EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions below are those of Soccer Outsider Jeff Maurer and not Soccer Insider Steven Goff.
Marc Burch made last week’s match fun by dishing out some mild trash-talk before the game. This week, Steven Goff caught up with Clyde Simms before the match, so let’s see what venom the seven-year United vet had to sling at the club that cut him loose:
“One team might not value you, but another will. So for me, there are no hard feelings.”
Ooooohhhhh, SNAP! . . . No, actually, I can’t work with that. Give me something else, Clyde. What about Burch’s header off the crossbar in the dying moments of last week’s match?
“I wanted to cheer for Marc because he’s been a friend, but I didn’t want to see United lose at RFK in front of their fans either.”
Ummm . . . anything else? Maybe something a little more snippy. How are you feeling about this week’s match?
“I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Hmmm, okay, that’ll work: here’s why that’s trash-talk. Clyde is being a jerk. Why? Because he’s not being a jerk. Stay with me here. United cut him loose in the offseason after seven years of service, even though he was — by all accounts — a good player and a good guy. So the fact that my team cut loose such a nice guy makes me feel bad. Who wants to fire a nice guy? So now we’re the jerks because he’s taking the decision with dignity and a positive outlook instead of cursing everyone and everything who looked at him sideways over the course of seven years, like I would have done.
United Coach Ben Olsen tends to stick with the same lineup when the team’s playing well, and sure enough: The lineup for Saturday’s United-Revolution game was the same as the previous match except that Brandon McDonald returned from suspension and replaced Emiliano Dudar.
Willis | Woolard, McDonald, Jakovic, Russell | DeLeon, Kitchen, Cruz, De Rosario | Salihi, Santos.
United is playing well even though it’s not using Hamid, Pontius, Najar or Boskovic. Anyone see that coming at the beginning of the year? Me either.
Here’s kickoff from Gillette Stadium. Speaking of Gillette: the Gillette ProGlide is exclusively for blonde ladies who want to shave their legs. It cannot handle a stout, Central European beard.
1’ — Rating the field turf in MLS from best to worst: Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, the carpet in MLS headquarters, New England.
6’ — Goal New England! Not a good start. Goal scored by Jose Alcides Moreno Mora (can the IMF do anything to quell name inflation in South America?). McDonald was caught marking space, possibly distracted by the fact that New England’s Saer Sene showed up with the same haircut.
11’ — Cruz with a deflected shot, but Reis makes a nice save. In recent weeks we’ve seen MLS dinosaurs Matt Reis, Joe Cannon and Kevin Hartman. MLS goalies have roughly the career longevity of Supreme Court justices.
18’ — Goal United! 1-1! De Ro with an amazing bicycle kick off a corner, and Santos redirects it into the goal! That was a remarkable bit of skill by De Ro, and a good decision by Santos to put his head on it instead of letting it go. That has to be a goal of the week candidate.
21’ —Santos with another header off a corner, but it’s cleared off the line! United is really bossing the game right now — the last five minutes are the best soccer United played all year.
27’ — Willis with a great save, just touching a Rev free kick off the post! If Willis clips his fingernails this morning, that’s a goal.
32’ — Notable haircuts in this game: Sene: the blonde Travis Bickle. DeLeon: the baby Valderrama. Santos: the Brazilian (cranial variety). McDonald: the half-harvested wheat field. Simms: the not-quite-Kid-N-Play. Alston: the Phantom-of-the-Opera-as-played-by-Doctor-J. Nguyen: the guy-in-parking-lot-of-a-Steely-Dan-concert.
33’ — In all seriousness, I like the weird haircuts, partly because I like players expressing their individuality and partly because it makes them easier to track in low-def.
39’ — The Seattle match was all about defense, but both teams are getting their chances today. Also: wasn’t Lee Nguyen supposed to be terrible?
Halftime: 1-1. Hard-fought match so far; 1-1 is probably a fair score. If United is going to insist on resorting to long balls — and it seems like it is — it needs to play more of the high, bouncing variety, since those are tough to deal with on that Flubber-based surface they have in New England.
54’ — Willis makes a save, and now Jakovic is hurt. It’s amazing how the soccer gods seem to know where a team is thin and concentrate injuries only on those positions. Center backs and defensive mids are endangered species for United right now, whereas any of our attacking wingers could probably fall out of a 12th-story window and walk away unscathed.
59’ — Jakovic has to come out; Korb is in. This is bad for three reasons: 1) We lose Jakovic (who has been very good); 2) We move Russell out of position; and 3) That’s one fewer offensive sub.
72’ — Kitchen gets a yellow for grabbing the ball to stop a counter-attack. This is one of those quirky things that only happens in soccer; I would love to see a first baseman pick up the bag and run into the outfield to avoid conceding a base hit.
78’ —Pontius and Wolff are now on for United. That means Najar and Boskovic won’t be used, but DeLeon and Cruz will play 90 minutes. United might be one of the last true meritocracies on earth.
81’ — Goal United! 2-1! It was Chris Pontius scoring the Chris Pontius goal: he faked left, cut right and curled the ball inside of the far post! Every United fan saw that move coming; that move was more predictable than a Russian election. But I guess Stephen McCarthy doesn’t watch tape, because he completely fell for it.
82’ — Save Willis! And that might be the difference between this year and last year: I feel that United would have instantly given the lead back last year.
88’ — This referee is letting both teams get away with murder on arial challenges. D.B. Cooper got away with fewer shenanigans in the air than these teams are getting away with tonight.
Full time: 2-1 United. Great win. United is 2-2-2, which is downright respectable. I watched this on DVR, so I got to see United smack down New England right after Lane smacked down Pete Campbell on Mad Men. It’s been a night full of gratifying TV.
Willis: 7.5. He’s played so well that United will probably have to bump his contract up to a living wage.
Woolard: 4. With no Burch to motivate him, he didn’t play as well as last week.
McDonald: 4.5. He still resorts to long balls too quickly.
Jakovic: 7. I love defenders (like Jakovic) who provide some offense. When I played, I was a striker, and defenders always whine that strikers need to play more defense. Okay, fine: I’ll provide some defense if you provide some offense.
Russell: 5.5. He’s improving, which is good because he’s suddenly become indispensable.
DeLeon: 6. I hope he stays hungry, and he should because Najar and Pontius are ready to come in if he slips up.
Kitchen: 5.5. Another solid match. He needs to turn with the ball more often; sometimes he just plays it to the first guy he sees.
Cruz: 5.5. Same as DeLeon.
De Rosario: 6.5. He’s dropping very deep to receive the ball, and I approve; when he has the ball, good things happen.
Salihi: 3. I’ll give him this: he’s moving around. He’s active. And also actively stinking up the joint, unfortunately.
Santos: 5. If nothing else, he makes United more of a threat on corner kicks.
Korb: 5. Korb has two major assets: 1) Work rate, 2) Ability to not pull a hamstring.
Wolff: 6. Had several good touches; he can still play.
Pontius: 6.5. Great goal — pure quality. I’m 90 percent sure he’ll start in Salihi’s spot on Wednesday.