Ah, March — the MLS pre-season. Sure, these games count, but most teams are still figuring things out, having spent February playing friendlies against rec league teams and MLS rosters comprised half of guys who are already back in law school. Last week, United seemed completely caught off guard by the start of the season; maybe their clocks were thrown off by the leap day and daylight savings. It’s like the Friday before Mother’s Day when all of a sudden some of the women at work are knee-deep in flowers and balloons and you’re like “Oh, man...that’s this weekend?”
The performance United turned in last week was the soccer equivalent of a rush delivery of chrysanthemums, whereas those brown-nosers at Sporting K.C. had spa certificates and a heartfelt card at the ready. Way to make us look bad, K.C.
Tonight’s lineup against the Galaxy: Willis | Korb, McDonald, Jakovic, Russell | Pontius, Saragosa, King, Najar | De Rosario, Santos. We knew that with Hamid and Kitchen on international duty we’d see Willis and Saragosa (or Morsink), but I did not expect to see King and Santos instead of Boskovic and Salihi. Are they injured? One of the disturbing things about how poorly we played last week was that that was our first team; those were the eleven guys who were supposed to be starting games for us. I guess the good news about using second-stringers this week is that we’ll have an excuse if things go badly.
4’ – Boyens drags down Santos to stop a counterattack, and the yellow he doesn’t receive marks the beginning of a new season of referee Baldomero Toledo’s hijinks. There are 19 teams in MLS; statistically, United should get Toledo three or four times a year. In reality, I would estimate that he calls 70-80 percent of our matches.
8’ – De Ro blasts a shot from midfield and almost scores! Saunders was beat; he narrowly avoided having to stand around looking angry for the next five minutes as Galavision shove every camera at their disposal into his face.
10’ - I’m 90 percent sure that’s Andres Cantor calling this match for Galavision. Are there any other Spanish-language play-by-play guys? That guy works more than Nicholas Cage.
12’ – A scramble in the box, and L.A. want a handball on Najar. Didn’t look like a hand ball to me — he actually tried to move his hand away from the ball. So, I take back one percent of what I said about Toledo.
17’ – Beckham goes in very high on Saragosa; another time, another day that’s a red card. Or, more accurately: another player, another league that’s a red card.
20’ – Willis stops Magee one on one! Great save! The English would say that Robbie Russell “didn’t cover himself in glory” on that play. We would say he “crapped the bed”. Maybe they’ve got a point about Americans being crass.
30’ – Another poor clearance by Russell forces Saragosa into a foul. Perfect spot for Beckham.
31’ - What is Willis doing (or talking about, as it were)? He’s covering the left side of the goal, but so is the wall, and...Beckham’s free kick goes just wide! Wow...lucky! I thought that was in. Willis seems to have learned wall placement from Andre Maginot.
35’ – Jakovic looks indecisive in every part of his game.
43’ – GOAL L.A.! Well, that was inevitable. Seems like every player on United’s back line lost his man at some point during that sequence.
Halftime: 1-0 L.A. That is United’s third bad half of the year; according to my calculations, 150 percent of the soccer they’ve played so far has been bad.
46’ – Dudar comes in for Jakovic. For most of us, this is literally our first look at Emiliano Dudar, and I would say he looks like the dad from a 1980’s sitcom. Maybe instead of yelling at his fellow defenders he’ll give them an earnest talk containing valuable life lessons, toss in a lighthearted quip to show he’s not mad, give them a hug, and...freeze frame.
48’ - Good to see MLS has retained the spray foam used to keep the wall in place on free kicks. It’s a good idea, and everyone seems to like it. Rumblings from FIFA are that they may only be a few years away from commissioning a study to consider forming a committee to investigate the possibility of using foam spray.
56’ – Missed chance — Dudar shins the ball over from five yards out! Growing Pains, I guess (+3 wordplay, +2 callback strength). Of course, after the miss he looks at the linesman, but the linesman is a total jerk and keeps his flag down.
61’ – Boskovic comes in for King. Hmm, so Boskovic isn’t completely injured. What about Salihi?
65’ - Nice move between De Ro, Najar, and Pontius ends with Santos firing over the bar. We’re at least showing signs of life in the second half.
68’ - Goal L.A.! 2-0! A bad ball by Korb leads to a counterattack that Keane finishes with authority. Well, hand it to Keane: he’s defying stereotypes. The Irish are generally not known for being active and sharp on March 18.
73’ - Pontius comes out and Sideshow Nick DeLeon and his awesome crazy hair come in. Wow, seeing as this blog is 60 percent hair jokes, I hope DeLeon gets a lot of minutes.
75’ - Buddle gets behind the defense, but Willis keeps the score at 2-0. The role Willis is playing for D.C. United right now is the same role auto-tune plays for David Lee Roth: just keeps things from being more embarrassing than they already are.
85’ - Someone named Sarvas makes it 3-0 to L.A. Whatever.
86’ - Out of nowhere: GOAL UNITED! It’s the rookie, Nick DeLeon, with a great far-post finish off a feed from De Ro! Probably a meaningless goal, but what a way for DeLeon to make his debut.
88’ - Najar goes inches away from making the game interesting, but alas, uninteresting-ness is restored.
FULL TIME: 3-1 L.A. The better team won, which obviously stinks and is unfair.
Willis: 6.5. Filled in for Hamid by doing exactly what Hamid would have done: he made some great one-on-one saves, though one or two decisions were a little iffy.
Korb: 4. What’s the worst habit a defender can have? Giveaways? Arson? I would argue that it’s giveaways. Korb has a lot of positive traits, but he needs to cut down on the giveaways.
Jakovic: 4.5. I’m assuming he picked up an injury, because for whatever reason center backs are never, ever subbed out for performance reasons.
McDonald: 5.5. Looked better than against K.C....in terms of play. I’m still not sure that’s MLS center back hair — that’s more Japanese striker hair.
Russell: 3.5. We only have three fullbacks; we need Russell to play well.
Pontius: 5.5. Created some offense but needed to play more stern defense. Some would say he needed more “bite”.
Saragosa: 5. Played well enough that we fans will probably not get Morsinked next match.
King: 3. Was completely invisible.
Najar: 3.5. He started slow last year and got better; let’s hope that’s the pattern this year.
De Rosario: 7. Spent much of the match deep in the midfield. Fine with me; whatever it takes for him to find the ball.
Santos: 4. If Salihi wasn’t hurt, then surely his ego is hurt now after watching Santos lumber through that match in his place.
Dudar: 3. Not a good half; he seemed a step slow and missed a golden chance to level the match at 1-1.
Boskovic: 3. If Boskovic can’t play the creative role — and I’m not giving up yet, but he hasn’t been promising so far — then put Cruz or DeLeon on the wing and let Najar have a shot. Because we’re getting no production out of that spot at the moment.
DeLeon: 6.5. Looked good on a night when many others looked bad.
More on United’s glowing start to the season:
United rewind: Confounding lineup, poor performance