This wasn't the lineup that we expected from the LA Galaxy. After playing three games within the last two weeks, we thought we'd see the Galaxy rest a few starters. Like Robbie Keane maybe.
They didn't. And he made us pay.
But this wasn't the lineup that we expected from D.C. United either. Two designated players on the bench? No attacking midfielders?
The roster choices from Ben Olsen surprised us tonight, but so did the effort from his team. United should not have looked like the more tired team tonight. But D.C. was unable to keep the Galaxy off the board at the end of the first half, and then two more goals in the second half put it out of reach.
We knew that this was going to be a tough start to the MLS season for United. This team needed time to gel, but yet they were forced to begin the season with the regular season champions of their respective conferences. The Galaxy and Sporting Kansas City had essentially their same lineup as last year. We didn't.
Branko Boskovic and Hamdi Salihi each began the match tonight on the bench. Why? We're not quite sure about that. But there was a significant gap in quality between the two sides tonight.
Hopefully we won't still be saying that a month from now.
There were definite tactical inefficiencies tonight. United was slightly better in possession than it was against the Sporks, but not by much. Not by enough to beat the Galaxy. Dwayne De Rosario failed to make an impact yet again. And the chemistry still wasn't there. The chemistry may not be there for another several weeks. Or months.
But the chemistry won't improve with Salihi on the bench.
Starting in the Albanian's place, Maicon Santos had a few chances to get United on the board. Had Salihi received the same chances, this very well could have been a different game.
Thankfully, United did add a late goal to hopefully earn some confidence leading into next week. In his first MLS appearance, rookie Nick DeLeon finished off a play set up by Marcelo Saragosa, scoring a goal eerily similar to Chris Pontius' first MLS goal.
But the failure of the match came in the back. Keane had way too much room to work, and Chris Korb giving up the ball directly to the other team certainly didn't help. We hoped the substitution of Emiliano Dudar for Dejan Jakovic at halftime would sure up the defense, but they let in two more goals after that. And yet I think we're very likely to see Dudar getting his first start next week.
United will stay on the west coast for the next six days and then pay a visit to the Vancouver Whitecaps, who have a star-powered attacking combination of their own. United's defense will have to improve significantly before then to avoid giving up three goals yet again.