Chris Pontius has joined the all-singing, all-dancing D.C. United All-Injured squad.
I don't know if you heard about it before the game on Saturday, but that was the grand opening of the Houston Dynamo's brand-spanking-new 22,000-seat stadium. I, for one, live under a rock and so hadn't heard about it from any MLS outlet. Certainly not every single one of them. Twice. Or more.
Bitter? No, of course not. Why would I be bitter? It's not like those of us in D.C. have been pining for a new building for longer than Houston has had a team or that we've had the rug pulled out from under us time and again. It's certainly not like our current hope for a stadium is a mystery investor chipping in, possibly from Middle Earth, and the always-competent and efficient D.C. Council passing the appropriate road-clearing measures.
You know what? Let's just get to the game, which really wasn't much better than the stadium situation, what with the losing and the multiple players getting injured and all.
What They're Saying About It
Shatzer: To christen Houston's new stadium, Brad Davis managed to loop a left-footed shot out of Hamid's reach and into the net. The goalkeeper just barely got a touch on the ball, but not enough to change its course. The open look that Davis received shouldn't have happened though, and it wouldn't have happened with Kitchen still in the game. The defensive midfielder's replacement, Stephen King, was standing idly by, marking no one in particular, allowing De Rosario to attempt to do the dirty work for him. Give Davis space and he'll use it. He did.
Salazar: What the heat didn't affect is the steely determination quickly becoming a staple of Olsen's side. The atmosphere inside brand new BBVA Compass Stadium would have been enough to put most teams on their back foot, but it was far from D.C.'s biggest hurdle on a difficult day. Midfield stalwart Perry Kitchen went out with a first half knee injury and - with Marcelo Saragosa unavailable - there was no like-for-like substitution in the holding midfield spot. Stephen King filled in admirably, but there was no denying Kitchen's impact when, once he left the field, Houston took control of a match they'd only chased prior.
Goff: On an otherwise upbeat day, there was one notable flaw: the field width. Despite ample space for broader dimensions, the Dynamo (3-3-2) chose 70 yards - barely acceptable on the pro level. For tactical reasons, Houston maintained the size offered at the previous venue, Robertson Stadium. Both sides labored to create opportunities in the first half, but as the match unfolded, the Dynamo gained greater possession and thumped dangerous balls into the box. Bobby Boswell's one-timer missed the open near corner and Je-Vaughn Watson's 16-yarder streaked over the crossbar just before halftime.
Webb: United could muster very little offensively throughout the day with only a chance from Maicon Santos early in the second half and a 93rd-minute desperation header from Daniel Woolard on a free kick being the only dangerous chances all day for the Black-and-Red. United's misery in Houston is now at a depressing 0-6-1 all-time.
What I'm Saying About It
As much as you want to win against an Eastern Conference foe, especially one that figures to be destined for a similar number of points as us, this loss hurts less for the 1-0 result and more for the players who limped off at various points. You'll hear it on this week's Filibuster (the Black & Red United podcast, don'chaknow) but the loss of Perry Kitchen, especially, is damaging to the team - both in defense, where he screens the back four and breaks ups opposing attacks before they have a chance to begin, and in attack, where he provides the pressure release valve for us to maintain possession when a move fizzles. He was probably the best player on the field Saturday before injuring his knee, and his loss provided the turning point of the day in terms of momentum.
None of that minimizes the importance of Chris Pontius, though, and losing United's second-leading scorer is also a big blow. Party Boy has given us a speed option up top, an element that neither Maicon Santos nor Hamdi Salihi can really provide, and something we've been missing since Charlie Davies' final dip in form last year. (That dip, coincidentally, occurred when Pontius went out injured with a broken leg.)
It's another quick turnaround this week, as United host a rested Colorado Rapids side at RFK Wednesday night before playing host to Toronto FC on Saturday. With Conor Casey returning to the Rapids lineup and the surprising play of rookie Tony Cascio, our makeshift back line and defensive midfield will have their collective hands full. But this is what the roster was built for - to be deeper than years past. This is why Benny & Co. built the roster this way, and you know the boys in black will be gunning for full points in all three games of the upcoming homestand, with or without their full complement of players.