I’m going to try something different this year compared to previous ones, because frankly the time crunch in putting together ratings, GIFs and ratings results when you’re a Dad is a little hard to bear on sanity’s sake. So, let’s bring out the hot takes here and talk about what we learned with D.C. United’s draw of Orlando City:
New team remains new.
You can claim ‘same old DC’ all you want, but consider that 2018’s gameday squad had three guys over 30, and two of those were the starting and backup keepers. Want to know how many Olds were in last year’s week 1 squad? Seven, and five of those players are no longer even playing in MLS. There’s going to be some growing pains with a young, unfamiliar team, with seven new starters being exposed to competitive minutes, including 7 new starters with D.C. and 2 new to the league (well, 3 if Chris Durkin is excluded).
That said, most of the results were generally decent individually, or at least more good than bad. Which brings us to:
Stock Up: Yamil Asad, Fredric Brillant, and (mostly) Junior Moreno, Ulises Segura, Stock Down: Darren Mattocks.
Asad worked good with Oniel Fisher, scored the goal and drew 5 of Orlando’s 14 fouls while converting 5 of 8 attacking third passes. Brillant was more of the guy working closer to David Ousted to help Steve Birnbaum be a destroyer and play a little further up field. Moreover at first blush Birnbaum seems to have his security blanket back.
Moreno and Segura are a little complicated. The concern that Jason noted on Filibuster is that Moreno would have a (my words here) soul-crushing boner in terms of a pass or defensive action. Look at the play that leads to the tying goal:
Credit to #OCSC for pushing hard for the equalizer with 10 men. Look at Jonathan Spector--a centerback making an overlapping run and playing a perfect ball to assist Stefano Pinho's goal! The veteran defender looked like a winger there. #ORLvDC #MLS #MLSisBack pic.twitter.com/giaKeIOLZf— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) March 4, 2018
That’s Segura on the outside not picking up the attacker, and Moreno was slow in coming back and boom, 3 points become 1.
Don’t get me wrong, they impressed early on, and this is some impressive distribution and defensive work:
Combined they were 76/89 passing, Moreno helped the backline out, while Segura pressed, provided corners and even threw a shot or two on net. With two 24-year-old national teamers for their respective countries, it’s been at least two years since D.C. could claim a decent 6/8 onfield together, and they’ve got some decent ones it appears.
Then you have Mattocks. 4 shots, 1 shot on goal, a breakaway that he was caught up to, and a missed penalty. He was dangerous in spots, and if he scores at least 5 goals then Ben Olsen should be Coach of the Year for that alone, but if old Mattocks rears his head more frequently, enter Patrick Mullins.
There’s still work to do.
Mattocks’ day further reveals the need for new legs or looks at Mullins, Oniel Fisher was fine but let’s face it: there’s good reason why D.C. United appears to be adding a quality left back. With more minutes and acclimation, we’ll find out what the mean is for each of these guys.
I get that people want to draw large connections to a whole year when the first half of it is on the road, when the team will find themselves doing countering at times, or they’ll not go for the jugular in others.
But to draw large narratives in Week 1 is a fool’s errand. Don’t ask me, as the guy who beat the defending MLS Cup champions on their own field:
It’s going to be long. It’s going to be a long ride.