D.C. United came into their game with the MLS Cup defending champion Portland Timbers in desperate need of a win, not having taken three points anywhere for almost two months. They continued their impressive recent run of form, but unlike the draws with the Montreal Impact and Philadelphia Union, they kept the Timbers off the scoreboard and improved their playoff chances with a 2-0 win over the green and gold.
With that out of the way, let's see how you voted, shall we?
Bill Hamid - 7 | Community: 8.1
Three saves, including a fabulous one on Jack Mcinerney that would have certainly had something to do with the balance of the game, but got back to doing what he does best, keeping the laundry clean, and now has as many shutouts as Travis Worra (4), in two fewer games. His night, summarized:
Jack Mac and his surrender cobra leaves #DCU pic.twitter.com/o1MESQwM14— Black and Red United (@blackandredU) August 14, 2016
Sean Franklin - 6.5 | Community: 6.4
Dealt with Lucas Melano all night, which is to say he didn't have a lot to do. Missed 4 passes (of 43) on the night, one was a chance creator, connected on all 6 long balls. Had an interception, a clearance and 6 recoveries defensively. Hasn't been as far forward as past games, but hasn't really needed to be?
Steve Birnbaum - 7 | Community: 7.9
Another goal (#Birdbomb4GoldenBoot), but also had three pair (3 tackles, 3 interceptions, 3 clearances), and won both aerial duels. It feels good to see him have his sea legs again.
Bobby Boswell (Captain) - 7 | Community: 6.9
His step up almost cost the team a goal (thanks Bill!), but chucked in a tackle, a clearance, 4 clearances and 5 recoveries. Won 3 of 4 aerials, including the one to Birnbaum that led to the first goal, on what was generally a good night for him.
Taylor Kemp - 7.5 | Community: 6.4
Did this in the first half:
Among the things to love about tonight? Taylor Kemp (16/18, 6/7 in the attacking 3rd, two chances created) #dcu pic.twitter.com/hZqZgOCYD9— Ryan Keefer (@reefa_k) August 14, 2016
He and Acosta combined for 25 successful passes to one another, and as we hopefully illustrated in the GIF post, lived up to charging down the right side, while dealing with Diego Valeri, had two interceptions, three clearances and three recoveries while (with Boswell's help) keeping things quiet.
Marcelo Sarvas - 7 | Community: 6.7
51 of 53 passing, including a key pass and three shots. Tied for the team lead in tackles (4) and interceptions (3), along with 10 recoveries and a past 80th minute run on net at one point. Leads the league in tackles per game and second in fouls, and in the Top 20 in interceptions. Turns 35 in 2 months. Astounding.
Lloyd Sam - 6.5 (off 72') | Community: 6.6
Got a secondary assist on the first goal, had 16 of 19 passing (7 of 10 in the attacking third), with three chance creators, and two shots on target, one blocked. Served in a bit of a hired gun role up front, and gets the chance to see his friends the New York Red Bulls on Sunday with hopefully a chip on his shoulder.
Jared Jeffrey - 6.5 | Community: 6.4
31 of 36 passing in his return to the XI after an injury kept him out last week, also had 4 tackles, 2 interceptions and 6 recoveries defensively where he saw Valeri and Darlington Nagbe a lot (as did Sarvas). Three more games to go to get that good behavior incentive JJ, use the force!
Luciano Acosta - 8 (MOTM) | Community: 8.5 (MOTM)
Like Birdbomb, also had three pair. Unlike Birdbomb, those three were shots on target, shots on goal and chances created. 46 of 55 passing (83.6% accuracy), and 18 of 24 in the attacking third, and scored the second goal. Three tackles and 8 recoveries defensively, and his 83 touches on the night was two off any of the field players and might just be his MLS best. The chemistry with Mullins and others is great, but his getting more of the ball more often is encouraging.
Patrick Nyarko - 6 (off 56') | Community: 6.7
8 of 9 passing and five take-ons before going off early into the second half. May be a management issue (he missed training Tuesday), but hopefully he a) isn't hurt and b) won't have to miss any time.
Patrick Mullins - 7.5 (off 82') | Community: 7.1
Assisted on the second goal, had at least two chances of his own he could (nay, should) have finished, led both teams in shots (5) and tied with his new friend Lucho in shots on goal (3), had 12 of 18 passes connected, had three clearances and three recoveries. Man oh man, and this can only improve?
Nick DeLeon - 6 (on 56') | Community: 6
The new Dad came on and almost opened his 2016 account, and the team seemed like they were feeding him at times for it. Connected on all 11 passes, had a key pass, and a shot, which was on goal. Really hope it's turned for him now and the chances get better (or at least, he can bury the ones he gets).
Lamar Neagle - 6 (on 72') | Community: 5.8
Speaking of once or future Dads, Neagle had 4 tackles, a recovery and a clearance in 20 minutes, to go with 11 of 13 passing and a key pass. Not too bad.
Alvaro Saborio - 5.5 (on 82') | Community: 5.2
7 of 10 passing, two lost aerials, and a chance late he decided to wait on instead of feeding to Neagle for a chance. Furt.
Based on 90(!) voters, Jake Gleeson was the runaway winner with almost two thirds of the vote:
I love winning. You know what I'm saying, like better than losing? But I don't have any preconceived notions about the Timbers squad Caleb Porter brought to town on a sultry Saturday night. Let's work our way out from the back, shall we? Portland was missing one starting center back (Nat Borchers) and another starting center back (Liam Ridgewell) was playing his first game in a month. On the outside, Alvas Powell was stretchered off in the Timbers' win the previous week against Sporting Kansas City and played, though perhaps he shouldn't have, considering the number the Black-and-Red did on him, and Zarek Valentin was missing due to injury. Moving to the middle, where Diego Chara was out due to a red card suspension, and Ben Zemanski was out to injury, so with the middle of the field that included Jack Jewsbury in midfield and Jermaine Taylor at center back, well, frankly, this should have been a win coming in, regardless of D.C.'s form or not, and we haven't even discussed Jack Mac's cold streak (2 goals in 10 games, 6 starting).
But you play who's in front of you, and D.C. played the Timbers as they should have, limiting their chances while countering to effect. Acosta continues to grow into the League and the understanding he and Mullins are developing can't be emphasized enough. You'd have to go pretty deep back in the mindgrapes to recall the last time D.C. had a 22-year old midfielder and a 24-year old forward that were starting and considered promising or even commodities. So maybe there's something there.
There is still a small matter of chance conversion for a good portion of the team that is concerning. When it comes to expected goals, or xG (I'll let the folks at American Soccer Analysis explain things a little), and actual goals, 4 of the Bottom 20 players in that category, which is to say their actual goals are less than their expected ones, wear Black-and-Red (Saborio, Sam, DeLeon, Chris Rolfe). Expand it out more, and it doesn't get much better, with Neagle, Mullins and Birnbaum in the next 12. That's as much as half of your starting lineup, putting themselves in good positions to score, and not scoring. By comparison, using that same statistic for 2015, D.C. had 1 player in the Bottom 32 (Chris Pontius). Looking at the team numbers this year, they've been underperforming their expected goal totals by almost a third. Last year? Right on the nose. Put another way, in 2015 the team tied for 19th in fewest shots in the league (Real Salt Lake), though their shots on goal was marginally better in 15th. This year? 10th in shots taken, 17th in shots on goal. Compared to last year were they simply didn't shoot, they're getting theirs, but what they're doing with them trends downward.
I get that the team is trying new things and they're working on those, but if they want to get better, finishing drills would be a good place to start.