Luis Silva, ladies and gentlemen! In the post-game press conference, Ben Olsen referred to Silva as "a piece," and it's pretty clear that if he keeps up his level of play since joining D.C. United earlier this month, he's going to be a centerpiece for 2014 and beyond. His goal early in the first half gave United a 1-0 lead over the New England Revolution, a lead they would take into halftime before remembering that they're really just not that good at
defense attack soccer. Second half strikes from Dimitry Imbongo and Diego Fagundez were enough for the Revs to see off United 1-2 in front of 14,122 at RFK Stadium Saturday night.
To lean on a cliche, the match was a classic tale of two halves, with New England seeing more possession but the Black-and-Red creating the better chances through the first 45, with the roles exactly reversed in the second stanza. The difference, as it so frequently does, came down to finishing, with United able to put only three of their 14 shots on target, while the Revs put 5 of 8 on frame. Even if New England have changed styles drastically since Jay Heaps replaced Steve Nicol at the helm, they're still a team that is happy to throw bodies in front of shooters, as their four blocked shots tonight will testify.
Both teams have some reason to be a bit upset with referee David Gantar, who waved off no fewer than three penalty shouts for D.C. United and who blew the whistle for full time with Saer Sene all alone 25 yards from an empty D.C. goal. The latter decision led to his being swarmed by the entire New England team, and we could see the MLS Disciplinary Committee levy Jay Heaps and the Revs with a fine for a violation of the league's mass confrontation rule/initiative/mandate/thing. (Or, we might not; you really never can tell with that shadowy bunch.) Gantar was also very reluctant to go to his pocket for persistent physical play or professional fouls, and the game got a bit away from him as the night went on, though he never fully lost control.
As Olsen said in the press conference, tonight was undeniably "a step in the right direction coming from last week" and the 4-1 embarrassment in Chicago. United ultimately out-possessed and out-shot a very talented, possession-oriented, attacking team. We saw Jared Jeffrey step in for the injured Perry Kitchen and do quite well alongside John Thorrington (who, a half hour stretch of invisibility in the second half notwithstanding, was also good on the night). We saw some flashes of brilliance from Luis Silva and - considering they've been playing together less than a week - glimpses of a potentially strong partnership with debutant Conor Doyle.
Speaking of Doyle, Olsen revealed in the post-game presser that both Carlos Ruiz and Casey Townsend were late scratches from the 18 due to injuries (Take a drink.), but that Doyle "was in the mix" for the start regardless. My impression is that he had planned to use the Derby County loanee as a second half sub, but the injuries forced his hand (and also likely pushed Lionard Pajoy into the roster).
At the back, Woolard was much improved over his debacular (adj., portmanteau of debacle and spectacular; I had to make up a word to describe the depths of suckitude in that showing) performance against the Fire last week. Dejan Jakovic was good, cutting out passes early at times and making several successful emergency tackles as well. Taylor Kemp provided good width and set piece delivery going forward, but was wrong-sided by his mark on New England's first goal. James Riley was James Riley; he got burnt badly - by a header! - to set Imbongo free to set up Saer Sene's crossbar-rattling shot that Fagundez put away for the game-winner. Riley also ended multiple possession spells by missing easy passes. It was not a good night for James Riley, but, then again, it so rarely is.
Joe Willis showed both sides of his game: the sublime and the... decidedly not. He made a few point-blank saves to keep New England off the board through the first half, and had some good stops in the second as well. But like last week's first goal for Chris Rolfe, he has a tendency to find himself in No Man's Land on crosses played out in front of him. Tonight, he took a bad angle to rush toward a cross he couldn't possibly reach and so found himself out of position when Imbongo redirected it at goal.
In the end, it's another loss in a season full of them, but we now know that some of our new, young, American players have some spark to them. And we have this week's stadium framework announcement. So it's not all bad for D.C. United at the moment. Just mostly bad. Majority bad. But still a hell of a lot better than seven days ago.
More from B&RU:
- D.C. United vs. New England Revolution TV schedule, streaming, preview, projected lineup, prediction, and live thread
- D.C. United Scouting Report: New England Revolution
- Monumental FC at the Stadium Press Conference, featuring Ben Olsen and Jason Levien
- D.C. United vs. New England Revolution: Behind Enemy Lines with The Bent Musket
- D.C. United's Stadium Announcement--Is it Enough to Salvage 2013?