United wasn’t as good as its season-ending run last year suggested; everyone seemed to know that except for United GM Dave Kasper. But in fairness, United isn’t as bad as its start to the season suggests. But in fairness to the concept of saying “in fairness,” almost nothing on earth is as bad as United’s start. Gangrene? Not at bad as United’s start. Russian prisons? A barrel of monkeys compared to United’s start. On the list of “horrible things,” United’s start is between Metro escalator repair times and the KFC Double Down.
You know how “Saturday Night Live” will periodically dump most of its cast and try new people? That’s kind of what happened with Saturday night’s lineup at FC Dallas: Willis | Riley, Jakovic, White, Korb | DeLeon, Kitchen, Augusto, Porter | De Rosario, Townsend. Let’s hope this is the 1995 cast and not the 1985 one.
Here’s kickoff from FC Dallas Stadium, formerly Pizza Hut Park. Pizza Hut no longer sponsors Dallas’s stadium, though it still sponsors childhood obesity and jobs for stoned teenagers.
1’ - At this point, I’m mostly rooting for Coach Ben Olsen to not get fired. I don’t think this implosion is mostly his fault; I think the talent simply isn’t on the roster. Olsen’s share of the blame should be proportionate to his role shaping this horrible roster. This roster is like present-day Guns ‘N Roses: clearly missing several important guys.
8’ - Porter plays Townsend through, and Townsend sends a shot off the post! That would have been huge; instead it’s just a huge miss.
10’ – Goal Dallas! Why do they always come right after United misses a chance at the other end? Very courteous of Riley, Jakovic and White not to step in and disrupt the aesthetic beauty of that move.
17’ - Jackson gets across White again, though nothing comes of it this time. White needs to keep his head up.
22’ - Does Augusto ever complete a pass? Watching him try to pass is like watching an amateur skateboarder try to land a trick: You can sense the failure before it even happens.
24’ - White gets a yellow, though I’m not sure if it was for the tackle (which I thought was clean) or for the sass-mouth afterwards (which was probably not clean).
30’ - De Ro’s deflected shot forces a save. I’m now applauding mere shots on goal from this team; I’m less patronizing to my nephew’s little league team.
39’ - We need more from De Ro: He’s slow on the counter and not sharp with his through-balls. If De Ro is just a kind-of-good player, we are sunk.
42’ – Goal United! It’s De Rosario with a great strike off a free kick! Before De Ro stepped up, John Harkes mentioned that he told De Ro after last match that he needs to be taking the free kicks. Harkes is right; this is De Ro’s team. We just saw why.
43’ - That is United’s first road goal of the year. That’s almost 500 minutes of “soccer” (sarcastic quotes mine).
Halftime: 1-1. From the Department of Faint Praise: So far, Casey Townsend has turned in probably the best shift from a United striker this season.
47’ - Last week someone in the comments section said “I keep getting Rafael and Raphael mixed up.” Don’t bother learning their names; they’ll both be gone by year’s end.
55’ - Bad non-clearance from Jakovic. Jakovic is not as bad as he was last week, but in fairness everything on Earth including gangrene and Russian prisons…et cetera.
57’ - If I’m trying to find silver linings to this season — and Lord knows that I am — it’s that it’s easier to make jokes about a bad team than a good team.
61’ - Hassli sends it just over the bar; White should have been marking. White loses more people than Liam Neeson in the “Taken” movies.
68’ - McDonald comes in for Augusto; McDonald will be playing as a midfielder. The good news is that as a midfielder, McDonald is slightly less overpaid.
70’ - Sanchez with a dazzling dribbling display. I’m sorry, not “dazzling”…”nauseating,” because it happened in his own goal mouth.
74’ - Sanchez drifting inside is becoming a real problem; it’s one thing to pinch in when you’re on offense, but when the ball turns over you have to get back out wide. Dallas are wreaking havoc on the wing like the gremlin in that episode of “The Twilight Zone.”
76’ – Nooooo! Goal Dallas! Willis can’t get to the cross, Riley is on the wrong side of his man and Watson is left free to score with his belly button. Now we have to score another road goal … but we’re not due for one for another 450 minutes!
85’ - Cooper almost scores on a set piece, and I almost wish that he had; if United is going to lose, I’d prefer that it do it quickly and definitively so that I can do other things. I cleaned out a whole closet during that 4-0 loss to Houston.
Full time: 2-1 Dallas. I normally don’t alter these posts after the fact; I usually write them during the match and they are edited and posted later. But I have to time-travel in here and point to Steven Goff’s terrific article about why United is so bad. He really hits the nail on the head.
Willis: 5.5. Great: we’ve got depth in the one position where you can only play one guy at a time.
Korb: 5.5. We all know that he doesn’t cross like Beckham or pass like Xavi, but there are times when he looks like one of the few players on the field interested in stopping this slide.
White 3.5. He’s the anti-Rihanna: I wish he would stick with his man.
Jakovic: 4. Olsen decided to let him play his way through this rough patch. I agree with that; after I have a bad set, I like to get right back out there (after calling the prior audience “mouth-breathing idiots” behind their backs).
Riley: 4. People always have this debate about religion: Does it do more harm or good? You could have the same debate about James Riley. Lots of good plays mixed with bad plays.
DeLeon: 5. We should recognize the difference between being “fit” and being “sharp”. Chris Pontius understands.
Augusto: 4. I am a fan of aggressive passing. To wit: I am the Internet’s only Sacha Kljestan apologist. But Augusto tries passes that are never, ever going to work.
Kitchen: 6.5. A few weeks ago, Jakovic was the one quietly playing well in the midst of a horrible season. Now it’s Kitchen.
Porter: 4. I think Dallas may have game-planned for Kyle Porter; he was not getting much space, and they shut him down. However, I do not think they game-planned for Marcos Sanchez, and they shut him down, too.
De Rosario: 6. The goal seemed to energize him; from that point on, he was great.
Townsend: 5.5. I wouldn’t necessarily say he was “good”, but I would say he was better than what we’ve seen from that position so far. I’d give him another start.
Sanchez: 2.5. In case you were wondering: Pontius re-injured his groin kicking the TV while watching the Houston match.
McDonald: 6. Playing McDonald in midfield might make sense if United ever gets a lead to protect.
Pajoy: 4.5. You can’t blame this loss on Pajoy. Believe me: I tried.
I’m on vacation for the next two weeks, which means I’m also on vacation from watching this massively disappointing team. This break is sorely needed. In my absence, I expect you all to provide extra snark and amateur analysis in the comments section to Goff’s match report. But while I won’t have a match diary for United, I should be able to check in from the Roma vs. Napoli match I’ll be attending next week. Ciao (even that required Google Translate)!