There is little denying that D.C. United played like a team missing its three most effective threats from 2014. Additionally, the fact of the matter is that if you are going to rely on a castoff and a guy in his tenth start in 20 months as your main offensive threats, things are going to be a bit rough. With that said, D.C. United has had problems addressing an inexperienced backline before, and like before when they had so many veterans at their disposal, they looked equally unprepared to handle the challenge. Equally frustrating is the past demonstrated skill of Steve Birnbaum and Bobby Boswell disappearing in front of an opposing attacker, also something that has happened in the last month. No matter who is in the lineup or who is hurt, considering the relative lack of turnover in the Black and Red locker room, these things are a problem.
Our Words (Steven Streff): "It was (Bradley) Wright-Phillips, who won the Golden Boot in 2014, who opened the scoring for New York in the 25th minute. Dax McCarty was given space near midfield, and looped a ball over the center defending pairing of (Steve) Birnbaum and (Bobby) Boswell. Wright-Phillips did well to knock the ball down to himself in the box, and then fired a shot that skipped around Birnbaum and under Hamid for the 1-0 lead."
MLS Soccer: "United would live to rue their missed chance as New York doubled their advantage in the 71st minute. After Red Bulls midfielder Felipe forced a Davy Arnaud turnover in the DC half, the ball fell to (Bradley) Wright-Phillips who turned provider on the move. The Englishman found his fellow countryman, (Lloyd) Sam, on the right wing and the midfielder did the rest, powering his shot past (Bill) Hamid’s near post."
Washington Post (Steven Goff): "Chris Pontius’s penalty kick sailed into the cold evening Sunday, clearing the crossbar like a jet leaving nearby Newark airport. Down by a pair of goals in stoppage time, D.C. United was not going to win this MLS match at Red Bull Arena, and Pontius’s wayward attempt was symbolic of a performance that was off-kilter from the opening kickoff."
CSN Washington (Dave Johnson): "There were too many holes in United’s usually organized defense. On the first goal the Red Bulls' Wright-Phillips was able to slip into space on a long ball from Dax McCarty. The ball was well played by McCarty, but still Wright-Phillips should not have been given that kind of room to operate. Wright-Phillips had 27 goals last season, but did not have a shot in week one. The connection with Wright-Phillips was better because the midfield of McCarty, Sasha Kljestan and Felipe Martins was given too much time and space."
Once A Metro: "Lloyd Sam added to the tally in the second half, blasting one near side past Hamid in the 71st minute after Wright-Phillips (1 goal, 1 assist on the day) laid the ball off for him. There was a moment of panic late on as D.C. earned what looked like a dubious Penalty Kick with Davy Arnaud going down on, drawing a foul against Matt Miazga. The soccer gods must've been shining down on the Red Bulls though as Chris Pontius drove the ensuring PK way over the bar, and ended the game at 2-0."
We understand some of the needs that Ben Olsen has as D.C. United coach. A team of proven vets not only helped them engineer the biggest turnaround in Major League Soccer history, and put more butts in seats compared to previous years, but (and to buttress a recent Brian Straus point), this performance helped in the vocal support to secure a soccer specific stadium within Washington. But the deal has been signed and the land is being cleared. The team has started to put together and establish (or renovate) pieces needed to help be a presence for professional soccer in Washington. With that in mind, part of this means the promotion and/or encouragement of young players who have grown up in the area and have played/are playing with their hometown team. However, is D.C. United doing anything that anyone else isn't doing right now? Or more to the point, are they being beat to many of these things at the moment?
The Last Word:
In middle-ish March, now that you're out of CONCACAF Champions League play, why not take a flyer on some of the players in your pipeline and try some things? Unfortunate circumstance did not allow for Collin Martin, Michael Farfan (groin injuries) and Miguel Aguilar (personal reasons) to not be available for selection Sunday. With that said, even if they were healthy, what's to say that Olsen would even consider them?
We like guys like Bill Hamid and Andy Najar. But consider for a moment Ethan White, Conor Shanosky, Michael Seaton, Jalen Robinson and Collin Martin combined for 4,113 minutes played for the first team in regular season. Taking White out of the mix and you have roughly a quarter of that total (1,086). By comparison, Maxime Tissot of the Montreal Impact has played 1,155 minutes by his lonesome since 2013. That's...not great, Bob. With a stadium being slowly prepared, D.C.'s plan for home grown talent appears to be making a kid feel as comfortable as possible but ultimately, if the gaffer is place-holding a team of some capability until the cement starts to be poured, when it comes to the youngsters, the environment appears to be professionally stifling. On a day when many of the DCU Youth were in attendance for the rivalry game, being part of a club whose reach in the area for the most part exceeds a 50-75 mile radius, what is the inspiration to be affiliated with D.C. United at this point if you aren't going to get any run?
We get that Olsen and Dave Kasper are going to be here awhile. We also get that at least when it comes to yesterday that circumstances were a tad extenuating. But we've been talking about what the next stage of things should be for D.C. United for a little while now, and with that in mind, what's to say that it is going to change? At least Olsen has talked about the financial realities of D.C. United, so there is a sense of cognizance among them. To their credit, they have invested some money into the infrastructure into things like a new auxiliary field and residency program. As a result, one is left with games like this, where the team looks slow, old, or in simpler terms, exactly how they were built. And there are 32 games left, excluding US Open and CCL tournaments. But I think we can at least agree on two things: one, that though they've attempted to cast the net wider, the fruits of this are not going to be reaped for awhile. However, the second part is that if they had taken thought and care to develop infrastructure past the crown jewels, perhaps they would not look as slow, as old, as they did yesterday?
So now it's back to Estadio RFK, and a date with a Los Angeles Galaxy squad missing Jaime Penedo, Gyasi Zardes (whose progress as a homegrown player has surpassed his contemporaries in D.C., I might add) and most likely Robbie Keane due to the international window. On paper, while it's a game that D.C. should win or at least compete in, the fact of the matter is the last time D.C. actually beat L.A., this happened, shortly after goals from Marcelo Gallardo and Luciano Emilio (on a hot-ass day I may add). And if they haven't gotten points through the years, what's to say they're going to get them now?