Watching D.C. United is like watching a baby bird being repeatedly shoved out of a nest to plummet 50 feet to the concrete below. Each week brings a new opportunity to fly, and then … push, plummet, splat. Unfortunately, having this blogging gig means I have to watch this terrible team every week; I feel like I signed up to review “Splash,” the TV show (watching “Splash” with Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah every week might be kind of great).
Raphael Augusto is gone, having his contract “terminated by mutual agreement” (“you can’t fire me because I quit!”) last week. Like Marcos Sanchez, Augusto wasn’t traded and wasn’t sold. It was just: “Go. Get out.” It’s the sports equivalent of sending him out for a trash run and then locking the door. As with Sanchez, I have no problem with the move; what I have a problem with is giving him hundreds of minutes after it was obvious he was not an asset to the team.
Last week I complained that United Coach Ben Olsen is shuffling up the starting 11 too much. But had no choice for Saturday’s game against Toronto FC: five players from last week’s starting 11 are unavailable. Pontius, Porter, Riley and White are hurt, and Ruiz is playing in a friendly for Guatemala (which I think is ridiculous; clubs should release players for official FIFA matches but not for friendlies, tribute matches and beach soccer kickarounds). So tonight’s rag-tag bunch of misfits is: Hamid | Rochat, Woolard, McDonald, Korb | DeLeon, Thorrington, Kitchen, Nyassi | De Rosario, Pajoy.
Here’s kickoff from RFK Stadium, which is one-quarter full of fans who deserve better.
1’ - Let’s get to know United’s newest acquisition, Alain Rochat. Age: 30. Nationality: Canadian/Swiss. Frenchness of name: beaucoup. Height: 6 ft/1.83 meters/18.1 hands/4 cubits. Weight: 170 pounds/77.1 kg/1.04 Young Ronaldos/0.56 Old Ronaldos. Disposition in official photo: menacing. Former clubs: Vancouver Whitecaps, Zurich, Rennes, BSC Young Boys, Marc-Emile Ruchet Junior High, Super Soccers, Orange Team.
5’ - DeLeon plays in a dangerous cross but Pajoy can’t get on the end of it! Who would have guessed when DeLeon was drafted last year that he would be thrust into a leadership role so quickly?
8’ - If United ever makes a movie of this season, it can have the same actor play Pontius and De Rosario, because they are never on the field at the same time. And that actor will be Tyler Perry.
12’ - United hasn’t won in its last 12, Toronto haven’t won in their last 11. Man … that TFC team is a juggernaut!
17’ - Penalty kick United! DeLeon makes an outstanding 80-yard run and is taken down just inside the box! Great work from DeLeon — he knifed through the entire defense.
18’ - De Rosario steps up to take the kick. Normally spot kicks have an 80 percent conversion rate, but with the way this season is going this feels like a 50-50 proposition. And … he buries it! United has a lead! That is not a misprint: United has a lead!
24’ - The key to United’s success so far is that Toronto is bad. They can’t hold the ball.
28’ - Toronto gives the ball straight to Pajoy 30 yards out. Suddenly it’s set up like a drill: Pajoy has it centrally with two defenders to beat. He dribbles and puts a shot wide. I don’t expect any striker to convert in that situation all of the time, or even most of the time, but it’d be nice to see Pajoy convert a half-chance just one time.
30’ – Goal Toronto! McDonald’s defending is awful. No, dreadful. No, there is no word in English to describe how bad McDonald’s defending was on that play. The ball was in the air long enough to have an in-flight movie, but McDonald still got beat to it by 5-foot-8 Robert Earnshaw. And Hamid got beat near post just to put the cherry on the sundae.
31’ - De Rosario is fouled, and advantage should have been played! Nyassi was headed toward goal. Caldwell gets an orange card (that was a brutal foul), and United gets a free kick that leads to nothing.
40’ – Goal Toronto! Another goal off a set piece! How is this happening? What is going on? We just can not defend set pieces. This one comes on an own-goal from Woolard. I have no idea why this is happening or how to stop it.
Halftime: 2-1 Toronto. At the beginning of the season, United’s defense was an asset. Now, any center back combination Olsen puts out there finds a way to leak goals.
46’ - United GM Dave Kasper is in the TV booth answering for his crimes. He just used the dreaded phrase “veteran leadership.” When someone says “veteran leadership,” I hear “overpaid player whose best days are behind him.”
55’ - Taylor Kemp is coming on. Yep, that’s what will ignite this offense: rookie defender Taylor Kemp. Bad news, Toronto: we’re playing the TK card. You’re about to get Kemp’d! (buries head in hands)
57’ - De Rosario and DeLeon — aka the entire offense — create a move that forces a great save! Best chance of the half.
60’ - Townsend comes in for Nyassi. For those of you hoping Nyassi or Rochat will be difference-makers, remember that they’ve both been in the league for years. Nyassi was released, and Rochat was traded for a second-round draft pick and a conditional draft pick. I’m not saying they’ll be bad, but that is not what happens to impact players.
61’ - Kemp’s back-pass is intercepted, but Hamid forces the shot wide. Hamid stayed big, while Kemp probably wishes he could shrink to the size of a field mouse.
69’ - Rochat is playing in the middle and doing very well there. Better than at left back, where he was leaving a lot of space.
72’ - De Rosario comes out and may be hurt. Great — throw him on the pile.
75’ - Does anyone mind if I reuse some jokes from the 2010 season? Man, this team is colder than the recent Winter Olympics and is coming apart faster than Mount Eyjafjallajökull!
80’ - Rafael is a ball magnet, but a ball magnet turned the wrong way so that it keeps the ball from ever coming near him.
83’ - Announcer Dave Johnson: “We just had a squirrel run by the booth.” Isn’t that a nice symbol for the decay of this team: United is so irrelevant that the raccoons and squirrels are are waging a turf war for RFK while we’re still in the building. We’ll still be staging matches while the stadium is overgrown with weeds, “I Am Legend”-style.
84’ - I believe a squirrel running through the announcer’s booth means six more weeks of Lionard Pajoy.
88’ - Woolard is bleeding from the head. Did he get elbowed, or did a vein burst in frustration?
Full time: 2-1 Toronto. Look at it this way: United won the No. 1 Draft Pick Cup.
Hamid: 4. He probably should have saved the first goal.
Rochat: 6.5. Terrible as a left back, great as a central midfielder. He probably takes Thorrington’s spot next week.
Woolard: 3.5. In fairness, Rochat left him one-on-one with a winger more than a few times.
McDonald: 4.5. I’m asking myself how windy it would have to be to make that first goal understandable. But RFK blows away like a little pig’s house before we reach the level of wind that makes that goal okay.
Korb: 4.5. Chris Korb is usually not at the middle of our breakdowns. That’s what passes for a complement these days.
DeLeon: 6. He was lively and dangerous. As the game went on, he was also well-marked.
Kitchen: 5. He was sound but his impact was minimal.
Thorrington: 3. Even back when Thorrington was getting national team caps, I didn’t quite see it. He’s serviceable, but underwhelming.
Nyassi: 3. Where was he supposed to be playing? I assume right wing but he was more all-over-the-place than Jennifer Rubin’s logic.
De Rosario: 6.5. You might as well use him as a midfielder because he has to drop deep to get the ball. Teams work hard to deny him service when he’s playing up top.
Pajoy: 2.5. We usually say, “He does the little things well!” No need to say that tonight.
Kemp: 3.5. He showed some nerves. Maybe someone should have impressed on him how meaningless this game was.
Townsend: 5.5. Had a nice left-footed shot that looked kind of like offense.
Rafael: 2.5. I don’t think he touched the ball. Hey, Rafael … can you make a quick trash run?