I didn't have too hard of a time finding reasons to justify the first loss. On a tiny soaked field with a backline that had hardly yet been introduced to one another, it seemed natural that United would struggle.
Not tonight though.
Now we're only two weeks in and I'm already out of excuses.
This match was much more frustrating to watch. The KC loss felt more like a game that we would be able to look back on and laugh at. But tonight against the Revolution, we dominated possession for most of the first half, and DC looked like the better team as they walked into the locker room after 45 minutes. Maybe not by much, but they certainly looked to be more talented than the injury depleted Revs, and had marginally better scoring opportunities.
I'm not going to say that there was a drastic change between the first half and second, because there wasn't. This was more of a gradual depreciation. And it was also the case of Steve Nicol bringing on a substitute who changed the tone of the match, while Curt Onalfo failed to make any noticeable adjustments until after the team had already fallen behind by two scores.
Kenny Mansally deserves a lot of credit for this Revolution victory, but for me the blame falls on the entire DC United team. The defense looked good in the first half, but that was before they were ever really challenged too much. I still insist that they will continue to improve. But I don't see as much hope in sight for the attack.
Players ratings below.
In only the second start of his career and first appearance of the season, Brandon Barklage may have been United's man of the match. It took him about 20 minutes to settle in and get a feel for the game, but he was constantly involved offensively after that, and was notably not on the field for either New England goal. He almost earned an assist on a cross that led to a Pontius header over the bar, and created a great chance of his own early in the second half by beating a defender to win a header off a corner kick.
Our two central midfielders Santino Quaranta and Kurt Morsink each played much better than they did a week ago. Quaranta had two quality shots on target, one from a free kick and another in the 76th minute after a nice break. And Morsink did well at controlling the midfield and consistently outperforming Pat Phelan. Of course I had Morsink jotted down as a 5 rating after the first half until his failure to make a move on Mansally prior to the second goal.
Juan Manuel Pena and Rodney Wallace each had some positive moments in this match. Similar to Morsink, I thought Pena had earned a 5 rating after the first 45 minutes. His quick decisive accurate distribution is a real nice attribute. But he was beaten by his man Kenny Mansally on the first goal, and I wasn't too happy with him on the second either. Having a strong first half and a weak second half makes me wonder if the 37-year old is fit to play 90 minutes. I was also impressed with Wallace's ability to shut down speedsters like Kevin Alston and Sainey Nyassi, but he was caught ball watching on both goals as well. Most of all, I was truly disappointed that Morsink, Pena, and Wallace were all within 10 feet of Mansally on his second goal but still allowed him to get off a clean shot.
I also thought Carey Talley sucked once again in this match, having multiple giveaways. But to his credit, Talley left the match when United still had a shut out.
Both forwards were a total letdown in this one. Chris Pontius continuously got himself in good positions, but missed the target on every opportunity. And Jaime Moreno just looked too slow at getting the ball off his feet, and totally disappeared in the second half. Look for Onalfo to change things up here next week.
I know we're only two weeks in, but its hard to argue that Christian Castillo has been a bust so far. He has not yet been able to adjust to MLS physically, and I can't think of a single positive contribution that he's made so far. Besides maybe increasing our Salvadoran attendance numbers.
I'm still having a hard time coming up with any positives to take away from this match. Chest gave a lot of examples of the Revs' weaknesses earlier today, but United failed to capitalize on any of them. And rather than taking advantage of our more skilled midfield by keeping possession and being patient in our strikes, DC United once again adopted a more direct approach of advancing the ball straight up the field and leading to far too many turnovers. So the good news is that that's a tactic that we can change.
The other piece of good news that I'm looking forward to is that our next match is against the expansion club Philadelphia Union and some familiar faces in Andrew Jacobson and Fred (and possibly Szetela and Emilio too?). A loss to PU would be devastating, and would rightfully start the "Fire Onalfo" chants much sooner than any of us could have expected.
Anyway, I didn't expect the "It takes more" slogan to be the theme for the entire season.