The players are playing for their jobs…that’s fine, but do we have to watch this real-time soccer version of Glengarry Glen Ross? Second place is a set of steak knives, third place is you’re fired … we are currently in 19th place. What’s the prize for that? A sack full of diseased rats?
Most of the players who won the U.S. Open Cup start on the bench tonight. The lineup is: Willis | Riley, Woolard, Kitchen, Nyassi | Martin, Thorrington, Jeffrey, DeLeon | Silva, Doyle. I’ve argued that United’s Open Cup win makes it more likely that Ben will come back next year. If United can show some late-season improvement while fielding a lineup that is essentially Richmond Kickers Platinum, Ben’s return will become more likely still.
Here’s kickoff from RFK. I have to say: pretty good turnout for a Friday night game. Maybe it helps that RFK is the only thing in town that’s open.
1’ - Nice to see that referee Ricardo Salazar could squeeze this match in between sets of bicep curls. The dude is jacked.
5’ - Willis looked to be beaten on a cross but he smothers the shot! United started well but almost went behind anyway, which is very United-y of them.
6’ - I just learned that there are six Gambians in MLS (United’s Sainey Nyassi is one of them). Google tells me that there are no current MLS players from Senegal. Must be nice for the Gambians to not be surrounded by Senegalese for once.
7’ - Yes, that was an African geography joke. I’m really reaching at this point in the season.
14’ - Right after Silva forces a save out of Johnson, Jeffrey hits the post! At least we have players who know roughly where the goal is these days.
18’ - The field has pink nets and pink corner flags tonight. Susan G. Komen Foundation, you’re thinking? Wrong: Code Pink. Stop the Iraq war!
24’ - Goal Chicago! It’s Ron Howard – I’m sorry, Jeff Larentowicz – with the goal! Juan Anangono turned Woolard inside out before finding Larentowicz, who finished from close range. That’s a nifty magic trick the way United can turn 65 percent possession into a one goal deficit.
26’ - Correction: two-goal deficit. Chicago score off a set piece. Idea: United gets together with the Mexican national team in a special event to determine which is the worst set piece defending team of all-time.
28’ - Kitchen finds DeLeon, but Johnson makes the save! The young players are showing well, but the most impressive young player so far is Chicago’s Sean Johnson.
32’ - United is winning this game of keep-ball but losing this game of soccer. One big problem: United plays very narrow, which means the fullbacks need to get forward and provide offense. But Riley and Korb (and tonight Nyassi) are some of the weaker offensive players on the team. So the ball tends to fall to a weak link at the crucial moment of an attack.
36’ - Salazar gives Chicago a free kick right next to United’s technical area, which allows Ben to shout right in his ear for 40 seconds. If I’m Salazar, I’d maybe just avoid giving free kicks in that part of the field.
40’ - John Thorrington is down; he signaled for a sub practically before he hit the ground. That’s bad. With Thorrington out, United’s veteran midfield presence becomes 26-year-old Chris Pontius. Think about that: 26. If he worked in your office, his entire job would be managing a Twitter account and teaching shortcut keys to older employees.
Halftime: 2-0 Chicago. It’s a shame that they can’t divide the “possession” stat into “dangerous possession” and “pointless possession.”
46’ - Here’s something positive: United still has the coolest MLS shirt sponsor. Chicago is sponsored by Quaker oats. Columbus is sponsored by Barbasol. Chivas are sponsored by Neat & Tidy Piano Movers of Encino, California. Even the league’s most well-known team – the Galaxy – is sponsored by Herbalife, which is either a weed killer or something that helps old people avoid constipation. Possibly both.
58’ - DeRo enters the game and immediately creates a chance for DeLeon, but Johnson makes another good save. A goal there could have made the game interesting, or at least interesting by the standards of what this game is capable of being.
62’ - Our crossing is collectively the worst in the history of soccer. If I was a masochist, I would put together a YouTube video of every cross United has played in 2013. It would just be 40 minutes of first defenders clearing balls with their feet and Korb Orbs (trademark) sailing harmlessly into the VW pavilion.
73’ - United has been arguably the better team, but Chicago is going to win comfortably. How do we keep doing this? To paraphrase Dave Attell: Did somebody mug a leprechaun?
75’ - Johnson makes another save on DeLeon. With mediocre goalkeeping, DeLeon could have a hat trick tonight. Johnson might as well key DeLeon’s car and sneeze in his dinner just to completely ruin his night.
76’ - United wins its 11th corner, but United hasn’t scored on a corner since Obama had no gray hairs. I don’t even remember the last time we scored off a corner, but I’ll bet the clip is in black and white and accompanied by ragtime piano music.
89’ - United has been pressing, and the goal finally arrives! For Chicago. 3-0.
Full time: 3-0 Chicago. United played well but have obviously attended Tony Romo’s Uncanny Knack for Losing seminar.
Willis: 5.5. Made some good saves but hung himself out to dry on the second goal.
Riley: 4. On the one hand, Riley is not exactly Mr. Instant Offense. On the other hand, it’s not fair to expect him to be.
Woolard: 3.5. Anangono faked Woolard right out of his headgear on the first goal.
Kitchen: 5.5. Ben simply cannot quit Perry Kitchen.
Nyassi: 4. I’m hard on Nyassi on this blog, but his hustle and work rate are good. When United sends him walking, it’ll probably be more like a hard jog.
Martin: 5. He doesn’t look overmatched. Other players are playing for jobs, he’s playing for something closer to a paid internship.
Jeffrey: 6. He looks like a league-average midfielder until he goes to shoot. He can really shoot from distance.
Thorrington: 5.5. Even if he’s not very injured, I’ll bet he’s done for the season just because, you know … why bother?
DeLeon: 6.5. Johnson will haunt DeLeon’s dreams like Freddy Krueger.
Silva: 5.5. Effective when on the ball but he needs to get on the ball more.
Doyle: 5. Even though United had Doyle as a target man up top, Ben still had the team playing out of the back. More proof that this game was more about learning than about the result.
Pontius: 5.5. He was supposed to come on at halftime but came on in the 43rd minute instead, which is probably why he really faded in the last two minutes.
De Rosario: 5. It’s been an off-year for DeRo; he has a few more games to prove that he’s not on the downward slope of his career.
Neal: 5. Let’s not talk about tonight; let’s talk about that Open Cup winner. This blog is all about focusing on the positive (unless you’re Kurt Morsink or Lionard Pajoy).