Normally Shatz always takes care of posting something immediately after a game, but I'm subbing in tonight. Don't bust his chops, he's a new dad! Raise your glass!
Toasting out of the way, it's time to get into the game. Despite sleepwalking through the first 35 minutes of tonight's visit to San Jose, United got lucky and found themselves down just 1-0. Sparked by improvements throughout the midfield and the addition of Jaime Moreno at halftime, DC was much better in the 2nd half and ended up with a 1-1 draw against the Earthquakes.
Tonight was a classic tale of two halves. San Jose dominated the first half, and I'm sure I'm not the only person out there who looked at the scoreboard and wondered how it wasn't more than 1-0. United's defending was a particularly noticeable problem, especially on set pieces. However, much like we've done to several teams this year, San Jose seemed to become a bit satisfied with how things were going. Their shift into a lower gear gave us a reason to believe that this game was not a lost cause, as DC created a couple promising moves just before halftime.
Things were much different in the second half. United began to play the game on their terms, with several rather attractive one-touch passing sequences putting the Quakes on the back foot. San Jose wasn't completely out of the game - their main threat was via deep crosses and long balls - but by and large, DC earned their share of the points due to a marked second half improvement.
Who looked good? Who struggled? Keep reading...
Since I'm about to watch Kill Bill Vol. 1 before bed, I'm switching from your usual past United players to an assortment of Kill Bill villains. Why? Well, no one's here to stop me, that's why.
No one really stood out tonight, so the honor of being DC United's Gogo Yubari will not be given out. Pity.
Not everything Jaime Moreno attempted worked out, but he was able to change how the game was being played by slowing things down, taking care of the ball, and adding some thought to an otherwise straight-ahead, predictable DC attack. Credit Curt Onalfo for making the right switch here, rather than going like-for-like.
Andy Najar wasn't able to get on the ball often enough, but he made a difference tonight. His goal was obviously vital, and his speed caused both Ramiro Corrales and Bobby Convey to approach the game more conservatively.
Staying on our right flank, I thought Devon McTavish was the one defender to have a reasonably solid night for the most part. While everyone else seemed to be losing marks for fun, McTavish made sure San Jose didn't get much going from his side.
At halftime, Stephen King would have gotten a very low rating. However, in the second half he really found the game and seemed to be everywhere at once for our attack. His cross to Najar was inch-perfect, to boot. I'll split the difference and give him a 3.
I felt like Troy Perkins had a game that left me a little nervous most of the night. Granted, his center backs really let him down on numerous occasions, but Perkins didn't step forward with a captain's display in response. Still, with the game in the balance, he made an outstanding save on substitute Omar Jasseh to ensure DC took a point from their trip. He was also pretty solid claiming crosses, of which there were many.
Chris Pontius was busy enough, but didn't make enough of an impact despite seeming to have the better of Jason Hernandez. Given the chance to give United a thoroughly undeserved equalizer on a first half corner kick, he inexplicably headed well over the bar despite being unmarked. If we're going to continue improving, Party Boy is going to have to give us more than this.
Jordan Graye still appears uncomfortable at left back, and he left several gaps that were exploited. Even after the change at right midfield for San Jose, Graye struggled to track Arturo Alvarez, who might have scored on two different occasions if he were sharper at the moment.
It was a long night for Dejan Jakovic and Juan Manuel Pena, who struggled all night swapping their marks. On another night, this game could have been dead and buried (get it? Ernie helped bury the Bride...come on!) before I finished my first beer. United's marking only improved a bit in the second half, which is why the improved possession play from the guys in front of our defense was important.
For someone that seems ensconced in a starting role, it's been a long time since Santino Quaranta played well. I really want him to become a star in a DC shirt, but this was yet another performance where something went wrong for Tino too frequently. If it wasn't a bad decision, it was a touch that slowed an attack. His movement is still pretty good, but until Branko Boskovic and Pablo Hernandez adjust to MLS, Quaranta has to be the driving force of our offense. Tonight, he just wasn't up for the job, and you start to wonder if Hernandez won't be pressuring him for a starting job rather than Adam Cristman.
Speak of Cristman, he had a rough night before being rightly subbed off at halftime. Cristman's a big, tough character and a hard worker, but none of these came into play for him tonight. He seemed a little heavy in the legs and didn't chase San Jose's backs down often enough, and his hold-up play was virtually non-existent.
All in all, I think this was a fair result for two teams that had long stretches of poor play. DC survived a terrible opening phase, while San Jose was pretty bad for most of the middle of the game. In the last 15 minutes, both teams seemed to reach an equilibrium as the game headed towards a draw (with that Perkins save from Jasseh the best chance either way). It's not a tragedy to draw in a city that has never been kind to us, but one can't shake the feeling that United needed to step up a bit more and seize this game when it was there for the taking.