Guest Column

I love Brian Carroll and (maybe) so should you

Photo: Paul Rudderow

PSP  is pleased to present this guest post from Richard Peel, the host and producer of the DoopCast podcast.

What is the most important position on a soccer team?

Soccer is one of the ultimate team sports, so it is difficult to pinpoint one role as undeniably preeminent. If pressed, most people might answer striker, others the No. 10 “playmaker.” As an old-fashioned number five myself I would say center back, as it is the last line of defense (because we all know that defense wins championships!), or maybe you are one of the “special’”people who would say goalkeeper. The god-like Jonathan Wilson proclaimed the fullback as the difference-maker in modern football in a column for The Guardian, and who would argue with that guy? Well, when considering our beloved and beleaguered Union I would.

For my money, it is the often overlooked position of defensive midfielder that can make or break most teams. For you Premier Leagueophiles, consider Manchester United when they were without Keane due to injury or suspension (not even half as good), and just look at the mess Liverpool are in nowadays since the departure of Xabi Alonso.

You have probably guessed from the title that I consider Brian Carroll to be the most valuable player on the Union roster. Last season he was easily my team MVP, and despite the currently fashionable howls of “he has lost a step”, “Amobi needs to take his place,”or even the ludicrous “he should retire,” BC has quietly put in great shifts in all of the games the Union have played thus far in 2013.

On being the DM

Before you shake your head and shout the popular terrace chant usually aimed at our dear referees of “you don’t know what you’re doing,” can you tell me exactly what is expected of a defensive midfielder? What are his responsibilities? How is he most effective? What does he do for the team?

If a defensive midfielder (DM) is doing his job well, the untrained eye should barely notice him. To the untrained eye, it is easiest to notice a DM when he apparently screws things up. Let us never forget that soccer is a team game, and in the midfield a DM relies heavily on his teammates to do their job properly. A DM has a huge amount of space to cover (often from his own goal line to the edge of the opposition’s eighteen), so if one of his colleagues doesn’t do his defensive duty as he should (ahem, Michael ‘what’s going on?’ Lahoud, even louder AHEM, Danny ‘headless chicken’ Cruz), the DM will be outnumbered and under a huge amount of pressure.

Much of a DM’s work is done without the ball:

  • tracking opposition midfielders, for example;
  • reading the flow of the game to anticipate potential passes and close a lane an opposing player may want to use to release a more advanced colleague;
  • pressuring a player who is about to receive a ball to deny him time to make the pass he would like; covering wide spaces if a winger or full-back has been beaten;
  • reading second balls (i.e. anticipating that if players x and y are going up for a header figuring out who is likely to win it and where is that ball then going to land);
  • breaking up opposition passes or runs; moving in to space to offer a colleague an easy pass or to give them an opportunity to relieve pressure they may be facing from an opponent;
  • and so on.

There is much, much more, but this is already getting into technical gobbledegook, so let’s move on. After reading a couple of reports on the NYRB game (including BC’s player rating on this site) and the comments relating to Carroll’s play from readers, I decided to closely analyze Carroll’s play in the Red Bulls game.

BC v NYRB

Watching the game for the third time, I focused solely on BC and his responsibilities so I could find out exactly what it was that he was doing so horribly that has led to the popular cries that he should be benched. In 45-plus first half minutes, I could only really find two (maybe three) things he did that had a negative impact on our team. For a position that sees a lot of the ball in a crowded area of the park, I would say that is pretty good going.  Next time you watch a game for the second or third time, try watching only one player and see what he alone does. I doubt that you will find any player on this team that works as hard and as effectively as Brian Carroll.  I invite you to watch that game again and try and focus only on number seven and tell me what he does that is so heinous.

The popular misconception that Carroll has lost a step is absurd. He was never quick, and his position does not rely on speed. It relies on experience and guile. If BC looks way out of position or is chasing around trying unsuccessfully to catch up to a man in an advanced position, the chances are that someone else on our team was out of position or has lost possession (or both), and now Carroll has to do the work of two men. Again, soccer is a team game and it is often useless to analyze one action in isolation, especially where defense is concerned.

When you see somebody make an error, ask yourself what lead up to that action.

  • Was the pass they received off line, too heavy, or under-hit?
  • Did the two plays before force the miscreant into an untenable position?
  • Are his teammates in bad positions, thus forcing him to make a bad pass?
  • Did somebody else mess up and now he has to try and clean up that person’s mess while simultaneously covering his own area of responsibility?

How many times do we see Danny Cruz haring up to an opponent, busting a gut to cover 20 yards to close the opponent down? How many times do we see Lahoud running all over the pitch as he valiantly chases the ball around the midfield? The answer in both cases is way too often. If they were in the right position to begin with, they wouldn’t have to run so damn much. But it looks great if you value hustle and determination, and man, isn’t Danny Cruz fast? And Lahoud covers so much ground. That’s awesome!

In the off-season we improved our forwards with the signing of Casey (and others would argue by resigning LeToux). We improved our defense with the signing of Parke (my other man-crush). The one area we did not strengthen is midfield (pending Kleberson debut notwithstanding). If Brian Carroll is out for any time, our team will suffer in all areas of the park. Name one other player where you could say the same. If you watch Carroll closely with an educated eye, you just might find that you too can grow to appreciate and perhaps even love what he brings to our team. He is a quality player, a class guy, and a veteran in this league with international caps to his name. The least you can do is lay off the thoughtless abuse and show the man the respect he deserves. I for one believe that our captain is worth at least that small token. Don’t you?

Want more? If you really have nothing better to do here are the results from my micro-analysis of the first 45 minutes versus the Pink Cows. Bear in mind that it was a tight game against a clearly superior opponent and away from home to boot.

Here is what I found:

3:38 – broke up play and passed forward to a colleague

5:05 – rescued a McMath miscued clearance from going to the feet of an opponent 40 yards out from goal in a central position

5:24 – covered for Gaddis, whose man beat the fullback. Carroll took an angle that forced the winger wide and applied pressure to nullify his cross. Ball went in touch harmlessly.

6:51 – offered and received a ball from Lahoud (whose back was to opposition goal) – BC beat an onrushing opponent, then slotted a 30-yard ball that beat the opposition for Jack to run on to. McInerney was offside on the play due to his own mistimed run, not a mistimed pass.

7:24 – cut off a passing lane eliminating a potential pass, thus forcing the advancing RB winger to retreat to his own half and pass the ball backward to his full-back

7:43 – read and won a second ball and then forced a forward pass to a colleague who was under too much pressure. Should not have done that, and we then lost possession because of that ill-advised pass.

8:28 – read and intercepted a RB through-ball – took one more touch then delivered a forward pass that released an attacking opportunity for our attacking midfielder/forwards

9:09 – recovered a loose ball in midfield (by reading the play) and shifted the point of attack to Williams’ wing, with the pass leading the full-back into space, thus giving Williams time to make a good cross in for Jack in the box.

11:35 – picked up a runner from deep and tracked his run in to our box, thus eliminating him as an attacking threat

12:10 – offered for a ball, received it and played it out wide to Williams, allowing him to play a dangerous ball into the channel

13:45 – won a header in midfield, found LeToux with his header (a forward pass), enabling Seba to release Jack

14:12 – received ball and played a forward pass to LeToux at the top of the RB box

14:48 –cut out a passing lane and tracked an advancing midfielder, thus forcing RB to pass backward

15:18 – showed in the middle of the park, received then switched play to left wing for Gaddis, who goes on run to the byline

16:45 – read play and closed down a man about to receive a ball – RB forced to pass back to their own 18 from the half

17:15 – tracked a RB attack, made a vital tackle at the edge of our box helping/bailing out Amobi on the edge of our 18

17:54 – intercepted a RB pass and gave to a colleague in space

18:50 – played some triangles around the half, maintaining possession for the U and allowing other to move in to a better position

20:00 – played a nothing backwards pass that ended up being hoofed away by McMath – not a good pass

23:00 – tracked Juninho forcing RB to pass to a different player in a much worse position (any time you keep Juninho off the ball it is a good thing)

25:00 – Johnny-on-the-spot to hack away a loose ball that fell in the six yard area (there goes that reading of the play again!) from a RB corner

30:00 – tracked a runner from deep in to our box, taking away a potential pass to a man in a dangerous position

31:00 – tracked Cahill into our box, taking away a potential pass to a man in a dangerous position

32:00-33:00 – showed, collected, and spread play to the wings with forward passes

38:20 – came back close to goal to give Okugo an easy out as Amobi had played himself in to a dangerous position by dribbling with his head down. BC then fired a 60 yard pass upfield that was this close to releasing Jack one-on-one with the keeper. RB keeper had to rush out of his area and hoof the ball clear.

39:00 – in no-man’s land chasing shadows at the top of our box, looked woefully out of position and or too slow to get to the man with the ball. Both Lahoud and Marfan were occupying the same five yards of space twenty yards upfield, thus leaving BC outnumbered.

40:00 – closed down Juninho as he was shaping up to receive a pass. Upon being pressured by BC Juninho has to harmlessly pass the ball backward – the following upfield pass by RB is read by BC, intercepted and then played through (forward) to release an attack by our midfield/forwards

42:00 – tracked an opposing midfielder and tackled him to win the ball. BC then gets too excited and dribbles forward himself only to be caught from behind thus losing us possession

42:40 – read second ball and gained possession passing the ball forwards. Shows and received ball back then released Gaddis on the wing, leading him in to space

43:00 – made himself available then switched play wide to Williams with a forward pass

44:00 – read second ball, wins it and spreads play wide to Cruz

44:30 – tracked Juninho all the way from half into our box, taking away a potential pass to a dangerous man in a dangerous position

45:40 – chased down Juninho in possession near the edge of our box – wins the ball then clears it upfield

60 Comments

  1. He keeps passing the ball to the other team.

  2. You do a fantastic job of pointing out the subtle work he does to shore up the defensive end of the U’s game. You don’t address his offensive timidity, or his tendency to either give the ball to whoever’s nearest or just lob it hopefully.

    More importantly, is a quiet, subtle player who humbly puts in his behind-the-scenes shift the guy you want for CAPTAIN?

    • For the Offensive issues – i’d hope that him giving it to whoever is nearest will allow more creative and able players to do their job while allowing Carroll to continue to do his? While i’d definitely agree that if we rely on Carroll to be the creator we are in big trouble, we still, imo, need him to do his job.

      The Captain issue is definitely a more valid complaint. Being quiet and unassuming isn’t exactly the person you can think of as a captain, especially if you are used to Califf and Mondragon as captains. I think he certainly has the respect part of a captain down though (or should). It all comes down to who would be a better choice, and when your options are really LeToux, Carroll or Parke (unless you want to Include Sheanon or Amobi) then i don’t think that Carroll is a terrible choice.

    • If that’s who the players voted for as captain, then that’s exactly who you want as captain.

      As for the ‘offensive timidity’, that should be a minor flaw in Carroll’s game, but it’s compounded exponentially by Hackworth’s insistence on pairing him with another DM who is just as timid. If Kleberson plays as advertised, Carroll will start to look a whole lot better.

    • Carrol would be much better not being our official captain. He’s a leader, but by action. He’s not nearly vocal enough (although its hard to tell from the stands with 17000 other people yelling).

      Carrol excels when he’s allowed to focus on his job, which is defending and plays a behind the scenes role. I think the added pressure of being named captain might be affecting him.

      On the topic of his offense, he’s a DM. His job is primarily defensive, which he usually excels at. And I think more times than not he plays the only option he’s given rather than risking a turn over. It may not look pretty or result in a goal, but it keeps possession. Its smart. Then a player like Cruz or lahoud turns it over but that’s not always BC.

      I feel that if we’re gonna do the 2 DM formations (pending new guy’s debut) Carrol and Okugo would be a great combo.

    • I would agree with you that Carroll doesn’t provide much going forward, but there are three other midfielders and two forwards who not contributing to that is a WAY bigger issue. And besides the guys job title is DEFENSIVE midfielder, if he was listed as an OFFENSIVE midfielder then I would have an issue with him not contributing a lot to the offense.

    • If Brian Carroll being “timid” on offensive is the reason we’re not scoring goals then we are in a LOT of trouble. I guess Le Toux, Jack Mac, Marfan, Cruz and Daniel all get a pass for not creating chances? He’s a Defensive-midfielder with 5 attack-minded players in front and around him. Why should be bare the brunt of blame for the offense?

      • The Black Hand says:

        Because his lack of linking play is a big reason for our offensive ineptitude. It’s not asking a lot from Carroll, to turn upfield and look to make positive ball movement. Far too much lateral and back play from our central midfielder.

        As for the rest of that list. I agree. They aren’t helping matters. Every one of those players mentioned are terribly mediocre. All have had moments, but overall they are average. They should accountable as well. So should our Coach, for not recognizing this.

  3. Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

    I believe that you have glossed over some major, MAJOR issues with the position of defensive midfielder, specifically in a 4-4-2. We are no longer in the dark ages of MLS where defensive midfielders like Chris Armas roamed the landscape, wreaking havoc and gnawing the broken bones of unfortunate no. 10s. Guys like Osvaldo Alonso, Kyle Beckerman, Jeff Larentowicz and adam moffat have changed the way the position is played by not only winning balls and tracking runs, but by also keeping their chests up the field and looking to start the attack. And the next generation has already arrived with even more skill, vision and quality. Look at Perry kitchen, Juninho, osvaldo minda, ori rosell, patrice bernier, rafael baca, andrew jacobson and Dax McCarty. These are ball-hawking, hard running, smart players who also have the vision and skill to move the ball forward. The things that Carroll does, he does reasonably well and yes ABSOLUTELY he has been put under excess pressure by Lahoud, Daniel (rarely covers himself defensively) and Cruz. Though, I don’t know how you can overlook missed tackles like the one against Deshorn Brown where the rookie striker flicked the Union captain off like a mosquito.
    The quarrel with Carroll is about all the things he does not do. Organization of the midfield is certainly in his purview, not only as Captain but as the man sitting at the base of the midfield structure. The quality of his teammates is definitely up for debate, but their consistently awful shape as a unit comes back to Carroll, their leader.
    Providing an outlet for the defense is another critical task for the DM in a 4 man midfield and one where Carroll is frequently MIA. Daniel, Michael Farfan and even mcInerney and Le Toux dip far too deep into their own half just to get a touch on the ball. playing to the closest man is only a good solution if once possession is secured then you are there to get it back and start the play up the field. It is ludicrous to suggest that in a 4 man midfield it is acceptable for 1 player to be completely relieved of forward-thinking possession and attacking requirements.

    • The inclusion of Andrew Jacobson in that list is particularly painful.

    • +1
      I was thinking the same thing regarding the change in the DMID position.

    • You do realize that all of the holding midfielders that you listed play for better teams that the Union, right?

      And while I love Jacobson, it’s not surprising that his performance levels has dropped this season w/o Daniel Hernandez (Dallas’s really holding mid) supporting him.

    • “The quality of his teammates is definitely up for debate, but their consistently awful shape as a unit comes back to Carroll, their leader.”
      .
      I think this is more on Hackworth. You can’t keep putting center mids on the flanks and expect them to keep the shape. There’s a reason they are central players, and no matter how much Carroll tries to organize them, their instinct is going to be to tuck inside.
      .
      The result of all this is having Lahoud in no man’s land at LM, Daniel who almost refuses to push the game to the endline, and Marfan who gets tends to get lost in the middle.

    • JediLos117 says:

      This is a prime example of the ramblings of anti Carroll folk.
      .
      Its the focus on the but buts.
      .
      Twice Eli references his teammates:
      .
      “…and yes ABSOLUTELY he has been put under excess pressure by Lahoud, Daniel (rarely covers himself defensively) and Cruz.”
      .
      “The quality of his teammates is definitely up for debate…”
      .
      So his teammates might suck but its his fault that sucky teammates arent where there supposed to be? Really? But but if they suck should I expect them to be where there supposed to be?
      .
      Player are gonna get burnt every once and a while, maybe even every game…Did ya see Gonzalez get school this weekend? The issue with anti Carroll folk is that they only focus on what he doesnt do and when he gets schooled. They create ideas of what he should do compared to Dmids on teams that seem to have stroger mids…it could be argued that each dmid’s team that Eli listed has a stronger attacking mid than the U.
      .
      in other words, they dont understand the Union and its strengths and weaknesses. It just easier to target Carroll.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        The fact that the Union’s midfield options are inferior is not Carroll’s fault. He is still a limited player in my opinion.

        I’m not saying that I want him to don the 10 shirt and save the day. I’m saying that it’s not too much to ask for one of our two central midfielders to be available as a passing option in his own half.

        We’re engaging in a debate here. Debates have two sides. Your opinion is valued and appreciated. Please ease up on your comments about people “not understanding” the game because it only seeks to ruin a good discussion.

      • JediLos117 says:

        Im stressing that individual’s do not understand the Philadelphia Union, Union weaknesses and Union strengths..not the game of soccer itself.
        .
        It’s relevant to the debate.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        That’s an incredibly broad statement. People not understanding ” the Philadelphia Union, Union weaknesses and Union strengths” is not far off from saying they dont understand the game considering the majority of the readers of this site are Union supporters.

        Perhaps you should just stick to trying to eloquently explain your opinion, rather than condescending to those who do not agree with you. It will help the discourse if you do.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Tsk Tsk Los. I, generally, like your comments. I don’t agree with them but I like them. They are straight to the point. However, I know the game, and our club is lacking in, almost, every position. I want to see the club, that I SUPPORT, become better than this.

  4. BC is for sure at his best whne he isn’t noticed. Part of the problem – as has been stated – is Hack’s stubborn persistence in starting 2 DM’s, Caroll doesn’t operate well that way. I feel he’s tried to do things he shouldn’t be because of Lahoud being in his normal space, play BC as THE ONE AND ONLY DM and this team will instantly look better. The playmakers can playmake, and the midfield will actually be able to pass the ball around and keep possession instead of lobbing 30 yards upfield all game (which by the way coaching staff is getting really really annoying, boring and frustrating). I still think that Okugo or Sheanon would have been the best choice for captain. Not that Brian doesn’t deserve it or isn’t respected but they are more vocal players. I agree that BC should concentrate on one thing and one thing only – playing defense, because when he does he is very good and this squad looks a hell of a lot better

  5. Thank you for writing this.

  6. JediLos117 says:

    I did not write this.
    .
    You are never gonna win over the anti-Carroll crowd…they want more offense from a DMid for some reason.
    .
    I maintain that Carroll is the strongest component of our midfield and that addressing our attacking mids should be our priority.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Who gets the ball to our attackers? It’s not Carroll and it sure as hell is not our long balls. You have to see that Carroll is aiding in the deficiencies of our midfield. Many all of our midfield woes, (ie; possession, lack of width, failure to stop attacks from developing, etc…), can all be associated with #7. I’m not saying he is the only reason for our lack of quality. ( There are too many to count.) What I am saying is; Carroll’s play and captaincy has been letting the club down, and that is evident by the club’s performances to date.

      • JediLos117 says:

        From my experience, when the Dmid gets the ball they are expected to get rid of it immediately usually to another attacking midfielder and usually out wide…Dmids should focus on the short pass and avoid passing further up ptich to say a forward as that would be considered a high risk pass.
        .
        Possession is not the Dmids responsibility.
        .
        Our lack in width should be contributed to our lack of natural wingers…we have only Cruz and M. Farfan who seems to be gravitating towards the center.
        .
        When I think of attackers, I think Left, Center, Right mids and strikers. Carroll is definitely getting our R, C and L mids the ball…our offensive breakdowns happen when they get the ball.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Not one player on the pitch is supposed to get rid of the ball immediately, exception being the keeper. The other ten are supposed to take a look around and try to make a positive play.
        .
        DM’s are absolutely involved in possession. I’m not looking for #7 to be a playmaker but I am looking for him to take his time and try to develop some fine play. Many times Carroll looks as if the ball is a grenade.
        .
        Our lack of width is, in large part, attributed to our centralized player dropping back to provide Carroll with a square outlet. The two outside players drift towards the center to fill the gap. Granted, the midfield personnel, aside from Carroll, are not exactly the cream of the crop. That should make Carroll, our captain, step up and provide his field mates with some support. The problem is he can’t. All he can do is defend, and he can’t even cover the D midfield alone anymore.
        .
        When I think of attackers, I think of our strikers, our outside mids, and our advanced centralized midfielders. In other words, the guys waiting for Carroll to link play. Ever wonder why we rely on our outside fullbacks to advance play to our offensive players…EVERY TIME??
        .
        Jus sayin’

      • “Many times Carroll looks as if the ball is a grenade.”

        I love that description!

      • At the risk of being combative, what attackers, the other two centrally placed midfielders(depending on who’s on the field) the out of position Marfan who hasn’t seemed to find his groove, maybe Cruz as he runs blindly up field, or he can just lob the ball up and hope that Jack or Le2 can get to it.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Good point. By attackers, I was referencing our players…who are playing positions that attackers would play…if they were on a team that attacked.

  7. This is an interesting perspective. I think one can simultaneously appreciate the myriad of little things Carroll does defensively, and at the same time bemoan his inability to outlet to the offensive unit.

    Basically, since the guy is no Ossie Alonzo, what it means is that we CANNOT afford to have another defensive-minded middie on the pitch with him. The offense just dies a horrible death (except, this year, for set pieces, amazingly enough).

    So my beef has never been with Carroll per se — it’s with the pairing of Carroll and Lahoud, which is absolutely hamstringing us. I think Lahoud can be a decent backup for Carroll (assuming Okugo will remain as CB), but they should NOT be on the pitch together unless it’s to close out the last 10 minutes of a 1-goal lead.

  8. Good post. I’ve always felt that holding midfielders are like traffic cops in the middle of the park with everything happening around them. The great thing about being a season ticketholder the last few years is to watch live matches where you can really appreciate the demands & responsibilities that a holding midfielder has.

    While Carroll doesn’t excite people with what he does, he still does a good job playing this position on a lower level MLS side which is what we are. And I’m sure if we ever decided to get rid of him, there would be more than a few good MLS teams that would pick him up in a heartbeat.

    • The Black Hand says:

      If I was a manager of a contending club, I would look to acquire Carroll as a role player. He would be within my subs and I would play him to protect a lead. I don’t see much else out of him.

  9. @ Eli and others who think Carroll should be more offensive minded. I agree, but look who he has around him. Wouldn’t you be very reticent to go rampaging forward if you had NO cover – it’s not like Lahoud, Cruz, or Daniel are going to recognize that situation and have his back. They are more likely to just stand around with their thumbs up their butts watching the game go by. I also think you are being VERY unfair to blame Lahoud / Cruz / Daniel’s lack of positional sense on Carroll just because he is the organizer. Those lads are (supposedly) professional players and shouldn’t need to be told every five seconds where they need to be on the field. I wasn’t saying that BC is an amazing DM, because he clearly has his limitations – I was really just trying to point out all the good he does becuase way too many negadelphians like to pile on his real and supposed flaws.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Carroll doesn’t need to be offensive minded. He needs to provide a transition game, so that the ball can be advanced (THROUGH POSSESSION) to our attacking players. He is in too important of a role (not even talking the armband), to be so one dimensional. His tackling has also become sub-par (very soft with his challenges). Also, when talking Carroll’s defense of the central midfield; Why is it that another player has to fall back to assist? Shouldn’t be the case, if he is as steady as they say. He is forcing our formation to be lopsided towards the defensive half, thus hindering our offensive capabilities.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        I have never advocated Carroll “rampaging forward”. I’m simply looking for our defensive/holding midfielder to turn his eyes and body up field and distribute. He does not even need to leave his half to do this. I will certainly concede that Cruz rarely puts himself in a position to accept a pass, but Carroll’s quick passes back to each of the four defenders are only acceptable if he then moves his feet to make himself available to receive a ball as it starts going forward. In the attack, his contribution can end at the center circle as far as I’m concerned, but he needs to contribute.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I agree 100%

      • Richie The Limey says:

        Watch that first half and watch where he places his passes.

  10. The Black Hand says:

    Ridiculous…Simply ridiculous. The acceptance of Carroll’s routine, and completely benign, play is one of the biggest factors in the Union’s failure to recognize their weaknesses. His defensive contributions are mediocre, though his defensive mistakes have proved costly. One can point out that Carroll’s positioning is his strength, and I would agree, but he offers very weak challenges and concedes HIS midfield to the opponent EVERY MATCH. His passing (forward) is putrid and has been one of the, if not the biggest, factors in our lack of cohesive play out of the midfield. Though a CDM primary responsibility is in defending, he must also be able to provide an outlet for the back line and advance play up the pitch. Carroll is decent, in his defensive duties, but far below par in every other aspect of play. To hear his name uttered in the same sentence as the likes of Keane and Alonzo, made me nearly vomit in my mouth. The only similarities lie in the position they are listed at. Keane and Alonzo, and nearly every other DM in the MLS, are far more complete players. To state that Carroll might just be our most valuable player is nothing more than baiting those that don’t think much of #7.

    I enjoyed seeing the breakdown of Carroll’s match against the NYRB, but must note that every entry was slanted, on Carroll’s behalf. The bottom line on Carroll’s match, and the three previous, is that Brian Carroll has been greatly ineffective and it shows in the lopsided possession ratios.

    I am saying nothing about Carroll as captain, because there is nothing to speak of. He is completely invisible, as far as on pitch leadership is concerned.

    As long as Carroll is cemented in our XI, we will continue to be a mid-to-low table club. It’s time to move on and play our best players.

    • The Black Hand says:

      * My head almost exploded as I read this piece.

    • Those entries were not slanted in any way – if you have a copy of the game still on your DVR I invite you to watch the first half and focus solely on Carroll. If you come up with a different outcome then by all means post it on here.

      BTW – at no point did I ever compare his skill set to Keane or Viera or Alonso. That would be me trying to help people see the value that a complete DM brings to a team. As many others have stated, we are a lower level team in a lower level league and our midfield is an absolute shambles, but if you think it would be improved by sitting Carroll then I think I just pooped in my pants laughing at the absurdity of such a suggestion.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Pant pooping happens to the best of us.

        Almost every entry has a pro-Carroll, positive spin on it; ie: …BC fired a 60 yd. “pass” that was “this close”… Translation: Carroll dispossessed himself by lofting a prayer downfield. Only the speed of McInerney made that seem, even remotely, possible.

        I meant no disrespect by my comment towards the mention of Alonzo, Keane and Viera, in relation to Carroll. I just have a difficult time reading comparisons of that nature, even if it is only positional. Those three highlight the areas where Carroll is inefficient, more than show his value.

        Again, I mean no disrespect with any of my comments. I apologize if they come off otherwise.

      • No offense taken, home boy. To write an opinion piece in a public forum is to invite other opinions to be aired. I know that my opinion is not shared by man others but I felt it was worth stating, if only to have such a debate.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I commend your efforts on this piece. It must have taken some time compiling the individual breakdown of Carroll’s first half. Thanks for bringing it to us!

        I know I am very opinionated, when it comes to #7. I admit, he is servicable in his defensive duties. ( Though, his tackling is beginning to become suspect). My problem arises from the areas that Carroll is lacking. In a midfield, such as ours, we need Carroll to be a part in the creation of offensive movement. To provide an outlet, for a desperate back line, and then look around for positive ball movement. Players such as Alonzo, Keane and other complete DM’s are very much involved in the forward movement of the team, as a whole. Carroll doesn’t really provide us with that and it his hurting our midfield as a unit. Players check back to Carroll, too often, and it leaves us thin on attacking outlets. Thus the ball is thrown over the top because the link from Carroll/Back line to attackers has drifted too far into our own end. It was clearly evident, for the entirety of last season and it is showing greatly currently. On a club with an able middle, Carroll would probably suffice. But, as we know, our Union mids are faaaaaaaaaaar from able and Carroll’s inclusion is not helping. I think we need to move on from Carroll and look to become a quality club.

  11. Buzzkill_Ed says:

    But both Red Bull goals were in the second half?

    • Ed – I was way too tired by that point to do the same analysis on the second half. I also wanted to use the first half because the team is most settled in it’s game plan and structure (in theory) and should be a more honest reflection of the coach’s wishes. Second half we fell apart a bit for sure.

  12. Alot of blame goes to Carroll, but the real deficiency is the tactics. We are playing a clear cut Bob Bradley empty bucket system regardless of what Hackworth calls it. It is an effective (but not terribly exciting) system when you have the right parts, which we do not. The Nats were succesful (arguably) with it because the two “outside mids” could take people 1 on 1 and create their own shots wether outside in space or when cutting centrally (Dempsey and Donovan). This kept outside backs on their heels, nullified the counter attack from the wings, and allowed our outside backs to press forward to provide width. Once that width is there, the holding midfielders can move into a more offensive role and hold possesion in the oppositions’s half.

    Carroll’s offensive inneficiencies come from the fact that he never really has an oppurtunity to possess in the opponents half. Our outside Mids (Cruz, Marfan, Lahoud at times, and Daniel) do not pose threats to the other teams. Hence, opponent fullbacks overlap like mad, counters are started from the wings (nullifying our outside backs) and holding mids are left to patrol centrally in our own half to reduce gaps and cut angles.

    Our inability to hold possesion, over lap our fullbacks effectively and consistently, generate offesnsive chances and provide the strikers with good service all stems from the wrong tactics being deployed with the personnel that we have available at outside mid.

    Hack has done a lot of good things. But he needs to shit or get off the pot. Either bring in pieces that compliment the empty bucket, or move to a 4-3-3- and try to utilize Hop and Letoux as wingers (not perfect either). The tactics that we are using now result in long ball and that is not entirely effective or appealing. Carroll is a product of the system in my opinion and the WHOLE system sucks…..

  13. Dan Walsh says:

    Good post. I don’t agree with it all, but there are some valid points — including that Carroll is a convenient scapegoat for too many. VERY good point about Carroll not losing a step. I think people just see that he’s over 30 and presume he’s lost a step. I don’t see it. His major flaw to me remains that he is rather one-dimensional, but that wouldn’t be a problem if the fullbacks and other midfielders were playing well. He has been average most of this year. Not bad, not good.

    That said, some points in that minute-by-minute analysis do appear slanted in Carroll’s favor. For example, Richie writes that Carroll played passes forward to teammates at the 3:38 and 14:12-15 marks but doesn’t mention that they were not completed. (According to the MLS chalkboard for the game, those passes were not completed. I haven’t rewatched the game. So if the chalkboard’s wrong, retract this statement.)

    All that said, glad to see this guest post.

    • JediLos117 says:

      Fair assessment of Carroll and Union FBs and Mids.
      .
      Interesting chalkboard. Carroll made 30 passes, 4 unsuccessful…of the 30, I counted 8 that went backwords…many out wide.
      .
      Upon looking at the chalkboard, I can assume, Carroll was asked to get the ball wide…maybe to spread the field or spark the offense.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Carroll does complete a fair share of passes. I’ll give you that. The trouble is that the lion’s share of those passes do absolutely nothing to advance play. Many of them are to players who are in a much worse position than Carroll, leading to an easy dispossession. The chalkboard only tells part of the story.

      • Richie The Limey says:

        Again – I ask you to watch that first half and track every pass he makes. Then make a pronouncement based on observable facts instead of a vague theory.

    • I think this article would be great to revisit in a few weeks/months after Kleberson’s arrival. We’ve all been well aware that pairing someone in the middle with Carroll has been a challenge. Could Kleberson finally be the right man for the job?

  14. BC has obviously struggled with give-aways so far this season. Good DMDs don’t necessarily have to be good offensive players, but they can’t lose the ball.

    I looked at 5 random matches and found that he lost possession 17% of the time. This season his give-away rate is 27%. Against Colorado, he lost possession 40% of the time.

    I’m not calling for his head though. At his best, he’s a solid role-player (as mentioned in other comments) and I think the trouble with the U has more to do with a lack of an offensive counterpoint (also mentioned).

    • I agree with you( maybe) as role players can be players with a specific role but are still starting quality, the problem I see is there are a lot of role players (most in our midfield) who are subs not starters, but are still starting, and some of them out of position.

  15. Kenso Josh says:

    I’m with you. Carroll is alright. I dream of Okugo on the midfield- but if he and Hack think he’s best deployed at CB, okay. Either way he’s good with potential to be something else.

  16. Southside Johnny says:

    Brian has had a good, long career of solid, MLS performance including lots of very good games with the U. He seems like a stand-up guy and good teammate. Hard not like if not love. He has also been poor to just ok in games this year and in over his head as captain. He is, however, by no means the only witch in this hunt for the cause of awful transition, midfield impotence, abysmal ball movement and total lack of attacking support. He isn’t one of the guys launching useless long balls to lone runners and he isn’t making pointless runs through pressure. He has had to do a fair amount of covering other guys asses. On the other hand, while he may not be the one to burn at the stake, his subpar play ain’t helping matters either.

  17. I believe BC earned the captain’s armband with his play last year. He has been not quite as good this year, but there are many games left to play. I think he will be OK.

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