Last week against the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United looked promising in defeat. There were several narrowly missed opportunities, and there was the admittance that we gave up four goals to one of the best collections of talent assembled in MLS in years.
We lost that game 4-0 at home. We lost this game 4-1 on the road. So why do I feel way worse about this one?
The goals tonight weren't scored primarily by a former FIFA Player of the Year. They were scored by a rookie. And aside from United's lone goal against the Houston Dynamo, which came on a low and blistering free kick by Marc Burch, D.C. didn't threaten Tally Hall nearly as much as they'd threatened Bouna Coundoul the week before.
I'm not going to panic yet. I'm not going to call in the punter. Its still early, and we're still clearly better than last year overall. But we'd expect to see incremental improvement. Not necessarily week-by-week. But month-by-month would be nice.
So how come United looks worse off at the end of April than they looked at the end of March?
United hasn't had a free kick specialist in years, an issue that I highlighted in our 2011 New Years' Resolutions. Did D.C. just find their guy? Aside from his free kick goal, Marc Burch also was United's best defender on the night, which truly isn't saying very much.
Of the front six, Chris Pontius was the most dangerous, and may have deserved a penalty kick call when he was slide tackled in the box while trying to round Hunter Freeman. This wasn't his best game, clearly, but it was a definite improvement over last week from the left winger.
Where to start? How about Dax McCarty, who is leading the league in taking too many dribbles before passing the ball and then losing possession. Three games in a row now. Let's see how long we can keep this streak going! His central midfield partner Clyde Simms didn't do much better, missing the tackle that led to the first goal by Will Bruin (a player that we could have drafted, by the way).
The entire back-line followed up its previously worst game of the season with an even worse game. Worse even, I reckon, than the Open Cup loss to the New England Revolution on Tuesday night. And if you count the USOC match, United has given up 11 goals in its past three games. Perry Kitchen and Dejan Jakovic were each beat by Bruin for a goal, Jed Zayner was beat by Cam Weaver for a header that forced a diving save from Hamid, and Ethan White was one of several players who failed to recognize that There's No Offside On A Throw-In is a legitimate rule.
You all are going to hate me for this, because he didn't appear to be necessarily at fault on any of the four goals, but Bill Hamid isn't making the big saves that we want him to make. Four goals allowed in each of his two most recent matches will quickly erase the memories of his shutout against Toronto FC. I'm not saying that Hamid shouldn't be our starting goalkeeper, but I'm personally looking forward to Steve Cronin being able to compete for the job.
D.C. will once again have the weekend to recover before embarking on a three-game home stand that begins Wednesday night against the Seattle Sounders, continues on Saturday against FC Dallas, and wraps up the following Saturday against the Colorado Rapids.