Saturday’s game between D.C. United and the Houston Dynamo had some surreal things; an unexpected snow shower, a couple of defensive flubs, the ongoing tension between supporters groups at the first “home” game of the season, 30-plus miles away from where United’s new home will be. So naturally, a goal in stoppage time to level things at a 2-2 draw was the thing that caps off such a strange day, right? Right?
Anyway, here are some things I came away with from the game.
Durkin starts Saturday. Probably. Maybe? Definitely.
Take it away Matt Doyle:
Every touch from Chris Durkin, who (along with Paul Arriola) turned the game around for DC in the second half. Excellent 20 mins from the 18-year-old. #DCvHOU pic.twitter.com/taYEszLBcQ— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) March 17, 2018
All in all, Durkin connected on 10 of 14 passes, had a key pass and won 2 of 3 aerials. In 47 minutes spread over three games, the kid has connected on 17 of 23 passes, with 2 interceptions, 3 tackles, a blocked shot and a shot on target to his account. Save for a shaky first game, he’s not done badly, though game states could certainly be a factor for these decent performances.
Even if he weren’t making a case, there may be nobody else to start as defensive midfielder this week. Durkin replaced Junior Moreno who came out with an apparent hamstring injury, Ulises Segura is going off to national team duty with Costa Rica, d-mid isn’t a strong suit for Ian Harkes, so that leaves Durkin and Jared Jeffrey. And frankly, if Ben Olsen gives a yet-to-appear in 2018 Jeffrey the starting nod over Durkin, it’s the work of a master troll who should be stopped before he strikes again. Play the kid Ben.
More of Mora
Defensively, this was a guy who was put to work early and often against Alberth Elis:
And when Elis came out, Mora got the opportunity to come further forward, which opened up more chances for Yamil Asad to move centrally, and the result was a pairing that missed only 4 of 22 passes in the game’s last 15 minutes:
It remains to be seen what type of regression Mora has, but of all the international winter signings, his debut may have been the most promising.
Welcome back Lucho
In his first 90 of 2018, all Luciano Acosta did was score the tying goal, connect on 40 of 55 passes (18 of 31 in the attacking third), create 2 chances and well, it wouldn’t be Lucho without a card, right? But he was also getting the ball on the right hand side and doing more with it there. The first chart shows where he got the ball, the second shows the passes he made:
Like a lot of other things in mid-March, things are still early, so sample sizes are still forming and such, but I think historically at least, we know that Lucho is pretty good when he doesn’t have to come back and start possession for the bulk of a game. And in Junior Moreno, Ulises Segura and Nick DeLeon, you have three guys who are Lucho’s common targets right now, and their commonality is that they all reliably pass the ball (at an 84% or better clip, with Moreno clocking in at 90%). Say what you will about their quandaries defensively, but there’s a reason they were sought out.
So now following a surreal scene, Olsen and co. find themselves down to bare bones heading into their match with Columbus Crew SC. Their 26-man roster will be missing some cogs for friendlies with their respective homelands. The points aren’t going to get easier to come by, but in times like this Olsen has a knack for getting the boys to bind together and surprise people (to wit). Thankfully the pieces that are staying around RFK’s training fields this week can build on something as a result.