Well that wasn't a great way to start the work week.
Although channeling Jim Mora is usually just bad schtick, I now wonder if this team is even really in strong contention for the playoffs any longer. We kept expecting the Columbus Crew and Houston Dynamo to fall off, but they haven't. Third place in the Eastern Conference might still be wide open, but what's the point? If this team from Kansas City is so clearly better than us, what good is it if we even make the playoffs?
Depression doesn't suit me well, so let's try a different perspective. A larger perspective. You've heard this one before: We always knew this year would have its ups and downs. We're a young team that should be better at the end of the season than at the beginning. That's still true. And making the playoffs or not will come down to a point or two on the last week of the season. That's still true too.
Maybe it didn't have to be that way. But that's the way it is. Nothing's changed.
We had started gaining optimism after dominating wins over the San Jose Earthquakes and Vancouver Whitecaps, but this was a dose of reality. We're not one of the best teams in the league quite yet. We just have to hope that maybe in October and November we will be.
The best player for United tonight was Brandon McDonald, who single-handedly broke up at least five SKC attacks with his superior strength and positioning. The Sporks started virtually every single forward in their arsenal. I think I even saw Mo Johnston out there at one point. So keeping them to only one goal was actually pretty impressive.
Dejan Jakovic and Joe Willis also deserve some credit for allowing only a single score. Jakovic displayed excellent recovery capabilities, although United was lucky to never have to pay for any of his turnovers. Willis made some key saves without giving up any rebounds, and didn't really have a chance on the well-struck goal from Kei Kamara.
United entered this match with an advantage on the wings, but Andy Najar and Chris Pontius couldn't make their opponents pay for the extremely attacking lineup they set forth. They could have totally redeemed themselves late in the match as Najar failed to put away Pontius' long diagonal cross that would have forced me to undergo a total rewrite of this story, with absolutely no complaints. Najar did have a really good game defensively though.
The following players had absolutely no impact on the game: Josh Wolff and Blake Brettschneider. Wolff looked like a 34-year old who was a step or two slow and past his prime. Brettschneider looked like a rookie Supplemental Draft pick who didn't belong in the same class as guys like Kamara, C.J. Sapong, Omar Bravo, and Teal Bunbury.
The following players had negative impacts on the game: Daniel Woolard and Clyde Simms. Woolard's failed clearance led to the goal, but he was otherwise awful all night, both defensively and when passing. He should find his name outside of the starting 11 next week. There was a lot of pressure on Simms tonight to be the lone defensive midfield against such an impressive assembly of attacking talent, but he didn't live up to it. He was nondescript and irrelevant. Bypassing Simms was never much of an issue for the Sporks.
As fans, we went into this match feeling like it was a playoff game. But it wasn't. And there's still a whole lot of season left to be played. 10 games to be exact. A lot can happen in 10 games.
The margin for error is now much slimmer though. We can't be giving away earned points. We can't give up cheap goals, or fail to convert easy ones.
The margin for error is nonexistent at home against the Portland Timbers on Saturday night. That's a must-win game. It's a welcomed return to a "sweep the leg" type game. Playoff teams might lose on the road to other playoff teams, but playoff teams absolutely win at home against non-playoff teams.
Is D.C. United a playoff team? Time to find out.