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Posted at 04:01 PM ET, 04/30/2012

Soccer Outsider: United vs. Houston match diary


We’re going streaking! (Patrick McDermott - GETTY IMAGES)
EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions below are those of Soccer Outsider Jeff Maurer and not Soccer Insider Steven Goff.

United are unbeaten in the last six — three wins and three ties. I’m a little worried about what’s going to happen to this blog if United actually get good . I’ve never written about a good United team; I started contributing to the Post in 2010, when United were definitely the worst team in MLS and possibly the worst form of entertainment this side of improvisational jazz. As a fan, watching that team was terrible, but as a comedian it was great; I got a lot of mileage out of gallows humor and Joseph Ngwenya jokes. For some reason, bad things are funnier than good things. Observe: “Hey, have you flown first class recently...could there be any more legroom? And what about that wide arrange of hors d’oeuvres they serve - if the food gets any more flavorful or well-prepared they’re going to have to write this flight up in Zagats!” See, not funny, no matter how hard you punch the word “Zagats!”.

For the first time I can remember, I’m almost 100 percent positive that I can guess Ben’s lineup. And I’m right: Willis | Woolard, Dudar, McDonald, Russell | DeLeon, Kitchen, Cruz, De Rosario | Pontius, Santos. You couldn’t see it, but I had a sealed envelope that I held up to my head Carnac-style when predicting that lineup.

It’s another cold, rainy night at RFK. United matches this season have had roughly the same weather as an Edgar Allen Poe story. Here’s kickoff...

1’ - After only one week, DeLeon has ditched the corn rows. So, we can presume he’s dating a girl with an old-fashioned dad.

4’ - DeLeon with a nice shot, but Tally Hall makes the save. If I knew Tally Hall personally, I would pronounce his name “Towelie.” I would find that funny — he probably wouldn’t.

6’ - Great move from DeLeon and De Rosario, but Santos pulls the finish wide. Dave Johnson praises “the electrifying D.C. United attack.” At any point in the last three years, that statement would have been sarcastic. Picture a Christian Castillo cross sailing way over Danny Allsopp’s head for a goal kick. “Ladies and gentlemen, the electrifying D.C. United attack.”

10’ - GOAL UNITED! Ladies and gentlemen: the electrifying D.C. United attack! A long ball gets Pontius behind the defense, and he skillfully rounds the ‘keeper and picks out Santos, who heads home. That’s a good karma goal — Pontius could have gone down in the box after Towelie Hall’s challenge, but instead he stayed on his feet and set up a goal.

11’ - Pontius showed some Jaime Moreno-esque coolness in front of goal on that play.

20’ - Danny Cruz is the new Josh Gros: pesky, high work rate, good in the tackle, not super fancy on the ball.

26’ - Pontius with a shot, but it’s saved. At the beginning of the season, this team couldn’t create a chance to save their lives. They’ve really figured it out offensively.

29’ - McDonald wants a foul, but McDonald always wants a foul. McDonald wants a foul like my nephew wants GoGurt...just constantly.

38’ - Comcast shows a graphic of the records of the top five team records in the East, but all the teams have played a different number of games and my lazy brain doesn’t even attempt to calculate points per match. Don’t ever try to trick me into doing math, Comcast.

43’ - Oh no: Dudar has pulled a hamstring. Dudar has been good lately, so this is very bad. That was definitely the “I just pulled a hamstring” trot that he did there. Any chance we can get Derek Redmond’s dad to help Dudar through this match? No? Then Saragosa is going to have to come in.

45’ - Yep, Saragosa in for Dudar. Kitchen moves to the back line. Jakovic and White get a training room buddy.

Halftime: 1-0 United. Well, that was a good half of soccer that ended on a bad note with Dudar’s injury. It’s worth pointing out that frequent commenter and Jewel super-fan JkR has been a Dudar advocate, and I’ve been slowly coming around. Dudar started slow but has been good recently. Jewel has been consistently amazing.

49’ - Goal Houston! 1-1. I have to say: I think that goal doesn’t happen if Dudar is in the game. Kitchen was slow to close down the cross, and Russell was caught ball watching. But they’re both playing out of position so that’s not too surprising.

50’ - Goal scored by — of course — Will Bruin, who notched a hat trick against United last year and seems to be the only Dynamo player who scores against us. But he scores a lot.

53’ - GOAL UNITED! 2-1! I’m not sure if this goal goes to De Ro, Pontius, or Pontius’ hair — De Ro whipped in a cross and Pontius may or may not have touched it. The official scorer is checking the ball for hair gel.

54’ - Good play by Willis to throw off Corey Ashe, who had gotten behind the defense. That back line is suddenly looking pretty haggard — tighten up, guys.

56’ - Looks like they’ll give the goal to De Ro. This just points out again how meaningless the “goals scored” stat is — whether you give the goal to De Ro or not, he sent a great ball into the box.

58’ - Goal Houston! We’re tied again! Bad mistake by Willis — the ball went right through him. Kitchen also did poorly, trying to force a pass in the center of the field. Goal scored by Will Bruin, obviously.

62’ - De Ro goes into a challenge with an elbow, Ashe comes back with a push, and both get yellow cards. They’re ex-teammates...could that exchange be the continuation of an argument that started years ago? Did Ashe steal De Ro’s vegan chili from the training table?

64’ - Najar comes in for Cruz. Slightly disappointing game for Cruz against his former team. Usually players destroy their former team, which proves that psychology is important in soccer and that revenge is the most motivating of all human emotions by a power of ten.

69’ - GOAL UNITED! We’ve got the lead again — 3-2! Great game — this is exciting. And an outstanding team goal: De Ro created the move, Woolard sent in a nice cross, and Santos did a great job heading it home. That wasn’t just a “last person to touch it” header by Santos — he did very well to score there.


This Santos character is better than advertised. (Patrick McDermott - GETTY IMAGES)
71’ - The vastly underrated Brad Davis is coming in for Houston. Here’s a theory: if Brad Davis looks like David Beckham and vice-versa, then Brad Davis is on the cover of the MLS media guide and David Beckham retired from Everton two years ago. Anyone think I’m wrong?

74’ - Dave Johnson says of Brian Ching: “He’s doing what he does best.” What...getting injured at inopportune times?

75’ - Dynamo PR department: do not e-mail me about that last joke. E-mail Goff.

81’ - Outstanding full-field run by De Ro, but Hall saves his shot! Way to be a buzzkill, Towelie — that goal might have been No. 8 on Sportscenter’s top plays, in between a kind-of-nice double play and a dog on a skateboard.

83’ - The Lewis Neal invasion continues. Fun fact: Lews Neal and Lucas Neill - though both soccer players - are not the same person. And I believe Neal Lewis fronted a band called The News back in the 80s.

90’ - This is getting tense — United deserve to win, but last year we blew a lot of matches like this.

FULL TIME! 3-2 United! That “United haven’t won two games in a row since the Truman administration” stat is history! Two whole games in a row! That’s a winning streak! Technically!

Player ratings:

Willis: 4. I kept saying: “As long as Willis is playing well, Ben should leave him in.” Willis might have provided an opening for Hamid to start next week.

Woolard: 6. He’s getting forward more this year than last year. I’m not sure if that’s because Ben told him to or because the offense is so much better this year that getting forward is less risky.

Dudar: 6. Ratings are not pro-rated; this is not a 12 cut in half. Speaking of cut in half, I hope his hamstring isn’t too bad.

McDonald: 6.5. Rock-solid in defense, and he got a hockey assist on the first goal.

Russell: 5. Had a good first half but got caught marking space on the first goal.

Kitchen: 4.5. If you have to put Kitchen on the back line (and I think that you do), I’d rather he be in the center. But for some reason Ben decided to slide Russell to the center and put Kitchen on the right.

DeLeon: 4.5. He was great when he was on the ball but he wasn’t on the ball nearly enough.

Cruz: 4.5. He was amped up - even by his standards - but didn’t produce much.

De Rosario: 7. I’m very glad to lose the “United haven’t won two in a row” stat and the “De Ro hasn’t scored in 2012” stat in the same game.

Pontius: 6.5. Until further notice, Santos-Pontius is your striker pairing.

Santos: 7. Another good game. I’ll admit: I did not see this run of form coming at all.

Saragosa: 4.5. He re-joins the team and gets thrown right back into the fire. Not a bad showing considering he was off for several weeks.

Najar: 5. Inconsistent appearance, but it balances out to a five.

Neal: 5.5. I’m giving him a 5.5 mostly because I don’t want to give him another “no rating.”

By Jeff Maurer  |  04:01 PM ET, 04/30/2012

 
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