Soccer Outsider on Clint Dempsey, plus D.C. United-Montreal match diary, player ratings

August 6, 2013

Before we get to D.C. United — and this is a Washington-based newspaper Web site so we’re getting there whether you like it or not — let’s talk about Clint Dempsey. Is this move good for MLS? Without a doubt. This is MLS competing with a Champions League-caliber team — okay, a Europa League-caliber team — for a player in his prime. That’s big. MLS has had some very good players brought in through the designated player rule — Beckham, Henry, Keane … Salihi. Is this move good for Dempsey? I have to believe that Dempsey concluded he wasn’t going to play every week for Tottenham, so this move is good because he’ll play. And this move is good for the U.S. national team for the same reason. I’m as bummed as anyone that it seems Dempsey couldn’t quite cut it at Tottenham, but having him play in Seattle is better than having him sit in London.

Now — like a raccoon having finished pillaging the D.C. Armory’s trash cans — we return to RFK Stadium. With United’s league campaign more dead than rock ‘n’ roll and a meaningful U.S. Open Cup match coming up Wednesday, Coach Ben Olsen has some tough lineup decisions. At least he would if anyone was healthy; Olsen is basically going to play whichever 11 guys can stand upright. Which, on Saturday against Montreal, is apparently: Willis | Riley, Woolard, Jakovic, Korb | Porter, Jeffrey, Kitchen, DeLeon | Silva, De Rosario.

Here’s kickoff from RFK, which has a new playing surface. Is it “new” or just “new to RFK,” because that looks like the cow pasture used for the USA-Honduras match in Dallas?

3’ - Bad giveaway from Jeffrey leads to a chance for Montreal. It’s early days in Jeffrey’s United career, but I’m already noticing a pattern: smooth on the ball and confident, but maybe a bit too confident.

6’ - The ball falls right to DeRo at the top of the 18, but he shoots wide! If DeRo is in form, that’s a goal.

9’ - The Post’s Steven Goff had a great piece earlier this week about the never-used but surprisingly popular Syamsir Alam. I think it makes perfect sense that United’s most popular player this year is the guy who never plays.

15’ - DeRo’s shot is saved only a minute after DeLeon’s shot is saved! Our old friend Troy Perkins is frustrating United. Let’s remember that Perkins got out of the real estate game in about 2007, so he puts the “savvy” in “savvy veteran.”

19’ – GOAL UNITED! It’s scored by the one player who scores: Luis Silva! He has three goals in three league games for United, so it’s time for a depressing stat run-down! Silva — who has played three games — is now United’s leading scorer. Silva — who has played three games — has scored 23 percent of United’s league goals. Silva — who has played three games — has more goals than Pajoy, Townsend and Ruiz combined.

20’ - On the plus side, if Alam came in and scored a hat trick he would now only be tied for most goals on the team.

24’ - Very back-and-forth match. Willis has made a couple good saves, and so has Perkins. Nice to see United showing a pulse; maybe the stadium announcement has these players seeing a future.

29’ - On the field for Montreal: Sainey Nyassi’s twin brother Sanna. Also: He hasn’t been very good tonight. ‘Cause, you know … they’re twins.

30’ - I didn’t know that Sainey Nyassi had a twin brother until right now, and honestly my first reaction was to think, “Maybe the twin is the one who was actually kind of good for New England a few years ago.” But nope: The one we have is the one with more than 100 appearances for the Revs.

37’ - It’s amazing what a difference Silva is making. It’s not just the goals, it’s his ability to hold the ball and get other players involved. It’s his ability to turn and be dangerous. That’s just something we haven’t had this year.

40’ - In baseball, I’m a Seattle Mariners fan. The Mariners recently called up a pitcher whose last name is Maurer. Jared Jeffrey has my first name on his shirt. I could go online right now and get jerseys from my two favorite teams that say “Jeffrey” and “Maurer”. Or I could get ones that say “Huge” and “Dork” instead.

Halftime: 1-0 United. Not related to the game, but I have to link to this hilarious clip of Jason Sudeikis as Tottenham coach. I lived in the south just long enough to feel that the accent is accurate, and I played football just long enough to feel that the shorts are accurate.

51’ – GOAL MONTREAL! Terrible defense; everyone stopped and raised their hand instead of playing defense, but Jakovic was keeping everyone onside. Funny little prank there by Jakovic.

60’ - Nyassi is Gambian for “bad first touch.”

64’ - Watching United play out of the back is like watching an elderly person navigate stairs: It just makes you nervous and you’re praying for a non-event.

67’ – GOAL UNITED! It’s Conor Doyle (whose name couldn’t be more Irish if it were Paddy O’Shamrock)! Riley with a nice assist, and a calm little flick from Doyle puts United ahead. Wow … two goals in one game. I guess that means no more for the next five.

69’ - Sainey Nyassi is subbed in just as Sanna Nyassi is subbed out. Well, they had to do that in accordance with MLS’s Designated Nyassi rule.

75’ - Chevy Chase’s own Collin Martin makes his MLS debut. Martin was born in 1994, which means in his mind United has always existed, there’s always been an Internet and Smashing Pumpkins has always been embarrassing.

77’ - Worth thinking about: United could field this lineup (with ages in parentheses): Hamid (22), Kemp (23), White (22), Shanosky (21), Korb (25) | Pontius (26), Kitchen (21), Jeffrey (23), DeLeon (23) | Doyle (21), Townsend (24). Average age: 22.8. Now, I don’t think that lineup would win many games right now, but it also would be at least as good as many of the lineups we’ve seen this year. Last year, United was a good, young team. This year, it’s not good but it’s really young. We might be building a core.

84’ - Martin plays a great ball to release Doyle. And with that one pass, Martin passes Marcos Sanchez, Steve Guppy and Lucio Filomeno on the all-time contributions to United list.

90’ + 2’ – GOAL UNITED! The capper! Montreal had everyone forward and Martin, Doyle and Jeffrey — combined age 13½ — connect for the third. Good job by Doyle to feed the wide-open Jeffrey for the finish. True, Doyle would have been stupid to try to finish it himself, but sometimes you need to give athletes credit for not doing something stupid.

Full time: 3-1 United! The guys on MLS Fast Break are talking about this upset like it’s Tyson-Douglas.

Player ratings:

Willis: 6. I don’t think Hamid has lost his spot.

Riley: 6.5. He was involved in the attack all game and set up the first two goals. Olsen  should consider switching him with Korb; he didn’t seem very confident with his left foot.

Woolard: 5. Played well except for assuming offside would save him on the goal. Offside traps are like parachutes — they usually save you, but it’s kind of notable when they don’t.

Jakovic: 4. He’s proving that it’s not enough to have your best players on the field; they also have to be in form.

Korb: 4.5. Needs to be just a bit sharper with his passes.

Porter: 3. What happened to Kyle Porter? Did he suddenly realize: “I’m a foreign signing playing for D.C. United. I need to be terrible?”

Kitchen: 5. Everything Kitchen does with the ball he needs to continue doing except 10 percent faster.

Jeffrey: 5. I talked about his little giveaway problem, but he looks smooth and skilled on the ball. You’d never know that he’s only playing because every other central midfielder is hurt.

DeLeon: 4.5. He’s had a bad year … could the goatee be to blame? Better shave it, burn it and bury the ashes just to be sure.

Silva: 7. Silva lining to this dark cloud of a season.

De Rosario: 7. The Silva-De Rosario combo up top worked. I always make this point: You don’t have to have a little-and-large striker combo. If your strikers have complementary skills that’s great, but if that’s not available just put two good players on the field and watch things work.

Doyle: 6. Very encouraged by that finish. Also encouraged by his Old Money East Hamptons look — I’m saving a few jokes about that for next match.

Nyassi: 3. TWWWWIIIIIIIINNNNNSSS! And yet I am not enthused.

Collin Martin: 6. These young players need to play well to compensate for making the rest of us feel old. Good start, Collin.

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Steven Goff · August 6, 2013

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