He arrived in the area just yesterday, and in the 46th minute, Indonesian starlet Andik Vermansyah entered today's reserve match for D.C. United on the RFK Training Grounds. Immediately, he made his presence known. The 20-year old midfielder received his first ball of the game and made a quick cut up the field before getting taken down for a foul about 10 yards from the corner of the box. It was one of numerous impressive plays made by Vermansyah in the second half of a 2-0 loss to the Montreal Impact in the MLS Reserve League.
Vermansyah was inches away from earning an assist later in the match as he finished a smart give-and-go run with Brazilian Raphael Augusto by hitting an endline cross into the path of Dennis Chin, a trialist from Orlando City. Chin led the USL-Pro in goals this season with 11, but he wasn't able to get his foot on the ball as it was barely cleared away before he could reach it.
With a height of 5'-4", it would be easy to write off Vermansyah. Clearly he hasn't written himself off though. Playing in the right midfield position, Vermansyah was brimming with confidence throughout his time of the field. But he also disappeared for long stretches of the match. Vermansyah didn't make many defensive contributions for United, and certainly wasn't going to win any balls in the air. He undoubtedly has some ball skills that he'll use with success at SOME level. I'm just not yet convinced that level will be MLS.The United reserves lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, with Lewis Neal playing a more defensive role behind Yahn Erka, a trialist from the Harrisburg City Islanders. Augusto occupied the left wing with Mechack Jerome (also of Orlando) on the right. Jerome moved to the back line in the second half, taking over for Robbie Russell on the right. Mike Chabala, Lars Eckenrode (Academy player), and Ethan White made up the rest of the back line. Maicon Santos and Long Tan were the starting forwards, with Santos giving way to Chin late in the first half.
Despite the score line, goalkeeper Joe Willis may have been the Man Of The Match. You might take that as a compliment to Willis, or you might take that as a burn against the rest of the team. Both would be accurate. Willis was hung out to dry many times in the second half and was forced to make some difficult 1v1 saves. Eckenrode and White both looked good in the first half, but made some mistakes in the second. They also didn't get much help from their teammates as Jerome and Chabala each turned in some pretty underwhelming performances.
It was interesting to see the team employ what I'm going to start calling the Olsenian 3-5-2 when in possession in the second half. Its something we've seen before in league play, with only the defensive midfielder holding back to sit between the two center backs as the outside backs move high up the field to join the attack. In league play, its been Perry Kitchen that stays behind to cover, but today it was Neal. This left the back line exposed to counterattacks, and that's exactly how the Impact's second goal was scored.
Of the first team players that took the field, Willis, Santos, Neal, White, and Russell clearly appeared to be above the reserve league level, while Chabala and Tan looked right at home.
As for Andik Vermansyah, I don't think a determination can be made yet. His ball skills, speed, and attacking awareness certainly have some utility (the "Indonesian Messi" nickname isn't totally baseless). But with a coach that has placed such a high importance on having his midfielders play both directions, and on a team where other highly skilled players like Branko Boskovic and Hamdi Salihi have struggled to earn playing time, Vermansyah might not be the right fit at this time.