EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions below are those of Soccer Outsider Jeff Maurer and not Soccer Insider Steven Goff.
Saturday’s United-Sounders game was preceded by a little bit of trash talk from former United defender Marc Burch. Burch told the Seattle Times that United “had the opportunity to keep me and they didn’t. It’s time to go back and prove that I don’t believe that their left back is better than I am. If that’s what they think, then that’s what they think. It’s time to go back there and prove that we have a much better team here. And I’m happy to be here.”
Oh, snap! Personally, that kind of talk doesn’t bother me; would you expect him to say that he’s not better than the player who replaced him? Post super-sub Paul Tenorio took the high road in his headline, saying that Burch “had words” for United and Daniel Woolard. But I would have taken a more Daily Mirror-type approach: “Burch Slap! Fuming Fullback Wails on Woolard”. Or “Seattle Sounders F.U. - Blacklisted Back Bashes Red & Black”. Or maybe: “Burch to Woolard: ‘I Will Dance On Your Grave’ ” (not technically true but also not beneath the standards of the Mirror).
Anyway, this one looked to be a humdinger heading into the match, especially because Sounders Coach Sigi Schmid decided to leave Burch out of the starting 11. Don’t you understand that writers need story lines, Sigi? Help us out here. United Coach Ben Olsen started the same 11 from the 4-1 win over Dallas, except Jakovic is in for the suspended Brandon McDonald. It’s: Willis | Marc Burch arch-nemesis Daniel Woolard, Dudar, Jakovic, Russell | DeLeon, Kitchen, Cruz, De Rosario | Salihi, Santos.
Here’s kickoff . . .
1’ — The match isn’t televised locally, so I’ll try to prioritize match description over Nick DeLeon hair jokes. You want to know how United played, not that DeLeon looks like Sideshow Bob and Dr. J had a baby. That was the last one, I swear.
12’ — So far this match is tough. I wouldn’t say “scrappy” — scrappy is the word you use when a newsie sells a lot of papers. These guys are going into tackles hard.
18’ — Both teams can only generate attacks through long balls and throw-ins. It’s like watching a Stoke City scrimmage.
22’ — Montero with a hard shot from an angle, but Willis catches it. That’s the first real chance for either side.
23’ — Salihi off the intersection of the post and the bar which strangely enough has a name: off the stanchion (noun, Old French: STAN-shuhn)! The feed came from DeLeon, who is off to a bright start.
29’ — Yellow card for Jakovic: terrible, terrible call. Jakovic slid for the ball and arrived first, then Fernandez fell over him. MLS has started handing out post-match fines for rough tackles. Would they possibly mail Jakovic $5,000 and an apology letter for that totally legal tackle?
31’ — Good so far: DeLeon, Salihi, Kitchen, RFK grounds crew, the Korean BBQ place near my apartment. Not good so far: Dudar, De Ro, the referee, low-def Direct Kick broadcasts, the trend towards stingy napkin distribution at places that serve messy, sauce-laden food.
33’ — Montero deflects a shot just wide! You know how hockey players redirect one another’s shots? That’s what Montero just did, and he almost scored.
40’ — United is trying to win two games in a row for the first time since June 13, 2009. United’s starting right back in that match: Bryan Namoff. Also playing: Jaime Moreno, Ange N’Silu, Joe Gatjeans, Moses and Cro-Magnon Man. It was a long time ago.
Half time: 0-0. This is a great game if you love defense, which is kind of like saying “this is great airshow if you love safe, level, uneventful flying.” Not the most entertaining style of play. But both teams really are playing excellent defense, closing down space and challenging for every ball.
50’ — Cruz gets hit in the face, but he’s not getting any sympathy after last week. He’s the boy who cried wolf.
51’ — The Sounders have a great chance on the counter, but United is bailed out by a horrible last pass by Alvaro Fernandez! If Fernandez completes that cross Seattle has a tap-in goal. Lucky.
58’ — Robbie Russell’s heel inadvertently whacks Fernandez in the “gentleman’s area” (thank you for that phrase, repressed English culture!). Wow . . . he really got a thumping. Moment of silence please. I say we just let him lay there for as long as he needs. Play 40 minutes of stoppage time if you have to.
64’ — Pontius is now in for Cruz, and Eddie Johnson is in the game for Seattle. Johnson was let go by Santos for “fitness issues,” so I kind of expected him to show up here looking like Betty Draper. But he looks lean and normal.
73’ — Pontius and Santos combine to create a look at goal, but Pontius puts his shot wide! The game is opening up a bit now.
73’ — Looks like Russell is hurt, so Korb is coming on. Boskovic has also come on for Salihi, so United is out of subs.
78’ — Eddie Johnson has been on for 14 minutes, and already the commentators are talking about the hat trick he scored against Panama. His entire reputation is built on one shining moment in 2004. He’s the Howard Dean of soccer.
82’ — Both teams are still playing hard and pushing for the three points. It’s like watching a drunk relative dance at a wedding; it might not be pretty, but the effort is definitely there.
90’ — DeLeon with a good shot fromdistance. He’s faded out of the match, but he still looks dangerous when he’s on the ball.
91’ — Burch enters the game to a round of boos. Or maybe they’re saying “Boo-urch.”
92’ — Burch’s header smacks off the crossbar! But it stays out and the game ends 0-0! Wow, that would have been a great, terrible story line if that went in.
Full-time: 0-0. Honestly, I thought Seattle played very well, especially on defense. And the same could be said of United. So even though D.C. didn’t create many chances, I thought this was a good performance. And given the fact that we narrowly avoided conceding the stoppage-time winner to the guy who ripped us in the press, that point looks pretty good right now.
Willis: 7. I like Bill Hamid; I think he’s good now and might be an international-caliber keeper some day. But Willis is playing so well that I don’t care too much when Hamid comes back.
Woolard: 10. That’s right, Marc. Tonight, Daniel Woolard played the greatest game I’ve ever seen anyone play. People will be talking about this one for ages (if only to say that he may have deserved a 5.5).
Dudar: 4. Still not a fan of his positioning; he has a habit of drifting into a sweeper role.
Jakovic: 6.5. Very solid game, passed the ball well. Did not deserve that yellow card.
Russell: 5. He’s starting to look better. So of course he got hurt.
DeLeon: 6. If Pontius regains his form, I think Santos might be the one to give way.
Kitchen: 7.5. He had a monster of a match; he won absolutely everything. Good defensive work might not sell tickets but it does earn points.
Cruz: 5. Very active, but wasn’t very effective.
De Rosario: 4. Seattle gave him no space. There are studio apartments in Tokyo that offer more space than De Ro had tonight.
Salihi: 6.5. He didn’t have a ton of touches, but was pretty effective with the ones that he had. He held the ball well.
Santos: 4.5. Another good-effort-not-much-end-product guy. We had a lot of those tonight.
Pontius: 6. Started to look like his old self tonight, combining with the forwards and beating guys on the dribble.
Boskovic: 7. Probably the best I’ve seen him play in a United shirt — he had a real impact on the game.
Korb: 5. If Russell is hurt, then Korb is the only option.