A lot of the writing in advance of this match has taken the angle: Dax vs. De Rosario — we’ll see who got the better of the trade. Um, are you kidding me? We know who got the better of the trade: we did. We traded Dax McCarty for Dwayne De Rosario. We win. We are a soccer team, and between those two guys Dwayne De Rosario is better at soccer (that’s not a knock on Dax — De Rosario is one of the elite players in the league). If we were measuring them on pinochle ability or knowledge of fine wines then I don’t know how I’d assess this trade, but there really is no question that DeRo is better at soccer. I have to believe that from New York’s perspective this trade is about clearing cap space and finding a good fit, so this move might work out for them in the long run. But the minute DeRo showed up in D.C. without a missing limb or an ancient Aztec curse on his head, we won this trade.
Here’s another head-scratcher: which team has the better stadium? On the one hand, Red Bull Arena is a world-class facility, and not a single blade of grass is out of place, and the roof and design amplify sound to create an outstanding atmosphere. But it lacks the vintage charm of RFK Stadium. Sure, on TV a match at Red Bull Arena has the aesthetics of a World Cup match, but you lose your connection with the rest of the city when the field doesn’t show the after-effects of every football game, baseball game, tractor pull, and Kings of Leon concert from the past 16 months. And Red Bull Arena doesn’t have the history of RFK; for example, the nachos I dropped celebrating the 1998 InterAmerican Cup are still there. I guess it’s just a matter of preference.
Tonight’s lineup is the same as last week’s lineup: Hamid | Woolard, McDonald, White, Kitchen | Pontius, Simms, Najar, De Rosario | Wolff, Davies. United have so many injuries that this is more or less the lineup they HAVE to go with. Pretty much the only point of debate is whether Brettschneider gets mixed in up top.
2’ - Remember when we were the glamour team in this rivalry? When they were the Greater New York Area MetroStars and they played on a potty patch and Lothar Matthaus was sauntering around the midfield? They’ve gotten their act together in New York.
8’ - McCarty shoots with his left from distance, but misses. Normally I’d say a player shouldn’t shoot from there, but having the worldview that I do, I generally assume that the guy we just traded will probably put that one in the back of the net.
10’ - Shot from Davies...throw in. But some good work from him to create the shot. He’s looked lively so far, which is a good sign because this year Davies has been mostly on or mostly off.
16’ - Brandon McDonald isn’t happy with the defense - he’s yelling at people and taking control. Hamid is also a yeller, as is Kitchen. How many yellers can you have in one area before it becomes a cable news panel show?
19’ - I don’t like Luke Rodgers. And not because he’s keeping Agudelo on the bench, and not because he looks like Vin Diesel and a pint of Guiness had a baby. He’s just a feisty, loud, annoying player. That’s great when he’s on your team, but annoying on the other team.
20’ - If Joel Lindpere was named Joe Lindpere, his name would sound the same when said out loud. And no, I’m not stoned.
22’ - Great diagonal ball from Simms got Pontius a look, but Pontius couldn’t bring the ball under control. Pontius hasn’t been at his best last game and this game.
26’ - Henry is kind of Jaime Moreno-type: he makes himself seem faster by moving very slowly the rest of the time.
28’ - Dane Richards has grown the full Mr. T Mohawk and beard. That’s a bold gambit, Dane. I’m going to watch the post-match press conference to see if he’s wearing gold chains and telling me to stay off drugs.
29’ - Davies is fouled and wants a yellow card. Cool it, Charlie. You’re being whiny.
32’ - United are the better team right now. You really have to notice how improved this team is from this time last year. New York are one of the better teams in the league, and we’re now good enough that it’s not shocking that we’re staying with them.
41’ - Hamid is dominating on shots taken after the ball has been blown dead. Sorry, Bill: those don’t show up in the Castrol rankings.
42’ - Great ball from Pontius to Davies, Davies rounds the ‘keeper and shoots but Ream slides in to intercept. That was a good chance; Davies’s shot was pretty tame.
Half time. United’s strikers don’t completely convince me. Our defense is not air-tight. But I like our midfield right now. I like the formation, I like the personnel, I like the way they fit together. Remember, it was only about a year ago that we were starting midfields along the lines of Najar, Morsink, John DiRaimondo, and Christian Castillo. Those were dark days.
49’ - SAVE HAMID! McDonald and White do a hilarious “you-take-it-I-got-it” routine, and Henry takes advantage of the mistake and puts a low shot on goal. Great save, terrible defense. And to do it with Thierry Henry in the vicinity...scoring goals off of errant back passes is sort of Henry’s thing.
53’ - Najar with a hard foul on McCarty and doesn’t help him up. So, the trade is official now.
53’ - Save Hamid! A mixup almost lets Rodgers in, but Hamid deals with it well.
57’ - United hanging on by their fingernails now; the Red Bulls are applying some serious pressure.
58’ - Since I mentioned Lothar Matthaus earlier, I should probably mention that Thierry Henry is a high-profile signing that has worked out. He started out slow, but he’s playing well now and looks good again tonight.
60’ - GOAL DC UNITED! De Rosario! That’s why he gets paid the big bucks (by MLS standards)! DeRo starts the move with a dummy, Wolff reads DeRo’s mind by supplying the return pass, and DeRo touches once and slams it with his left foot off the post and in. Great goal - that’s exactly why we got him!
61’ - When I watch the national team and Donovan gets the ball in a good spot, there’s a split second before he hits it when my subconscious yells “goal!”. That’s the way it is with certain players: when they get a good scoring chance, your subconscious does the math and suddenly realizes that they’re about to score a split second before it happens. I feel that way about Carlos Tevez, I felt that way about Alecko Eskandarian (he had his limits as a player, but he was a deadly finisher). I just had that feeling about De Rosario.
64’ - DeRo gets free and sends a strike over the goal. A goal is good - a brace would be outstanding.
65’ - Rodgers gets behind the defense, but White recovers. White’s best trait: recovery. White’s worst trait: needing to recover so frequently.
68’ - Najar isn’t having his best game, but he still looks like a completely different player than when he was having his slow start to the year.
72’ - Ngwenya in for Wolff. Wow...really? Ben is talking to Joe - is he saying “I gave your number to the fourth official by accident, but we’re going to make the best of this”? You have to hand it to Ben: he doesn’t limit himself to making the move everyone’s expecting. He is his own man.
76’ - Kitchen gets the ball and goes on a run. I usually love it when center backs go on a run, but since Kitchen is really a midfielder anyway, he doesn’t have the stiff-legged rambling aesthetic that usually makes that so much fun to watch. When a center back does a stepover...that is maybe my favorite thing in the game.
78’ - Fred on for Pontius. Next match is Fred’s last with United, and after that I have no idea who will provide depth on the wings.
81’ - Brandon McDonald dribbles up the field run earns a free kick! that was the type of center back run I enjoy - you could practically hear McDonald yell “why is nobody stopping this?” as he dribbled up-field.
84’ - Yellow card for Davies, who kicked Miller as he went out of bounds. Charlie, Charlie, Charlie. There’s an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry says to George: “do you know how hard it’s getting just to tell people that I know you?” It’s reaching that point with Charlie Davies. I really want him to stop all the diving, whining, and cheap shots.
86’ - Brettschneider in for Davies. Davies’ cheap shot on Miller happened right in front of Ben - I don’t think he was thrilled with that, either.
87’ - After what happened the last two weeks, a goal right here would be devastating.
88’ - Brettschneider gets an (unintentional) kick in the face. They’re doing the concussion test: follow the finger. Maybe they’re saying: “calculate the odds of a team with 27 men on the roster having four players out with a concussion.” Brettschneider apparently gave the right answer (”unbelievably small”), because he’s back on the field.
90’ - You can hear the United fans chanting - great road support.
90’ + 4’ - Free kick for the Red Bulls in a dangerous spot. The goalkeeper Sutton is up. How many times have you seen the ‘keeper score in this situation? Myself: one (and I’ve seen highlights of it happening two other times).
Full time: 1-0 United! Great win, really great win. If you think about it, United have played well enough to win three weeks in a row now. They might not be getting maximum points, but they’re in a decent run of form.
Dax McCarty: 5. Good hustle and linking play but didn’t create much office and his free kicks weren’t great. So: pretty much as-advertised.
De Rosario: 6.5. He’s really helping United control the ball, and he’s a constant threat in the final third. This game would have been a tie without him, so the trade has already netted us two points.
DC United front office: +1.5. Logically.
Hamid: 8. This is the guy we thought we were getting. This is the guy who looks like a national team prospect. He made every save, made good decisions, and did a great job controlling the box. That’s two good games in a row for him.
Woolard: 5. See any previous player ratings for my assessment of Woolard - he did the same thing he does every game.
McDonald: 6. I docked both him and White a point for that play in the 49th minute, but besides that, he was alert and authoritative. Considering we picked him up for a bag of cones, he seems like a very good acquisition.
White: 5. Everyone likes center backs with above-average size and speed, because their ceiling is high. I’m interested to see how he develops.
Kitchen: 7. I like that when he plays the ball out of the back, he plays it TO somebody. He also does well as a right back - he’s active and his passing is sound.
Simms: 5.5. Did a good job keeping possession, but he’s too nice: sometimes he needs to commit a foul and maybe take a yellow card in order to stop an attack.
Pontius: 4.5. An off night for him offensively, but give him credit: after last week’s poor defensive performance, he busted his butt defensively and did a good job containing Dane Richards.
Wolff: 6. Good touch, nice passing, and he seems to be developing some chemistry with De Rosario.
Davies: 4. I docked him half a point for that kick on Miller. Look, Charlie: you’re a United player. You’re a guy who’s overcome a lot. We want to cheer for you. Stop being such a punk.
Ngwenya: 4. When he came in, I figured he must have had a good week at practice, but he didn’t look particularly sharp (especially his passing). Still, he battled hard and played some good defense.
Fred: 6. He’s really putting in some good shifts for a guy who doesn’t work here anymore. When Fred left for Philly, I didn’t mind seeing him go. This time, I’ll miss him.
Brettschneider: 9. Have you ever come in to work and immediately been kicked in the face? That’s what happened to Blake Brettschneider today. So I’m giving him a high score out of sympathy.