After missing the last two United matches because of Direct Kick-related mishaps, I planned to take Verizon out of the equation and see this week’s match in person. After all, Red Bull Arena is just a short train ride from my apartment in Jersey City’s historic Breaking and Entering District, so I was looking forward to going. Then I got laid flat by mononucleosis. “Wait, mono?” you’re thinking. “Don’t you get that in high school?” No: you get mono in high school. Apparently I get it when I’m 32. And I’ll have you know that there are other ways to get it than kissing — coughing, drinking fountains, etc — so you can keep the snarky comments to yourself. Geez, this post is already more defensive than Roy Hodgson’s England.
United has won four straight. Every recap of the Philadelphia match I read described the win as “gritty.” I’m hearing the words “gritty,” “fiery,” and “tough” used frequently to describe United these days, which is evidence that this is a team made in Ben Olsen’s image. Which raises the question: Can a team be described as “hairy”? Because anything that is reflective of Ben Olsen has to be hirsute.
Tonight’s lineup: Hamid | Woolard, McDonald, Jakovic, Russell | DeLeon, Kitchen, Cruz, De Rosario | Pontius, Salihi. The injury crisis is over — thanks Euros!
Here’s kickoff from what looks like a great atmosphere at Red Bull Arena. The atmosphere in my apartment — surrounded by Ricola and Dayquil — is somewhat less festive.
0’ — GOAL UNITED! Thirty seconds in and we’re on the board! Some nice interplay between De Ro and Cruz ends with a near-post header by Pontius! I wish I was in the stadium to be that road-team-cheering jerk celebrating loudly while everyone else is bummed.
2’ — Dax McCarty off the crossbar! How many 30-yard goals would McCarty have to score in order for the McCarty/De Ro trade to start to look good for New York? 50? 100?
11’ — Ballouchy with a header, and Hamid makes a good diving save. That’s why you need to be big to be a top-flight goalkeeper — a 5-foot-8 guy doesn’t make that save.
13’ — Having just watched the England-Italy match, this match is already far more entertaining. These players look like they really want it, which is ironic because this is MLS and some of the guys are being paid in free cleats and halftime orange slices.
15’ — Speaking of England, having watching Fulham under Roy Hodgson for more than a year, I can tell you: That is just how Roy Hodgson’s teams play. You could put him in charge of a YMCA basketball team and he’d somehow have them playing two solid banks of four.
20’ — GOAL NEW YORK! It’s Brandon Barklage, or — since he was released by DC — Brandon Freaking Barklage! Very well-taken volley off a corner kick. Barklage was a real hard-luck case with injuries - you have to feel good for him. Or I should say: A person with rudimentary levels of compassion has to feel good for him. I do not.
21’ — United almost responds right away, but Pontius can’t finish a chance that De Ro creates. This match already has five times more chances than the England-Italy match.
33’ — New York is really bossing the game now, and United isn’t holding the ball at all. Pontius and Salihi might as well be in the stands buying beer for as much as they’re in the game.
40’ — De Ro is dropping very deep to get the ball. The good news: De Ro has the ball. The bad news: He’s a short cab ride from the opponent’s goal (and in Harrison, cabbies will charge you $25 for that ride).
45’ + 1’ - GOAL NEW YORK! Barklage again! Geez, we get it: we never should have released you. Consider our faces thoroughly rubbed in it. That was a very well-struck goal. Barklage’s night has gone from impressive to remarkable and is now just show-off-y.
Halftime: 2-1 New York. An exciting first half, especially if you’re Brandon Barklage. He’s probably putting news of his goals all over his Facebook page, and United will have to post a comment like “Unbelievable...so happy!!!” to try to look gracious.
46’ — Santos comes in for Salihi. Salihi never really got into the game.
50’ — The commentators are saying that Salihi had a large contingent of Albanian supporters in the crowd. That’s why the World Cup should have been in the United States: Name a nationality and we can fill a stadium with that nationality. Need 80,000 for Gabon vs. Slovenia? Done.
52’ — Volley by Pearce leads to a good reaction save from Hamid. United is pressing a bit and space is opening up at the back.
54’ — GOAL NEW YORK! 3-1. Another good save from Hamid, but Not Brandon Barklage Thank Goodness puts the rebound away.
56’ — This happens at least once a year: the cameraman doesn’t know how to film soccer. He’s zooming in way too close — I have no idea what’s going on off the ball. Maddening.
57’ — That last comment was not gender neutral, for which I apologize. A woman is just as capable of incompetently operating a TV camera as a man.
59’ — McDonald has a chance to get United back in it, but he can’t put the header on frame. This might be karma biting us back for the Philly match.
63’ — I’m not sure what’s making me more nauseous: the mono, the scoreline or the camerawork.
65’ — GOAL UNITED! Santos — who doesn’t often channel Xavi Hernandez — plays a beautiful pass to Pontius, and Pontius cooly finishes (by the way: How good is Pontius?). It actually looked like Pontius was offside, not that it was easy to tell because the cameraman was trying to shove the camera deep into Santos’ sinuses.
74’ — Pontius almost gets a hat trick, but New York gets the block in! Boskovic — who came in at about 60 minutes — has been extremely good. United is controlling the ball and looking dangerous.
78’ — The “New York” Red Bulls play in Harrison, N.J., which is about 10 miles from Manhattan. The Giants and Jets play about 13 miles from Manhattan. I live in Jersey City, which is less than one mile from Manhattan. For real estate purposes, I would like where I live to be considered the “Far Lower-West Side.”
80’ — Jakovic makes a run all the way into the box. Russell can’t finish the chance. Now that is sending players forward: one defender playing a ball to another defender in the opponent’s box.
89’ — This is a game of phases. First minute: United dominated. Second through 60th minutes: Red Bulls dominated. And the last half hour went to United. 3-2 is probably a pretty accurate reflection of the balance of play.
Full time: 3-2 New York. Lousy outcome, but an extremely exciting match to wash the taste of that dry, butterless scone that was England-Italy out of my mouth. And in all seriousness: good for Brandon Barklage. If he was a horse he would have been put down twice, but he’s come all the way back.
Hamid: 6.5. Made some very good saves but could have done better in one or two spots.
Woolard: 5.5. Most of the attacks came down United’s right.
Jakovic: 5.5. When the game opened up he provided some offense.
McDonald: 4. His positioning was bad and — as usual — he resorted to the long ball too quickly. He’s been such a rock for United that I feel like a jerk even asking this, but is Dudar healthy?
Russell: 4.5. Suddenly, you kind of wish you had Barklage as an option at right back.
DeLeon: 3.5. Didn’t really get into the game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Boskovic take his spot next match.
Kitchen: 5. I’d like to see him take a more active role linking the back line to the attack.
Cruz: 6. Started off very well but faded.
De Rosario: 5.5. I’m docking him points for losing Barklage on the first goal. Yes, attackers have to mark, too.
Pontius: 7. Jurgen: left winger, emergency striker. Call him up.
Salihi: 3.5. And to think: All those fans came from Little Albania, which I believe is far enough out in Queens that you can see the Northern Lights some nights.
Santos: 6. His hold-up play changed the game.
Boskovic: 7. A cynic would say that contract negotiations are affecting his play. And, as always, I am that cynic: Contract negotiations are affecting his play.
Najar: 4. DeLeon didn’t light it up, but Najar didn’t make a strong case to be in the starting lineup.