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Posted at 12:25 PM ET, 04/21/2011

D.C. United-New York match preview

I’ve got a bit of a thing about New York, or more specifically: New Yorkers. They’re just way too proud of where they’re from. They never shut up about it. They think that New York has the greatest everything. You’ve heard them: “New York pizza, greatest pizza in the world! Real New York bagels...can’t get bagels like those anywhere else! That’s a New York City parking meter - greatest parking meters in the world, you gotta admit!” No, I don’t “gotta” admit.

I know you like where you’re from. Guess what: I like where I’m from. But I don’t constantly demand that people admit that my city is the greatest city in the world. New Yorkers will even brag about New York after a story that makes New York sound terrible: “So I’m on the D train the other day, and a guy goes to the bathroom on my shoe...still the greatest city in the world, though, you gotta admit! You shoulda seen the squirt this guy took - it was a real New York City leak!”

If you ask a New Yorker where he’s from, he won’t say “New York”. He’ll give you an exact address. You could be in Mongolia, and if you ask a New Yorker where he’s from he’ll say: “55th and seventh!” as if everyone is supposed to know where that is and what that tells us about him. It will also never occur to him that other cities have 55th and 7th streets. New Yorkers are always stunned to find out that other cities have restaurants, cabs, museums and electricity. I do comedy in New York, and when people find out that I’m from D.C. I get the feeling that they expect all of my jokes to be about corn and hogs.

So, yeah: I’m not enamored with New York. That’s why D.C. United’s dominance over the Red Bulls over the years has been extra sweet. No, New York, you don’t have the greatest everything in the world: at the very least, we have the better soccer team. Or at least, we did - it was tough to watch the Red Bulls outclass us in every area last year. There’s no question that they were the better team. And they’re pretty tough on paper this year; Henry, Agudelo and DeRosario should be the best attacking triangle in the league. I like the center of their defense, too.

But enough about New York - let’s focus on D.C. Wolff and Davies make a pretty good pair up top, and they showed their quality against Toronto. Perry Kitchen should start in the back and Bill Hamid will be in goal, so we get another look at the possible future of our defense (and by “our” I mean both D.C. United and the U.S. National Team). I half-think that we’ll see Boskovic instead of Dax or Najar instead of somebody since United just played five days ago, but the performance against Toronto was so good that I’m not sure who you’d bench.

It should be a competitive match. That’s more than we could say last year, when three points were as easy for visitors to find at RFK as raccoon droppings (greatest raccoon droppings in the world, though - you gotta admit!). But this year we’re competitive again, and I expect Olsen’s team to compete tonight. If United win tonight, we move ahead of New York to the top of the table. There would be some justice in that: MLS is a league about scrappy teams that play together, not high-priced superstars (still no designated player has won the MLS cup). I’m willing to let New York have their “greatest-in-the-world” everything else as long as we re-state our claim to the better soccer team.

Some things I’d like to see:

Perry Kitchen. He feels like the linchpin of the defense, but he’s only played 118 minutes for United. Granted, he’s looked pretty good in those 118 minutes, but that’s still a small sample size. Probably part of the reason he seems so good is because he wasn’t involved in that second half suck-fest against Colorado.

The “doesn’t the ball know who I am?” face from Henry. In his peak years, Henry perfected an expression that said: “Oh, did I just score an amazing goal? You know, I barely noticed because I score amazing goals all the time.” We haven’t seen that face much in MLS. Instead, we’ve seen an expression that says: “Why did the ball do that? Doesn’t it know that I’m Thierry Henry?” You’ve seen it: he puts both hands on his head and bulges his eyes so that you can see the whites above his eyeballs. He’ll probably get one or two clear chances tonight, so we’re going to see either one face or the other.

Continuation of the Chris Korb phenomenon. If you’re starting a prog rock band, may I suggest The Chris Korb Phenomenon as a name (participation of Chris Korb optional)? He was an afterthought in the draft, but he’s played well in four league games and I’m starting to think that United might really have something. The one thing we haven’t seen is him matched up against a high-quality winger. Joel Lindpere is a good player, and Korb will also have to deal with DeRo, Henry, and Agudelo. Korb is stepping up a level tonight.

Wolff and Davies in behind Ream and Marquez. Ream and Marquez are unlikely to be caught out of position or beaten in the air, but Wolff and Davies both have an advantage when it comes to speed. I don’t want to see them checking back for the ball; I want to see them making runs behind the defense.

A trash-time cameo from Joseph Ngwenya. That was the role he played against Toronto, and I thought it was the perfect role for him. Much better than the starting-and-being-counted-on-to-spark-the-offense role. Some of you may remember that when United were dominating the league in 2005/2006, the appearance of Jamil Walker on the field was Piotr Nowak’s way of saying: “This game is over. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to watch us kick it around for 10 minutes or leave now and beat the traffic.” I’d like to see Ngwenya become the new Jamil Walker.

By Jeff Maurer  |  12:25 PM ET, 04/21/2011

Tags:  United, Jeff Maurer

 
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