The Full 90

Post-Match Wrap: Under Pressure

If two games can be considered a sample size, Peter Vermes' "90 Minutes of Hell" style of play is going to lead to an undefeated championship season with 30 clean sheets. Ok, maybe that's a bit of hyperbole. Just a bit. But this early success is no fluke, and it would be a mistake to write it off as anything other than a sign of extended success. Why? Three factors: Pressure, pace and pfitness*.

* The "p" in that last word is silent of course. Alliteration and all.

The more pace a team has, the more pressure it can pile on. And supremely fit teams can apply pressure for 90 minutes. And teams that can pile 90-minutes of pressure on an opponent win more games than they lose. Pressure breaks down mistake-prone teams and makes precise teams flustered. And, let's not kid ourselves, the MLS is to precision play what Tiger Woods is to fidelity. (Too late?)Let's consider the Colorado Rapids. Saturday night, they committed 44 pressure-forced* errors. (Actually, that stat reads better if you say the Wizards forced 44 errors.)

* A pressure-forced error, in my opinion, is one of the following -- a tackle takeaway, a misplaced pass, a pass that dribbles out of bounds, an interception or a shot splayed into the crowd (or any similar misplayed scoring attempt). I kept track of the errors as I watched the replay of the game. I did not include in that number missed crosses, corner kicks or clearances. I counted only mistakes in between the penalty spots that led to a direct change of possession.

Forty-four is a lot. Many of those turnovers were well-timed tackles or interceptions by KC (about half-dozen of each by Roger Espinoza). But the most telling of the turnovers were the misplaced passes and attempts at attack that dribbled out of bounds. Those are the mistakes that teams make when they don't have (or don't think they have) time to make a decision. The players are stressed, the team's shape collapses and they stop making smart decisions. Or, exactly how Colorado spent pretty much every minute of the game until they went down a man and KC sat back and seemed content. This is what Vermes and the Wizards want: To press and cause teams to make the quick decision instead of the right one. And since, as you learned about, precision thinking isn't exactly bountiful in this league, this type of play should lead to some very solid results in upcoming fixtures. Well, as long as the team manages to capitalize on their own possession and not fall victim to a lack of precision themselves.

The Impressive

Kei Kamara's scoring touch

The big man has some serious skills. Off a gorgeous Ryan Smith free kick, Kamara flicked a header just over the reach Matt Pickens. I wish I only had great things to say...

Jimmy Conrad and Matt Besler

I continue to be impressed with Besler's strength and instincts. Conrad and Besler helped keep Conor Casey and Omar Cummings off the board and are big reasons the Wizards haven't allowed a goal yet.

Stèphane Auvray

While everyone is talking about Ryan Smith, Auvray sort of goes unnoticed. He shouldn't. He's an absolute monster in the middle. He seems to always be in the midst of the play on both offense and defense. Easily the man of the match. Easily the most important facet of the Wizards pressing.

Jimmy Nielsen

That's two games and two clean sheets for the big Dane. He was tested more against the Rapids and he responded with a good game, including stopping a very dangerous shot with the side of his face.

The Not-so-Impressive

Kei Kamara's passing touch

I like Kamara. He's a great one-on-one player with great athletic gifts. He's pretty much cemented his role in the Starting XI. I just wish it wasn't on the wing. His first touch on the wing is supbar. He doesn't open up space behind him when cutting into a channel and often leaves his overlapping fullback too high with no cover. Such a different player at the top. (Or so says this amateur soccer tactician.)

Julien Baudet and Conor Casey

This seemed to be the entire game plan for the Rapids: Hit the ball long and hope Conor knocked his man unconscious with an elbow so he could get one-v-one with the keeper OR go in hard on anyone in dark blue when they have the ball. While that's the way I played soccer, it's not really any fun to watch on a professional level. It was embarrassing to watch Baudet play like a petulant, pissed off 16-year-old.

The Officiating

Not only did the refs look like McDonald's employees, they officiated the game like they spent a little too much time in front of a grill and not on a soccer field. The last four minutes of the first-half, Landis Wiley allowed the game to completely get away from him. There were flying elbows, open dissent and his lack of control caused the game to wander into an abysmal place for about 10 minutes. Of course, in the second half, this led him to get whistle happy and again destroy the flow of the game.

The Wizards sitting on a lead

After Baudet was sent off, the Wizards seemed content to just bat the ball back and forth in the midfield. It almost cost them, as Colorado were the better team down a man.

Up Next: Colorado (again) on Tuesday night in the U.S. Open Cup.