D.C. United came off a win over the New England Revolution in the grueling heat and ahead of a game against a generally surging Toronto FC (?) squad, facing a Chicago Fire squad missing their top players, the challenge for Ben Olsen was to pick a squad that could not be a full bore starting one, but one strong enough to take at least one and hopefully all three points. And that's just what they did Wednesday night,defeating the Fire 1-0 and widening their lead over the Revs (losers to Columbus Crew SC) to 10 points in the process.
Our Words (Steven Streff): "Olsen then turned to his bench to help find a goal, but it was Doyle who ended up being the match winner. Espindola, who had entered the game for Silva, sent in a free kick that was flicked on by Doyle near the top of the box. The ball bounced around to Boswell, who saw his shot blocked. As the ball rolled out of the box, Doyle hit a one-timed shot that was rising all the way as it ripped into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead after 73 minutes."
MLSsoccer.com (Shane Murray): "With second-place New England Revolution falling to Columbus Crew SC on the same night, United’s 34 points from 19 games gives them a 10-point cushion in the table. The Fire, meanwhile, complete the month of June without an MLS win, losing all four ties to find themselves rooted to the bottom of the East with 14 points from 15 games.
Fire head coach Frank Yallop returned to a mostly first-choice lineup after their US Open Cup win last week over Louisville FC, although they were still without the injured Shaun Maloney (back) and David Accam (hamstring) and the suspended Matt Polster."
Hot Time in Old Town: "Let's assume all that, and answer me this: How can a manager who's won 10 of his previous 49 league matches say, "Yeah, if this keeps up, mebbe someday - hoo! There'll be, like, pressure, or summat." (I'm paraphrasing, angrily. Gimme some space.) HOW? How can we pretend that MLS is truly a competition, and not a series of athletic pseudo-competitions staged for the benefit of a few interlocked investment groups? Because, anywhere else in the world, the only team in the third-largest media market in the country just cozying down for a nice summer's nap at the bottom of the table would be a FIRST. CLASS. BUSINESS. EMERGENCY."
Earlier in the week,we babbled a bit about how D.C. United needed to find their road form because they were going to be gone from RFK for a bit, and that the upside of this was that they would be finding a couple of these teams on the bad foot, starting with Wednesday night's opponent Chicago. But a couple of y'all were downright depressing when the starters were announced before the game. I won't single anyone out, but I'm not exactly sure what it is you wanted. Did you want Ben Olsen to run Fabian Espindola, Chris Rolfe, Nick DeLeon and Perry Kitchen out for 90 minutes three days after a match with one second place team only to again play them three nights later against Toronto's folks? What is it that you want?
At some point, there HAS to be minute management for players. Granted, injuries to a half dozen regulars forced the issue, but only seemed to move Olsen to action sooner. But the fact remains, by rough count, D.C. will play 42 games this year of consequence, from late February to late-ish October. That not only excludes playoff games, it excludes any more U.S. Open Cup games past next week's at the Philadelphia Union (by comparison, they played 41 from the season opener to the elimination game eight months later). There is the outside chance that D.C. could hit 50 games played in 2015, so the Luke Mishus and Jared Jeffreys of the world are going to be necessary recurring appearances. There is also the investment of time and consideration towards bringing players back to full health. As Sean Franklin and Chris Pontius return, they will be weaned back into the lineup as well, much like Espindola or others before him. Same with Michael Farfan. There are still things to sort out with the roster in terms of who has what spot, assuming there is one to guarantee to anyone at this point. That Olsen can use these players and cultivate a sense of getting them out there to play for more time earns them...more time. It happens with Davy Arnaud, who will keep running in June D.C. weather until his AARP card gets delivered, and it happens with Conor Doyle who plays a ton of minutes in a short amount of time, culminating in the game winning goal Wednesday night. You breed that, it happens when you need it, such as in June for instance.
The Last Word:
D.C. moves on and plays Toronto, who beat the Montreal Impact as part of something MLS calls Rivalry Week which is weird, since this may mean Metros supporters don't get to put another coat of paint on the "We are the DC Haters" banner or something. But it is games like Wednesday that prove why games like Saturday are ones were the first XI need to show up and play like it, because there is always someone that wants to take that spot. Slowly but surely as foundation and structure are built in and around Buzzard Point both literally and from a talent base perspective, the team will (or should be) transitioning from castoffs to more established players from numbers 1-28, so for example, the previous version's Kyle Porter that is now Michael Farfan may be someone who is younger, faster or more dangerous offensively and/or defensively.
There's always someone around to take your spot if you don't want it. If there is one consistent among recent D.C. United teams (aside from its management), it is that.