Heading into a night where D.C. United was playing an apparently increasing minted rival in Orlando City SC in a game they needed to win, and on a night where the Black-and-Red saw more people in RFK to watch club soccer for the first time easily in several years, D.C. rose to the occasion with a 4-1 win over Orlando City. Combined with results from the weekend, D.C. found their playoff position in much better footing Sunday night than they did Saturday morning. It was a nostalgic night for those in attendance or watching on TV.
And with that, I'll stop babbling and unveil the votes, OK?
Bill Hamid: 7 | Community 7.6
2 saves, a punch out, and looked more in control of his area than I've seen in the last couple of games. While I don't begrudge him for not being able to stop the goal, I can't completely absolve the formation of the wall and the cheating on the strong side in the moments beforehand. Going to need to be prepared for Ola Kamara come tomorrow.
Nick DeLeon: 6 | Community: 7.15
Orlando was going to test him, and they did, and he wonder up with a couple of tackles to go with 7 recoveries all in his half of the field. Offensively, connected on 30 of 38 passes with a key pass, including 7 of 9 in the attacking third, and had a couple of shots to boot. Not a complete replacement for Sean Franklin, but better and faster than Mishu, but I still have a feeling his newness to the position is going to get exposed in the next couple of games.
Steve Birnbaum: 7.5 | Community: 7.58
26 of 32 passing, which pretty much summed up his night offensively. Defensively, 4 clearances, 2 blocked shots, a tackle and a recovery. Most impressively? 28, which was the number of touches Cyle Larin had, which was the lowest amongst any OCSC starter. I mean, if real Messi is going to torch him, taking Canadian Messi out of the game is a nice consolation.
Bobby Boswell: 7 (Captain) | Community: 7.4
Had a really nice second half run and volley attempt, but along with it, connected on 22 of 25 passes, all in his half of the field, all to the flank players to start a rush. Had 3 tackles, 3 interceptions, 3 recoveries and 2 clearances defensively in one of the more active nights from him numerically in recent times, and might have been one of his best performances this season.
Taylor Kemp: 8.5 (MOTM) | Community 8.7 (MOTM)
Found himself tied for the League record in single-game assists (until he wasn't), but still had 36 of 53 passes, including 11 of 16 in the attacking third.
What may be most surprising about that last number? Where most of those passes went:
Kemp still crossed a bunch (including the cross in to Sam) and delivered long balls, but of his 36 completed passes, half went to Lucho and Nyarko. This basically is a different illustrative example of something Matt Doyle alluded to, and Kemp providing his attack-minded mates service without looping balls into the box is something that is encouraging.
Marcelo Sarvas: 6 (off 23') | Community: 6.17
8 of 9 passing and a clearance before falling to injury. Rest well 'Celo, we may need you when you come back.
Lloyd Sam: 6.5 (off 70') | Community: 7.7
19 of 29 with a key pass, and also beat his man to Kemp's ball for a goal. Had 3 recoveries and 2 tackles and developed a solid rapport with DeLeon as things went on, and hopefully the shorthand can get further acclimation come Wednesday and Saturday.
Rob Vincent: 6.5 | Community: 6.85
Started playing next to Lucho then wound up filling the Sarvas role, and switching on occasion with Buescher to boot. The result? 5 missed passes (34 of 39), and connected on all 9 attacking third passes made in the OCSC end. Helped bring Kemp and DeLeon further up in play when called upon. Defensively? A couple clearances, a tackle and that's about it. He is going to need to do a Sarvas impression for the next couple of games.
Luciano Acosta: 7 | Community: 7.5
4 goals scored by D.C. United and Lucho not on the scoresheet is something I didn't have money on. Did have 29 of 39 successful passes, including 12 of 19 in the attacking third (2 key passes), and two shots on goal, including a little cheeky one in the second half. Had a tackle, an interception and a first half yellow.
Speaking of which, we'll touch on that yellow in a second.
Patrick Nyarko: 7.5 | Community: 7.52
14 of 18 passing, had a mighty fine back heel for one of his two assists, giving him 7 on the year, which is the most he's had since 2012 and gives him an outside shot at eclipsing his single season best (10). Had 5 recoveries, 2 clearances, a tackle and an interception defensively. We all love Lucho and P-Mat, as we should, but Patrick Nyarko has proven to be another unheralded yet significant addition to the squad in 2016.
Patrick Mullins: 8 | Community: 8.4
Both of his shots were on/in goal, putting him back in the team lead for the accomplishment. 12 of 19 passing, even had a defensive recovery. This week in Patrick Mullins statistics? One guy has 33 shots, 10 on goal, and been called offside 14 times. Another has 31, 16 and 10 respectively. If you want to know who guy A is, that's future Saprissa forward Alvaro Saborio.
Julian Buescher: 7 (on 23') | Community: 7.6
Was really the only option to call upon once Sarvas went down. Connected on 20 of 24 passing, including 9 of 10 in the attacking third, scored the last goal, his other shot was a blocked one. Defensively had 5 tackles, could have had a 6th on Larin but missed it and got a yellow for his troubles. Added an interception and recovery to it. Basically got the ball outside (apparently Ben Olsen's default first instruction to early subs or players in an unfamiliar spot) and didn't mess up. Intriguing couple of games in front of him now.
Lamar Neagle: 7.5 (on 77') | Community: 6.98
10 of 11 passing, and 2 key passes, including an assist on fellow sub Buescher's goal, giving him a scoresheet appearance in 4 of his last 5 appearances. Finding new life as a substitute and proving to be damn good at it.
Luke Mishu: 6 (on 82') | Community: 6.06
4 of 6 passing with a clearance, looked OK.
On 60 votes, Antonio Nocerino edged out Julio Baptista for your Man of the Match for Orlando, in a vote I'd like to call "getting the joke."
Sorin Stoica - Referee:
Sorin was given a 5 based on 59 votes.
It really is nice that D.C. United won, and won over OCSC, and I hope to get more mileage from the graphic below, just as I'm about to do now:
But the fact of the matter remains this club is still quite the patchwork effort. The club is scoring goals at a surprisingly effective pace for the last couple months, but let's not pretend that things have been resolved this week, or even this year, shall we? Take this for instance:
What evidence is there to support the team 'getting hot'? Is it goals? Sure, scoring goals is nice, but since the July 20 date being touted for the offensive rebirth, the team has played 11 games, and is 3-2-6 in same. Sure, they've scored 25, yet let in 19. You need to score them to win, but not letting them in plays in some part of the equation, so what's 'hot' about that?
Another cause of concern is team discipline. Yes, we all know Marcelo Sarvas leads the league in yellow cards with 11, and proud we are of all of them, but not far behind? Luciano Acosta with 8. Is it wonton youth brashness and disregard of the broader context which causes Lucho to commit these fouls and earn these cards? Part of me thinks its twofold; first Sarvas' foul committal, while abundant, generally has purpose. While a work in progress, it does have a lot left to be desired. So perhaps the thoughts in Lucho's mind are that he needs to do it because nobody else will do it effectively, so we get Lucho's frontier justice.
To explain Lucho retribution, we have to consider for a minute some of the parallels within the League. Sure, Sarvas leads the League in yellows, but when it comes to midfielders playing defensive positions, he's amongst the top midfielders in terms of tackles (3.6), interceptions (3) and fouls (2.4) per game. Hovering around those numbers are Diego Chara, Osvaldo Alonso and Matias Laba, guys who play similar positions. Three guys at least four years younger than Sarvas, and Laba is a decade younger. Chara plays with Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe, Alonso with Nicolas Lodeiro, Laba with Pedro Morales. Heck, throw Kyle Beckerman into the mix, a guy who's played with Javier Morales for almost a decade now. Now look at Sarvas, attempting to play this position almost exclusively for the first time, and Acosta, a 22-year old in his first year in a new League and a new country. The point being, for as much as this team is finding its scoring legs, there's still a ton of work to be done, and keeping the center of the park on the field without having to sit because of excessive fouling would help. Getting a defensive midfielder who knows when (and how) to foul would relieve some action on Lucho's part, I believe.
Let's explain a little further; let's say Sarvas stays for next year. It remains to be seen where Olsen and Dave Kasper put Chris Durkin on the first team field but goodness knows it's a ways to go, and Sarvas doesn't have the mileage left in the tank to serve as a longer-term bridge. So then that means looking for a midfield gladiator under the age of 30 to pair with Acosta so he can stop committing this revenge yellow cards, or at least, make his retribution look a lot less obvious.
And what D.C. does after Sarvas (presumably) leaves is one of a myriad of questions to answer. Let's say as it becomes more clear, Durkin is a center back. Then you have to wonder how long you have to keep Bobby Boswell on the roster to either play or serve as an apprentice to Durkin, and at more than 375 MLS regular season and playoff games, that's an odometer that's going to roll over soon. Before you know it and assuming you still have them, you have to make the decisions on Sam and Franklin, unless those are made sooner rather than later. Like 2014 when they scored a bunch (which went virtually recognized in favor of 'OMG turnaround team!' narrative, I'll note), the roster has and will continue to evolve as beams are placed into dirt.
So yeah, it's nice that D.C. is scoring, but being 'hot' in one aspect of the game should not a blanket statement make.