I left RFK Stadium last night with a few thoughts on my mind. One part of me was still confused about what I'd just witnessed on the field. Was that soccer, or some other sport I wasn't familiar with? It was the craziest match I've ever attended, and even some DC United staffers were saying the same thing.
Another part of me was optimistic. It was hard not to be optimistic after seeing Santino Quaranta glow with pride from how his team performed for their coaches. If United can play like this for the remainder of the year, the playoffs seem easily within reach. With 11 players on the field and with Bill Hamid in net, I don't know that any team in the league would have beat D.C. that night. Not with Dwayne De Rosario and his porridge on our side.
But there was still another part of me that left RFK with an overbearing sense of regret. The season's two-thirds over. When are we going to stop making mistakes that lead to unnecessary goals? When are we going to stop giving away points at home to inferior opponents? (Although I do tend to believe that Toronto's current roster is better than their record this season. They're going to win some games before 2011 is done.) Karma swings both ways of course. We've had some spells of luck and some spells of misfortune already this year. Which direction will it swing next? It needs to swing back towards D.C. before its too late.
Optimism and regret. Karma. Mixed emotions. Conflicted feelings. Welcome to life as a D.C. United fan.
Dwayne De Rosario is playing at a level right now that we haven't seen in D.C. in years. Not since Christian Gomez in 2004. Maybe not even since Marco Etcheverry. Yeah, that's how strongly I feel about the impact he's had on this team in recent weeks. None of this three goals last night will be Goal Of The Week candidates like the week before, but he finished all of them. He made things happen for his team, as he's been doing for his teams for years, and hopefully as he'll continue to do for us for the rest of this year, and into the future.
In his first game in over two months, Quaranta filled in adequately for Najar, even earning an assist on De Rosario's first goal. Chris Pontius captured an assist also United's second goal, playing the ball deep into Toronto's defense and past the foot of Andy Iro. Come to think of it, Iro and De Rosario are strangely connected. You see, TFC traded De Rosario to the New York Red Bulls for Tony Tchani, who was in turn traded to the Columbus Crew for, yeah, Iro. The big defender for Toronto had more of an impact on this match than he may have intended. He handed United the final goal of the night by plunging into Austin da Luz inside the box late in the match. The winger did all that was asked of him in limited time for United.
Josh Wolff didn't have his best game. In one of United's rare scoring opportunities in the first half, Wolff failed to recognize an un-rushing Pontius who would have had a free shot on goal with Stefan Frei out of position. The forward didn't make enough positive contributions otherwise.
Brandon McDonald was unlucky at times, but he had by far his worst game in a United uniform last night. McDonald's failure to take control of Eric Avila sooner, and his lack of communication with Hamid may have contributed to the goalkeeper's eventual dismissal. I'm not sure if he deserves much blame on Peri Marosevic's goal for Toronto, but McDonald clearing the attacker away from the goal certainly would have helped.
As I said early this morning, I actually think our goalkeepers' mistakes cost us two points more than any referee's mistakes. If Bill Hamid doesn't come charging out into Avila, United wins this game. If Steve Cronin punches Joao Plata's cross out of the area instead of into McDonald, United wins this game. Or if Cronin gets a hand on Julian de Guzman's illegal shot, United wins. Or if Cronin grabs the ball off Iro's foot, United wins. Not good enough for that position.
But rather than leaving you with some final thoughts tonight, I'll leave you with a poll instead. Did Hamid deserve red?