We're almost but not quite at the midpoint in the season. Our goal-scoring problems have been solved. Our defense? Yeah... Not quite there yet. That just means that United has solved 50% of its overall issues from last season.
D.C. is three points out of third place, the last guaranteed playoff spot in the East. Since we expect United to keep improving as the season persists, that's a fine spot to be.
The next three weeks includes three difficult matches, starting with a visit from the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia Union on Saturday. After that though, we hit a reasonably weak part of our schedule. The entire month of August should have us all salivating. D.C. is poised for a move up the standings. They just need to straighten out their defense first.
Full recap here. Player ratings below.
Charlie Davies was active throughout the match, and it always seemed likely that he would add a goal before the end of his 25th birthday. The goal itself may not have been difficult, but persistence helps, and knowing where to be and how to fight off a defender helps even more. In the locker room after the game, Davies gave Andy Najar credit for the goal (as well as the Honduras Bicycle Dance celebration), saying "Thats something he can bring to the table, that was extremely special for a player to do that. He created the goal and the ball popped out to me, and not too many people are gonna miss that chance, so I made sure that I just buried that."
It was great to see Chris Pontius finally score a goal by putting the ball UNDER the crossbar. With Pontius playing as well as he currently is, United's four starting attackers rivals any in the league. Olsen talked about his left winger after the game. "He's getting each game good chances. He's creating chances, sometimes he's on the end of them. He's a handful. He was one of the guys tonight for sure that put it out there."
Josh Wolff continues to be impressive for United in his withdrawn forward role. He earned an assist on Pontius' goal and almost set up at least one more. He gets a Three though only because the veteran American forward was outveteranned by Houston's veteran American forward Brian Ching. The two have had similar careers, and Wolff is having the better season, but I would've rather had Ching last night.
Perry Kitchen was winning headers all over the place on defense for United, and had a crucial block to save a Houston shot attempt. His organization skills and leadership were missing on the Dynamo's late goal though. Jed Zayner also played well against one of the top midfielders in the league Brad Davis.
In limited action, Fred da Silva did really well to find Najar open in the box to set up Davies' goal. Fred should continue to get time for D.C. as an attacking option in central midfield for the rest of the season. Oh wait, we're letting him go back to Australia for free. Nevermind. Fred's play in this game hints to me that United needs to acquire someone to fill that role when Fred leaves. Even if not necessarily a starter, D.C. needs a creative central midfielder.
This was not a good game for Bill Hamid. The call may have been soft, but his foul on Ching to give the Dynamo a penalty kick at the end of the first half was totally unnecessary. White had done a good enough job forcing Ching into a difficult position where he had very little space to work, so cutting down the angle was really all Hamid had to do. Ching sought the contact, and Hamid obliged. He's a big dude, and gaining control of his body is something that will come with age and experience. Other than that, it should be noted that Hamid did have four saves to his name by the end of the match, while Tally Hall had only one. That could be more of a hint that United needs to keep shooting than a credit to Hamid's shot-stopping.
Clyde Simms was once again little factor for United, and is probably the player most in danger of losing his starting job (to Kitchen) once Jakovic returns from injury.
Stephen King came in for Davies late in the match, and for his time on the field, I believe he had only one responsibility. Mark Ching at the back post. If you check the replay, he was instead standing behind Ching. Doubtful that King is the answer to our attacking central midfield position.