I don't care about the Atlantic Cup. Really, I don't. We could line an entire hallway at RFK Stadium with banners of the Atlantic Cups that D.C. United has won.
But what I do care about is three points. They were there for the taking tonight, but we couldn't find them.
In a match between a team that is better than their record and a team that isn't as good as their record, another road draw is a decent result. United was the better team in the second half, but still couldn't create enough shots on target to pull off the win.
Some new blood is what this team needs. And it's coming next week.
The clear man of the match for United by all accounts was Julius James, who has added his name to the top of the list of defender of the year nominees. James cut out every opportunity that came his way. Also effective yet not quite as prominent was Dejan Jakovic. The Canadian defender was in total control. For as much criticism as I gave the club for starting a central back pairing with a combined age of 70 during our losing streak earlier in the year, it's good to see us now looking towards the future with our center backs now having a combined age of 51.
The Red Bulls have some very good attacking players. But the reasons why Joel Lindpere and Dane Richards had so few scoring opportunities were Clyde Simms and Jordan Graye. Simms did a great job of limiting the opponents time on the ball, outshining all other central midfielders on the pitch. Graye had his best game yet since moving to the left, playing physical when necessary and passing with precision. Troy Perkins was only tested a few times, but his control of the box was never in doubt.
For the second week in a row, the game turned in United's favor when Jaime Moreno entered at halftime. The team still lacks a true finishing striker, but D.C. seems to be better off with Moreno in the game than the Cristmallsopp fusion.
I've said it before, and it's starting to turn into a theme this season. Our results in 2010 will very much depend on Santino Quaranta and Chris Pontius. Almost exclusively I would say. Certainly more than any other players on the team. Quaranta showed his creative potential many times tonight, but the final pass was often lacking. Pontius was much less involved than I think we'd all like to see.
As United continues to make changes at the very top of their formation, Danny Allsopp did not do enough tonight to justify his inclusion in the starting lineup. This really makes me wonder if Pablo Hernandez will be ready to start immediately when his availability comes through on Thursday. Another guy who should be looking over his shoulder right now is Andy Najar. Our co-author Chest Rockwell has been stressing for a couple weeks now that Najar would be best suited for a supersub role, and I think that may be the likeliest scenario once Branko Boskovic is ready for action.
Remember back at the beginning of the season when we were cowering looking towards our summer schedule? If United couldn't even get points from the likes of Kansas City and Philadelphia, we assumed they wouldn't stand a chance against the best teams in the league. Right? Well we've now tied teams with 30, 22, and 25 points, and defeated our West coast rivals. That schedule doesn't get any easier quite yet, with visits to RFK from the Sounders and Galaxy next week before departing to Real Salt Lake.
D.C. United has definitively left their awful start behind them. We've moved on, and we're a better team for it. But if United is going to make a push to enter the playoff picture, they're going to need to start doing it by earning more than just one point at a time.