USA TODAY Sports
Call it the Escape from Red Bull Arena. The Black-and-Red were second-best for all 90 minutes on Saturday afternoon but managed to keep their Atlantic Cup rivals out of the net and off the scoreboard to come away with a point from the scoreless draw.
Outside of Bill Hamid and Dejan Jakovic - and maybe second-half substitute Marcos Sanchez - nobody playing for D.C. United had a particularly good day on Saturday. Nevertheless, the Black-and-Red escaped New Jersey with a scoreless draw against the New York Red Bulls. When I say that Bill Hamid - sorry, make that Man of the Match Bill Hamid - had a good day, I'm not kidding. He may have won himself his second Save of the Week in this 3-week-old season, and is a surefire lock to keep his spot as top fantasy keeper in MLS for another week.
If only his teammates had been as up to speed as the 'keeper. Striker Lionard Pajoy didn't win enough of his battles with New York center backs Jamison Olave and Markus Holgersson (even if referee Mark Geiger did swallow his whistle entirely too often). Dwayne De Rosario, making his season debut after serving a two-game suspension, never showed the form that makes him the best player for United so frequently and might even be called anonymous on the day. Wingers Chris Pontius and Nick DeLeon saw their dribble attempts thwarted, their passes misplaced and their combination with teammates lacking. The double pivot of Perry Kitchen and Marcelo Saragosa didn't do enough to prevent the Red Bulls from building through the center and did not provide nearly enough going forward. (Indeed, the thing that Saragosa did that most stands out today is failing to come to passes directed toward him, allowing Red Bull players to intercept or put pressure on him that wouldn't have existed but for his failure to properly receive the pass.) The fullbacks, responsible for attacking width as the wingers cut inside, got forward nowhere near often enough and stood off of crossers on the other end of the field too often.
The end result was a nearly 15-point gap in possession on the day, a 24-5 shots difference and a 498-368 advantage in total passes for the Metros. But the end result was also a road point and sole possession - for the moment - of second place in the MLS Eastern Conference. It was a bad day for D.C. United, but we still got something out of it. United won't be able to keep getting results playing this way, and hopefully they won't have to. So many individual players had bad days - if they step up just to their average games, we see a much different attack than we did today, even without any tactical or personnel changes, and we probably aren't as disappointed in escaping with 0-0. We'll get our chance to see those individual improvements - which I fully expect to happen if only because so many players had such bad performances - along with any changes Ben Olsen might make in one week, when United will take on the Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium.
In the meantime, though, watch the highlights and share your thoughts on United's Escape from Red Bull Arena. Disappointed in the performance, or relieved to come away with a point? Who was your Man of the Match? Who was your goat? Let us know in the comments.