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Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 18, 2007; 1:00 PM

Washington Post soccer writer Steven Goff was online Wednesday, April 18, at 2 p.m. ET to chat about D.C. United, MLS, Europe and anything else soccer-related.

The transcript follows.

Goff covers the D.C. United beat for The Washington Post and writes the Soccer Insider blog for washingtonpost.com.

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Steven Goff: Welcome! Let's get this going...

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Silver Spring, Md.: Steven,

If memory serves, Kevin Payne was asked about the state of the United defense during his recent online chat, and he replied that no new defenders were needed. Is that correct? If so, I hope he changes his mind pretty quick. I appreciate United's efforts to land Emilio and Fred, but we need to switch to a back four and add another experienced defender!

Steven Goff: Here is what is going to happen:

DCU will alter its formation a bit in an attempt to fix its defensive problems. If those problems continue, they will probably look to make a trade. If no trade options are viable, they will wait for the international window to reopen on June 15.

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Goffistan: If you had to pick one game to attend at RFK this year, which one would it be, and why?

Steven Goff: Beckham. Aug. 9.

DCU-Club America July 29.

MLS Cup in November.

Take your pick.

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Boston: How much more money can a U.S. player like Beasley make in Europe than in the MLS? Wasn't he playing in Holland before (I saw him playing in a Manchester City game last week in the Premiership)?

More broadly, isn't it much better for U.S. players to play against top competition in Europe under a much higher scrutiny to toughen them up for international competition for the U.S. team?

Steven Goff: Several former MLS players overseas are making around, or more than, $1 million in base salary. Hard for MLS to compete.

Yes, in theory, all U.S. players should play against top competition to prepare for international play. In reality, many Americans head overseas and do not play. Or they're not comfortable living far from home. Or they can't adapt to the playing style/system. There are so many variables.

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D.C.: Someone has kidnapped my soccer team and replaced them with a team that plays as if it is from New Jersey. I'm very worried. What should I do?

Steven Goff: Drink a case of Red Bull. Immediately. You'll feel much better.

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Rocko: Will this be the worst season ever?

Steven Goff: Yes, clearly DCU is heading for 0-30-0.

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Falls Church, Va.: First, great work on the blog and consistently in-depth soccer coverage. Here's my question:

We need better soccer announcers in this country -- the gold standard is the EPL crews who know the game well and offer clever wit in addition to insightful commentary. We need more good play-by-play, color commentary, and sideline reporters who can add to the game rather than distract from it. For example, I enjoyed listening to Bruce Arena during his appearances in the announcer's booth. What can be done to improve the broadcasting talent pool?

Steven Goff: Thanks for the nice words.

My take on some MLS announcers:

Arena -- excellent analysis with some dry humor.

Wynalda -- he's nuts, but entertaining and knows the players, teams, league.

O'Brien -- GREAT sports announcer who is still finding his way with soccer. He's getting there.

Hudson -- fun, passion and insight from someone who actually played and coached.

Smyth -- clown act, no league-wide insight.

Stone -- understands the pace of the game (vital for play-by-play), doesn't get too caught up in factoids.

Dellacamara -- superb play-by-play, underutilized.

Fox Soccer Channel crew -- long way to go.

Just my opinion...

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Columbia Heights: Thanks for the chat, Goff, and the blog, which is a daily necessity! I'm interested in your thoughts on the theory that other teams have begun to figure out DCU's game, and are losing their fear of just throwing themselves toward our goal. Some are saying that trend started last year, and these first few games have just been a continuation. Formation aside, does DC need to evolve its game plan?

Steven Goff: Opponents have found weaknesses in DC's approach and style, and are exploiting it (space between midfield and defense, using the flanks, counterattacking before DC can recover, packing the middle and forcing DC to the wings...). Let's see how DC adjusts in the coming weeks.

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20010: Let's cut to the chase -- DCU vs. Crew, in 10 days.

4 in the back?

Thanks.

Steven Goff: Yeah, probably.

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Fairfax, Va.: I don't want to put you to zzzsleep, but has there been any reaction one way or another from other community activists in Ward 8 to the DCBCI press release of last week? Also, do MacFarlane and co. have a Plan B in case Poplar Point doesn't work out?

Steven Goff: No reaction. I don't think the press release was taken very seriously by city or DCU officials.

As far as I know, there is no Plan B at the moment. Poplar Point is the focus.

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Logan Circle: Is Facundo Erpen on his way out of DC?

Steven Goff: If he doesn't get his act together by June...hmmmm...

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Glen Burnie, Md.: Steven,

Hello... I was wondering if there is any synergy between the Hendricks/WUSA Freedom group and DCU in terms of sharing (of course) and more importantly BUILDING a soccer specific stadium. Do you think there are any shared costs (and implied rights to use the stadium)... or is it strictly a DCU plan? Hendrick's could surely offer financial stability for the job and thereby ensure a suitable place (G-Burg is not a place to see a pro game) for his "pro" team to play when they launch again.

Steven Goff: Great question.

Yes, from everything I have heard, IF the new women's league is launched and IF DCU gets this stadium plan done, the long-term plan would be for Hendricks to move his Freedom club into the new facility.

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Greenville, N.C.: DC United looks very slow to me. Why didn't they go after Wynne. Were they afraid he doesn't have the skill of Erpen?

Steven Goff: Technically, Wynne has issues. I don't think it would have solved their problems.

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Falls Church, Va.: Is there a possibility in the future that we'll see MLS teams competing in the Copa Libertadores?

Steven Goff: Sure, why not.

Honestly, I don't know.

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Washington, D.C.: If a 4-4-2 truly is being considered, has the coaching staff expressed any sentiment that it might not be best to debut it against our next opponent, Columbus, a team that hasn't scored a goal in two games this year?

Steven Goff: You've got to solve your own mounting problems first, then worry about your opponent.

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Washington, D.C.: With the news that Poland and Ukraine are getting the Euro Cup in 2012, it got me thinking. Is the post going to send you (or anyone else) over to Austria and Switzerland for 2008? I know it has nothing to do with U.S. sports, but The Post's coverage of the last World Cup was so good that I'd like to see a sequel!

Steven Goff: No chance.

World Cup, World Cup qualifying, Women's World Cup. That's about it. Like all businesses these days, we have tight travel budgets and unless a soccer event has a U.S. angle, it's a tough sell.

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Washington, D.C.: Did the Red Bulls have to trade Marvell Wynne to create enough space under the cap to sign Juan Pablo Angel or could they have attempted to trade Taylor Graham or Mike Magee? Should the Red Bulls have gotten a first-round pick for Wynne (instead of a second-round pick)?

Steven Goff: The partial allocation (if that was, indeed, included in the deal) is more important than the draft pick.

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Arlington, Va.: Steven,

Who has a greater impact on the field: Emilio or Angel?

Steven Goff: Remains to be seen.

Emilio has already proven himself in MLS; Angel has not.

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Parsippany, N.J.: Hello Steven,

With the recent acquisitions, do you think the Red Bulls are the favorites in the East? Taking into account the defense problems that D.C. has, with a weak backline, including the overrated Bobby Boswell.

Steven Goff: DCU is still the favorite, but NY has made great strides. I also think Chicago could become a major factor.

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Fredericksburg, Va.: Do you think United would consider trading their DP selection to another team if the deal was sweet enough or is management keen on keeping their options open for at least this season?

Steven Goff: Absolutely, I think they would consider trading it...if the perfect deal came along.

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Washington, D.C.: I know everyone is in a panic about DC United after their last couple of games. What do you see there record being at the midpoint (say 16 games in)?

Steven Goff: I don't know, how about 5-5-5? (30-game schedule, 15 is midway) Their next match will tell us a lot about their direction.

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Estadio RFK: So what's up with Brian Carroll? He doesn't look like Brian Carroll any more.

Steven Goff: He's struggling with his distribution, no doubt. Perhaps Simms returns to the lineup next week?

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Fredericksburg, Va.: Do you think it's sunk in at United HQ that maybe they spent a little too much energy overhauling the offense at the expense of the defense?

Steven Goff: They aren't panicking...yet. They feel, with some tinkering, the defensive issues will work themselves out. If not, they'll make some personnel moves.

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Reston, Va.: USMNT permanent head coach. When does it happen? Foreign or domestic? Qualifying starts soon.

Steven Goff: Qualifying for what?? The next World Cup? They've got more than a year before that starts. The more pressing issue is Gold Cup and Copa America. Gulati is mum.

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Leesburg, Va.: Steve, can you explain the Poland/Ukraine decision by UEFA? Do you see it more as a repudiation of corrupt Italian soccer, or more typical of Europe looking eastward for growth opportunities in sports as they've done in other businesses?

Steven Goff: All of the above. Italy's problems certainly played a role and UEFA liked the prospect of going somewhere different. I think it's a great decision.

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Williamsburg, Va.: Peter Nowak is looking like a much better coach nowadays for those who thought (or complained) he pushed the team too hard (by the way, the USMNT seems to be doing well with Peter as an assistant). If you look at the English Premier League, for example, those teams play at their highest level 2-3 times per week (if they survive FA Cup, Champions League, etc.). Training must also be at the highest level. These top teams have a full two-team roster, either of which can play and practice at that top level all the time. If they can't, they sit. The lower level teams don't have that type of money, and they tend to tire and lose to the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, and Man U in the last 10 minutes of the game. That's MLS. The teams are not deep enough with top talent requiring a compromise by coaches, which in turn leads to uneven results. DC United is better than 0-2.

Steven Goff: Bob Bradley is the coach, not Peter Nowak. I doubt Nowak has that much influence on the national team. Plus, national teams are only together for a short period; clubs are together for months at a time. You can't compare.

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Greenville, S.C.: Jaime did not play well in the 2nd half of last year and is off to a terrible start. Christian basically plays the same position anyway. Do you think D.C. would be better off sitting him and putting a new player in?

Steven Goff: I'd be surprised if they pulled Moreno from the lineup, although I would like to see Fred in that withdrawn forward role at some point, whether it's in place of Moreno or as part of a three-man forward alignment.

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Reston, Va.: Steve,

Seemed strange to me that United only used one substitute on Saturday. Didn't seem like much was working, why not throw out a Casal or Walker into the mix?

Steven Goff: Good question. I'm surprised Casal did not get into the match at some point.

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Arlington, Va.: If D.C. were to go after another defender, who in MLS might they want? Presumably, they'd want a left back, but the two best left backs in MLS - Burciaga Jr. and Bornstein - are good going forward but a bit shaky on defense. It's hard for me to think of anyone in MLS who would be a significant upgrade from the guys we have now, and that's before we even get into the issue of who might be available.

Steven Goff: Good point -- not a lot of available upgrades out there. That's why I think they are going to stick with what they have and then pursue someone from overseas this summer, if necessary.

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Lawrenceterp: How much better is the quality of play in MLS from where it started, or even five years ago? Seems to me that it's getting better at every transfer window. Do you see this pattern continuing and for how long? What is our limit?

Steven Goff: Yes, the quality of play has improved over the years, in my opinion. The limit will be determined by the investors and their checkbooks.

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Washington, D.C.: Is Eddie Johnson really back, or did he just capitalize on some lucky bounces and a porous D.C. defense?

Steven Goff: Besides his technical performance, he played with energy and passion -- something that has been absent at times. It's a good sign for KC.

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Seattle: Chicken or egg question -- Was Oguchi Onyewu a lousy defender BEFORE he was loaned to Newcastle, or did putting on the black and white stripes MAKE him a lousy defender?

(no, I'm NOT bitter. Really.)

Steven Goff: Perhaps the more appropriate question is whether he was ready for the big jump from Belgium to the Premiership. I haven't seen enough of his Newcastle matches to provide much insight.

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Herndon, Va.: Hi Steve,

Thanks for all the great soccer coverage. Any further updates on DCU's efforts to patch up our defense?

Also, would you agree that our current play on the wing makes Freddy Adu's efforts last year almost look good in comparison?

Steven Goff: Freddy wasn't much of a true flank player, so hard to compare.

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Re 4-4-2 vs Columbus: Would you rather have them debut it against a team that does score well? In my opinion it's better to debut against a weaker offensive team so that any glaring errors in coverage, slides, support shifts and decision making for double teams and marking can be worked out against a team not likely to be able to pick you apart. Once that's done then you can fine tune for the rest of the season against anyone you play.

Steven Goff: Good point.

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Reston, Va.: Is Gros still going to be in the headgear? And what was his impression of playing with it?

Steven Goff: I imagine he'll wear it again next week, but frankly I haven't given it much thought.

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Washington, D.C.:"I'd be surprised if they pulled Moreno from the lineup"

Why? I haven't seen him do anything other than that bicycle against Chivas all year.

DC kept Marco on the field too long, and I sense the same thing is about to happen with Jaime.

Don't get me wrong, I love Jaime and everything he has done for the team, but I think his time has come to at the very least not be a regular starter.

Steven Goff: DCU is very loyal to Jaime and they believe he has a lot left to offer. We'll see.

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I-270, Exit 1: Muchas gracias for the articles, blog, and the chats.

Please explain why people excuse Erpen as being a "natural center back." No one begins life with a fixed position on the soccer field or any other playing surface. If once can learn to be a center back, one can learn to be a right back. Should D.C. hire Brandi Chastain to coach him on taking up a new position?

Steven Goff: Outside backs need more pace than central backs and some players are more comfortable -- and effective -- in one position than another.

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Spotsylvania, Va.: If United switches to a 4-4-2, is it possible we could see Clyde Simms as a central defender? The defense has almost no speed, and Simms would bring that, plus I think he's a player who should be in the starting 11 anyway.

Steven Goff: Interesting suggestion. At this point, almost anything is possible.

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Falls Church, Va.: What are your thoughts on the ethics of MLS jersey sponsor selection? For example, I don't think Red Bull is an appropriate sponsor for a team in a league that encourages kids to lead healthy lifestyles. I recognize I am in the minority on this, but would be interested in your insights as to how MLS screens/should screen potential sponsors. Are there any products that definitely are ruled out? Which ones are in the gray area and why?

Steven Goff: Red Bull owns the team, they can do what they want. I can't imagine MLS has a problem with their product, any more than they would with that Sierra Mist garbage that sponsors the league. Now if the club turned around and sold the jersey (no pun intended) rights to Tony Soprano, that might raise a red flag (or a red card). Seriously, as a single-entity business, MLS has the right to forbid a club's sponsorship deal.

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Baltimore: What is the significance of the Captain during a match, and in general for the club?

Steven Goff: Mostly ceremonial, but he is the player the referee will address if there are issues on the field.

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Fredericksburg, Va.: With Leeds' doom impending, what are the chances we might see Eddie Lewis in a DC United kit?

Steven Goff: Haven't heard that.

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Alexandria, Va.: Is Angel the missing piece in the puzzle for the Red Bulls? And from a buzz perspective, do you think the Red Bulls have disappointed folks? Angel and Claudio, even combined, come nowhere near the star level of Beckham.

Steven Goff: If Angel scores goals, the Red Bulls will become a very good club. Nothing will match the Beckham buzz, but the Angel signing seems to have stirred interest in the NY market, particularly in the Latin American community.

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Piney Orchard: Hey Steve,

Who would have thought we'd have a whole chat about our backline instead of the traditional "where is our stadium?" line of questions......so where is our stadium?

Steven Goff: Rats, I almost made it through the entire hour!

Nationals stadium opens next April. Be there.

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Steven Goff: Okay, we're done. Thanks for your questions. Sorry I couldn't get to all of 'em.

As always, please visit the Soccer Insider regularly.

Cheers!

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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