Soccer is a weird game, isn't it? D.C. United just could not score at Red Bull Arena, for a long time in fact. Since eliminating the New York Red Bulls at RBA in 2012, D.C. United had scored 1 goal in 7 games in New Jersey. That's 1 more than I've scored, for Pete's Sake! And it's not like they scored recently either. They scored in a 2-1 loss at RBA in August 2013, but nothing since. So naturally, they scored once in the 89th minute, and again in the 94th. The first goal snapped a goalless streak of 593 minutes at RBA, the second gave them a point at RBA for the first time in three and a half years. Not a bad way to get a 2-2 draw and keep sort of in contention for a playoff spot.
So let's see how you voted!
Bill Hamid: 7 | Community 8 (MOTM)
5 saves and a punch, but his 3rd straight game of giving up at least 2 goals, and his 4th of his last 5. He doesn't think he did his job and generally we're inclined to agree, though I think even he'd admit he tightened things up a bit and started putting on a save clinic (which seemed to get BWP all mad post-game), which bumped his score up on our side of things.
Sean Franklin: 6.5 (off 64') | Community: 6
One of the few bright spots during that first dark hour; comprised the second and third most successful passing combos for the team on the day, was 21 of 30 overall and 7 of 12 in the attacking third, and joined the attack when he could. Defensively, had 3 clearances, a tackle and 6 recoveries before coming off due to a calf issue. Will probably miss a game or two and at least next week is one that could be afforded to miss for him.
Steve Birnbaum 6.5 | Community: 7.5
Scored the first goal (giving him a goal or assist in 5 of his last 6 games), and had another shot in the area blocked but put in the rebound. Also had 5 clearances, 3 recoveries and 3 interceptions, the latter led the team, and only 4 of 9 aerials won on the day. An underrated component of this formation change has been "Steve Birnbaum, offensive threat."
Bobby Boswell: 6.5 (Captain) | Community: 6.3
Was caught out of position a couple of times, but managed to find all the right spots to clear the ball (9 of them), also had an interception, blocked shot and tackle, and stepped up effectively when necessary. Thought he was OK, dare I say a little valiant on the night.
Taylor Kemp: 5.5 | Community 5.8
18 of 28 passing, 5 of 10 in the attacking third, and offensively wasn't much of a threat, his one shot aside. Considering the Red Bulls have (and will, for the foreseeable future) throw speed or guile down his side, that he didn't have much to do isn't a surprise. Had 3 clearances, 3 recoveries, 2 tackles, a blocked shot and an interception on what was a disappointing night.
Marcelo Sarvas: 6 | Community: 6.2
Defensively, led the team in tackles (6) and recoveries (9) in a nice effort, to go with 2 recoveries. Was 34 of 51 passing in a slight off-night accuracy wise, but still had a key pass and was 9 of 16 in the attacking third, with a shot. Stayed mostly in back to support the defense, but doesn't it seem like the engine is starting to wind down on him?
Lloyd Sam: 5.5 (off 59') | Community: 5
His one shot was on goal and was right at Luis Robles, connected on 8 of 10 passes. Defensively, had 3 recoveries and...that's about it. So sleeper Metro agent Sam just did his impression of the first half of his 2016 season and little else? Disappointing, even when knowing the task at hand on the outside was going to be tough.
Rob Vincent: 5.5 (off 55') | Community: 5.1
Played a little more forward than Sarvas, but did most of the same things, including drawing an early yellow card in tribute! Was a step late to backtracking on the first goal (but a lot of folks didn't look good on it). Did have 2 interceptions, a clearance, a tackle and 3 recoveries in the back. Offensively, had 18 of 27 passing (including 5 of 9 long balls), and a nicely taken shot on the free kick in the first half.
Nick DeLeon: 6 | Community: 5.25
Got a little hosed in not getting the assist on Birnbaum's goal, had 22 of 27 passing nonetheless, but did have a first half moment when old Nick showed up. Had 2 tackles, 2 interceptions, 3 recoveries and a clearance.
Patrick Nyarko: 5.5 | Community: 5.3
13 of 24 passing, yuk, though 2 were key passes, so...a little less yuk. Defensively had 9 recoveries of his own to go with 3 tackles, 2 clearances and an interception, but turned the ball over deep in his end that led to goal one, and tripped over his feet at least one more time with the ball at his feet. The good news is he plays his former employers, whom he's only had 2 goals and 2 assists against this year, so I hope for good things.
Patrick Mullins: 6 | Community: 6.2
Led the team in shots (3) and shots on target (2), with the other blocked. 12 of 19 passing with a chance creator. 2 tackles won defensively, lost 5 of 6 aerials in the attacking end. We kind of starting to see where the floor is with him, I just hope he and Birnbaum work on aerial duels somehow.
Julian Buescher: 5.5 (on 55') | Community: 5.9
15 of 24 passing with a key pass, would have thought he'd get credit for a shot late in the second half press, but oh well. Had 5 recoveries and a tackle defensively, but games like this will serve as a learning experience for him.
Lamar Neagle: 7 (on 59') (MOTM) | Community: 7.2
7 of 8 connected passes, including all 6 in the attacking third. A tackle, 2 recoveries, and that goal scored with just the tip. Speaking of which, said goal put him back into the club lead, one ahead of Mullins, and is his third in a row in as many games. With the team facing speedy flanks Friday, does Ben Olsen roll the dice with the hot hand and put the more agile Neagle at right mid in support of Mishu?
Luke Mishu: 5.5 (on 64') | Community: 5.2
9 of 14 passing, 4 of 7 in the defensive third. Had 2 recoveries, 2 clearances, 1 tackle and 1 interception defensively. Was OK, but with Franklin out, 3 guesses on what the Fire do Friday?
Based on 57 votes, Sacha Kljestan edged out Bradley Wright-Phillips as your choice for the Metros Man of the Match:
Jair Marrufo - Referee:
58 of you gave Jair an average score of 4.8 for his officiating.
So, when we were here last time, I said this in closing:
Considering injuries and depth there is room for intrigue and maybe even some hope of a shared result at minimum come Sunday.
What I didn't expect was to be sort of right, but for a different reason. Say what you will about Ben Olsen-coached squads, many have and will. But as I'm watching FC Dallas and the New England Revolution go toe to toe in the US Open Cup Final, I'm reminded of 2013 and hanging out with my friends as we counted down the time at Rio Tinto and eventually passed the Open Cup trophy around when D.C. beat Real Salt Lake. The thing that you'd be hard pressed to cheap Olsen out of is seeing a team quit. They may have an off-night, they may not be as good, 1 to 18, but it doesn't happen all that often. They battled back to tie a game in New York 2 weeks prior (and ultimately lost it), and did the same Sunday.
But for the one thing I DO know about them, D.C. United remain, since the beginning of August, a strange team to figure out. Or more exactly, not so much 'strange' as 'curious.' They were having problems scoring goals since essentially last summer. No problem! Change the formation, along with a couple of pieces and boom, 2 or more goals in 6 of their last 7 games. Problems scoring goals at Red Bull Arena? Boom, 2 in 5 minutes, with your playmaker (Luciano Acosta) out due to suspension to boot. Now they head to Bridgeview Illinois, to play a Chicago Fire team that almost managed to split points with Toronto FC but the roots of something appear to be taking hold. A tricky proposition, for sure.
And for whatever my conventional wisdom tells me about D.C. United, their lack of results on the road, to say nothing of their lack of goals in some of these places, I simply don't know what to make of this team. If I had to put my finger on it, I'd say the 2016 incarnation of D.C. United is a lot like the 2011 from a high level perspective; both teams acquired a player in the offseason and played him a little out of his accustomed spot (Sarvas this year, Dax McCarty in '11), both had a Designated Player that they weren't completely sure what to do with (Fabian Espindola this year, Branko Boskovic in '11), both included midseason acquisitions that changed their fortunes (Mullins this year, Dwayne De Rosario in '11).
There is still one other thing that both could accomplish here at the the end of their seasons, and that's the lack of a postseason appearance. However, that's perfectly fine to me, because at the end of 2011, there wasn't a 23 year old playmaking midfielder who could potentially be here for several years, along with an accompanying 25 year old forward, or a teenaged defensive midfielder laying in wait to be part of the club in the offseason.
I guess you could say if there's one thing I do know about this D.C. United team, it's that the faint whiff of promise in longer-term roster continuity makes me more encouraged than whatever is done in the short term, and when was the last time that could be said around these parts?