EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions below are those of Soccer Outsider Jeff Maurer and not Soccer Insider Steven Goff.
There’s no bad time for a win, except in Olympic badminton. But tonight would be a particularly good time for United to win; they’ve lost three of their last four league matches and need to get the train back on the tracks. Or the Volkswagen back on the Autobahn, I should say. Honestly, I’m not too worried by this mini-slump. The only really lousy game in there was the 1-0 loss to Columbus. The result in Houston was determined by an early red card. The loss to the Red Bulls was a one goal road loss to a good team. There was also a 3-0 win over Les Bleus (North American edition) mixed in there.
I was not 100 percent sure goalkeeper Bill Hamid would start after his red card against Houston, but he is. I was 100 percent sure that Long Tan would not start, but he is, which shows that Ben is wiley and that I don’t understand statistics. The lineup is: Hamid | Woolard, Dudar, McDonald, Korb | Pontius, Kitchen, DeLeon, Boskovic | De Rosario, Tan.
Here’s kickoff, though I’m watching on DVR. I was actually in DC this weekend at the DC Improv, but comedy and soccer tend to happen at the same time, so I couldn’t go to the match. I think next year I might just DVR the entire season and watch it over a long weekend.
4’ - Dave Johnson with a good line: “Team Great Britain lost on penalties today. So maybe it’s not an English curse.” A funny line made slightly funnier by the fact that the two non-English players - Welshmen Ramsey and Giggs - both made their spot kicks.
12’ - Tan starts a nice move but he can’t finish after getting the ball back from De Ro! The flag stayed down, though it looked like Tan was offside.
14’ - Tan’s acquisition was one of those classic “We think our player assessment is better than your player assessment” deals. It might be telling that Vancouver had him for a year and still let him go for a supplemental draft pick in 2015, which is so far in the future who knows if there will even be a draft or a Vancouver by then. Then again, teams make mistakes — look at how many teams passed on Jeremy Lin. I would love for Tandemonium© to grip DC.
19’ - That was a very Brandon McDonald exchange: he committed a foul, waited for the foul call, then reacted in disbelief when the call finally came. I love Brandon McDonald.
25’ - DC is applying consistent pressure. I don’t really believe in karma in life, but I do believe in karma in soccer; usually if you control the game this much, you’re eventually rewarded with a deflected goal or a hand ball in the box.
28’ - Sure enough: hand ball on Mendez, free kick for United. United have a chance to make me look smart. Of course, that means this kick is going 20 yards over the bar.
29’ - Update: into the wall and I am not smart.
34’ - De Ro was down, and for a minute I contemplated what this team would look like without De Ro. I didn’t like it; there were fewer jehri curls, but also fewer goals. Thankfully, he’s back up and seems to be okay.
35’ - If “yellow cards drawn” was a stat, Pontius would have two.
41’ - Phil Jackson’s triangle offense was basically a scheme to get the ball to Michael Jordan, and later Kobe Bryant. We should have the same type of thing to get the ball to Pontius and De Ro.
44’ - Kitchen gets behind the defense and almost scores! He could have gone down after Gruenbaum’s challenge and won a penalty kick, but he stayed up. So: score a point for honesty. And score zero points for United.
Half time: United are playing well but haven’t broken through. Dave Johnson sometimes calls matches for Columbus, but he’s calling this one from United’s point of view. I remember when I found out that DJ calls games for other teams; it was like finding out that your dad has a family in another city.
48’ - GOAL UNITED! DeLeon and the MC Hammer lines in his hair are too legit to quit on that play! Great work from DeLeon, getting free on the end line and creating a scramble that Pontius smashed home. Tan and De Ro were also involved, but that goal was mostly DeLeon.
57’ - Pontius gets free down the middle and almost seals it! The way this match is tilted toward United, a second goal would pretty much end it.
60’ - Geez, Bill: pick up the ball. Hamid is slow off his line and ends up giving up a corner. Hamid has raw skills but his decision-making needs to improve. But there’s reason for hope: you used to be able to describe Nick Rimando the same way. And his decision-making did improve (after he left DC, of course).
61’ - Oh no: Woolard with what definitely looks like a concussion. Players are taking turns looking into his eyes and immediately making the “sub!” motion to the bench. If someone asks “where are you?” and you answer with anything other than “in a crumbling stadium that is oversized and offers insufficient revenue streams for this team’s needs,” then, yeah, that’s a concussion.
76’ - United might be setting a team best (worst?) for most offside in a match. It’s as if they have a scouting report that told them to test the line judge.
79’ - For my money, Dilly Duka is not only the most delicious treat at Dairy Queen, he’s also the Crew’s best player.
81’ - Eddie Gaven is only 25? I guess he just seems older because he’s been in the league forever and because he has the beard of a Gold Rush-era prospector.
90’ + 3’ - United haven’t been able to kill this match off, and now they have to survive one last corner kick. Gruenebaum comes forward, which gives me an idea: I say for set pieces in stoppage time, anyone even remotely affiliated with either team should be allowed on the field. Subs, coaches, front office staff. Dave Johnson can play for both teams. Even Goff and I could run on the field and try to mark Chad Marshall.
Full time: 1-0 United. The performance was pretty good, and the three points are great. I’ll take it.
Hamid: 4.5. Looked shaky, indecisive. Punching out the corner kick on the last play of the game was his best moment of the match.
Woolard: 5.5. If the concussion is a bad one, then United have a big problem. Lewis Neal is not a left back.
Dudar: 7. Ben gave him a rare start and he responded. Looks like one of those “problem you want to have” situations is developing at center back.
McDonald: 6. I tried to use MLS Chalkboard to track his unsuccessful long passes, but I realized that’s not fair: a clearance whacked down field counts as an unsuccessful long pass.
Korb: 5.5. Korb needs to do two things in order to be a better player: 1) Give the ball away less, and 2) Be taller. I would focus on #1.
Pontius: 7. It’s hard to say whether striker or left mid is his best position, but I would probably vote for left mid. Hey, you know who needs a left midfielder? The U.S. National Team.
Kitchen: 6. Kitchen looks a bit like Woolard from a distance. When he popped up in Columbus’ box in the first half, I wasn’t sure who it was, but I was shocked either way.
DeLeon: 5. He had a pretty subpar game except for the play that, you know, won the game.
Boskovic: 5.5. Ironically, his set pieces were the weakest part of his game tonight.
De Rosario: 6.5. De Ro went down in the first half but stayed in. Woolard then had to leave in the second half. Did we sacrifice Woolard to the injury gods to save De Ro? If so: 1) We are jerks, and 2) Why haven’t we been doing this the whole time?
Tan: 4.5. Not a great debut, but not terrible. Pity me: there are many wordplays available for “Long Tan”, but none of them are printable in a family newspaper.
Santos: 6. The long ball game got a lot more effective after he entered.
Neal: 5. Not a disaster at left back.
Jakovic: 4. Kind of a disaster at left back. He’s a center back; he doesn’t have the speed to keep up with wingers.