A few thoughts on D.C. United’s 3-2 loss to the New England Revolution in a U.S. Open Cup qualifier Tuesday.....
Branko Boskovic had another terrific match in central midfield and has made a strong case to start. With Clyde Simms and Dax McCarty in the middle, the work rate is high but the attacking personality is lacking. McCarty is a quality two-way player and, with Simms supporting him, has the flexibility to go forward. If Boskovic and McCarty are paired, McCarty is going to have to do more work in the trenches.
Boskovic’s goals came from 16 and 23 yards, both struck with pace and accuracy, leaving the goalkeeper without any hope of making a save. He also hit the post with a free kick and had another set piece nicely saved. Last week against New York, he was ever-threatening during United’s desperate efforts in the second half.
Unfortunately for United, a left knee contusion sidelined Boskovic for the last 10 minutes Tuesday. He will undergo further evaluation Wednesday to determine whether he suffered any significant damage. Best-case scenario: It’s just a bruise and he’ll be available for Friday’s MLS match at Houston.
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Boskovic was battered throughout the second half by the Revolution. Said DCU Coach Ben Olsen: “That’s what happens when you get whacked over and over. You get that many licks, they start to add up.”
Boskovic said he didn’t think New England was playing dirty. DCU President Kevin Payne, however, took issue with the physical conduct against Boskovic.
“That was a nasty foul and I don’t think it was a coincidence that Boskovic suffered it,” he said of the play that ultimately knocked the Montenegrin out of the match.
Added midfielder Kurt Morsink: “Most of the attacking midfielders throughout the league take those shots. Once they realized Branko was the guy who makes the game for us and gives them trouble, New England is never scared to be physical. They knew what they were doing, that’s part of it, and they got the result, so you have to give them credit.”
Revolution Coach Steve Nicol had his own gripes.
The score tightened “but a lot of it was just the world-record amount of free kicks [D.C. United] got in the second half. With the amount of free kicks they were getting, they were going to score eventually.”
New England was called for 18 fouls, compared to United’s seven. The Revolution was assessed four yellow cards, United two. United had an 11-1 advantage on corner kicks.
Olsen was troubled by his club’s slow start: “They get the second goal, and then we wake up. That’s unacceptable. Good teams don’t need to wake up. They wake up at the [opening] whistle and are ready to go.”
On the first goal allowed, United was caught on the counterattack. On the second, DCU fell asleep at the start of the second half. On the third, the inability to clear the ball from danger gave rookie Alan Koger three opportunities in rapid succession.
Olsen, on Andy Najar: “To me, I saw Andy Najar back, and believe me, I’m happier than you guys are to see him back because I love the kid. He played his heart out and he responded to suggestions we had for him and he showed that he took a big step forward to getting back into MLS games.”
So for the first time in nine years, United won’t play in the Open Cup proper. The club has always taken great pride in competing in the tournament — and taken it more seriously than many MLS teams — but no one is going to lose sleep over this early elimination.
On the bright side, it means fewer matches in the middle of the summer. All energy is invested in league play — no Open Cup, no SuperLiga, no Champions League.
Finally, on a much lighter note, by failing to advance to the next round of qualifying (at Sporting Kansas City), United will again avoid playing a Cup-related game on the road. Four years and counting.....