Is it fair to say that CONCACAF referees just plain don't like us?
I honestly have no idea what happened when Santino got two yellow cards within a matter of about three seconds, but boy, it sure seemed questionable. So, United is forced to play down a man - yet again - for a good portion of the game and falls 4-2 to CD Marathon. The team didn't give up, though, and even managed to score a goal - courtesy of Greg Janicki - while down a man.
And thus ends D.C. United's 2008 campaign. It was certainly one of disappointment, but let's not forget the guys did manage to capture the club's 12th trophy by winning the U.S. Open Cup title (which also gives the team a shot at CONCACAF Champions League again next year).
UPDATE: Post-game quotes below and a few photos added to the Videos & Pics page.
D.C. UNITED HEAD COACH TOM SOEHN
On the red cards
You know we’ve had red cards probably against all of CONCACAF. I’m not sure but that’s probably our sixth red card. When you look at our league play we’ve probably had two or three.
On Santino Quaranta’s ejection
I don’t know. What we have to understand as a team is that when you have international refs they treat things differently. I’m not sure how far Santino [Quaranta] pushed it there. I think there was some aggravation on Francis [Doe’s] foot being kicked and they were obviously frustrated over that. He’s got to control himself. It was a good game up until that point; we were knocking [the ball] around pretty well. Any time you go shorthanded, obviously it makes it a heck of a lot harder.
On what he would do differently in the Champions League
I would time it at a time when we were healthy. That [question’s] a tough one. This tournament comes at a crucial time; it came at a time when we were pretty depleted. We were undermanned when it started. I think we’re going to take a long look at what we could do better to make sure we’re healthier. We’ve had a lot of soft tissue injuries this year, we have to refocus to make sure that we’re tracking and understanding what’s causing these injuries. You can’t afford to play through so many games that we had in that short [amount of time].
On D.C. United’s season
Well we’ve had to transition ourselves at several stages throughout the season. We made a lot of changes early. We started out slow and once we finally got to learn [about] each other, we started to play the brand of soccer that we like to play. [Then] we ran into a lot of injuries that took a long time to recover from so we had to change on the fly again and we went out and made a lot of changes halfway through the season. A lot of those changes helped us and we were able to find guys who I think can be [the] nucleus of the team, some young guys. So it was a great experience for some of them and it really showed what they’re made of. It showed some guys who had heart and guys that we want to build around.
On moving forward
We’re going to evaluate everything really hard. This year was a difficult year in so many ways. Obviously the amount of injuries we had, I don’t know the [amount of] games missed per man but this year was unbelievable from the so-called ‘starters’. It’s hard to overcome; you see it in New England, they lose one guy and the whole complexion of the team changes, but we’ve had six or seven [injured players] throughout the year. It’s also taught us that we can’t rely on one or two guys; you have to make sure that all 28 are ready to go on. I think we did a great job of getting some guys in that now we feel can be a very beneficial piece next year. So we’re going to have to evaluate and make sure that we don’t have as much turnover [as the end of last season] but we go in with the idea that we’re going to build on the progress we made towards the end of the season.
On tonight’s lineup
Today was all about progress. Like I said, in the first half we played some of our better soccer [by] knocking the ball around and exposing [Marathon’s] weaknesses and we created chances. It’s unfortunate we went down a man because the game obviously changes dramatically and now you have to get away from the things you just did so positive as far as opening them up and spreading the ball around.
On the defense
We held a flat line and we didn’t cover each other well enough, at least in the first half. In the second half we went with three backs and we were just pushing to get goals back so we opened ourselves up a little bit for the [counter-attack]. We just have to build an understanding of what it takes and to make sure our lines even higher or to cover each other defensively, so that if we do break down everyone’s got cover behind them. Like I’ve said, we’ve made so many changes to the back four [that they] haven’t consistently been together. I’m sure if you look at our line-ups they’ve been different each game. We’re going to have to make sure that when we start next year, that we have a set core and we can build off that and make sure that now defensively we’re a lot better. We let in way too many goals this year.
On whether the international games took priority over MLS
Don’t think we’re ever not taking pride in the MLS, that obviously is first and foremost. I think you treat every game with the same amount of respect and obviously playing in an international tournament, we did that [during] the course of MLS games but at no point did we think ‘this game is more important than that’. MLS Cup is obviously our first priority. I’m sure the League is going to look into it. A team playing three tournaments is just too much. I think we played 47 games and there’s teams that played 31 or 32. That’s a big difference, that’s a whole half a season or more. They’re going to have to look at it and make sure that no MLS team is playing three tournaments; it’s just too much.
D.C. UNITED MIDFIELDER SANTINO QUARANTA
On the red card
I said it was a joke. I just lost my head I guess but still I didn’t get a yellow card for the tackle. He gave me two yellow cards. He doesn’t understand English either. So I don’t know. I was angry about the call but I didn’t touch the guy. I didn’t touch [the referee] or anything like that. I mean that has happened a thousand times but this time he gave me a red card. I feel bad for [my team], that’s the biggest thing.
On whether the team was playing well before the red card
Yeah, we were working hard and I let the guys down. I feel bad, I really do. When you have to watch a second half like that, with ten men, it hurts. If I could take it back obviously I would but that’s soccer. We’ve been unlucky in this [tournament].
On the many cards issued
It was an intense game. With what happened this weekend, everybody was a little on edge. I guess it was the whole build-up, this whole year. You go into a game like that, with the referee calling fouls like he was, you get to a point where you just can’t take it anymore. I lost my head a little bit and the biggest thing for me is not the red card, it’s letting the guys down and watching them have to play with ten and run around because of my stupidity.
D.C. UNITED DEFENDER GREG JANICKI
On his first season with United
You know it all came pretty fast for me. I enjoyed my three or four games I think I played. Today was tough. It would have been nice to go out with a win. It didn’t mean much but I think it would have been nice to get a victory going out. But what can you do? It’s a tough game. It’s tough to play down to ten men in the last half.
On his goal
Yeah it was nice to get on the board, get your first goal. It would have been nice if the goal actually meant something. I’d be happier with a win but it was a big step up for me this year, a step in the right direction. Hopefully I can keep it going but overall this year was good for me, the goal caps it off but it would have been nice to get the win.
On his future
D.C. is one of the better clubs in the League. I would love to stay here, no question about it. I guess we’ll see in the off-season what the plans are. I know that there’s a lot of good talent here. I think we have the players to win games; just the ball didn’t bounce our way. And the injuries this year, all the stuff you hear about, it was a rough season overall. But I think we have enough players to keep it going and have a stronger season next year. And if I’m a part of it, I would love to be.
D.C. UNITED MIDFIELDER FRED
On whether it was a tough loss
Yes, it was very tough because we were up 1-0 and then they got the tying goal and we started to play badly. That’s what has happened during this whole tournament.
Message to the fans
We haven’t been able to give them a good championship run this year in the CONCACAF Champions League or the MLS so we really appreciate all the fans who always come out and support us.