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Posted at 12:03 PM ET, 06/10/2011

D.C. United-San Jose match preview

I couldn’t help but notice this correction in today’s edition of the Post:

“A photo caption with a May 30 Sports article on the D.C. United-Portland Timbers soccer game incorrectly identified United player Ethan White as teammate Clyde Simms.”

Oooooooooo. Not good, Post. Ethan White and Clyde Simms REALLY do not look alike. I mean good for running the correction, but...yeah, not good. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve done that before (and had it done to me...I look nothing like Jimmy Fallon, Eric).

In fairness: in the photo, the “15” on White’s shorts looks a lot like a “19”, which is Simms’ number.

On to United’s game against San Jose tomorrow. This matchup could not be more even. United’s record: 4-4-4. San Jose’s record: 4-4-4. United in their last five league matches: three ties and two wins. San Jose’s last five: three wins and two ties. If United were a restaurant, they’d be a: Chili’s. San Jose: Cheesecake Factory. It’s a battle of the middling! Come see who will be crowned slightly-above-average!

I’ve said it before: mediocre is good if you’re D.C. United. Last year’s team had wild fantasies about mediocrity. Last year’s team would have needed a four-hour plane flight to get to a point where they could see mediocrity with binoculars. Mediocrity represents rapid improvement. And in this league, it might also get you a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Last week’s 0-0 tie against the Galaxy was encouraging. The Galaxy were a good team playing at home (or at least: a good team playing badly at home), and United had the better of the play. The back five consisted of four players so young they probably never owned a cassette tape, and they held up well. The midfield, which featured Fred in the playmaking role for the first time this season, controlled the ball and created some chances. And the Brettschneider-Wolff tandem at the top combined well. Let’s take a minute to remember that Blake Brettschneider was taken in the second round of the supplemental draft, a spot so low that instead of a team cap and a handshake from the commissioner, you receive an application to law school and a conciliatory call from your college coach. He’s done very well.

If United win tomorrow, then they’ll creep above .500 for the first time since the first game of the season. They will also be unbeaten in their last six, with three wins in that span. That is officially a “good run of form”, or if you’re British, a “purple patch”. It’ll also be enough for me to adjust my expectations for this team upwards; think Arrested Development, when the Bluth Company got upgraded from “don’t buy” to “risky”.

Here are some things I’d like to see:

A starting striker pair of Brettschneider and Wolff. Dating from the second game of the year, I’ve felt that Davies-Wolff has been our best striker combo. But Brettschneider has played his way into the picture. Based on current form, I think that Brettschneider and Wolff is the way to go; they both look pretty good, and Davies still looks extremely rusty. I also think that Brettschneider is the style of player that this team needs; White and Woolard are both prone to long balls, and Brettschneider helps collect them and turn them into offense. Wolff and Davies are both short, speedy guys and don’t provide much presence in the air. And Ngwenya, well...the only person whose 2011 campaign has been worse than Ngwenya’s is Newt Gingrich.

Fred in the playmaker role. When Fred came back to United, it felt a bit like getting back with a girlfriend that you weren’t too crazy about, but...well, she was available. But maybe the analogy would be more accurate if the girlfriend got herself together a bit before you got back together (oh: and also you’re sleeping in the gutter and stealing copper pipes for crack money). Because Fred has been pretty good this year. And he’s the type of player that United need in central midfield; McCarty and Simms are both good players, but neither is an attacking midfielder. I say start Fred in the midfield again and take your pick between McCarty and Simms (my vote: McCarty, if he’s healthy).

Offense from Najar. A lot of teams this year have told their left midfielder to stay home and mark Najar. San Jose won’t; they need Convey to provide offense. Convey will get forward, which means there will be times that Najar is one-on-one with Ramiro Corrales. I like that matchup; Corrales is a “crafty veteran”, i.e. “slower than the second coming of a Guns ‘N Roses album”.

Another good game from the kids in the back. If they’re not too busy listening to hippity-hop and texting their face-blogs, I hope these young’uns can put another good 90 minutes together. But if a set-piece goal is conceded, I shall shake my cane at you until the liver spots are thrown from my elbow waddle!

By Jeff Maurer  |  12:03 PM ET, 06/10/2011

Tags:  United, Jeff Maurer

 
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