2010 was a bad year for D.C. United. It was also a bad year for Charlie Davies; the only way to make his post-crash era more miserable would have been for Kathy Bates to smash his ankles with a sledgehammer. When Davies scored two to help United beat Columbus in the season opener, it felt like a revival. Then, unexpectedly, the revival got put on hold. A referee ruined a match in New England. The defending champs thumped us in Colorado. The “let’s pull a hamstring!” craze swept through the United camp, limiting Davies’ minutes. Obama, the Tea Party and 2011 D.C. United have at least one thing in common: just when you think the revolution has arrived, reality sets in and you realize it’s going to be a long, hard slog.
I like tonight’s lineup: Hamid | Burch, White, Jakovic, Korb | Pontius, Simms, McCarty, Fred | Wolff, Davies. This is more like the lineup we envisioned during the off-season. Some may be surprised that Fred is starting instead of Najar, but even a snarky idiot could predict that after looking at the mid-week scrimmage lineups.
The “T” in TFC must stand for turnover; it seems like they’re got a completely different lineup every time we visit. That much turnover is usually the sign of a hostile work environment; they should try starting a company softball team or having Hawaiian shirt day and see if morale improves.
2’ - BMO field has grass now, which I’m glad to see - I hate turf. Actually, I should say: I hate turf at the pro level. At the rec or high-school level, your choices are pretty much turf or mud/weeds/broken OE bottles/hypodermic needles. So I’ll take the turf.
5’ - GOAL UNITED! Pontius creates space for himself and drills a shot to the far post! Very, very nice goal; both the setup and the finish were quality. That’s Pontius’ first goal of the year, and United’s first goal in the first half this year.
7’ - The color commentary is being done by Kyle Martino tonight. I’m probably cheering for him about as much as I’m cheering for United; I badly want someone to unseat John Harkes as the go-to American commentator.
10’ - GOAL UNITED! GOAL DAVIES! A terrible giveaway by Toronto (I think it was Borman) triggers a counter for United, and Davies and Wolff combine well to create a goal. Stephen “United passed on me twice in the 2009 draft, but for Pontius and Wallace so it’s kind of okay” Frei made a nice save on Wolff’s initial shot, but Davies followed up and put the ball into the open net. 2-0 after 10 minutes...I’ll take it.
14’ - I have to think this game is ours now. Imagine you play for Toronto. Your legs are tired because you played mid-week. You’re down two goals after 10 minutes. It’s cold. It’s raining. Your best player was traded last week. You only know about half of your teammates’ names. It’d be pretty easy to mentally write this one off as a lost cause.
19’ - For the last two games, United have been playing like a Ben Olsen-coached team. I like what I’m seeing: there’s a lot of hustle, a lot of pressure on the ball. When someone loses it, they chase to win it back. We’re winning a lot of second balls. Ben is splicing his DNA with this team, with predictably scrappy - and presumably hairy - results.
21’ - By contrast, Toronto are playing a 4-3-3 that doesn’t seem to suit them. United are dominating the midfield, and Toronto aren’t applying much pressure in spite of the three strikers.
28’ - The commentators point out that this is the referee’s first MLS match. So, there are three things I’m cheering for: a United win, no head-slappingly stupid statements from Martino, and a good game from the referee. MLS needs quality refs more than SNL needs quality writers.
37’ - United are possessing the ball, but not threatening at all. Wait...I typed that sentence out of habit, since it’s been in at least 80 percent of my recent match recaps. It’s actually TORONTO who are possessing the ball but not threatening.
41’ - Toronto don’t have an answer for Pontius right now. He looks like a completely different player than last year.
45’ - United are just kicking it around, making the TFC fans sit still in the rain and cold and suffer. I’m glad to be rooting for the team that’s causing the suffering for a change.
HALF TIME. Great first half - no question that United are the better team. Our defense looks organized, our attack looks sharp. As for Toronto, um...the grass looks nice.
49’ - RED CARD FOR TORONTO FC. Pontius and Wolff with some great linking play, forcing Ty Harden to bring Pontius down just outside the box. Good call, rookie ref: that’s a clear goal-scoring opportunity, and therefore a red card.
51’ - Now how miserable is this match if you play for Toronto? You’re still down two, and you’re playing with 10. It’s still raining. You can’t feel your toes. You suddenly realize you forgot to TIVO River Monsters. You see your wife in the stands talking to that perpetually tan Argentinean dude. And there are still 40 minutes left.
56’ - Rumors of Fred’s death have been greatly exaggerated. After the ‘09 season, my level of annoyance with Fred the soccer player was roughly equal to my level of annoyance with Fred the high-pitched internet sensation (no, I will not be linking to that. Google it if you want a migraine). But he’s strung a few decent showings together, and tonight is his best game so far.
59’ - Perry Kitchen got all the attention during the draft, but his haircut twin Chris Korb (did the entire Akron team get that buzz cut?) is impressing me. This is the fourth game out of four that he’s played well.
61’ - Toronto have their best chance of the match, nearly converting a back-post header. What’s the opposite of a silver lining...a muddy-brown lining? The muddy-brown lining of this match is that United’s set-piece defending still needs some work.
63’ - Kitchen comes on for Jakovic. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a center back subbed out for non-injury reasons. But I guess Ben wants to get Kitchen some minutes.
68’ - United scored early, and are now just kicking it around and running out the clock...it feels very 2005. Anyone want to get on Myspace and check out the latest Lost theories?
73’ - GOAL UNITED! GOAL PONTIUS! United finally take advantage of the extra space: Fred plays in Pontius, and Pontius cuts back and blasts a curler past Frei. Another excellent goal - this game is over.
74’ - Boskovic on for Dax. By the way: Dax was definitely playing at the top of a diamond today. It was not a flat four.
76’ - Toronto with another back post header, which Hamid does well to save, and White clears off the line. That’s the first real work for Hamid, and he reacted well.
82’ - Ngwenya on for Fred. Ben has the luxury of making planning-for-next-match moves.
89’ - Davies gets behind the defense and forces a very nice save from Frei. And now Davies is down. Please don’t let this be one of those “costly victories”.
FULL TIME: 3-0 United. It looks like Davies just had a cramp, so tonight was all good news. United dominated; several guys played well. The refereeing was good. Kyle Martino kept the clichés in the single digits, which puts him ahead of John Harkes.
Hamid: 5.5. He had one save to make, and he made it. He actually looked a little too amped up out there at times. I worry when goalkeepers get bored and go out of their way to get involved.
Burch: 5.5. Defended well, won a couple important tackles. How inept was Toronto? So inept that they didn’t even force Burch into a yellow card, and that dude loves yellow cards.
Jakovic: 6. Five points for defending and distributing well, and one point for not messing his shorts; apparently, he was coming down with the flu.
White: 5.5. Defended well, his distribution needed some work. But that’s okay; it’s only his second start, I don’t expect him to be Cool Hand Luke back there right out of the gate.
Korb: 6.5. Somebody give me a reason why I shouldn’t be excited about Chris Korb? He’s fast, can defend, gets forward, thinks fast, passes well,and can cross. From where I’m sitting, it looks like we nabbed a quality MLS starter with the 31st pick.
Pontius: 8. Awesome game; two excellent goals and quality touches throughout.
Simms: 6. Covered a lot of ground, won a lot of second balls and didn’t give the ball away. Exactly what you want from a defensive midfielder.
McCarty: 5.5. Not his best game; he had a good first half, but he had some bad touches when United were trying to apply the dagger after Toronto went down to 10.
Fred: 6.5. Fred’s a religious guy, so a resurrection right before Easter makes sense.
Wolff: 7. Didn’t get on the score sheet, but had a subtly great game. Tons of good touches, set up a goal, and helped Pontius draw the red card. I have to think that Wolff and Davies are now the first-choice starting tandem.
Davies: 6.5. His first touch is a bit heavy, and he’s still spending too much time on the ball, but he made a nuisance of himself the whole game.
Kitchen: 6. We’ve still only seen small samples, but he positions himself and moves the ball like a guy who really knows what he’s doing.
Boskovic: 5.5. Pretty good. We play New York on Thursday; I wonder if he’ll possibly get the start over Dax because he has fresh legs.
Ngwenya: no rating.