In our review of the Second Sixth of the 2011 D.C. United season, we talked about one theme being consistency, and especially how much our defensive consistency has improved. We also talked about how United had struggled to finish many of their quality chances.
Let's call this game a regression to the mean.
After giving up just four goals in five games, our college-age center backs are playing like college students again. Fortunately for D.C. fans, the San Jose Earthquakes center backs were playing like college students also in the first half, but they improved as the game went on. Perry Kitchen and Ethan White didn't. Neither did Bill Hamid .
All we can do is hope that our young defensive players can learn from the mistakes that they made last night. Every goal that was scored by the Earthquakes could have been prevented by better concentration, better organization, or better communication.
It was good to see United score a couple goals again, but as a team, they were outscored by Steven Lenhart. As a poacher, Lenhart wasn't just lucky to be in the right place at the right time. He knew where the right place would be and what the right time would be before the opposing defenders did. The fashion that the goals were scored though is troubling. The San Jose forwards were more physical than our defenders. Physical was supposed to be one of the strengths of the Kitchen-White pairing. They were also more organized than our tri-rookie backline, but I guess that shouldn't be as big of a surprise.
Full recap here . Player ratings below.
Even if he shocked the world by retiring tomorrow, Blake Brettschneider would still be considered a steal as a 2011 Supplemental Draft pick for what he has accomplished so far. The big forward now has a goal and two assists in his last three matches, and his goal wasn't one that you normally see from a rookie. His turn and quick shot surprised both Bobby Burling and Jon Busch while sneaking the ball low inside the near post. Brettschneider could learn a few things from Lenhart up top though. Lenhart was constantly winning headers and using his body to chest the ball down to oncoming teammates.
If Andy Najar continues having games like this, United is going to win a lot of matches. Always pressing and always dangerous, Najar scored his first goal of the year with a clean finish of a darting run behind the San Jose defense.
He may have been a bit lucky that the ball managed to scoot through the San Jose box without being redirected by a defender, but Josh Wolff did well to identify Najar's run and find him for the first goal of the match. Wolff played the role of creator multiple times in this match. He could have played the role of savior too had his square ball in front of goal later in the match been just a foot closer to Brettschneider and a foot farther from Busch.
Leaving Fred da Silva on the field for the entire match may have been the first time that I totally disagreed with a Ben Olsen decision. Fred was clearly struggling throughout the first half, and United was losing the battle in central midfield, where both of the first half goals were created. Since the plan all along was to bring in Dax McCarty (who called himself 90% fit) at some point in the second half, why not accelerate that a bit? Fred's central midfield partner Clyde Simms also may have been out of position on more than one of the Earthquakes' goals. Its hard to blame Fred too much for this loss since it wasn't his fault that Anthony Ampaipitakwong plowed into his leg, but this wasn't the game that we had hoped to see from our attack-minded central midfielder. Can't really blame Simms either since he was doing the work of two players in the middle for much of the match.
United's three rookie defenders Kitchen, White, and Chris Korb all played like rookies last night. Its a credit to the trio that I've never had to say that before, but this was their worst game collectively. On the first goal, White stepped up to attack the ball carrier but left Lenhart open in the process. Better communication between Kitchen and White would have either told the Terp to stay home, or told Kitchen or Korb to move over towards Lenhart at the same time. Lenhart and Simon Dawkins then each ran right past Korb and White to score the second and third goals.
Busch made a couple big saves in this match. Hamid didn't. One of his two saves in the match resulted in a rebound that the Earthquakes finished, and Hamid appeared to be directly responsible for the fourth San Jose goal, calling off White and Kitchen and leaving his line but failing to knock the ball away from Lenhart in the process. If he stays on his line, Lenhart wouldn't have had a chance of beating him.
United will travel to the difficult Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday for a match against Real Salt Lake , as the team inches closer to that softer half of the schedule that begins in late July. If United can learn some lessons from the mistakes made last night, then I think we'll be content with them being right about where they should be in the standings.