Soccer Outsider: New York, N.J.

March 19, 2013

Today on Schadenfreude Theatre: The New York Red Bulls. Forget for a minute that United’s early-season form is as electric as an Amish farm. The Red Bulls are suffering. They have one point from their first two matches and surrendered leads in both. Some clubs would shrug off a slow start, but the Red Bulls’ European imports include Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and overreacting to small sample sizes. I’ll have to take what joy I can from the Red Bulls’ suffering, partly because United isn’t playing well and partly because the part of my brain that responds to petty, vindictive urges is wildly overdeveloped.

United’s lineup: Hamid | Korb, Jakovic, McDonald, Riley | Pontius, Saragosa, Kitchen, DeLeon | De Rosario, Pajoy. Riley gets the nod because Ben likes to get offense from his defense, and Pajoy gets the nod because apparently Ben doesn’t care about getting offense from his offense.

Here’s kickoff. Comedy obligations kept me from attending this one (though it’s 10 minutes from my house), but if I’m going to miss a match, I might as well miss the one played in Snowgasm 2013.

1’ — National anthem was performed by stars of the Broadway play “Rock Of Ages.” Was Stomp booked?

4’ — The moisture is apparent by looking at Pajoy’s hair. It’s gone from a robust Kid ‘n Play do to a tepid Dwayne Wayne from A Different World.

7’ — Henry turns McDonald (too) easily, but Hamid makes the save. Henry is a perfect sports villain: arrogant, insanely talented and French.

17’ — Red Bulls are on the front foot. Our midfield and strikers need to keep the ball more. We’re way too reliant on last-ditch defending.

21’ — United fans knew this roster wasn’t very good. We knew we were the underdog in this match. Do the players know that? What’s the psychological effect when management offloads several high-priced players and replaces them with journeymen?

23’ — Espindola off the crossbar! It started on a giveaway from Saragosa. With Thorrington hurt, Saragosa basically can’t come out. You could maybe replace him with Porter or Sanchez, but it’ll take some pretty awful play to get him out of there.

28’ — Jonny Steele’s presence in this match reminds us that there’s a fine line between super-cool paperback novel spy names and full-on adult film star names.

34’ — The only way United is keeping New York off the board is by collapsing into the box, which means that when we win possession, there’s nobody to play it to. Except Pajoy, so…there’s nobody to play it to.

36’ — In case you missed it, former United defender Mike Petke is the Red Bulls’ new coach. In my opinion: good move. Petke’s a smart guy, and Ben, Jason Kreis, and Piotr Nowak have shown that young ex-players can succeed in this league. And Petke is using the right strategy to beat United: He’s keeping Pontius and De Ro off the ball. Without those two, United’s offense has less kick than a margarita at a chain restaurant.

38’ — Hamid drops a corner kick, but he recovers quickly. Move along, nothing to see here.

43’ — It’s snowing. Pajoy has been bad, Saragosa has been bad … is this evidence that South Americans don’t like playing in the cold? You know who’s been good? Dejan Jakovic, who hails from the frozen tundra of Ontario. On the other hand, New York’s Swedish defender Markus Holgersson has been not so good; maybe it’s not cold enough for him.

Halftime: 0-0. We bunkered and survived. On an unrelated note: MLS’s anti-discrimination campaign is called “Don’t Cross The Line.” Is that a good name? Don’t Cross The Line sounds like, “Hey, a little discrimination is okay — we’re not asking for miracles here. Just don’t go nuts with it. Don’t cross the line.” I’m sure that’s not how they meant it.

51’ — Riley and Korb have switched sides. Because that was the problem.

55’ — Espindola off the crossbar again! I think Hamid may have gotten fingertips on that. We’re barely hanging on.

56’ — Is Pajoy trying to establish permanent residence in the offside zone?

59’ — De Ro and Pontius create a chance, but Robles makes a nice save! No surprise: We’ve had one chance in the first hour. Also no surprise: De Ro and Pontius created it.

64’ — By my count, shots are 20-4 in favor of New York. Normally, getting dominated like this costs $300/hour.

66’ — Hamid makes an amazing save! Cahill had a volley from close range, but Hamid pawed it out! That is an UNBELIEVABLE save. That is a goal nine times out of 10.

75’ — The eggs in my omelette this morning took less of a beating than United is taking right now. Credit to the defense for keeping it scoreless.

79’ — I hate being right all the time, but when the season started I said we didn’t have enough offense, and sure enough: We don’t have enough offense. In this match, we have none. My biggest problem: We have a designated player (Rafael) not even in uniform. This should not be a rebuilding year. Is he really not as good as Pajoy? If he’s not as good as Pajoy now, what makes United think that he’ll ever be any good?

85’ — We have been beaten like a dusty rug, but I hope United get out of here with a point. I am basically cheering for a massive injustice.

90’ + 1 — Hamid with another great save! Did it cross the line? Do I care? The answers are “maybe” and “no”! Start the bus — let’s get out of here.

Full time: 0-0. As terrible as United looked, let’s remember: New York is very unhappy with this result. So that should make us happy.

Player ratings:

Hamid: 8.5. I’m docking him a point for the dropped corner kick (on another day, that’s trouble), and he still gets an 8.5. By my estimation, if United had had average goalkeeping in the first three matches, we would have one point and a goal differential of minus-five.

Crossbar: 10. A flawless match. Also covered more ground than Carlos Ruiz.

Korb: 5.5. Am I subconsciously docking him half a point for not being Andy Najar? Probably.

Jakovic: 7.5. Another strong match. If he was American, he might be in the national team picture, and not just because the USMNT is currently missing more players than that rugby team from Alive.

McDonald: 6.5. He lost his man a few times, but his man was Henry.

Riley: 5.5. We’ll lose Jakovic next match to Team Canada. Riley’s emergence means that Woolard is an option at center back.

Pontius: 6. He needs keep the ball better in our own third. But he’s being asked to do too much; he can’t have major defensive responsibilities and still be expected to be our main source of offense.

Saragosa: 3. He may have played just poorly enough to trigger the Kyle Porter option.

Kitchen: 4.5. In a game like this, he needs to do a better job of creating meaningful possession. Sure, you need to keep the ball, but he was settling for the ultra-safe pass too often.

DeLeon: 5.5. Showed some signs of life after a lackluster start to the season. You look at his hair and think “flair player”, but he’s putting in a massive amount of work on the flank.

De Rosario: 5. Why did the cold not trigger his special Canadian powers? Probably because it was his first match of the year.

Pajoy: 2.5. He normally plays good defense and holds the ball fairly well. He did not hold the ball well. It’s like if Manute Bol stopped being tall — at that point, why are you here?

Ruiz: 3.5. I wanted Pajoy out so badly and then Ruiz did absolutely nothing. Um, Casey Townsend? Michael Seaton? Bueller?

Sanchez: 5.5. Sanchez will be with the Panamanian team next week, which means he’ll likely move up the pecking order as his competition stink up the joint against Columbus.

 

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Steven Goff | March 18, 2013