D.C. United-Toronto match preview

Here’s Ben Olsen’s quote after the Galaxy match:

"We weren't as sharp as we needed to be tonight, I thought the energy was there but we just weren't a good enough soccer team. We need to become a better passing team."

So, that’s the good news: the coach sees the same thing that we’re all seeing. I was a little worried that we’d get the standard “we need guys who play for the shirt and don’t want to lose” quote that we’ve had after every loss since the Piotr Nowak era (except if it was Piotr we’d get that sentence with the conjunctions removed, and it would have been interpreted as a swipe at Freddy Adu). So, the coach sees the problem.

But that’s also the bad news: how do you just be a better soccer team? You can’t just grit your teeth and try really hard and suddenly get good at soccer. There’s no telling Tino: “hey - try shooting it under the bar this time.” You can’t say to Jakovic: “Hey, you know that moment every game where you get, um, really creative with your distribution out of the back, and everyone in the crowd has a miniature stroke and wets themselves just a bit? Maybe don’t do that this match.” It’s like that old SNL sketch with Bob Saget as a track coach whose only advice to his team is: “Run really fast.”

Tino is out with a red card. I won’t go so far as to compare this red to Robbie Findley’s second yellow against Slovenia, a development that I reacted to with the same level of joy as those kids in the Disney World ads. But suffice it to say: I’m not devastated that Tino will miss the match.

I am, however, very disappointed that Perry Kitchen might miss this match because he is - as Goff put it - “still feeling the effects of his trip to Guatemala.” Now THAT’s a good euphemism! Let it be known, kids: that “don’t drink the water” thing is no joke. “Oh, I’ll just brush my teeth, it’ll be fine” - no, no it won’t. Those microbes aren’t playing games.

Should United play a midfield diamond with Boskovic at the top? That’s what some people were suggesting in the comments section of my last match diary. My assessment: not just yet. I’ve said it a million times: I’m generally a fan of having your best 11 players on the field. And Boskovic hasn’t done anything this season to convince me he’s one of our best 11 players right now. I wish that wasn’t the case; I’d love for him to put those flashes of quality together and make me a believer. And putting him at the top of a diamond would solve a bit of a problem we’re having with Dax — we need Dax to get forward and provide offense, but when he pushes forward our linking play suffers. It makes sense to have Boskovic at the top of a diamond and Dax at the bottom, but first Boskovic has to show me that he deserves Simms’ spot in the lineup. Maybe start with the flat 4-4-2, and if we need some offense in the second half, roll the dice and put Boskovic at the top of a diamond.

Here are some things I’d like to see:

Three points. Look, Toronto is not a very good team. They played midweek. I know this is a road match, but if United are a playoff contender, then they need to be thinking about three points on Saturday. We were all pretty stoked after the Columbus match, but the last three weeks have been a serious buzz kill. If we can get three points on the road, we can start being optimistic about this team again.

A good game from our right mid. Tino is out with a red card, so Najar starts on the right flank, right? Not necessarily. Look at these scrimmage lineups from earlier in the week. It seems likely that it’ll be Fred on the right. This Najar sophomore slump thing is starting to get serious. No matter who starts, we need a good game from him in order for me to start feeling good about the Najar situation. If Najar starts and plays well, then dandy, everything’s all flowers and sausages again. And if Fred starts and plays well, then at least Najar should know that he needs to step up his game to get back into the lineup.

Charlie Davies in the starting lineup. There have been legitimate reasons why he hasn’t started yet, but I’m getting impatient. Come on, Speilberg: show me the freakin’ shark.

Good set piece service from McCarty. Dax should be taking our set pieces, not Mr. No Depth Perception. Since Tino is out, this is Dax’s chance to win the job for good. The way I see it, good set pieces this game will lead to better set pieces in future.

XREP:PRIMARY NODE

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