One weekend, I had a three-show run at a club. First show: good. Third show: very good. Second show: I absolutely bombed. A visual depiction of my set would be this. I performed for 25 minutes to the kind of silence that only the dead know. I stumbled at the beginning, dug myself deeper in my attempts to recover and, by the end, I had generated a stink usually only known to cattle ranches and commuter trains in Mumbai. It’s the worst set I’ve had for years before or after.
I’ve gone over that set in my head a million times. The weird thing is: I still don’t know what went wrong. I can identify one or two things that I should have done differently, but the bottom line is that things didn’t click and I’m not really sure why. It was just an off night. The night before and the night after were fine, but for whatever reason, that particular night I just didn’t have it.
I’m looking at United’s showing against Sporting Kansas City last weekend the same way: D.C. just didn’t have it. It's a huge letdown because it was the season opener and expectations for this season are high, but I’m not going to overreact. It’s just one game. One horrible, fetid, horse dropping of a game. I’m thinking — well, I’m hoping — that was probably the worst game United will play all year.
United actually has a bit of an excuse: It was its first game, and its preseason was cut short. During preseason, D.C. was missing several key players because of injury or international duty. What was supposed to be its final tune-up match was cancelled by a thunderstorm, and I guess United didn’t have enough Marriott points to stay an extra day. D.C.’s players didn’t know one another, and as anyone who’s played pickup soccer knows, when you don’t know your team you sometimes pass the ball to the wrong guy. Especially if that guy is wearing a GREY T-shirt: What part of “bring lights or darks” do you not understand, jagweed?
United Coach Ben Olsen at least seems aware of the problem: “It wasn’t the greatest night for us, but I kind of knew it wasn’t going to be,” he said after the game. Fair enough, but maybe that quote should have been part of the posters and robo-calls promoting the game. “United’s 2012 home opener: We kind of know it’s not going to be the greatest night for us.” I would love that kind of honesty in promotional materials.
There’s no way this team is a bad as it looked on Saturday. This is basically the same team as last year, and this was probably worse than any game from last year. The most significant addition — Hamdi Salihi — actually looked okay. So take the game film, put it in a rocket, shoot it into space and forget about it. Do some kind of fun icebreaker so that everyone gets to know one another (my favorite: everyone says their name then says an animal that begins with the same letter as their name then resists the urge to jump out the window). MLS is like a hurricane warning system: As long as things are working by late summer, you’re fine.