It really is kind of amazing what a difference (1) having your best players on the field and (2) having them play better will make. Saturday night, the Black-and-Red went into a (not-so) raucous BC Place and held what on paper should be one of the league's better attacks. Granted, United didn't find the scoreboard for the second time in three outings, but things certainly looked better, especially in the second half.
What They're Saying About It
Bromley: "For the first time this year, United looked threatening on the attack and really took the game to the opponent. The fact that they did not play this game against a likely conference champion makes it more indicative of things to come."
Goff: "Despite being blanked for the second time, United (0-2-1) made strides in the attack in the second half and was organized and composed in the back."
Salazar: "As key as D.C.'s attitude shift may have been in earning the club's first point of 2012, Olsen also deserves some credit for personnel moves along the backline. The second-year coach inserted Emiliano Dudar next to McDonald at the heart of United's defense and the Argentine turned in an impressive effort. Vancouver pumped ball after ball towards Hassli only to see the 6-foot-4 Dudar deny him at all angles. With their target forward essentially locked down, the Whitecaps took their attack out wide."
Hund: "Not a bad outing. "Crawl before you run" and all that. I was pleasantly surprised at how much better United looked both with the ball and without it, where before they looked plodding and bereft of ideas. The lack of goals is worrying, but at least Salihi and De Rosario had the best of the chances, and those are the guys you want in those spots."
Webb: After the break however United were the better side and probably deserved the full three points if not for the heroics of Cannon. Head coach Ben Olsen shifted the lineup once again giving starting debuts to Danny Cruz, Nick DeLeon and Emiliano Dudar. All three played well, particularly the 6-foot 4-inch central defender Dudar, who won every aerial challenge and also showed a soft passing touch when he set up Dwayne De Rosario for a close chance late in the match that Cannon saved as well.
What I'm Saying About It
Progress seems to be the word about Saturday night, and that sounds about right to me. We saw more of the ball than we had previously and had more purpose about the possession that we got. We were generally stronger and, especially, smarter in defense than we had been against KC or at LA.
Two games into any season, it's tough to call anything a "must win," but this was more of a "can't lose" game than I'd have preferred coming in. More than that, it was a "don't play like crap" game. Happily, United did neither, and even was the closer team to taking all 3 points. It feels pretty nice to have some room between us fans and the ledge again. I was worried there for a second - I really was - but now we get to come to RFK Friday with the littlest amount of momentum.
We've seen glimpses of what we're supposed to with this team - DeRo running wild (relatively speaking) between the lines, Salihi fashioning shots on goal from half-chances, the defense snuffing out everything that came their way and springing the attack the other way, Boskovic spreading possession around and facilitating the attack.
Of course, the schedule doesn't get any easier, with Dallas and Seattle coming to town in the next two weeks before we actually a few games against in-conference opponents.
Still, despite the lineup changes and the Olympic call-ups and the poor early season form from a few critical players, the team looks better than it did last week or the week before, which is all we were looking for this week. Next week - win, lose or draw - the team needs to keep building.