United are unbeaten in their last five! United only have one win in their last five. Both statements are true. And taken together, they paint a pretty accurate picture: United are a mediocre team. New England’s picture is a little less ambiguous: New England are winless in their last eleven. To put it another way: New England have lost eight of their last eleven. To put it yet another way: they stink. I’m hoping United can assert their adequacy in this match. I want New England to look at us and think “man...that team is pedestrian!” Let’s go out there and show the Revs what a team firing on a substantial majority of its cylinders looks like!
With the season more than halfway through, I think it’s time to assess the Charlie Davies situation. When United acquired Charlie Davies, I thought one of two things would happen: either it would be clear that his leg never fully healed and that he won’t ever be the player that he was before the accident, or he would slowly regain his form and turn into the dynamic, dangerous striker that we saw in 2009. What I didn’t consider is what has actually happened: he looks completely fine, but he stinks. He doesn’t look slow, he doesn’t look injured, but he also doesn’t look like a good soccer player. His passing is bad. He dithers on the ball. He doesn’t move well and doesn’t get into space. He hasn’t finished particularly well. He spends too much time trying to draw fouls. To be perfectly frank: he’s been a weak spot on this team. Davies needs to play better if United are going to make the playoffs.
Tonight’s lineup is brought to you by hamstring pulls. Hamstring Pulls: making United’s lineup decisions since 2007 (a subsidiary of ConcussionCo). Hamid | Woolard, McDonald, White, Kitchen | Pontius, Simms, Najar, De Rosario | Wolff, Davies. Wolff is over his latest hamstring pull and is back in the lineup, which means we are spared 90 minutes of Ngwenya and his Ngiveaways.
And we’re off...
1’ - I can’t describe how hot it is tonight. And I mean that literally: I cannot describe this weather in a family newspaper. Any accurate description of tonight’s weather must include a reference to one’s swimsuit area (or perhaps the swimsuit area of the devil) in order to convey the oppressive heat, humidity, and general discomfort of the situation.
5’ - Davies gets Sideshow Bob — excuse me, Kevin Alston — one on one, but Alston wins the battle.
6’ - Davies flops, but the ref isn’t buying it. They’re on to you, Charlie.
9’ - Very strange play: the ball is played into space, but instead of sprinting after it, Davies jogs after the ball and positions himself to win a foul (which he does). Um...good play, I guess? Free kicks are nice (even though United haven’t scored off a header all season). But, honestly, I want my strikers to be more aggressive than that.
10’ - Off the ensuing set piece, center back Brandon McDonald ends up with the ball on the wing and does two pretty nice Cruyff turns. Which gives me an opportunity to link to the original Cruyff turn. Every time I watch that clip, I swear he’s going to cross the ball.
15’ - Pontius sets up DeRo, but his shot is just over the bar.
16’ - Davies with a nice cut and shot, but Reis makes the save! Much better, Charlie.
17’ - DeRo with a great turn, but Reis makes the save. Usually when you dominate but don’t score, it comes back to haunt you...am I right ladies?
30’ - Zak (incorrect! We would have accepted “Zack” or “Zach”) Boggs stings a volley, but Hamid punches it away. One thing Hamid could do better is to get the ball out of the danger zone when he can’t catch it.
37’ - Woolard with a bad giveaway, but McDonald does well to track back and tackle the ball away. McDonald then gets up and yells at the defense. Soccer defenses aren’t big on incentive structures, i.e. rewarding someone for positive work instead of reprimanding them for mistakes. Yelling is pretty much the only method they use. Just one time I would love to see a goalkeeper or center back say “Hey, nice clearing header. Please accept this gift card to Crate & Barrel as a token of my appreciation.”
39’ - Hamid collides with Lekic, and Lekic is down. That looked like a clean play — I think Hamid got the ball, a fact that I’m sure will make Lekic feel much better.
41’ - Pontius collects a turnover and feeds Davies, but Davies can’t do anything with it. Unfortunately, Davies is supporting my argument that he just isn’t playing very well right now.
42’ - PENALTY KICK FOR UNITED! Pretty obvious: Phelan jumped with his arms up, and the ball hit his elbow. The Revs argue in pretty much the same way you would argue if you got caught doing 50 in a school zone: you feel like you should say something, but you know you’re busted cold.
43’ - Is now a bad time to point out that Reis is one of the best PK-stoppers I’ve ever seen? Yes...yes it is. Davies steps up...and makes Reis’ ability completely irrelevant by skying it over the bar Carli Lloyd-style.
Halftime: 0-0. This is frustrating: United were good, but Reis was better and it’s 0-0. If I’m Ben, I tell the team to just keep doing what they’re doing (except for the not-scoring part).
46’ - New England get a counter off a set piece, and their execution of that counter tells us everything we need to know about New England’s offense. In a nutshell: it stinks. I think it will take a mistake from United in order for New England to score.
51’ - Wolff plays a clever back heel to Pontius, but Pontius’ cross doesn’t find anyone. Pontius is sporting a beard tonight — wrong night for that, Chris. Ben is also sporting a beard, but just the one that he grew since the match started.
58’ - The ref — who has been good — does something that I hate: he prevents a quick re-start so that he can talk to the player who committed the foul. Great, thanks a lot: we lose the advantage so you can look McCarthy in the eye and say “I’m not mad...I’m just disappointed.”
62’ - Fred comes in for Wolff. Wait...Fred’s still here? At one point does Fred become the guy who’s graduated from school but is still spotted hanging around all the time?
69’ - De Ro with another nice turn but can’t get his shot on frame. De Ro started great but has been quiet in the second half. Here’s a question: on a night as humid as tonight, does De Ro just skip the jheri curl juice and let the humidity do the work?
70’ - Pontius exits and Austin da Luz (which means “of light” or “yes...Luz”, depending on whether the origin is Spanish or Russian) makes his D.C. United debut. I don’t know if da Luz is any good, but United really had no choice but to pick up someone to provide midfield cover.
71’ - All of United’s recent transactions have involved players with two capital letters in their last name: McCarty, McDonald, De Rosario, Da Luz. Except for Fred, who has no last name...except for his real last name, which is Da Silva! And this is happening in the nation’s capital! What does it all mean? I think it’s pretty obvious: Obama is a Muslim.
72’ - GOAL NEW ENGLAND! Ugh — what a stomach-punch this one is. It started with Kitchen misplaying a backpass, which led to an unnecessary corner. Then White lost track of McCarthy (Two capital letters! Connect the dots, people!!!), who placed his header just inside the far post. Until right now, I felt like we were going to get three points out of this match. Now a point would be a good result, which is discouraging.
76’ - Once again the ref stops a quick re-start, this time to issue a yellow card! I hate that! The play is continuing — go back and issue the card later.
78’ - Ngwenya comes in for Simms. You pretty much have to do this: take out a defensive player and insert the worst player on your roster. Wait...maybe we don’t have to do that.
81’ - Najar feeds DeRo, and Reis makes an excellent kick save on DeRo’s shot! Reis is man of the match so far.
90’ - The ball falls to Ngwenya at the top of the box, but all he can do is put a weak shot on goal. A goal there would have made me feel bad about all the criticism I’ve lobbed Ngwenya’s way. As it stands, I feel justified.
FULL TIME: 1-0 New England. Much like the Women’s World Cup final, the team I was cheering for played the better game but found a way to lose. Unlike the Women’s World Cup final, there is no feel-good story surrounding the team that one. What does Boston have to bounce back from...the Big Dig? The death of Ted Kennedy two years ago? There’s no feel-good story here.
Hamid: 6. He’s doing a good job of controlling the penalty area, even if he’s overzealous sometimes.
Woolard: 4.5. Played solid defense, didn’t offer much going forward. Had one pretty bad giveaway.
McDonald: 6. Here’s a question: when Jakovic is healthy, who starts in the middle? McDonald has made a good argument for keeping his spot.
White: 4.5. Between White and Kitchen, the rookies generally make one serious mistake per game. Tonight, they each made a mistake on the same sequence.
Kitchen: 4.5. I can see why coaches like Perry Kitchen: he’s got good instincts and he battles. But I’m not completely sold on his physical ability; for example, I can’t really see him as an impact central midfielder.
Pontius: 4.5. He’s combining well with De Rosario, and when they’re working together our attack looks dangerous. But he clearly ran out of gas in the second half.
Simms: 5. He had a shot from distance, and United fans know: he can score from that range. Clyde Simms goals are like Portishead albums: infrequent, but welcome.
Najar: 5.5. Wasn’t heavily involved but picked a few locks when he did get the ball.
De Rosario: 7.5. Very good match — Reis had to do very well to keep him off the score sheet.
Wolff: 3. I don’t think Wolff was at 100 percent - he wasn’t very mobile out there.
Davies: 2.5. I have some sympathy for Davies, because I’ve done exactly that with a penalty kick. On the other hand, I’m a writer-slash-comedian, and he’s a professional soccer player.
Fred: 4. Did his flight get cancelled? Why is he still here? Thanks for the memories Fred, we love you, but, geez, get lost. I hate double goodbyes.
Da Luz: 5.5. Showed good energy and some skill. Frankly, if he had just shown a working knowledge of the rules of soccer then his acquisition would be justified, but maybe he can play a little, too.
Ngwenya: 4. Didn’t have enough time on the field to drive his score any lower.