On one hand, July was a month D.C. United needed. MLS and US Soccer's combined scheduling acumen handed United - already MLS's leader in terms of games played - a preposterous 15 games to play over the course of May and June. The needed rest didn't come immediately - if you toss July's first 3 days in with May and June, United's games played total jumps up to 16 - but it was surely required.
However, the 3 games United did play - visits to Seattle and Dallas followed by a home game against Philadelphia - were all potentially crucial, and they didn't really go very well. An early, avoidable red card doomed United in Seattle, though a shot off the crossbar in stoppage time very nearly let them steal a point anyway. Dallas more or less jumped all over United but couldn't find their shooting boots; then again, DCU had to rue two early missed headers on corner kicks that really should have been goals. In any case, United suffered late heartbreak again in Texas, conceding a goal in stoppage time that we may be looking back at come October when it comes down to who wins the Supporters Shield.
The hangover from that letdown apparently continued into United's final match of the month, where Philadelphia gladly accepted United's gift of 2 goals in the first 4 minutes. That set the stage for a dramatic comeback that we would have been talking about for some time if not for this past Saturday's astounding game. Anyway, it was a tough month for voting, so we should try to explain why DeLeon edged out the competition for this month:
Adam M Taylor
In United's three games in July, one player quietly went about his business facilitating possession in midfield and covering for the defensive liabilities of our fullbacks, while at the same time increasing his presence in the attack, showing up in the opponents' box at dangerous times and from interesting angles. July saw him improve each time out, culminating with his best performance of the year - a goal (very nearly two) and an assist in his team's only win of the month. I've got to give the nod to Nick DeLeon, whose play pinching in from his wide position is crucial to Ben Olsen's 442 on both sides of the ball.
With only three games in July, and only one win, there are a lot of ways you could go for player of the month. But one player get consistently better throughout, and is finally reaching the form we all expect him to have: Nick DeLeon.
And finally, my reasoning:
A lot of my vote has to do with one excellent outing (against Philadelphia). In that one, DeLeon was dangerous all night long, leaving the Union flummoxed while being heavily involved in setting Korb up to cross on two goals. He barely put a foot wrong, and in the process may have woken up his inner "2012 constant goal-threat" self.
His other outings against Seattle and Dallas were quieter, but in both games he was the only attacking player with ideas at the start of the game before having to tone those ambitions back and help defensively in games that United was outplayed in. Against Dallas, he had as many tackles as any United player, and he finished every game as one of United's more reliable passers. It was a "little things" month for DeLeon, and he edges out Dykstra and the center backs (who served admirably in those first two games despite near-constant pressure).
Reflecting a month with no dominant player and two disappointing outings out of three matches for the Black-and-Red, DeLeon won despite only getting 3 of 8 votes. Here's where the rest of the votes went:
Ryan Keefer (voting for Andrew Dykstra):
It’s kind of hard to pick a guy in a losing month (you guys remember losing months, right?), but Andrew Dykstra helped keep D.C. United in games more than they had any right to be at times, and were in not for a deflected ball to an opportune player and a golazo from another, D.C. could have been in even better shape than they are. While he is not Bill Hamid (few mortals are), he’s proving to have a nice turn in him for reliable goalkeeping.
leanneelston (voting for Andrew Dykstra):
July wasn't exactly a banner month for United, but I think I'll give my vote to Dykstra. Yeah, the Black-and-Red lost two out of three games, but I thought Dykstra filled in admirably for Bill Hamid nonetheless. We almost didn't lose two out of three, is what I'm saying. Dykstra's proved to be a solid backup goalkeeper (serious praise coming from someone who loved Joe Willis, like, a lot).
blazindw (voting for Bobby Boswell):
There weren't a lot of great performances (or matches) this month, but I'll give some love to Bobby Boswell. He was probably the most solid player this month but he kept our teams in matches and kept the team confident even during some difficult moments.
touchline (voting for Chris Korb):
One player clearly stood out in July, based on one incredible performance: Chris Korb. While he may have flubbed a pass that set up a Philly goal, his play in the Union match was a stand-out for the team and for his career. He had two assists in that one game - more assists than the much-heralded MF Perry Kitchen has had all year. Korb even took a nice shot on goal himself, which isn't a common thing for him. His personal comeback from the first three minutes made him the singular zeitgeist of that game.
BlasianSays (voting for Alvaro Saborio):
Three games, three goals scored by United players, five goals allowed, two losses. It's hard to make much of a case for anyone. One man made a huge difference in the production of the team, and freed up at least one teammate to assume a different role better suited to his skills, and paid instant dividends. My Player of the Month is Alvaro Saborio.
Those are our thoughts, which reflect a frustrating month where United didn't get much consistency and lost what could be critical games when it comes to the Supporters Shield race. It was tough to pick a winner this time, that's for sure. How did you see it? Think we left someone out? Make your case in the comments.