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Posted at 09:47 PM ET, 08/13/2012

Soccer Outsider: United-Kansas City match diary, player ratings


D.C. United’s Josh Wolff tries to work his way out of trouble against Sporting Kansas City. (Ed Zurga - GETTY IMAGES)
EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions below are those of Soccer Outsider Jeff Maurer and not Soccer Insider Steven Goff.

You do not taunt the injury gods. You do not write blog posts saying “wow . . . we’re pretty much full strength right now!” — as I did — lest the injury gods feel the need to rise up and demonstrate their might. Which is what they have done; over the course of the last two league matches, the injury gods — I’m sorry: Injury Gods (forgive my inadequate punctuation, oh Injury Gods!) — have claimed Russell, Woolard, Salihi, Santos and De Rosario. Not De Rosario! I beseech thee: take Andrew Dykstra instead (sorry Andy)! Injury Gods, I curse thy name!

Seriously, this is suddenly a not-all-that-potent lineup for the Sporting Kansas City match: Hamid | Chabala, Dudar, McDonald, Korb | DeLeon, Kitchen, Najar, Boskovic | Pontius, Tan. That name you don’t recognize is Mike Chabala, acquired from the Portland Timbers in exchange for one “dude, I owe you a solid” (officially a 2014 supplemental draft pick). United’s starting 11 now includes two players acquired for distant supplemental draft picks: Chabala and Tan. Any chance these two end up being such a key part of United’s stretch run that they earn a cunning nickname, like the Super Supplementals or the Distant Draft Duo? No. No, there is not.

Here’s kickoff from what I’m told is Kansas City, but there’s a stadium full of people chanting and singing. Are they sure this is Kansas City? Kansas City is the place with a handful of U-12 teams roaming among 74,000 seats in Arrowhead Stadium, or the place where you play in a glorified little league stadium, right? Only when they confirm that the field temperature is 144 degrees will I believe that this is Kansas City.

3’ — Here is my opinion of Chabala: He is a guy who plays in this league. That’s it. That’s everything I know. I remember that he was a guy who played for Portland. I have no recollections of him good or bad, which is probably good.

10’ — United has had two chances fall to Brandon McDonald in the past three minutes. There’s a lot of pathos in that split second in which defenders realize they’re going to have to shoot with their feet. They know they’re going to embarrass themselves, but they have to do it anyway. It’s probably the same feeling that I have when I realize I have to dance.

13’ — Goal Kansas City! It comes off a corner, which ensures that Ben’s half time talk will not be a pleasant one. Pontius lost his man; not cool, Chris. Although I should also mention: There shouldn’t have been a corner kick to begin with, because Hamid parried a very catchable ball out of bounds.

22’ — Geez, United left Collin wide open on the back post; thankfully, his header went wide. If Ben is making notes for halftime, he has probably written down “set piece marki. . .” and then he crushed the pen in anger before he could write “ng”.

23’ — Goal United! 1-1! Great work from Najar to get down the line and play a cross into the box, and then some good fight from DeLeon puts him in a position to pounce on a ball that fell very nicely. We probably don’t deserve to be tied 1-1, but the KC fans probably don’t deserve to have a stadium before us, so go take your concept of cosmic justice somewhere where it means something, hippie.

25’ — Speaking of hippies: Chabala is a long-haired, beard-sporting type; I could picture him selling organic kale at Eastern Market. Which is one of the cool things about soccer: It’s the only sport outside of 1970s tennis in which you can be both a dead-to-rights hippie and a jock.

37’ — A poor clearance by Chabala leads to a shot off the post. Not groovy, Mike.

40’ — Boskovic needs to find the game. Hint: It’s mostly happening around our penalty area.

Half time: 1-1. Not a good half of soccer. This is what happens when you have too many fill-in guys on the field. Soccer teams are like hot dogs: You can only get away with a certain amount of filler.

46’ — Saragosa is in for Boskovic. I wonder if Boskovic was carrying an injury; he looked sluggish, and Saragosa is not the kind of guy who makes you think “instant offense.”

52’ — Again, KC has an open player on the back post. This time it’s Graham Zusi, and he hits the crossbar! United is in Survival Mode, which is the setting next to Failure Mode.

62’ — Graham Zusi receives the ball on the back post. . .

62’ — Graham Zusi controls the ball. . .

62’ — Graham Zusi lines up the shot. . .

62’ —Graham Zusi brings surveying equipment onto the field to help himself line up the shot. . .

62’ — Graham Zusi goes into the locker room and watches some game film to study the tendencies of Bill Hamid. . .

62’ — Graham Zusi pays a quick visit to his life coach to put himself in the proper mental place to execute the shot. . .

62’ — Graham Zusi takes a flight out to Red Rocks and engages in a visualization exercise, repeatedly picturing the ball going into the back of the net. . .

62’ — Graham Zusi returns to Livestrong Park and smashes a shot between Hamid’s legs. GOAL KC! 2-1!

63’ — Just a little bit of hyperbole in my description of the buildup, but geez: Graham Zusi had a ridiculous amount of time to line up that shot. You could have slow-cooked a full rack of Kansas City ribs in the amount of time he had. Paging Mike Chabala.

71’ — Wolff comes in for Tan. I would love to see Tandemonium sweep D.C., but I don’t think it’s going to happen. He looks like a fourth striker to me.

79’ — Cruz comes in for Chabala. United will go to three at the back. Ben does this all the time; the funny thing is that it never works or doesn’t work. We never score, but we don’t give up any additional goals, either.

82’ — We may be getting thumped, but at least someone wants to sponsor our team; KC is playing in blank jerseys. Also the blues are dead, Lance Armstrong was doping and dry-rub ribs are better than wet. Sorry, KC; I’m just a bit bitter right now. P.S.: the Royals.

85’ — I would count a tie tonight as a win. Not only because a tie would be way more than we deserve, but also because at least we would deny KC maximum points.

Full time — 2-1 KC, and it wasn’t that close. We need to get De Ro and others back in a hurry.

Player ratings:

Hamid: 6. His reflexes are fantastic, but he is too punch-y. I know punching looks cool, Bill, but catch it sometimes.

Chabala: 4. I wouldn’t expect him to be great having just gotten off a cross-country flight. And he wasn’t. So, way to meet expectations, Mike.

Dudar: 5.5. Defended well, but was unfortunately at his long ball-iest on a day when United didn’t have a true target striker in the match.

McDonald: 5.5. Even with all the injuries to strikers, McDonald will not be getting an audition.

Korb: 5. You know how good quarterbacks just kind of feel someone coming from their blind side? Korb needs to develop that sixth sense for players at the back post.

DeLeon: 4. Same thing as last week: poor match, but instrumental to scoring our only goal.

Kitchen: 6. He’s quietly put together a string of quality matches. The more the season goes on, the less he looks like a center back playing in the midfield.

Najar: 7. I was worried about an Olympic hangover . . . literally. From what I understand, there’s nothing but alcohol and parties in the Olympic Village, especially in the 18-is-the-drinking-age and beer-is-7-percent-alcohol UK. But he played well.

Boskovic: 3.5. Maybe he drank all of Andy’s beer, because he looked sluggish. Watching him certainly made me want a drink.

Pontius: 4.5. He lost Bunbury on the first goal, but why was Pontius marking Bunbury in the first place? Shouldn’t it have been McDonald or Dudar?

Tan: 4. Whatever he’s showing in practice hasn’t shown up in games just yet.

Saragosa: 4.5. I’m not sure if Boskovic was hurt or if Ben decided the midfield needed more bite. Probably the latter, because Ben always thinks that the midfield needs more bite.

Wolff: 4. The strikers are earning low grades, but that’s probably because the midfield couldn’t get them the ball.

Cruz: no rating.

By Jeff Maurer  |  09:47 PM ET, 08/13/2012

 
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