Yes, the schedule has been tough. But D.C. United has now lost three of its first five matches of the 2013 season, scoring only two goals in the process. That's good enough to be better than the Chicago Fire, but no one else. Let's get to it.
Ben Olsen (via dcunited.com): We talk about earning the right to play soccer. If you battle and win second balls in this league, you’re ultimately going to have more possession. We’re not good enough to start from (goalkeeper) Bill (Hamid) and build out of the back and play like the best team in the world. We’ve got to earn the right to play, and today we did that. It’s not easy to come in here and play well, but this was our best effort to date. Unfortunately we didn’t get anything out of it.
Steve Goff: Pajoy continues to frustrate and befuddle. He works hard. He provides moments of promise, like tonight just before the half when he beat two defenders in the box. He does occasionally score. But he also doesn’t seize on opportunities — like the two in the first half tonight. On a punch-less team that can’t afford to let chances pass by, those misses are magnified.
More Steve Goff: Midway through the first half, Bieler "punched me in the throat," defender Brandon McDonald said. United pleaded for a red card, but because the incident happened away from the ball, none of the officials apparently witnessed it ... "If he doesn’t get suspended," McDonald added, "Kansas City turned into the Lakers," implying MLS would give star treatment to Sporting ... "He clearly hit him," United goalkeeper Bill Hamid said.
- The fans have been pretty frustrated this year that no starting quality central midfielders were added in the offseason. At least none without a long history of injuries. Well this was the first match that gave us the hint that that starter might already be on our roster. He may have had some lapses, but Raphael Augusto was really good in several stretches of the match, quickly, decisively, and precisely distributing the ball under pressure, playing the two-way midfield role in exactly the way Ben Olsen wants it played. With some more consistency, he could be a regular starter in this system.
- This was also the best Perry Kitchen has looked this season, which goes even further to prove that we don't need two pure defensive midfielders in our lineup. I'd forgotten that Benny Feilhaber was on the field by halftime, and Kitchen was the major reason for that.
- Aurelien Collin and Matt Besler get a lot of press for being the best central defensive duo in MLS, and rightfully so, but I'm not sure that Dejan Jakovic and Brandon McDonald aren't all that far behind. They shut out one of the best teams in the league for 89 minutes (but definitely could've done better on the goal). They've now allowed just three goals in four matches together, all coming in the two most difficult places to play in the Eastern Conference. Now if only we could occasionally score a few...
- Ah, the offense. Well at least the passing was better in this game. If the mission from the last two weeks of practice was to get back to fundamentals, it paid off. Next week? Let's practice generating chances. There weren't enough in this game. Let's practice giving the opposing goalkeeper something to do every so often.
The Last Word
Just like in Houston, United was out-possessed and largely out-classed, but kept the score even until the end. In both games, the better team won. But even though we weren't that much worse than either the Dynamo or the Sporks, it would be hard to argue with United's current position of ninth place in the conference.
You could question the coaching. You could question the tactics. But for me it all goes back to the offseason, and to what our front office has left us with. In an improving conference, United is one of the few teams that has less talent on the roster than it had last year. Sure, Rafael has loads of potential, but we lost very important players from central midfield and right back, and we replaced them with guys who weren't wanted by their previous crappy MLS teams.
When our new owners arrived with their deep pockets and cool-sounding names and contrived cliches and illogical plans to be a "global brand," I was honestly worried that D.C. United would be abandoning its traditions and adopting instead the player acquisition strategies of the Galaxy and Red Bulls. Well, I guess we don't have to worry about that anymore. But I don't really think that I like this any better.
But hey, if the whole idea is for ownership to control costs while United remains at RFK Stadium and then start opening the checkbooks once we have our own home, I can buy into that. I can be patient. But if that's the case, then we HAVE TO see progress on the new stadium. We just have to.
Build me a stadium and all will be forgiven.