Friday. "I think it's more about a conference rival -- there's probably going to be about four teams that are going to be huddled [in the standings] and at any point one can step in front of the other. So all these games are six-point swings -- especially the home games. You have to take care of your home games."
United enter the weekend on a five-game unbeaten run in all competitions, driven in large part by a growing cohesiveness as Soehn's philosophy has taken root among a squad possessing a varied blend of youth and experience. The result is a collective that appears, in contrast to last year's team, to be worth much more than the sum of its parts.
"Yeah, it's a testament to the group we have," said defender Bryan Namoff. "We're all getting ourselves to believe in the system, to believe in each other. I don't think there's really that individual, that 'I' within this team. I think when we go out there, we have won games as a team."
Toronto travels to the nation's capital with a roster packed with attacking talent like Amado Guevara and Dwayne De Rosario, and although the recent resignation of head coach John Carver injected a bit of uncertainty at the top, it has altered little in Soehn's approach to the game. He did take note of new boss John Cummins' experimentation with a 4-3-3 shape, a structure he hopes his strike force can force into something closer to a 4-5-1.
"We know that the one thing that doesn't change is the personnel. We know what they have and we've watched them play," said Soehn. "I know they've got a little bit of a formation change but in the end, the way you play dictates what kind of formation they play. So we have to be good with the ball and if we do, turn their supposed three forwards into two guys who are going to be more or less marking."
Blessed with a wealth of depth and diversity, the Black-and-Red attack has looked sharp in '09 and with TFC facing questions of their own along the back line, D.C. is confident of finding and exploiting any weak points in the Reds defense.
"Yeah, that's obviously a concern of theirs, and that's one of our strong points," said Soehn of the matchup. "We've been creating a lot of chances at home and we have exposed back lines that are solid."
The home side might be without veteran midfielder Ben Olsen, who has been nagged by a hamstring strain, while Soehn offered few specifics about the fitness level of playmaker Christian Gomez, whose conditioning has suffered due to his own hamstring troubles last month.
Both teams are fresh off midweek matches that have put recovery time at a premium. Compared to TFC's hosting of a Canadian Championship game against Vancouver Whitecaps, D.C. had the tougher task with Wednesday's quick trip to Kansas City, there's little complaining at this stage. Most of the squad remembers last year's endless repetition of midweek games and is well aware that similar challenges lie ahead with the onset of international play come summer.
"Both teams have to do it, so it's not like there's an advantage one way or the other. It is what it is, and we'll go out there and treat it like every other game," said midfielder Clyde Simms.
back to Toronto FC menu