EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions below are those of Soccer Outsider Jeff Maurer and not Soccer Insider Steven Goff.
I don’t like D.C. United’s acquisition of Lionard Pajoy from Philadelphia for Danny Cruz. For starters: Is his name Leonard or not? Get off the fence, Mr. Pajoy. But more than that, I think United just lost depth without significantly improving its front line. From what I know about Pajoy (and admittedly, it’s not much), he’s a marginal starter. If he was more than that, United wouldn’t have landed him in exchange for Cruz. I find it hard to believe that he’s significantly better than Hamdi Salihi or even Josh Wolff. And when Maicon Santos gets back, Pajoy goes to the bench, right? It seems like United lost a quality player in exchange for a marginal, debatable, temporary upgrade. The only thing I like about this trade is that it pushes the next Long Tan sighting a Long Time into the future.
United now has Duggar-level quantities of strikers, but still only two healthy fullbacks on the roster, one of whom is recently drafted from the ultimate frisbee fields of Portland. So Dejan Jakovic is playing at right back. The lineup for Sunday’s game against the Union is: Hamid | Korb, Dudar, McDonald, Jakovic | DeLeon, Kitchen, Najar, De Rosario | Pontius, Pajoy. Long Tan’s honeymoon lasted two starts, Mike Chabala’s lasted one. Let’s see if Pajoy makes it past halftime.
Here’s kickoff . . .
2’ — If Pajoy ever starts a southern-rock band, he should call it Lionard Skionard.
4’ — McInerny gets behind the defense (McDonald should have played him offside but didn’t), and Hamid gets low quickly to make the save. Terrible first four minutes of soccer. More giveaways than Trader Joe’s on a Sunday.
5’ — If Trader Joe’s doesn’t send me a free crate of organic chicken sausage and fruit leathers for that last plug, then their promotional department is asleep at the wheel.
7’ — Goal Flipadelphia! Surprise: It’s an ex-United player, Brian Carroll. Actually, it’s a combination of a decent free kick, bad marking, bad luck and Perry Kitchen’s unfortunate face. But Carroll gets on the end of it.
9’ — Pontius’s shot is tipped over the bar! On the ensuing corner, Pajoy’s header is tipped over the bar! We get it, Zac MacMath: You like tipping things over other things.
14’ — Cruz goes down and I am suddenly reminded why I always used to say, “Cruz is one of those players that annoys the other team to no end.”
30’ — A sequence that starts with the ball deflecting off of Mark Geiger — which is notable because Mark Geiger is the referee — ends with Hamid saving a scuffed shot from Freddy Adu.
31’ — Arlo White refers to “Freddy’s European adventure.” Adventure? Wow, that’s a nice way to put it. The kids from “Hostel” had a better time in Europe than Freddy Adu.
31’ — When Adu was playing — or, um, on someone’s roster — in Europe, there were frequent calls for him to be called in to the national team. Then he came back to MLS and the soccer world collectively said “never mind.” Same thing with Benny Feilhaber and Heath Pearce. It’s part of the self-loathing American soccer psyche.
45’ + 2’ — A nice shot from Chris Korb (that has been fact-checked, it was indeed Korb) leads to a corner, which leads to a deflected header being cleared off the line by Adu! Was it over the line? Where’s Sepp Blatter’s fifth official when you need him? He could shrug and run over to the first official and say, “Dude, that all happened really quickly.”
Halftime: 1-0 Philadelphia. That was terrible; I am claiming soccer malpractice in that first half. The second half can’t help but be better.
47’ — I’ll admit: A snake is a pretty cool thing to put on your crest, as the Union does. In the world of soccer crest power-animals, it goes (from least cool to most) canary, rooster, horse, eagle, lion, two-headed eagle, snake, bat, wolf urinating on two villagers.
52’ — As a rule, I don’t like fat jokes, but I think the rules are slightly different for professional athletes (staying in shape is their job). And if Adu puts on a few more pounds, than I am going to make some fat jokes next time he rolls into town. And I do mean rolls.
56’ — Cruz and Pajoy come out at the same time, so no winner of that trade just yet.
65’ — A nice move between De Ro and Boskovic leads to a scramble, an open shot for Nick DeLeon, a whistle and a non-goal, in that order. Terrible call: MacMath had as much control over that ball as my neighbor does over his dog (that is to say: none).
70’ — GOAL UNITED! Or, um . . . point for DC United, goal for Amobi Okugo. Tough break for Okugo, though he remains one of my favorite alternative-rock bands. I love that video with the treadmills.
84’ — At this point a sequence begins in which so much happens that it doesn’t make sense to recount it all individually. You know it all anyway: the penalty kick, the encroachment, the red card, the penalty miss, the other red card, yet another red card, some inter- and intra-squad shoving, the vein in Ben Olsen’s forehead swelling to the size of the Alaskan Pipeline and the eventual end of the match. It was the sports equivalent of the black helicopter sequence in “Goodfellas”: busy, chaotic and heading toward an inevitable bad end. Geiger’s decisions — while correct by the letter of the law — were heavy-handed and uneven. Of course, I brought this on United by saying this during last month’s match against Columbus:
“At the risk of jinxing things: The refereeing in United’s matches has been pretty good this year. Sure, there have been a few bad calls, but it hasn’t had a match decided by the ref yet this year. That’s different from last year, when United got Baldermo Toledo’d pretty hard in the Toledo a couple of times.”
Consider United jinxed. Or Toledo’d, as it were. The game ends in a 1-1 draw.
Hamid: 6.5. Maybe he was responding to Sean Johnson getting called up instead of him. Jealousy and spite always work as great motivators for me.
Korb: 6. Who cares about the shoving match with him, Hamid and McDonald. People fight. Not a big deal. And if Olsen wants players who show some fight, he must like a guy Korb’s size standing up to Hamid and McDonald.
McDonald: 6. Contributed to the terrible start but played well afterwards.
Dudar: 4. All the red cards are making Olsen’s decisions very easy about which players to rest as United plays several games over a short stretch. So . . . thanks?
Jakovic: 4. He made poor decisions about when to go forward, but I don’t blame him for that; he’s not a fullback.
DeLeon: 6.5. There are gaps in his hair but there were no gaps in his game tonight.
Kitchen: 4. When he’s not going well, he tends to just play the ball to the first player he sees.
Najar: 5. At the beginning of the season, there was a lot of talk about competition bringing out the best in players. Well, Najar’s main competition has been traded away. Time to find out if all that talk had any validity.
De Rosario: 3.5. He was heading for a low rating even before the missed PK. Though I love this postgame quote about the PK: “I still should have made it.” That’s a leader’s quote; it takes responsibility and helps United focus on things it can control. I would give him extra points for that if it wouldn’t throw off the calibration of these highly-scientific ratings.
Pajoy: 3.5. I am surely docking him one “I told you so!” point, but he still didn’t play well.
Pontius: 6. I’ll bet United’s striker tandem on Wednesday is Pontius and Salihi.
Boskovic: 7.5. What rating do you give to a guy who changed the complexion of the game, caused the only goal and drew a red card, all in less than 30 minutes? Good thing these ratings are pulled out of my . . . general impressions of the match.
Salihi: 5. He played some good soccer — he usually plays good soccer, I don’t know why he isn’t featured more — but what was he doing in the half-moon in the first place?