Since I live in Jersey City, Hurricane Sandy wiped out my recap of United’s 1-1 draw at Chicago (I know – the tragedy just hit home, didn’t it?). But I can sum it up for you: 50 minutes of bashing Lionard Pajoy > goal by Pajoy > 40 minutes of me defending the first 50 minutes of analysis. Also Hamid was very good. And United earned a first-round bye in the playoffs, which is huge. Before the season, I defined a “successful” year for United as making the second round of the playoffs. So massive credit to Ben and the guys for making this season a success. Frankly, I would have settled for “watchable,” but “success” is even better.
This game is being played under extremely strange circumstances: home field advantage for this series was swapped in order to reduce complications from Sandy and also to screw me (I’ll end up being in New York for the D.C. leg and D.C. for the New York leg). Can anyone think of any time a team has sacrificed home field advantage to accommodate a problem with the visitors’ stadium? The Marlins once getting booted out of their stadium for a U2 concert, which is both hilarious and logical. But the Marlins had the problem so the Marlins sacrificed home field, and also it was a regular-season Marlins game so who cares? If this move doesn’t win United the Bobby Charlton Award For Right Honourable Conduct In Football And All That Pip Pip then there’s no justice.
United’s lineup: Hamid | Korb, Jakovic, McDonald, Najar | Pontius, Kitchen, Saragosa, DeLeon | Boskovic, Pajoy. Dwayne De Rosario is not on the bench, but isn’t there a little bit of De Ro in all of us? If you’ve ever seen me play, you know the answer to that question is “no.”
Here’s kickoff from RFK, which is sold out in spite of venues being shifted and moved more than Mitt Romney’s positions (topical!).
2’ – Korb with a low left-footed drive! Good start for United. I don’t think New York game-planned for left-footed howitzer blasts from Chris Korb.
3’ – Pontius almost perfectly performs “The Pontius” (cutting onto your right, curling a shot inside the far post, keeping your hair perfectly gelled while doing so), but his shot is blocked.
10’ – Najar sends a header wide! United are dominating; the Red Bulls haven’t showed up yet.
11’ – In fairness to the Red Bulls, any commuting involving New York or New Jersey is a nightmare right now. I live one geographic mile from Manhattan and getting into the city is like crossing the Alps. If you want to drive anywhere, there are Road Warrior gas battles randomly breaking out across the Turnpike. Hoboken is basically the set from “I Am Legend.” So the Red Bulls probably spent the last two and a half days taking buses, ferries, horses, canoes and empty rail cars getting to RFK.
16’ – Hamid comes out but misses his punch! Restless Goalkeeper Syndrome.
18’ – Arlo White is calling this game. He’s great. I also love Ian Darke. But someone needs to tell them both that in the U.S., “just about” means “almost,” not “barely”.
23’ – Pontius crosses and DeLeon almost finishes it! United deserve a goal. So put “a goal” on the list of things United deserve next to “a stadium” and “the ability to host the second leg of this series.”
30’ – Lionard Pajoy is like Michigan J. Frog; he’s amazing sometimes, but can’t do his tricks at the critical moment.
31’ – Penalty kick United! Not sure if the PK was for the hand by Lade or for the trip from Holgersson but both were penalties. The handball from Lade was arguably a yellow, which would have been his second.
32’ – Pointus – the undisputed leader of this team since De Ro went down – will take it. He steps up…saved! Robles guessed right, and Pontius hit it right at him! Doh. I miss Jaime Moreno – that guy was automatic from the spot.
Halftime: 0-0. United have played all the soccer but don’t have a goal. I remember a game in the early 2000s against the then-Metrostars in which United had 20-something shots but no goals. I hope this isn’t a repeat of that.
50’ – Rafa Marquez came off at half time amidst reports that he “exchanged words” with coach Hans Backe at half time (I’m assuming the words exchanged weren’t ones like “delightful” and “pleasure”). NBC’s Kyle Martino asked if Marquez coming off was related to the altercation and was told “no comment”. Dave Chappell might put it another way.
60’ – GOAL UNITED! Own goal! Karma goal! One of those “when the ball’s around the goal for that long, eventually something good will happen” goals! Korb deserves most of the credit for serving in a dangerous ball, and DeLeon forced the issue with a good run, but it’s Roy Miller who scored a second-degree own goal by slicing it into the net.
63’ – Saragosa called for a handball from point blank range. I hate this call – Saragosa’s hand was at his side. Where is he supposed to put his hand? Saragosa lifts his shirt and is either showing where the ball hit him or showing off his abs. Either would be justified.
64’ – NO! Goal New York! Hamid is bumped into the net and takes the ball with him! That really looked like a foul to me. I’m watching the replay…debatable, but yes, it looked like Holgersson bumped Hamid. I would have probably called that a foul, and that would be called a foul about 95 percent of the time (goalkeepers are more of a protected species than panda bears). But this time it’s a goal.
70’ – MELTDOWN! Najar protests the referee’s questionable calls by presenting him with an unquestionable call: after a professional foul, Najar throws the ball at the referee, which is a clear cut two yellows. Terrible. Stupid and terrible. I have sympathy for Najar in the sense that I’m glad the stupid things I did when I was 19 weren’t caught on tape.
72’ – United have now achieved the “Maurer Hat Trick”: a missed PK, an own goal, and a red card.
75’ – United have caught one break here: Backe seems content to settle for a tie on the road against 10 men, which I think is the wrong move.
76’ – Heath Pearce’s moustache and Kenny Cooper’s sideburns are brought to you by the new film “Lincoln” starring Daniel Day Lewis.
81’ – Pontius makes a great run and is fouled, but no call! Ben has progressed to stage four of the Five Stages of Officiating Disbelief (anger > disbelief > bargaining > resignation > kicking the Gatorade cooler).
87’ – Back pass! That is obviously a back pass! Not called! Ben kicks the Gatorade cooler.
Full time: 1-1. Let’s look at it this way: we made every mistake we possibly could have made and still tied. Going into the second leg, let’s remember that we were the better soccer team tonight.
Hamid: 2.5. You could see it early on: he was too amped up. I do think he was fouled on the goal, but it still wasn’t a good moment.
Korb: 7. He just runs and runs and runs, and his defense isn’t shabby, either.
Jakovic: 7. Jakovic and McDonald deserve a huge share of the credit for the goal-stingy, post-De Ro “United 2.0”.
McDonald: 6.5. Helped turn Thierry Henry into an afterthought.
Najar: 2. This would have been a 7 before the red card. Let’s remember: he’s 19. You do stupid things when you’re 19. He got a red card in a playoff game, I owned a Limp Bizkit CD…these are equivalent sins.
Pontius: 6. This would have been a 7 if not for the missed PK. I’m going to drop the alternate-universe “this would have been…” construct now.
Kitchen: 5. It could be a coincidence, but our younger guys had some of the weaker games tonight.
Saragosa: 5. He was a terrier in defense but his passing was a little sloppy.
DeLeon: 6.5. We need to give DeLeon full credit for all the defensive work he does; he gives a lot of help to the fullbacks.
Boskovic: 6. The quality on his set piece delivery was switched to “on”. With Boskovic and De Ro, it’s surprising that United don’t have more goals off of set pieces this year.
Pajoy: 5. He held the ball extremely well and did everything else extremely poorly.
Neal: 5.5. Well, at least they had the right personnel on the field when the red card happened. The assumption is that Robbie Russell will play right back in the second leg, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Korb on the right and Neal on the left.