Soccer Outsider: United vs. Red Bulls match diary, player ratings

April 16, 2013

I think D.C. United is being held hostage to a stadium deal. United’s offseason was, in a word, cheap. A lot of mid- to high-salary players left and it got mostly fringe players in return. The $3 million from the sale of Andy Najar was — as far as I can tell — pocketed. Now, I can understand that; if I was losing millions of dollars a year, I would sell not only star players, but also vital organs and any family members who have value on the black market. But I still get the impression that this team is being run on the cheap until the owners get a stadium that makes the team profitable. This team is not a Cadillac; this is some bare-bones, low-budget car. A Volkswagen Jetta.

Yes, I went there. I am disgruntled.

The lineup for Saturday’s game against the Red Bulls, brought to you by stinginess: Hamid | Woolard, Jakovic, McDonald, Korb | Pontius, Kitchen, Sanchez, Augusto | Rafael, Pajoy. De Rosario is apparently not strong enough to play, which means I might not be strong enough to watch.

Here’s kickoff from RFK. You know, the fact that no company wants to buy the branding rights to RFK says a lot, doesn’t it?

4’ - Holgersson shoulders Rafael into the boards, but no whistle from referee Jair Marrufo. Apparently, Marrufo is one of those referees who feels that you can do anything — bull charge and opponent, commit assault, money launder, etc — and as long as you do it with your shoulder, it’s fine.

11’ - Woolard with a nice cross but Rafael can’t get there. If you’re as disenchanted as I am, it’s easy to picture Maicon Santos or Hamdi Salihi getting on the end of that cross.

18’ - Korb makes a run but for some reason Rafael plays a back-pass instead. Bad, Rafael. Fullback runs are like husbands doing housework: If it’s not recognized and applauded, it will never happen again.

22’ - Rafael is bowled over in the box. Does Jair Marrufo have a whistle? Did he leave it in his locker and is just too embarrassed to say anything?

25’ - I would describe United’s style of play this way: they play useless back-passes until McDonald or Agusto get frustrated and give it away.

28’ – Goal New York! It’s Henry. This time his “what, did I just score?” face is actually legit because he couldn’t have expected that to go in. Hamid was a hologram on that play.

32’ - If you could look into the future and tell me that neither Pontius or DeRo will create a goal and New York won’t make any huge mistakes, then I would turn this game off right now.

36’ – Goal New York! 2-0…and now it’s over. To earn a point, United would need to score the same number of goals it has scored in its first five matches.

39’ - You can make a good argument that our best offensive players tonight are Kitchen, McDonald, and Woolard.

43’ - The Red Bulls commentators (I’m watching the NY feed) are applauding New York for disrupting United’s offensive flow. I hate to break it to you, but some well-placed road cones could disrupt United’s offensive flow.

45’ - Kitchen plays a cross and neither Rafael or Pajoy can reach it, though the ghosts of Salihi and Santos both put that one in the back of the net.

Halftime: 2-0 New York. The official stats give us zero shots. I don’t think that’s right, but it definitely felt like zero shots. It had the same effect as zero shots.

46’ - De Ro comes on for Rafael. Believe me: I really, really want to like Rafael. I desperately want him to be the striker United needs. But I’ve seen nothing so far to suggest that he is.

47’ - Correction: Rafael had one nice play, the goal against Columbus. But that might be his “Tubthumping” and his play from this point on will be the rest of Chumbawamba’s career.

65’ - I believe United still has zero shots on goal.

68’ - The Red Bulls commentators are talking about how inept United is. How obvious must something be if even Shep Messing notices?

71’ - De Ro’s free kick is saved, and so is the rebound. Those are United’s first two shots on goal; a few more sequences like that and the stats will look deceptively un-embarrassing.

81’ - United’s front office should be ashamed of the way it ruined this team in the offseason. It cut ties with Salihi, Boskovic, Dudar, Santos, and Najar — that’s a lot of salary coming off the books. In return we got Rafael. That is utter incompetence. This team looks bad on paper and looks even worse on the field. The main problem seems to be with our international scouts; they haven’t picked a winner since Luciano Emilio. The question isn’t whether our international scouts should be retained or fired — the question is whether they should be fired or flogged.

Player ratings:

Hamid: 4.5. He looked at the ground after the first goal bounced past him. I don’t think the turf was at fault, but it’s true: the field should be better. If Swansea City — which has more rain than 1940s film noir — can maintain a proper field throughout a Premier League season, RFK should have a proper field at the beginning of an MLS campaign.

Woolard: 6. Call him Mr. Offense; a lot of United’s attack came through him. United is so royally screwed.

Jakovic: 6. I’ll take a brief pause from my pessimism to point out that Jakovic has been great this year.

McDonald: 6. McDonald was getting forward a lot, leaving no doubt that the defense has noticed how inept the offense is.

Korb: 5.5. Could he have been a bit tighter on the Henry goal? Yes. Could he have been Andy Najar for the rest of the match? Unfortunately, no.

Pontius: 5. Part of what’s going wrong is that Chris Pontius so far has been good, but not as good as last year.

Kitchen: 6.5. Count him as another player who is obviously making an effort to provide more offense.

Sanchez: 4. Nick DeLeon should not be nervous about losing his spot.

Augusto: 3. He tries way too many passes that are clearly not on.

Rafael de Souza: 3. I’m going to start calling him by his full name until he earns one-name status.

Pajoy: 3. He’s running out of opportunities to prove me wrong.

De Rosario: 6.5. When he entered the offense improved dramatically, from comatose to dormant.

Ruiz: 4. United off-loaded a striker who doesn’t play defense but scores goals (Salihi) for one who doesn’t play defense and doesn’t score goals.

Porter: 5.5. I’d like to see him in Sanchez’s spot next match.

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Steven Goff · April 16, 2013