I’m watching this game in bed with a 101 degree fever. D.C. United fever? Sure, let’s call it that, since it’s ruined a couple of my recent evenings and generally leaves me feeling nauseous. I’m going to gut it out and do a recap and player ratings — consider this my Michael Jordan flu game. I’m looking forward to it — I want to see United turn a corner, since their first two and a half games were enough to invoke flu-like symptoms in anyone watching. The good news is that the one tolerable half of soccer United have played so far was the most recent one. Was that just a mirage? I’m not in a position to judge; I’m hallucinating all sorts of things at the moment.
After a great performance, a manager will often run out the same lineup next match. Well, I guess that 0-0 draw against a second year team counts as a great performance, because Ben is starting the same lineup he started against Vancouver, with the exception of the returning Perry Kitchen replacing Saragosa. The lineup is: Willis | Woolard, Dudar, McDonald, Russell | DeLeon, Kitchen, Cruz, De Rosario | Salihi, Santos. This will be Perry Kitchen’s fourth game in nine days. Ah, to be 20; if I climb four flights of stairs in nine days I need a breather.
Here’s kickoff. Tonight is the first MLS match I’ve watched on NBC sports, so I’ll be watching their performance as much as I’ll be watching United’s.
7’ - Ha! After a call goes against him, Danny Cruz yells “No f-ing way!” straight into one of NBC’s on-field mics. NBC commentator Arlo White apologizes for the language, but hey, no need - if I was running the broadcast I would have microphones on the field specifically to capture that kind of exchange.
9’ - Perez gets behind the defense, but Willis makes a great one on one save! Let me go ahead and ask a stupid question: should Hamid automatically get his spot back when he’s healthy again?
14’ - Brek Shea is bleeding from the head! Oh, wait, no - he’s put a red streak in his hair. He looks like Massive Headwound Harry.
19’ - McDonald get a yellow after a hard challenge. He’s using the “I got the ball defense,” offering the ball to the ref like he’s handing out a takeout menu on the street (and getting the same response). This is Washington - there are surely a few people in the stands nodding their heads and saying “that’s some good lobbying.”
27’ - GOAL UNITED! Maicon Santos shoves all my criticism right up my...throat. Yes, up my throat. That was a rocket - no chance for Hartman. Great strike, and United have their first lead of the year.
30’ - Arlo White: “DeLeon doesn’t look out of place at all.” Well, no, with McDonald and Shea out there, clearly questionable hair decisions are just part of...oh, wait. He meant in terms of play. Well I would agree with that, too.
34’ - Andrew Jacobson is back at RFK, but he has dyed his hair blonde. Did he pull that reverse-Janet-Leigh-in-Psycho because he stole United’s money in the year that he played for us (that’s a bit unfair, but it makes the joke work)?
37’ - Cruz wants a handball — go ahead Danny, tell the microphone how you feel.
40’ - Goal Dallas! 1-1. Horrible mistake from Dudar — he ran right past the ball! Perez scored, but he was offside; just because Dudar knicked the ball doesn’t mean it’s a new play. Bad play, bad call.
Half time: 1-1. Much better soccer from United. Also, as Goff reported : the pitch looks great. A cynic would say that the flawless pitch is a reward for United re-upping with D.C. Sports for two more years. And I am that cynic: I think that’s the reason.
53’ - White just called Woolard “calm” and “efficient”. There’s something about Daniel Woolard that brings out underwhelming compliments. I’ll be during his wedding vows his wife called him “neat” and “reputable”.
56’ - United’s entire offense conspire to somehow not score a goal. Cruz, DeLeon, and Salihi all had looks, but none of them could convert. United had more chances in that one sequence than they had in the first three matches combined.
59’ - GOAL UNITED! 2-1! It’s DeLeon again! Excellent goal - the move goes from Russell to Santos to DeLeon, who took the ball off his chest and finished with his left foot. This looks like a completely different D.C. Untied team — this team can score goals.
62’ - Salihi has a chance to make it New Acquisitions Night at RFK, but Hartman stymies him one on one.
65’ - GOAL UNITED! 3-1! DeLeon assists to Cruz on New Acquisitions Night, and it’s 3-1! DeLeon does great work to get free on the left side, and he sets up Cruz for an it-went-in-and-you’ve-had-a-great-night-so-we’ll-pretend-not-to-notice-it-was-mishit finish!
70’ - Cruz gets elbowed in the stomach and says - again, right into the field mic - “Hey, you f-ing saw that!” So, when it comes to swearing into microphones this week, it’s Danny Cruz: 2, Rick Santorum: 1.
74’ - GOAL UNITED! This time it’s Cruz > De Rosario > Santos, great work by all three. 4-1 United! Also, after the goal celebration it’s Cruz: 2, Santorum: 1, McDonald: 2.
76’ - Cruz off, Pontius on. Also Boskovic came on for Salihi earlier. Great night for Danny Cruz. He’s very much a Ben Olsen-type player: high work rate, good energy, fiery. Actually, those are all the same thing. Ben is like one of those parents on Toddler and Tiaras: it’s not hard to figure out how to win his love.
82’ - Though this game is over (Dallas are down to 10 now), I’d like to point out that I’m still watching closely. I try not to “grad school TA” these ratings, which would be to give everyone a mediocre score because that way I can never be too wrong.
Full time: 4-1 United. I was hoping for a breakout performance, and that’s exactly what United delivered. Cruz and DeLeon were outstanding, and United were the better team by a mile. I was also a fan of NBC’s coverage, not only because of good work from Arlo White, but also because NBC’s innovative f-bomb capturing microphones provided the color and insight that is lacking from too many sporting events.
Willis: 7.5. United have not dropped a single point yet due to Hamid’s absence. I’m not sure that Willis has played a bad game yet in a United shirt.
Woolard: 6. Really solid game from Woolard. Downright efficient. Reputable.
McDonald: 6.5. He’s clearly warmed to the Enforcer (capital “e”!) role, as well as to his role as chief lawyer/lobbyist when Wolff isn’t on the field.
Dudar: 3.5. Aside from that one mistake he had a decent game, but that’s one of those “other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?” kind of statements.
Russell: 5. He looked better, possibly because the offense held the ball enough that Russell wasn’t subjected to a 90 minute jailbreak.
DeLeon: 7.5. Most nights, this would be a man of the match performance, but tonight he has to share it with Santos and Cruz.
Kitchen: 5.5. Ben must really like him to choose him after having played three games in the previous week.
Cruz: 7.5. At the very least — the very least — he’s forcing Najar to step up his game.
De Rosario: 6. It’s nice to have a game where our attack isn’t 100 percent reliant on De Ro.
Salihi: 4.5. Missed an opportunity to shine against a subpar Dallas defense.
Santos: 7.5. I’ve been critical of him, and the universe loves to prove what an idiot I am, so in a way his performance was predictable.
Boskovic: 4.5. He was on when Dallas were in disarray — he could have done more to pick them apart.
Pontius: 4. With Cruz and DeLeon playing so well, I’m not sure how Pontius gets back on the field. Finally, United have one of those “problem you want to have” kind of problems.
King: 4. Kind of amazing that we didn’t score after Dallas went down to ten.
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