EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions below are those of Soccer Outsider Jeff Maurer and not Soccer Insider Steven Goff.
I love D.C. United, so I enjoy this part of the schedule where it plays with NBA-like frequency. But the players don’t like it, which is understandable: Their bodies have to undergo the unbelievable strain of playing frequent matches at a professional level. My body only has to go through the strain of killing two sleeves of Oreos and Guinness during every match, and even that leaves me sweating and winded.
The lineup for Saturday’s match at Montreal reflects the packed schedule: There are more replacement players here than there are replacement words when TBS airs “Casino”: Hamid | Chabala, Dudar, McDonald, Korb | Neal, Kitchen, Saragosa, Najar | Tan, Pajoy.
I don’t like this lineup. I am all in favor of resting players to keep them fresh, but I am not in favor of resting them all at the same time. You have De Rosario, Pontius, Boskovic and Salihi on the bench; that’s too much firepower left out. Sure, Saragosa had a great game against Chicago, but he’s playing on short rest, so why not start Boskovic? Same thing with Pajoy; why not Salihi instead? And why in the name of all that’s holy is Long Tan getting another start? Remember Josh Wolff? He’s better than Tan. I do not like this. This lineup is United the way that Guns ‘N Roses’ current lineup is Guns ‘N Roses.
Here’s kickoff from Saputo Stadium, or STADE SAPUTO. Since this match is in Montreal, I will provide as much bilingual commentary as I can. Which is to say none unless questions about the location of the library and a list of fruits and vegetables becomes necessary.
4’ - I still can’t believe this lineup. Why are we resting so many of our starters at the same time? Is Coach Ben Olsen hoping to absolutely dominate a reserve match later in the week.
8’ - United’s strategy is obvious: hang on until our real players come in around 60 minutes.
18’ - Montreal’s Marco Di Vaio has been caught offside four times already. I wonder what the MLS record for offside is and when Eddie Johnson set it.
19’ - Long Tan shoots from Long Range and is a Long Way Off.
23’ - Goal Montreal! Geez — that’s their first look at goal and it’s 1-0. Di Vaio finally got it right — or Mike Chabala got it wrong — and he was left with more time to shoot than we’ve had between matches. Well, suddenly our lineup that can’t possibly score seems like a problem.
25’ - Long Tan gets a look but does nothing with it. It’s pretty simple: either Andy Najar is going to create a goal, or we’re just not going to score until our real players enter the match.
35’ - I had forgotten that Alessandro Nesta was playing for Montreal. I like that. There’s a stereotype that great European players want to come to the United States to play in major media markets with nice weather and a glamorous night life. No disrespect to Montreal, but that does not describe Montreal. Unless Nesta is really into cathedrals and avant-garde dance troupes, then he’s there for the soccer.
42’ - Lewis Neal shoots from distance, but it’s wide. In spite of the fact that United hasn’t really threatened the goal, it’s outshooting Montreal 6-1. Montreal hasn’t had a corner kick. It leads 1-0.
45’ - Neal is showing frustration with Pajoy, throwing his hands in the air after Pajoy checks back slowly for a pass. If the midfield and the strikers were two halves of a marriage, I would recommend they start dividing up the house and setting up Match.com profiles now, because there is no connection and no communication.
Halftime: 1-0 Montreal. If United somehow manages to rest several of its best players and come away with three points, then this strategy is genius. But I’m doubting it’ll get a goal while De Rosario and Pontius are wearing warmups.
48’ - Penalty kick to Montreal! Dudar bowls over Collen Warner, and the ref points to the spot. Dudar will say “shoulder to shoulder” (or “hombro a hombro”), but I am on record as believing that you can’t just do anything with your shoulder and have it be okay. You can’t rob a bank with your shoulder, can’t run a drug ring with your shoulder, then say “shoulder to shoulder”. Dudar came in a bit hard, so I reluctantly agree with the call, even though I’m steaming about the outcome.
49’ - Goal Montreal! 2-0. Two shots, two goals.
51’ - This feels very much like a 2010 D.C. United match. The lineup comes out and you immediately think “this isn’t going to work”. United generates no offense. The other team scores every time it gets the ball anywhere near United’s goal. The only difference is that United didn’t have Dwayne De Rosario, an all-star, and two designated players on our bench back then.
55’ - Kurt Morsink has retired. I should say unequivocally that Morsink is/was a very good player. Anyone who gets paid money to play soccer is a very good player. But I got a lot of mileage on this blog being unnecessarily harsh on him because he epitomizes those “just another guy” players that abound in MLS. You can always find another Kurt Morsink. And we already have: it’s Lewis Neal.
56’ - Long Tan is not the new Kurt Morsink. He is the new Nicholas Addlery, the guy who looks — to me — like he does not belong at this level. It’s a bad sign that United called Vancouver asking for Long Tan and it basically said: “He arrives at Dulles at 6:30. Maybe send us a fruit basket or something to say ‘thank you.’ ”
61’ - The reinforcements have arrived: Boskovic, Pontius and De Rosario are all in the match now.
77’ - De Rosario crosses for Saragosa, but Perkins makes a great save! Well, there’s something that differentiates this match from 2010: Perkins making great saves.
81’ - Pontius is pushed into Perkins, but of course the call goes against Pontius. ’Keepers are large, mean, bald men, but referees treat them like they are velvet pant-suit-wearing hemophiliacs.
84’ - United is pressing but Montreal is bunkered deep. This is what happens when you spot a team a two-goal lead.
90’ + 2’ - Goal Montreal! That is the other thing that happens when you spot a team a two-goal lead: it hits you with the third goal. Bill Hamid might as well have been a hologram; that went right through him.
Full time: 3-0 Montreal. Well, we still have your baseball team, Montreal, and it’s in first place. So SE METTRE CA DANS TA PIPE ET SE FUME.
Hamid: 5. His mistake will be quickly forgotten because it happened when the outcome was already determined.
Chabala: 4. Make like Jenna Dewan and Step Up, Mike (Jenna Dewan was in that movie “Step Up”. And so you don’t think less of me: I had to Google that).
Dudar: 4. He has a red card and a penalty kick conceded in the last two matches. I thought McDonald was supposed to be the bull in the china shop.
McDonald: 5.5. The two guys who have played just about every minute this season - McDonald and Kitchen - had two of the better games tonight.
Korb: 5. He picked up an injury in the first half — hopefully it’s not serious. If Korb is out, then we’re going to have more Mike Chabala, more Andy Najar at right back, and more of me complaining about the Danny Cruz trade.
Neal: 4. I dub thee the New Morsink.
Kitchen: 6. I guess the logic is that because he’s 20, he doesn’t need to rest.
Najar: 6. He had nobody to pass to.
Saragosa: 4. Olsen likes to reward guys who play well by starting them next match, but maybe having him play two games in four days after barely playing for months wasn’t a very good idea.
Pajoy: 4. Third striker.
Tan: 3. Starting striker. But for the Atlanta Silverbacks.
Boskovic: 5. Why didn’t he start? He was fantastic on Sunday but managed to get himself red carded, so he was fresh today.
De Rosario: 6. I hope he enjoyed his 60 minutes of not carrying this team, because that break is officially over.
Pontius: 5. He was trying to do too much.