D.C. United went to Yankee Stadium before the Labor Day holiday with a lineup that was generating chances and offense, yet there was still the matter of winning one game on the road. And they played the New York City FC stars missing two tarters on defense, and were missing one of their starting midfielders of late due to card accumulation (and may miss him longer due to concussion). But they played well until an unfortunate chain of events began with a goal in the 79th minute, one of 4 in the final 14 minutes. The problem is the Pigeons scored 3 of them en route to a wild 3-2 win that saw the Black-and-Red's unbeaten run end at six.
So we'll see just how high votes got from you, shall we?
Bill Hamid: 5.5 | Community 6.1
The three goals were largely point blank opportunities which he couldn't do much about, though they are still three goals, and it's the second time in two months that he's done so. His early career distribution problems seem to have resurfaced a little, and at 21% pass accuracy (mostly on crossed), it harkened back to 2010 a little.
Sean Franklin: 5.5 | Community: 6
16 of 26 passing (61%) with a key pass, and only 4 pass attempts in the attacking third on a night where he was going to have to help his teammates out a bit. Had 4 recoveries, 3 clearances and 1 tackle (of 4 attempts) to go with a blocked shot. A night to forget for Sean.
Jalen Robinson: 5.5 | Community: 5.8
Stepping in for Steve Birnbaum (United States national team duty) and Kofi Opare (injury), Robinson was matched up against David Villa for chunks of the night and played near Franklin, and did what he could (and almost had a couple teeth taken out as a result), though was a step late on one goal. Did complete 17 of 19 passes, offensively. Defensively, 4 recoveries, 3 clearances, 2 interceptions, 2 blocked shots and 2 tackles (of 3 attempted). With a two-team expansion draft coming in the winter, what are the chances he's leapfrogged Opare on the depth chart with decent spot starts here and a couple months back against the New England Revolution?
Bobby Boswell: 6 (Captain) | Community: 5.89
3 recoveries, 3 interceptions, 2 blocked shots and a tackle in one of his more statistically involved efforts in recent memory, to go with 22 of 28 passes and a key pass, and almost had a goal, go figure.
Luke Mishu: 5 | Community 2.7
18 of 27 passing with 2 key passes, and that doesn't even count the ball to Villa! After that moment though, he struggled to recover, and had to be better on the second and third goals. Had 2 clearances, 3 recoveries, 3 tackles, and the only won aerial on defense, but still.
Rob Vincent: 6 | Community: 5.8
17 of 20 successful passes, including all 3 in the attacking third (1 a key pass) to go with 2 shots, 1 on goal. Had 2 recoveries, a tackle, interception, clearance and blocked shot defensively and continues to not drop the ball when put as an 8 or in this case, a 6.
Lloyd Sam: 7 (off 80') | Community: 6.8
Working from the back forwards, his 7 recoveries are a new high for his new teammates, accompanied by 4 tackles and 4 interceptions, good for 2nd and 1st amongst DCU field players. Connected on 13 of 18 passing, and had 4 shots on the night (tied with Mullins), and had his first goal for the Black-and-Red. Should have had his second, but nice to see a lack of finishing seep into the new guys too, zing!
Marcelo Sarvas: 6 | Community: 6.6
Played in the midfield proper for the first time in a couple of months, and registered 6 tackles, 3 interceptions, 2 clearances, almost all in his half of the field. Connected on 26 of 33 passes offensively and 3 of 7 in the attacking third as he was sort of a 8/6 hybrid positionally.
Luciano Acosta: 7 (off 77') | Community: 8.6 (MOTM)
Stepped up with the interception in the first half that led to the first D.C. goal, almost came out a few minutes later for rolling his foot over the ball. Connected on 20 of 29 passes, but only 6 of 14 in the attacking third and a shot on goal. Had 2 tackles, 2 interceptions and 10 recoveries, 5 on each half of the midfield stripe, but got a silly yellow and will be out for a key game Sunday. That gripe out of the way, pick. Up. The. Option.
Patrick Nyarko: 8 (MOTM) (off 70') | Community: 7.4
The game may have changed when Mishu got the Pass of the Week nomination to Villa, but it was on its way towards changing once Nyarko came off (not due to concussion reasons apparently, according to Ben Olsen). Nyarko connected on 16 of 20 passing with an assist to Sam, and should have had another assist if Mullins could finish his near-halftime chance (he had another chance creator also), and 9 of 12 in the attacking third. Had 2 tackles, 2 clearances and an interception defensively along with 4 recoveries and if he could stay on the field, man...
Patrick Mullins: 6 | Community: 6.3
4 shots, 2 on target, and another that should have been. 12 of 18 passes connected, 4 of 10 aerials won, and 2 tackles/1 interception defensively. So Mullins from Chicago would have put one on the board, right?
Nick DeLeon: 4.5 (on 70') | Community: 4.47
Came on for Jeffrey and connected on 43 of 49 passes, had 3 shots, 1 on target. Had a tackle, an interception and 6 recoveries and generally held back and picked his shots when he had the chance. Will likely face a mother of a task Thursday.
Julian Buescher: 6.5 (on 77') | Community: 5.8
Connected on 8 of 9 passes and had 2 key passes, one of which being the assist on the Neagle goal that tied things at the time, to complement 2 shots, both on target. Had a recovery defensively and, presumably, gets the keys to the shop with Lucho out Sunday?
Lamar Neagle: 6.5 (on 80') | Community: 6.5
The guy who's been winning aerials most of the season won another late to tie the game, and connected on all 5 passes. Had a recovery and tackle defensively, and continues to look good coming off the bench.
Based on 45 votes, Frank Lampard was your runaway choice for Man of the Match for NYCFC:
Chris Penso - Referee:
You gave Penso's work a 5 based on 44 votes.
The only thing that remained uncertain about the current D.C. attacking nucleus that is Patrick Mullins, Lucho Acosta, Patrick Nyarko and Lloyd Sam is how their act would play on the road, since they hadn't had the chance to do it, with the only occasion being a midweek game against the Montreal Impact the previous week in an affair that was a battle with a largely second choice group. And in facing the Eastern Conference leaders, in the words of Matt Doyle, "It took three missed D.C. sitters, an incredible back-pass and a fortunate deflection on the winning feed to come away with all three points." It overcame a D.C. road effort that hadn't been seen in 17 months, and a longer term offensive consistency not seen in nearly as long. Things continue to click.
That said, there are some obvious concerns surrounding the roster as currently available, particularly as D.C. heads to New Jersey to play the New York Red Bulls in what may be an emotional September 11 matchup. While the Red Bulls will be without Alex Muyl and Mike Grella for the game Sunday, they will have Designated Player Gonzalo Veron and newly acquired Daniel Royer (whom the team paid a transfer fee for) to replace them, and Sacha Kljestan will return from national team duty. Steve Birnbaum will return for D.C., but the problem is that Birnbaum can't play creative midfielder, which is what D.C. will need in some fashion on Sunday.
So then who tackles the wheel? Assuming Jeffrey is still out, assume that Vincent and Sarvas will be two-thirds of the midfield, narrowing the choices down to DeLeon and Buescher. DeLeon's performance on Thursday may not be one that keeps him out of the XI; he remains the team's most accurate passer (Jalen Robinson's 181 minutes aside) and has the workrate to match up with the Red Bulls' high energy offense. But this may be a place where Buescher could get a call. Consider Buescher does not shoot as often as DeLeon, but his key passes per 90 minutes dwarfs NDL's by 2 per game, his expected goals & assists per 90 minutes is only bettered by the Acosta, Sam, Nyarko and Mullins quartet, and his expected assists (.24 per 90) is almost equalled by Acosta and Sam. Assuming a D.C. lineup that brought the defensive starters back and put Buescher in the Acosta position next to Sarvas, while retaining Vincent in back? It may not be as dour as one would think.
It's relying an awful lot on Buescher's 271 regular season minutes being equivalent to what DeLeon has done this year on tenfold the amount of time. But if Buescher did get the call for Sunday, along with being the tiniest endorsement to the advanced numbers that are available, but it could signal a continuing shift towards longer-term viability that seems to be in most of the roster, and even caters to the 'Play your Kids' trope that many fetishize.
Considering injuries and depth there is room for intrigue and maybe even some hope of a shared result at minimum come Sunday.