After a very even first half, D.C. United finished tonight's match against the Colorado Rapids with the poorest effort we've seen from them in the 2011 season. Surely there are reasons for that, and surely the altitude is one of them. United appeared to have a few fewer players than Colorado in the second half, and yet I don't remember seeing any red cards.
To be fair, it's worth mentioning that referee Elias Bazakos did a fine job in just his 11th MLS match. Good to see the league adding new officials. Now they just need to phase out some of the old ones.
At full strength, this would have been a tough match. On a neutral field, and with the Golden Boot leader in uniform, this would have been a tough match. But on the road with four defensive starters missing (if you include Clyde Simms), we couldn't have expected much more than a competitive loss. And the match was competitive. Even if the final score didn't look it.
Full recap here. Player ratings below.
A rookie defender from Akron is our Man Of The Match two weeks in a row, and its not our No. 3 overall draft pick either time. That's odd. No. That's Chris Korb. He stood up to Conor Casey at least twice 1v1, and looked capable defending the entire game. His cross to set up Quaranta's goal was truly top-notch. I said last week that he's unlikely to challenge Zayner for the starting job anytime soon, despite a quality performance. Now I'm not so sure.
The lone goal from Santino Quaranta was impressive. He struck it cleanly with his right foot to beat an otherwise unbeatable Matt Pickens. Quaranta's crosses could still use some work, but hopefully this goal will help him get his confidence up.
Each getting their first minutes of the 2011 season, Blake Brettschneider and Branko Boskovic each had some good and some bad moments. Brettschneider had probably the best opportunity of the night for United (other than the goal) by connecting in karate kick fashion with a nicely placed Quaranta cross, but Pickens was up to the task. And if you think for a second that Brettschneider should have done a better job finishing, just ask yourself if Danny Allsopp or Pablo Hernandez would have been anywhere near that ball. But the rookie also gave up possession too easily a few times, which is something we could say too about Boskovic, who still spends too much time on the ground. The Montenegran did a fine job controlling possession in the first half, and tracks back well to get the ball when necessary.
United's center backs were an embarrassment tonight. Rodrigo Brasesco was beaten to a pulp by Caleb Folan for the first Rapids goal, and missed his mark on Folan's second goal as well. Jakovic doesn't appear to be losing his starting job anytime soon. Daniel Woolard also disappointed while playing out of position. He failed to run with Jamie Smith on the game-winning goal. So did Kurt Morsink, while also being inaccurate with his long passes.
Pat Onstad looked old. Well, he is old. And the Houston Dynamo look like geniuses at this point. Tally Hall is a stud, while Onstad has made only one difficult save in three matches. How long are we going to allow him to give up more goals each week than the week before?
A 1-2-0 start isn't what we'd hoped for, but it isn't exactly the end of the world either. United may currently be in 8th place in the Eastern Conference, but they're also only three points out of first. The team has been hit harder with absences than any other team except the Red Bulls so far. That may all be behind us now, as we don't expect minor injuries to sideline Simms, Jed Zayner, Charlie Davies, and Bill Hamid much longer.
It's true. We may have just watched the last match of Onstad's career.
United returns to the field Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Union in U.S. Open Cup action, and then faces the Los Angeles Galaxy at RFK on Saturday.