First, some thoughts on Andy Najar’s decision to play for Honduras. Simply put: there’s absolutely no way you can blame him. Sure, we Americans were hoping he’d opt for the U.S. It didn’t happen. But he’s not Giuseppe Rossi - not by a long shot. For starters, Najar - unlike Rossi - chose to play for the country in which he was born and raised. He lived in Honduras for 14 years, here for four; it makes sense that he would feel more Honduran than American. And he would have had to wait a long time to play for the U.S.; he’s at least three years away from citizenship. What if he moves to Europe after this season and doesn’t meet the residency requirement (you have to reside in the U.S. for half of the five year waiting period)? And aren’t Dempsey and Donovan pretty much entrenched on the wings through at least 2014? Even if you subtract elements like heritage and national identity, the practical decision was for him to play for Honduras. Buena suerte, Andy.
Speaking of getting pipped by a Central American country: Guatemala knocked the U.S. out of the U-20 World Cup this week. As much of a massive bummer as that is (I hate, hate, HATE the format of youth qualifying tournaments - single elimination sucks), the silver lining is that Perry Kitchen returns to United’s lineup this weekend. And United could really use him after Colorado played a draw-four on us last weekend.
More good news for United: Donovan might not play 90. In a move I don’t fully understand, Bruce might keep Donovan out of this MLS match so that he’ll be ready to use for MLS matches. Ummm...alright. I could interpret that as an insult - United are still an MLS team in spite of last season - but instead I’ll just interpret it as good luck. I’m sure we will all gladly agree to sit and watch the game in total silence so that Donovan may take a little nappy-poo on the bench. Better than having him on the field.
A lot of you expressed dismay over Ben’s lineup last week, and I’ll admit: I was initially surprised, too. But the more I looked at the lineup, the less radical it seemed. Consider: the back five (including the ‘keeper) were pretty much the only five defenders available. ‘Nuff said. In midfield, Simms was hurt, so Morsink stepped in. Up top, Davies was unavailable, Wolff couldn’t go 90, and I don’t hear anyone complaining about Ngwenya being left on the bench. So, you have to move Pontius up top, which makes Boskovic the natural choice. Really, the only controversial move was picking Tino over Najar, and that seems justified in hindsight: of the two, Tino played better.
What will we see this week? Lineup-wise, I have no idea. Ben obviously likes to play the hot hand, and I don’t attend practice. So I have no idea what combination of Brettschneider/Pontius/Quaranta/Boskovic/Ngwenya we’ll see. I’ll bet Najar starts after his good showing against Philadelphia mid-week. Simms and Wolff probably return, but Davies probably doesn’t. Zayner maybe returns. Jakovic definitely returns. Hamid probably returns as Onstad re-retires. If I had to make a wild, uninformed speculation - and as a blogger that’s my job - I’d guess we’ll see: Hamid | Burch, Kitchen, Jakovic, Korb | Pontius, Simms, McCarty, Najar | Wolff, Brettschneider.
Here are some things I’d like to see:
Energy from the wings. I wish I was someone who enjoys dancing. It would have made my single life easier, and it would be handy now that I’m at the age where I attend about two weddings a month. But I’m not - I’m just not. I can’t dance, I won’t dance. It will never happen. It’s not who I am. In the same way, we simply can’t expect McCarty or Simms to become attacking players; it’s just not who they are. So, United’s attack out of the midfield needs to come from the likes of Pontius and Najar. I’m okay with the occasional blown defensive assignment as long as that lapse is balanced by a potent offensive threat.
Hamid! Welcome back, Bill. Apparently, you got ripped in the offseason - so say the many fawning, borderline lascivious articles written about your muscular shoulders and rippling abs. Seriously, it was a bit much at times (or not nearly enough, depending on who you ask). But I get the point: you’ve put in a lot of work and are ready to play.
Smart defense from 35 yards in. Say what you want about Beckham - and, seriously, say what you want about Beckham in the comments section - the guy is absolutely lethal from set pieces. You’ve also got Angel and Gonzales to contend with in the air - that’s a dangerous combination. If Donovan is on the bench, then L.A.’s main threat comes from set pieces, not from speed. So, from 35 yards and in just play smart, contain, and don’t foul.
Strikers who combine well. If it ends up being Wolff and Brettschneider, then you’ve got a nice “little and large” pairing up top. It would really help our midfield out if the strikers could link up, hold the ball, and occasionally create something on their own. Like I said: McCarty and Simms aren’t going to be charging forward, so we need strikers who can keep the ball long enough to let the attack build.
A "stepover" from Frankie Hejduk. Come on, Frankie - just one for old time’s sake. You’re one of my favorite players (fans love those gritty guys), but your stopovers are less convincing than Barry Bond’s defense team. Just wave your foot somewhere near the top of the ball and maybe Marc Burch will be a mench and pretend to buy it.