United have some injuries right now: not only is Boskovic out with an ACL tear, but Pontius, Simms, Zayner, and Burch are dealing with muscle pulls. This seems like a pattern for United over the past couple years; they seem to have more hamstring pulls and other minor muscle injuries than the other teams I follow. Before I get to the match preview, I thought this would be a good time to catch up a member of DC United’s training staff, Muscle and Conditioning Coach Dr. Phineas Bofnar (not a real name because he’s not a real guy. What follows is made up). Dr. Bofnar was gracious enough to grant me an interview before a recent training session.
Jeff Maurer: Describe the training regimen that you use for the team.
Dr. Bofnar: Sure. The first thing is to hold the training session in the coldest place you can find - a movie theatre, a meat-packing plant, even a walk-in freezer if it’s available. I have the guys lay down and nap for maybe an hour just to get them stationary. Then, after they’ve been holding still for a long time, I blow an air horn, wake them up, and immediately start training. I get them moving hard right away - sprinting, jumping, jerking their muscles all around. I like to create a really intense environment; I pipe in some German techno music, maybe use a strobe light, some dry ice if it’s available. And I really encourage them to jerk their muscles around in unusual and unpredictable ways, ways that their muscles aren’t used to moving. Marcello Gallardo invented this drill where he would see how many times he could touch his ear with his knee in one minute.
JM: Doesn’t it seem like that might result in muscle pulls and strains?
DB: I’m not a believer in coddling muscles. Some trainers will tell guys to warm up slowly and stretch out thoroughly before working out...that’s bleeding-heart hippie crap. The only thing a hamstring understands is violence. You can’t try to reason with it -- you need to dominate it in every sense and establish yourself as the alpha.
JM: You need to dominate your hamstrings?
DB: Not just hamstrings -- calves, quads, hip flexors. Let them know who’s boss. Sometimes when the guys are jogging I’ll sneak up behind them and whack their hamstrings with a bamboo cane. And if a guy is cramping up I find the cramp and kick it with a steel-toed boot. Oh, and speaking of cramps -- don’t give your muscles too much water. They love that. Your muscles don’t need you to be their buddy - you need to be an authority figure.
JM: Do you think that your methods might be responsible for the large number of muscle injuries United have had in recent years?
DB: Have United actually had more injuries than normal? Have you run the numbers?
JM: Well, no. I guess I don’t know for sure.
DB: Well, then, you see: who’s to say that forcing a guy’s leg back behind his ear until you hear a pop isn’t a good idea? Just because the state of Kentucky revoked by chiropractic license doesn’t mean I’m not qualified to grab guys’ limbs and jerk them in whatever direction I feel like. I’d like to point out that none of the criminal cases brought against me have resulted in conviction, and the civil suits have all resulted in settlement or acquittal, not including the ones still on appeal. Really: if I’m not the best guy to manhandle and sometimes verbally berate these guys’ muscles, then I’m not Will Chang’s son-in-law.
Some things I’d like to see against Dallas:
A point or more. I know you’re supposed to expect three points at home, and - obviously - I’d love for United to get all three. But they just played on Wednesday, and that makes a big difference. United also don’t have enough depth right now to rotate in many fresh players. A point would be a pretty good outcome.
A revenge game from Dax. Dallas left Dax unprotected in the expansion draft, and rumors were that he wasn’t on the best of terms with management. For Dax, Saturday is that party where you know you’re going to see your ex, so I hope he does his best to make her/them jealous.
A flat back line. In the second half on Wednesday, United’s back four were all over the place, staggered and keeping everyone onside. I guess that’s what happens when you have little experience and no consistency in your back line. Against Seattle, United were able to cover their defensive gaps with some hustle and last-minute interventions, but I’d rather see them play smart and make Dallas really work to find space.
Better decisions from Hamid about when to come off his line. Three times last match, Hamid came off his line when he shouldn’t have and got away with it. Hamid looks very amped-up out there, kind of a Tim Howard-type. He obviously wants to get involved, and while you don’t want your ‘keeper to be a shrinking violet, I wonder if his enthusiasm is causing him to come out when he shouldn’t. Of course, he’s still like 13 - he’s got time to learn.
Najar running at people and playing the ball forward. He did it a lot last game, and it made a huge difference. Specifically, it made two goals worth of difference, which translated to three points worth of difference. I don’t know why he was so timid at the beginning of the season, but he really seemed to get his mojo back against Seattle.
I’m on the road this weekend, so I won’t have a chance to watch this match until Monday night. Expect my match recap on Tuesday. The good news about being a soccer fan is that it’s usually pretty easy to avoid seeing scores for a few days.