I’m a fan of Ben Olsen — both as a player and as a coach — but that was some serious Norman Dale stuff that he pulled in the L.A. match. Leaving both your designated players on the bench is the equivalent of finishing a basketball game with four players. I’m not sure what Boskovic and Salihi did during training to earn a spot on the bench (failing to complete four passes — four! — before every shot?), but it better have been bad. If Salihi was 10 minutes late to training, Ben shouldn’t punish Salihi (and us) with 90 minutes of Maicon Santos. On the other hand, if Salihi stole a car from the VW pavillion and wrecked it in the Potomac...okay, that deserves a benching. I just hope Ben isn’t being too rigid; generally speaking, we need our best players on the field no matter how they performed in soccer tennis and monkey in the middle during the week.
After the dreadful season opener, the party line was “the team hasn’t played together enough,” which is why making a jillion changes to the lineup didn’t make sense to me. And tonight the lineup is changing again: Willis | Woolard, McDonald, Dudar, Russell | Cruz, Saragosa, De Rosario, DeLeon | Santos, Salihi. This time, though, most of the changes are dictated by Olympic absences (Hamid, Kitchen, Najar) and injury (Jakovic...does he ever stretch?). DeLeon replaces Pontius. I’m not a fan of that move; Pontius hasn’t been sharp since returning from injury, but he’s not going to regain his sharpness on the bench.
Here’s kickoff. Great atmosphere in Vancouver - those hosers love their soccer (is “hoser” a slur? Are Canadians just too polite to ask us to stop using it?).
10’ - The turf in Vancouver isn’t bad. I watched Seattle Friday night — their turf is good, too. It took 40 years, but companies have finally started making turf that shares properties with grass other than being green. That crap Real Salt Lake used to play on was the same stuff the Brady Bunch had as their “lawn”.
17’ - Right now, United have good magnetic balance on the wings; Cruz is continually positive, DeLeon is consistently negative.
31’ - It took more than a half an hour for United to win their first corner. They still don’t have a shot on goal, or anything resembling it. DeLeon has picked it up after a slow start.
33’ - Some pushing and shoving after the play after Hasli goes in hard on Saragosa. Hasli started acting shocked at getting a yellow card before the yellow card was issued, which kind of undermines his case.
40’ - You can say this about a lot of D.C.’s players: he’s playing good, aggressive defense but not doing much offensively.
44’ - United couldn’t manufacture a chance if you spotted them 1,000 Chinese workers and lax labor regulations.
Halftime: 0-0. Oy. Another half comes and goes with nothing resembling a chance. I’m going to say it: 2010. This looks like 2010. United look about as likely to score as the captain of your high school chess club.
50’ - I think Santos and Salihi have five minutes to show something before one of them gets Wolff’d.
52’ - We just saw a closeup of Nick DeLeon, and you can see in his eyes: he’s not going to make it 90 minutes. Also: he is a dead ringer for Zack De La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine.
53’ - Santos drills a corner kick at shin level. Enough, Ben — no more Santos, please.
56’ - Sure enough: DeLeon’s number goes up, but (bleep!) you — he won’t do what you tell him. Oh wait, yes he will; he’s coming off. Pontius is on.
61’ - Santos off, Boskovic on. De Rosario moves to striker. OK: if we can’t create chances now, then the roster was simply constructed wrong. The owner’s money is on the field.
66’ - Salihi’s corner saved by Canon! Unbelievable save. Really amazing save. Harkes correctly compares it to this famous save by England’s Gordon Banks.
71’ - Shots on goal: United: 2. Vancouver: 0. Maybe this is why Comcast created that weird “duels won” stat — to hide embarrassing stats like that one.
75’ - Nice buildup from D.C., and De Ro goes just over the bar! D.C. looking downright watchable in the last 10 minutes or so.
79’ - Wolff comes in for Salihi. Do you think Ben asks Wolff for his opinion as an assistant coach? “What do you think we need here, Josh?” “I think this game is crying out for an undersized 35-year-old striker. Just sayin’.”
84’ - Huge difference between one point and three points (the difference would be about two points, by my calculations). If United can somehow grab three, then OK: that’s the same outcome as if we had drawn our first three matches. One point — even on the road — still kind of feels like a loss.
89’ - Boskovic’s shooting is about as accurate as Greedo’s.
Full time: 0-0. Let me focus on the positive, since that’s what this blog is known for (that and unabashed Kurt Morsink fandom). United were the better team tonight. The better bad team. We created some chances in the second half, and the defense was solid. Much better than the first two matches.
Willis: 5. Got away with misplaying a corner kick and was otherwise good. For what it’s worth: Bill Hamid misplayed a corner kick for the U-23s tonight and was punished with a goal. So, I guess Pat Onstad knows what to work on next week.
Woolard: 5.5. Back to his usual self: played solid defense, didn’t offer much going forward.
Dudar: 4. He doesn’t do a good job of holding a flat line; he and McDonald are staggered too often.
McDonald: 6.5. Dominant game in defense; I would call him “The Blocker” if Tina Fey hadn’t already stolen that nickname for Liz Lemon this week. Questionable distribution is the only thing keeping his score from being higher.
Russell: 3.5. Every team has a “koala” — a player who survives because he has no competition. Russell is this team’s koala.
DeLeon: 5.5. He’s shown a good work rate and some skill. Seems to be a clear upgrade from Austin Da Luz.
Saragosa: 5. Second consecutive solid game in the middle. DeLeon, Saragosa, Cruz...all our low-cost acquisitions are living up to expectations.
Cruz: 6. He bites...in the good way, the way that Ben likes. Was better tonight than Najar was in the first two games this year.
De Rosario: 6. We need to figure out what we can do to get De Ro more space. Maybe he should stop showering — nobody wants to stand near a dude who stinks.
Santos: 3. Given the choice between Wolff and Santos, I definitely prefer Wolff. Maybe an assistant coach can convince Ben that’s the way to go.
Salihi: 4. He hasn’t done much, be he also hasn’t had the ball much.
Pontius: 3.5. I think defenders are figuring it out: Pontius is going to cut the ball back one more time than you were expecting.
Boskovic: 4.5. In between the erratic shooting and poor passes were some moments where he actually created some offense. We need that.
Wolff: 6.5. If nothing else, he runs around like a fool the whole time he’s out there.