United was no match for the 4-3-3 tactics of Sporting Kansas City tonight
Want to see something disgusting?
Rewind the match to about 30 seconds before Graham Zusi scores the winning goal for Sporting Kansas City. You can't just watch the highlights. You have to go farther back. You have to go back to see Neven Markovic dribble 30 yards with the ball unchallenged to the midfield line before sending the ball up to Kei Kamara.
You could count on no hands the number of times that D.C. United was able to dribble the ball 30 yards unchallenged. It didn't happen. Kansas City didn't let it happen.
United's tactical deficiencies were on display yet again tonight in a 2-1 loss on the road to Sporting Kansas City. I'm too lazy to try to count the number of times that United has lost to a team that lines up in a 4-3-3 formation this year, but I'm pretty sure its equal to the number of times that United has played against teams capable of playing with a 4-3-3 competently. For some reason, the high pressure just cripples this team.
United was outpossessed by a mile, and just like on March 10th, had to rely on some impressive saves from Bill Hamid to stay in the match. Hamid couldn't do it all though. He couldn't force his teammates to hold their marks on their corners. And he couldn't stop a wide open Zusi at the back post.
Other teams seem to know how to counteract the 4-3-3. By no definition are the Sporks unbeatable. So why does this United team have such a hard time figuring out any way to come remotely close to beating them?
Care for another disgusting moment?
How about right around when the clock strikes 90:00 and Emiliano Dudar boots the ball up the field right into the chest of Aurelien Collin. No United players were within 10 yards of Collin at the time.
We've given Brandon McDonald a lot of crap this season for his aimless long balls to no one in particular. He doesn't deserve all the blame. When we see Dudar doing the same numerous times in a given match, we begin to wonder if the center backs might be receiving direction from the coaching staff to do exactly what they are doing.
Yet another tactical deficiency.
D.C. United had some positive moments in tonight's loss. For the second game in a row, we saw a right winger make an incredible run to beat multiple defenders and set up the left winger for a goal. Against the Columbus Crew, it was Nick DeLeon gifting a goal to Chris Pontius. Tonight, it was DeLeon receiving the favor from Andy Najar. The Honduran showed plenty of flair to get off a beautiful cross, while DeLeon's assertiveness earned him a chance to put it away.
We can also take some solace in noting the number of players absent from our lineup tonight due to injury. Dwayne De Rosario is obviously the most notable absence, but Hamdi Salihi and Maicon Santos would have been nice to have as attacking options. And the dropoff from Robbie Russell and Daniel Woolard to Chris Korb and Mike Chabala was highly evident in this game.
None of that matters though.
Matches like this make me sad. I'm sad because I really want to see this team win an MLS Cup, and it's really hard to see them doing it this year when they look so hapless against good Eastern Conference teams on the road.