The game changed last night when David Beckham entered for the LA Galaxy. Not because his crossing skills made much of a difference. Not because D.C. United was starstruck. Not because of his mullet and size XXS jersey had our players confused. But because Beckham's entrance meant that Landon Donovan was moved to forward.
The Galaxy made a good adjustment. United didn't.
Shutting out the first place and highest scoring team in the league on the road for 80 minutes is a decent accomplishment. Shutting them out for the final 10 is apparently more than we can ask from this United team this year.
Our defense has improved. No doubt. But this season was lost before it started. Because the team didn't address the defense in the offseason, despite losing their most important defender before 2009 was even over. Our center backs have the potential to be among the best in MLS, but they're still young. Leadership is lacking.
We miss Bryan Namoff every single week. We especially missed him last night.
This season has sucked. But there are two players who have emerged this year that made it suck just a little less.
The word is overused, but Andy Najar is an enigma. He's a scoring threat every time he touches the ball, especially on counterattacks where the team looks to him whenever they're in transition. He scored a left-footed goal to finish off a play that he helped create, and totally dominated his side of the field.
The other player who I've really liked watching this season is Julius James, who has gone from a journeyman with some nice physical attributes, to being on the fringe of the most talented defenders in the league. James was matched up against the MLS leading scorer Edson Buddle for most of the game and James got the better of him the way few defenders have in 2010.
Troy Perkins made several quality saves and for the second week in a row looked totally confident snagging crosses and controlling his box. That's change from earlier in the season. I'm predicting that Perkins will be the favorite to win the MLS Comeback Player of the Year award in 2011. I just don't know if he'll be doing it here or in Vancouver. I'm also looking forward to seeing what Pablo Hernandez can do next year with a full season, and hopefully with a more capable striking partner.
With a chance to even up the game and earn United a point on the road against the league leaders, Branko Boskovic telegraphed his shot and allowed Donovan Ricketts to make an easy save. Contrast that with the one-on-one opportunity from L.A.'s first designated player Landon Donvan, who had no trouble scoring in a similar situation. Boskovic must do better.
Assigned to mark Donovan on his second goal of the match was Jordan Graye. Obviously it was a really nice play from the Galaxy, but Graye could have made it more difficult. I'd also like to see a bit more consistency in crossing from the rookie. He delivered in a few really nice crosses, but he had others that were way off the mark and out of play.
Dejan Jakovic is generally very good when under pressure at the back, but when holding onto a slim lead late in a game and the best player in the league is the one applying that pressure, it's best just to clear the ball. Jakovic and Clyde Simms are two competent players, but there's no excuse for their lack of communication on the Galaxy's first goal.
D.C. United continues their quest to not finish in last place and not have an all-time low point total and not have an all-time low goal total next week at RFK Stadium. They trail the Houston Dynamo by just five points, so a win would be a huge boost to meeting one of those goals.