The Last Word: Only One Tune-up Left Until the USOC Semifinal

Luis Silva--D.C. United's 2013 league scoring co-leader (and he's only played two games). - Paul Frederiksen-USA TODAY Sport

Some may call Saturday's loss to the New England Revolution the 21st game of the MLS regular season. I like to think of it as the penultimate warm-up to the US Open Cup semifinal.

In its second-to-the-last practice game prior to the US Open Cup semifinal on Aug. 7 against the Chicago Fire, D.C. United dropped another Major League Soccer regular season match. This time, the opponent was the New England Revolution. The score was 2-1. It was United's 15th loss out of 21 league matches, for a 71% losing rate. On the plus side, however, the Black-and-Red handed the Revs the "team with the worst stadium situation" award following the game in a brief ceremony. A family of RFK racoons was then seen boarding New England's bus for the trip back to Foxboro.

Their Words:

- Steven Goff: "With the 2013 season in tatters, D.C. United has no choice but to abandon the present and peer to the future. The outlook for a new stadium is brighter than ever following Thursday's announcement by the club and mayor. A freshly acquired midfielder continues to show off his long-range aim. Other newcomers carry raw promise. But on nights like Saturday, the on-field future - much like Buzzard Point - still seems a long way off."

- Adam Taylor: "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."

- Ben Olsen, via dcunited.com: "[Luis] Silva is a real piece, and we are looking to add as many real pieces to the club right now. I've got one eye here presently on the week-to-week MLS...I have another eye on the Open Cup, which is a big deal, and finding out what the best team is that we would have out there. And I have my third eye on the future of this club, and that's a very important thing right now. I still believe in the future of this club and a bunch of these guys I have in this locker room."

- Ben Olsen on Jared Jeffrey and Conor Doyle, via dcunited.com: "[Conor] Doyle got here this week, and he has only been in two training sessions. We came across a few injuries late with [Carlos] Ruiz and [Casey] Townsend, and we figured it was a good chance to try him and I thought he did fine. It's not an easy exercise for him to go out in his first game in a while with new teammates, but I saw good things. He puts himself in good spots and physically he can do the work, but he probably has to be a little more combative. His feet are good, though, and again the important thing with him was he was in the right spots and when things start to click, he will be an effective player for us. And Jared [Jeffrey] did fine. Jared hung in there, and hasn't had a lot of games either as we still try to get guys where they need to be."

- Dwayne De Rosario, via dcunited.com: "It's refreshing for me to see [Luis Silva] read that and play and move-to feel that and sense that he's there and wants the ball. I like that. I get giddy when players get that ball and can read that and he has that ability. He has that ability. You see the shot from outside the box. He had the opportunity to play it wide, and I told him since he got here: ‘Stop looking to pass the ball, you've come here to score goals. You have the opportunity to strike the ball, strike it.' And he's done it two times and put the ball in the back of the net. It may not be me, but it's nice to see that confidence, that he could have laid it off to Nick [DeLeon] running wide, but he took the shot and it went in the back of the net. I love to see that confidence from an attacking player."

- Luis Silva on the differences between Toronto FC and D.C. United, via dcunited.com: "It's totally different. Over there, I was playing as a forward. Maybe sometimes they'd drop me back in the midfield, but here the coach is trying to give me the freedom to play as a number 10, which is my natural position, so it's totally different. I have the freedom to go anywhere on the field here, and, defensively, as long as we're organized I'm fine."

- New England Revolution Coach Jay Heaps, via dcunited.com: "I admire Ben [Olsen]. I think Ben was the one who opened the door for guys like us to coach for the team that they played for. Benny's got a great vision of what he wants the team to be. I think it's a tough situation, but if anyone can get them through it's Benny. He's not only dealing with what he's dealing with this year, but you can see the foundation he's building. I think the moves they've made for Luis Silva, who I think is an excellent player, and for Jared Jeffrey, who to me is going to be an excellent player in MLS. And obviously Conor Doyle who's here probably six months and they've got to make a decision. For me, those three key additions for the team are dangerous. I think we went through it a little bit last year and they're going through it a little bit this year. When you play younger players, you can build a good core and then you've got to let them get games and results aren't always predictable when you have a group that's coming together."

My Words:

This was a game in which Luis Silva cemented his place as the most impactful field player on D.C. United's squad. What did Toronto not see in him? Other young/new players also saw action. Jared Jeffrey played well filling in for Perry Kitchen, and the pairing of the two together is something I want to see as soon as Kitchen is healthy. Conor Doyle didn't make much of an impact on the game, but he also only had the benefit of two training sessions with D.C. United prior to the match. Taylor Kemp was hot and cold on the night. His set pieces were definitely an upgrade over what we've seen earlier this season, but he was at fault on the first goal when he allowed Dimitry Imbongo to beat him to Chris Tierney's cross. He also badly flubbed some open play crosses much to the consternation of his teammates.

The Last Word:

In the warm afterglow of last week's D.C. United stadium announcement, I'm choosing to take the most optimistic view possible of last night's loss to New England. Since D.C. United's regular season has realistically been over for months now, the value of the match against the Revs wasn't what it could do for United in the league standings, but rather how it can help them prepare for the Aug. 7 US Open Cup semifinal against Chicago. Yes, these are professional players who are expected to give their all for each and every game, and yes the on-going losing hurts the team in many ways (although next season's #1 draft choice will be welcome). But, getting the win in Chicago should be the on-field focus now.

So, how did this game help Ben Olsen and his team prepare for Aug. 7? Well, there's no doubt now that Silva is the engine pushing this team forward. The game also showed that he and DeRo can combine together to create on the attack. And, this may be the game we look back on to say that the mantle of responsibility to be the "go to player" was handed to Silva. It also seems likely that Jeffrey earned himself another look next week against the Montreal Impact in the build up to the Open Cup semifinal. On the other end of the bench, how can Olsen continue to start James Riley and give Lionard Pajoy minutes? Finally, Olsen must figure out how valuable Kemp's set piece play is for D.C. United while bringing along other aspects of the young player's game.

What are the biggest issues facing D.C. United in the run up to the Aug. 7 US Open Cup semifinal? What questions still need to be answered against Montreal next week? What starting XI do you want to see in the semifinal?

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