If you were here with us on Thursday night, then you know that I've already given up on the playoffs. All I've got left to root for now are entertaining matches and quality highlights. We had both of those tonight.
The feeling after this D.C. United loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy feels much different from the mid-week loss to the Seattle Sounders. This one was against the best team in the league, and it was a match that we were unlucky not to tie. Thursday's game... Well I don't want to talk about that one anymore.
Entertaining is the word I want to emphasize. This was a fun match to watch. I was watching from the edge of my seat. Maybe if this was earlier in the season or if we were in the middle of the playoff hunt, I would be more upset about a couple non-calls, about some questionable coaching moves, and about some really poor individual decisions. But because of where we are, and because of who they are, I was just able to enjoy the theater of this match.
There were some moments in this match that give us something to look forward to in the future. Namely, the performances of Andy Najar and Pablo Hernandez. On the goal, Hernandez's cross was perfectly placed and Najar's header was well-timed, actually beating two of the best heads in the league in Omar Gonzalez and Edson Buddle. But each did so much more all night. Hernandez looked like United's best player on the field, with great movement on the ball and excellent positional awareness. We're starting to learn what kind of forward he is. He's not a traditional striker, or a traditional withdrawn forward, but he does like to drop back into the midfield to collect the ball. United's strategy for future games should be to make sure Hernandez touches the ball on just about every offensive possession.
Did you happen to notice that both goals and most of the Galaxy's chances came from their right side? Despite Landon Donovan lining up on the left, that side produced little for L.A., due mostly to the positive play of Devon McTavish, with some help from Najar. I also thought Clyde Simms had a pretty good match, with D.C. controlling possession for long periods at a time, and Simms generating several steals.
I don't specifically fault Julius James for his handball in the box that gave L.A. a penalty kick for their second goal. That was really unlucky, and had the ball connected with any other part of his body, United may have gotten the draw that they deserved. But I do fault James for not closing down on Sean Franklin more quickly and closely on the first goal. He had too easy of a time crossing the ball in to Buddle.
But if we're looking for people to blame on the goals, there's some fairly obvious candidates. Jordan Graye and Stephen King each had a giveaway that led to a goal, which wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't turning into a spectacularly disappointing pattern for this team. This is the second time this week that Graye has had a turnover lead to a goal, and he's had several other turnovers that we were lucky enough to escape. King's giveaway was a contributing factor in the first goal, and he didn't do enough to make up for it when attempting to challenge the much stronger Buddle in the box. Lastly, Troy Perkins had no presence on the first goal. Had Donovan Ricketts been wearing that red jersey for us instead of Perkins, I'm fairly certain he would have come out to challenge Buddle and at least make his shot tougher.
Only the final score of this match was disappointing. It certainly lived up to the hype that D.C. United was trying to build.
The team will now turn their focus to Wednesday's critical Open Cup match against Harrisburg, which continues to be the only chance United will have of winning a trophy in 2010. Our next league match isn't for another 13 days, by which time we can look forward to hopefully getting Branko Boskovic in the starting lineup, and maybe even Rodney Wallace too?