I really liked Brandon Barklage in D.C., so his brace last night was bittersweet. Way more bitter, though. Way, way more bitter.
I hate losing to New York. I mean, hate losing to New York. It's become physiological - losing to the Metros makes my pulse quicken and my stomach churn - my body temperature probably rises to near fever levels, too. Needless to say, I was struggling to maintain a good mood yesterday evening.
So let's just move forward, then. To the reports!
What They're Saying About It
Shatzer: United finally met a team willing and able to punish those deficiencies. Tonight, even another excellent showing from Bill Hamid wasn't enough to keep three goals out of the net. Because for all their faults throughout their history, the New York Red Bulls played a really excellent match, sending a message to United that first place won't come so easy.
Goff: "We thought it was going to be another 3-0 game and sat back and let them move the ball," captain Dwayne De Rosario said, referring to United's fast start during a 4-1 win over New York in April when Pontius scored in the eighth minute. "The second half we started to take the game to them. We had chances. Another day we could've walked away with a tie." With both clubs enjoying successful seasons nearing the midway mark, this meeting carried more bite than recent encounters. The sides sizzled from the start and engaged in an open and entertaining match that featured a wealth of scoring opportunities.
Salazar: After being dominated in possession (63.2% - 36.8%) through the first half, Olsen made a tactical shift. Santos was left as D.C.'s lone striker while Pontius dropped into midfield. United's five-man midfield, bolstered by substitutes Branko Boskovic and Andy Najar, closed the possession gap significantly (53.5% - 46.5%) by game's end.
Streff: D.C. manager Ben Olsen brought in Maicon Santos, Branko Boskovic and Andy Najar during the second half to address the shortcomings and the changes gave United a fighting chance. Pontius would score a second goal after the break to reduce the deficit to 3-2 and the visitors had opportunities to record the equalizer. "I thought overall we had some really good attacking stuff," Olsen said after the game. "Branko was a part of a lot of it. He came in and slowed the game down for us and gave us some real possession. We were a little bit unlucky that we didn't finish a couple of the chances down the stretch."
Webb: With the loss, United is tied with Red Bull at the top of the Eastern Conference with 30 points apiece, however United has the slight edge with a better goal difference at this point of the season. Red Bull also has a game in hand on United. Next up for United is a home match next Saturday night against the expansion Montreal Impact. Montreal gave United all it could handle earlier this season in a 1-1 draw at RFK in April. This will be United's only home game until August 4th.
What I'm Saying About It
After Sporting Kansas City got completely outclassed in Philadelphia Saturday night, I thought to myself that somebody at MLSSoccer.com is going to have fun putting together a "contender or pretender" piece/video and wondered where the Sporks would fall on that continuum. After last night, I'm left wondering the same thing about United. The team we've seen the last couple weeks is not the same team we saw before the international/USOC break. They're slower of thought back-to-front, and they aren't pressuring the ball and looking upfield quite the same way. We saw some good glimpses in the second half against Jersey, but it was too little, too late in that particular contest. As Martin said, hopefully the team learned its lesson and will come out faster against the Impact next weekend.
- An open letter to the D.C. United back line: Dear guys, When you're defending for stretches, I understand you want to get the ball away and out of danger as quickly as possible. It's a completely reasonable notion, after all. But for the love of Etcheverry, could you at least try to hit the ball in the general direction of somebody wearing black? Brandon McDonald's fabled Long Balls to Nobody in Particular (TM) infected the rest of the back four last night, along with a case of the Panics. Please? Love, Adam
- Kudos to Brandon Barklage. Seriously. Dude had himself a game, throwing himself into tackles and walking the knife's edge between clean-and-crunching and foul. Not to mention the brace of goals. I hated seeing him leave D.C., and I'm happy to see him find the form we knew he had in him (albeit at a different position). I know I'm not alone in wishing it weren't in Jersey and weren't against us, but happy for the St. Louis native all the same. That said, he and Dax McCarty definitely discussed the revenge factor before the game - Barklage made a beeline for Dax after both goals.
- Maicon Santos' entry into the game gave United a hold-up option up top, which we sorely needed thanks to the aforementioned McDonald-esque long balls from the entire United defensive unit. That said, his first touch on the night was borderline atrocious. As much as he improved the side, apart from his unlocking pass to spring Chris Pontius for his second goal, he looked more Mike Sanders than Maicon F. Santos.
- Anybody else look at RBA during the game (when the camera wasn't giving us extreme closeups of whichever player had the ball) and get a little wistful for our future stadium?
- Bodkin. Bodkin. Bodkin. Bodkin. As commenter rke said in the comments last night, "Sign the contract, start the man." That's about all I have to say about that.
- Hamid is officially a beast (again). After single-handedly giving the boys in black a chance to win in Philly last week, he's the chief reason los Capitalinos were within a goal at fulltime last night, too.