In part one of my postseason review, I gave out awards to D.C. United’s defenders and goalkeepers. Except that they weren’t actual awards; there were no statuettes or giant checks. Also, the awards hold no prestige whatsoever; you can’t list them on your resume, they won’t help you leverage a promotion and they won’t win your in-laws’ approval. Much like Aston Villa’s defense, they are worthless. Basically, each player received an “award” in the form of either an actual compliment or a backhanded compliment.
So … let’s get to the presenting of the backhanded compliments! This time, the midfield:
Chris Pontius: The “Correlation Might Equal Causation” Award. In 2011, United went 1-6-2 after Pontius broke his leg. This season, Pontius stayed healthy pretty much all year and United was good pretty much all year. But injury kept him out of the conference finals, at which point United was eliminated. Obviously, there were a lot of other factors influencing these results, but my point is twofold: 1) Pontius is a vital part of this team, and 2) I have more than 50 semester credits in social sciences and the only thing I remember is “correlation does not equal causation”.
Perry Kitchen: The “Coach’s Pet” Award. In 2012, Kitchen trailed only Brandon McDonald in minutes played, and he probably would have been the team leader had he not missed two games in March to be part of the U.S. men’s soccer team’s Olympic Disaster. For some reason, Coach Ben Olsen has an affinity for this gritty-but-not-flashy player who plays simple and does plenty of dirty work. I like him, too; his future looks bright.
Branko Boskovic: The “Hostage to Expectations” Award. Remember how you felt when you heard that John Travolta and Olivia Newton John were releasing a Christmas album? I do: You were hysterical with joy. Then you saw that amazing album cover, and the music video only served to heighten your anticipation. But when the album came out, it was only extremely good instead of a timeless classic, and you were disappointed. This is the danger of heightened expectations. Boskovic was originally signed as a designated player who provide a creative spark in United’s midfield. Sometimes he was good, but he was never as good as we wanted him to be.
Andy Najar: The “One Step Back, One Big Step Forward” Award. I probably should have counted Najar as a defender, because his future with United is almost certainly as a fullback. The move to the back made sense; at right midfield, United has Nick DeLeon, who is young and good, and at right back United has Robbie Russell, who is, um … not Nick DeLeon. Najar did well as a fullback, providing a much-needed attacking element when Dwayne De Rosario went down to injury.
Nick DeLeon: “Best Hair”. You would think that a rookie who logged more than 2,000 minutes, set a United rookie goal-scoring record, scored the goal that advanced United to the conference finals and was the rookie of the year runner-up would get recognition for his play and not just for his hair. But if you think that, you were not paying attention to the crazy Marouane Fellani/Diana Ross hair he was rocking early in the season. It was pretty cool.
Marcelo Saragosa: The “Definitely Didn’t Lie On His Resume” Award. From 2010 to 2012, Marcelo Saragosa played in Azerbaijan. But that’s not all: part of that time was spent in the Azerbaijani B-league. Except that they use the Cyrillic alphabet over there, so it probably wasn’t even the B-league; it was the “‘O’-with-a-diagonal-line-through-it-league,” or something. Needless to say: Given his resume, he dramatically exceeded expectations.
Danny Cruz: The “We Have a Bolt Bus Ticket Waiting if You Want to Come Back” Award. United started the season with a logjam on the midfield wings and thin at striker. So it traded Danny Cruz for Lionard Pajoy. Now United is thin on the wings and thin at striker. United probably should have kept Cruz.
Lewis Neal: The “What’s My Name?” Award. When the season started, odds were 80 percent that I would finish the season calling him Lucas Neill (former Blackburn center back), Neal Lewis (right words, wrong order) or Let Us Kneel (Christian rock band). He was supposed to be a bit player, but he ended up being an important part of the team. So well done, Lucien Veal.
Stephen King: The “Sure to Come Back to Haunt Us” Award. First: “haunt” counts as wordplay, because his name is Stephen King, so be sure to tabulate those points if you’re scoring at home. But more importantly: the situation surrounding King’s departure — long-term injury to a reliable role player leading to an ignominious release — make it a mortal lock that he will latch on somewhere else and score a brace against us next season. Call it the “Barklage”.
Conor Shanosky: The “Randall Stephens” Award. I have never laid eyes on Conor Shanosky. It would not surprise me to find out that he is a fake identity used by United’s front office to launder money, a la Tim Robbins in “The Shawshank Redemption.” I don’t know … look at his player page. Probably a real guy, right? Does that look like an iStock photo? Maybe someone in the comments section can spin a “aye … I seen him” yarn, the way a gritty woodsman might tell a story about Bigfoot.
Lance Rozeboom: The “Conor Shanosky” Award. Lance Rozeboom made the roster of a professional soccer team and collected a check from it last year, which is more impressive than anything I did. I’m going to not look up his player page so that I’ll be surprised when he takes the field and looks nothing like how I’m picturing him (which is 6 foot 10, Samoan, red hair, eye patch).