There were a few positives that came out of D.C. United's 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night. One is that we learned that we still have a major issue facing teams that employ a high pressure style. Now we know we have something to work on. Better to learn it now than to learn it when SKC or the Houston Dynamo are knocking us out of the playoffs, right?
Another positive is that our wingers are freakin' awesome. But I guess we already knew that. We've known that since Nick DeLeon first pushed Chris Pontius out of the starting lineup back in March. And just in case you were starting to doubt, DeLeon proved it to you again for the second match in a row. On a play created by a great individual effort by Andy Najar to beat multiple defenders, DeLeon out-hustled a Kansas City defender and goalkeeper to put the ball away.
Had the 1-1 score held up, we might have called the DeLeon goal one of the biggest plays of the season. Grabbing a draw on the road against the presumptive best team in the Eastern Conference (you heard that, New York) would have been huge for United. But the journey for a Road Win Against A Good Team rolls on still.
The defense was under constant pressure. Holding this Kansas City team to only two goals is a legitimate accomplishment in itself. Or at least it would be if the Sporks weren't among the lowest scoring teams of all playoff contenders. Brandon McDonald and Emiliano Dudar cleared many chances, but didn't do well at keeping possession for the team. You could say the same about the full backs too. In his first game with United, Mike Chabala was nowhere to be seen when Sporting were busy scoring the winning goal in his portion of the field, while on the first goal, Chris Korb marked a ref.
In other news, Bill Hamid made some very good saves to keep United in the game. But he also let Graham Zusi score a goal while shooting the ball pretty much right at him. So there's that.
This wasn't the match for Long Tan. And that's not necessarily his fault. In a match that featured plenty of long clearances from the back line, this match needed a player who could win some of those balls that fell in his general area, and to do something with it. Like Dwayne De Rosario, or Maicon Santos. Both were out with injuries. A concern though might be that Tan probably would've started ahead of Santos, even if Santos were healthy. And the result would have been the same.
This wasn't the match for Branko Boskovic either. And that's not necessarily his fault. Boskovic's strength is a sharp delivery when he has time to pick out his passes. He didn't have time against Sporting. And he's not specifically the hardest worker, which I don't mean as a criticism, but just to say that you wouldn't list work rate as one of his strengths like you would for Danny Cruz. We needed someone with such a strength to be available for his back line. Someone like...
Someone like Perry Kitchen? Hmm. Come to think of it, this was the match for Perry Kitchen. And if he didn't make it count, yeah maybe that is his fault. The Sporks were generating chance after chance from the midfield without being inhibited by Kitchen. As the harder working of our two central midfielders, it was Kitchen's responsibility to not only slow the Kansas City offense, but also to help in transition when the D.C. defense would win the ball. He did neither. His movement wasn't good enough, and it was one of the reasons United lost this match.