As AMT pointed out immediately following the 2-2 tie between D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night, the result was the exact same as the previous match. But the overlying themes were different.
Last week, the theme involved a young defensive player making a rash mistake to cost his team two points. Two goals should have been enough to beat the Houston Dynamo. The young player to make that mistake last week was Bill Hamid.
This week, you could say that another young defensive player made a mistake, but that might be too harsh on Perry Kitchen. His own goal was a bit of a freak deflection. Not only did the ball richochet off his foot towards the goal, but it went just inside Hamid's far post, giving the goalkeeper no chance at getting to it. So we won't shove as much blame onto Kitchen as we did onto Hamid last week. And afterall, the Union are much better team than the Dynamo. You can't say as definitively that two goals should be enough to beat the Union.
This is the kind of game where you just throw up your hands. We played the leaders of the East even, and they needed a lucky bounce and yet another goalpost interfering with a Chris Pontius shot to escape RFK with a point.
Giving up late goals is a troublesome pattern. Fox Soccer highlighted the fact that United has given up eight goals in the final 15 minutes of games. That means that a team has about a 50% chance at scoring in the final sixth of any given match. That needs to change.
As this newly formed team continues to develop, both offensively and defensively, we should be throwing our hands up after games much less often.
United must continue to find ways to get Andy Najar the ball in space, because we just saw what he can do with it. Najar did well defensively on his wing and was instrumental in several other chances for D.C., but his long-distance highlight-reel-worthy goal was what earned him high marks this week.
The impact of Dwayne De Rosario was clear in the first half. He touched the ball on almost every offensive possession. He was quick and decisive with his passing, displaying a great sense of understanding where his teammates were, despite wearing the same color as them for the past four days. He tracked back to get the ball only as far as he had to and no further. He earned an assist on the first goal with a nice pass from the endline into an open Wolff. And then he disappeared. The change in formation from the Union probably had a lot to do with that, but De Rosario didn't have nearly as much impact in the second half.
It was good to see Josh Wolff get on the score sheet after yet another quality performance. In recent weeks, Wolff has shown that he's great at having ideas and generating chances, but the execution is too often just a bit off. He made no mistake about the chance that De Rosario set up for him on Saturday night though.
After a few recent disappointing matches, I was starting to wonder if Ben Olsen might give Steve Cronin a chance in net sometime soon. I'm not having those thoughts now though. Hamid made two fantastic saves that could each be Save Of The Week candidate, and did well to come out and cut down the angle on another chance for Sebastien Le Toux. It won't help his GAA, but this was one of Hamid's best games.
In their first match together, the central defensive partnership of Brandon McDonald and Ethan White seemed to work out pretty well. There were no gaping holes. For the sake of these two though, I'd prefer to see Hamid make a few less amazing saves.
Chris Pontius continues his quest to lead the league in Goal Posts Hit (GPH). The midfielder led the team in shots, but some were better than others. He missed wide on an open header early in the match, and also forced a diving head-splitting save from Faryd Mondragon. He also could have done better on the tying goal from the Union.
Like I said in the lede, we're not going to blame him for the draw, but he'd like to see Perry Kitchen do better the next time he's trying to clear the ball AWAY from the goal.
This may have been the most disappointing match I've seen from Charlie Davies. He didn't look willing to put in the requisite work off the ball, and his first touch failed him on multiple occassions. Davies could have made up for all that though if he was just one step closer to the goalline when Pontius hit the post and the ball was begging to be finished.
Only three other teams this season have scored two goals against the Union. They're defense is well-run and compact. They gave up only two good opportunities all match - United scored on one of them, and hit the post on another. And then Najar went all Najar on them.
With some weaker defensive teams on the upcoming schedule, we could see a bit more offense soon.