Against Montreal on Saturday, United started what could charitably be called an “understudy-heavy lineup” and could less charitably be called “the reserve squad.” The idea was to keep players fresh for Wednesday night’s match against the Red Bulls. I’m not in love with that logic; it’s kind of like wearing a ratty T-shirt on a first date so that your good shirt will be clean for the second date. As it happened, an expansion team beat United, 3-0, which — to extend the date metaphor — is like getting maced and then pushed into a pile of trash cans. The “date” with Montreal did not go well.
But it’ll all sort-of work out with a win against the Red Bulls. This is United’s fourth match in 11 days. The team may not like the timing of Wednesday’s match, but I do: it got me out of having to live-Tweet Paul Ryan’s speech. I am forever grateful.
The A-Team is back (Dwayne De Rosario = B.A. Baracus): Hamid | Korb, Jakovic, McDonald, Najar | Pontius, Kitchen, Saragosa, DeLeon | De Rosario, Salihi. Here’s my only problem with this: why Saragosa instead of Boskovic? Saragosa has played 180 minutes in the last eight days; Boskovic has played 30.
Here’s kickoff from Anachronism Memorial Stadium . . .
1’ — I have a new Twitter follower: Bill Hamid. My face went pale when I saw that. I’m a Hamid fan (of course), but I’ve definitely criticized him when he’s had a bad game. When he got a red card against Houston I attacked him like John Madden attacks a Turducken. I’m not sure I want Hamid reading my work. I’ve met Hamid — his hand is the size of my torso. He could snap me like a twig. So add Hamid to the list of people whose readership of this blog is tempering my snarkiness, a list that currently includes University of Maryland alums, Graham Zusi’s family and the San Jose Earthquakes media department. Apparently Kurt Morsink’s family aren’t big blog readers, otherwise they would have tracked me down and beaten me senseless long ago.
6’ — Great stop by Hamid! Seriously: that’s not Twitter-inspired hyperbole. Great reflex save off of a header by Cahill.
8’ — Cahill is the Australian Spud Webb; he’s not big, but he’s got more hops than a can of Fosters. Why is Saragosa marking him (or not marking him, as it were)? It should be McDonald.
17’ — Great play, Hamid. Lindpere was played through, but Hamid pounced on it before he could get there. Wow, what a fantastic goalkeeper — no, fantastic person — Bill Hamid is! America’s greatest heroes are veterans, 9/11 first responders and Bill Hamid, and not necessarily in that order.
18’ — Goal New York! Oh no, how do I say this . . . Hamid should have had that. Lindpere powered it right through him. Bad mistake by Hamid. Nobody tweet this article.
19’ — Bill: that preceding comment was the opinion of Steve Goff, not Jeff Maurer. If you have a problem, take it up with him.
20’ — Geez, and of course this happens the week that the Post finally puts my picture on the blog, so if I ever pass Hamid on the street he can stop me and confront me. I thought the internet was all about anonymous criticism!
20’ — Goal United! 1-1! De Rosario loops it into the box, and DeLeon volleys it past Gaudette! Bill Gaudette — who doesn’t follow me on Twitter — was terrible on that play. Just terrible. God-awful. What a dork. A dork who doesn’t read this blog and presumably won’t break me in half.
24’ — Henry with a bicycle kick setup (!), but McCarty sends a shot that is saved well . . . no, magnificently . . . no, spectacularly by Bill Hamid.
31’ — Free kick United. United hasn’t scored directly off a free kick — including penalty kicks — all year. De Ro lines it up . . . and they still haven’t.
32’ — Pajoy’s cross is almost sent into the net by Tanio! That’s a secret about defenders: They can conjure up some great finishes when they’re facing their own net.
36’ — Shep Messing, who does color commentary up here in the New York area, sounds a little like Bender from Futurama.
42’ — Shep Messing just said: “Rafa Marquez has been an absolute nightmare since he’s been here.” Wow: Bender is not pulling any punches. I like it.
Halftime: 1-1. This has been a scrappy, hard-fought match. Both teams are playing aggressive defense and there’s not a lot of space in the midfield. Could go either way.
49’ — Tanio with a shot but McDonald makes the block! Note to Dejan Jakovic: space doesn’t score.
54’ — Why is the RFK pitch always more mangled than Sarah Palin’s syntax? It’s not winter. RFK hasn’t hosted the Monster Truck Circus or the 1,000 Flushes Bowl or whatever it is recently.
60’ — De Ro goes down in the box — no call! Watching the replay . . . that’s close. De Rosario went down easily, but Holgersson was perched on his back like a gibbon monkey. Could have gone either way.
63’ — Dejan Jakovic is having a bit of a nightmare tonight. He’s losing one-on-ones like a black hat-wearing guy in a spaghetti western.
64’ — De Leon send a cross across the face of goal but it’s cleared! This match is — as Ian Darke would say — on a knife’s edge.
67’ — GOAL UNITED! It’s De Ro, and it’s his 100th! And it is not a typical De Rosario goal. He stole a long cross of the goalkeeper’s fingertips to score a header from 18 yards. That was a Clint Dempsey/Brian McBride/Tim Cahill-type goal. It takes a lot of guts to stick your head in there like that.
68’ — Bill Gaudette needs to either start following me on Twitter or stop making mistakes like that if he doesn’t want to be criticized. Because that was a pretty major mistake.
73’ — De Ro, who is clearly feeling it, plays a great cross to Pajoy, who can’t bring it down! That was a great look at goal; it should probably be 3-1.
76’ — Almost a disastrous back pass from McCarty! Did you see Martin Skrtel’s from last weekend? It was almost that.
83’ — Nail-biting stuff: United is clinging to the lead, and starting to bunker a little bit.
87’ — Goal New York! NNNNNOOOOOOOO! Conde puts it in the postage stamp from 25 yards. I’m not at all happy with Saragosa and Najar right now. They were apathetic in closing that down. This stinks; we’re suddenly staring at four points from our last four matches.
Full time: 2-2.
Probably a fair result, but when you’re up a goal at home with three minutes to play, this feels like a loss. United wins the Atlantic Cup on goal difference, and that plus $12 will get them through Delaware on I-95.
Hamid: 15. He gets the 10-point Twitter-follower bonus.
Korb: 5. The whole Bryan Namoff situation is a reminder: Let’s not rush Woolard back from his concussion. Korb has been adequate filling in.
Jakovic: 3.5. Just not his night.
McDonald: 6. Kept Henry quiet, soccer-wise. Henry never stops talking during a match.
Najar: 5. We were all hoping for another performance like the one he summoned against Chicago, but the Red Bulls did a good job of not giving him space.
Pontius: 5. Again: not much space to operate. The Red Bulls really did play an excellent defensive match, not including Gaudette.
Kitchen: 5. I don’t know what to say about him; he has pretty much the same match every time. Gritty, solid, could have maybe linked with the offense a bit better. Let’s move on.
Saragosa: 4. I’m not sure if Ben is a fan or rewarding good performances or if he believes in hot streaks, but I don’t think Saragosa’s great game against Chicago should have earned him the next two starts. For what it’s worth: I do not believe in hot streaks, and neither does the universe. Entire casinos have been built exploiting people’s belief in hot streaks.
DeLeon: 6. He’s got a knack for popping up in front of goal at the right time.
De Rosario: 7. 100 goals is amazing, especially when you consider that he’s played about half his career as a midfielder.
Pajoy: 5.5. Ben has obviously decided that we need a hold-up type striker on the field at all times, so I doubt we’ll see United play a minute without either Pajoy, Tan or Santos.
Boskovic: No rating.
Tan: No rating.