D.C. United’s most valuable player this year has clearly been Dwayne De Rosario. At least, it’s De Rosario if you extrapolate his numbers over an entire season (actually, if you extrapolate his numbers over an entire season he’s probably playing for Juventus or Mayor of Canada or something...he’s been that good). United’s second most valuable player: referee Abi Okulaja, who gifted us that penalty against the Galaxy. Third most valuable player: bizarro-world Joseph Ngwenya. But fourth, I would argue is Chris Pontius.
The Castrol Index agrees with me, and the Castrol Index is, as you know, scientifically infallible and admissible in court. Jurgen Klinsmann also agrees with me: he brought Pontius into the last two national team camps to, well...not play with the national team, but eat meals with them and wear that cool Nike training gear. Ben Olsen also agrees with me: Pontius has played more minutes than any United player so far this season, a statistic that may or may not be true, but it’s at least close to true and after watching the last Republican presidential debate I feel it’s acceptable to use statistics as long as they feel true.
But Pontius is out for the season after breaking his tibia against Chivas last week. So, for the first time in a league match this year, we’ll see how this team plays without Pontius. To be perfectly honest: I’m not optimistic. I feel kind of the way I felt when Smashing Pumpkins lost Jimmy Chamberlain: I’m really hoping this works out, but I’m not entirely sure I see how it will. Hopefully what happens to United will be less embarrassing than what happened to Smashing Pumpkins.
Here’s tonight’s lineup: Willis | Woolard, McDonald, White, Kitchen | Da Luz, Simms, Najar, De Rosario | Ngwenya, Davies. Are you sharing my pessimism yet? In addition to no Pontius, no Hamid, Jakovic, or Wolff. You can even make good arguments for Brettschneider and Quaranta in this lineup, and that’s not a position you want to be in. I’m Ngot feeling Ngood.
1’ - It’s raining. Here’s another stat that feels true: it has rained in 100 percent of Seattle’s home games this year. Here’s a stat that IS true: when I lived in Olympia (one hour south of Seattle), we once had 96 straight days of rain. That’s why they have all those vampires up there.
3’ - I hate turf, but in fairness to Seattle and Portland: in the Pacific Northwest, your choice isn’t between turf and grass, it’s between turf and mud.
10’ - United somehow get a chance (that fizzled out) off a Seattle goal kick, but we didn’t see the play - all we saw was a closeup of Sigi Schmid saying “oh (expletive)”.
15’ - Yellow card for Joseph Ngwenya. So, if you have Joseph Ngwenya in your fantasy league...then you are the Al Davis of your fantasy league.
18’ - Volley from Da Luz is blocked. Da Luz is making something of his opportunity - he’s one of the few United players showing a pulse.
23’ - If you love throw-ins and battling for second balls, then you’ll love soccer on astroturf! It’s probably good that Tino isn’t playing. Imagine how bad his touch would be on wet astroturf. He might put a ball through the signage behind the goal.
25’ - This game is like a French labor union: you can’t go 30 seconds without a stoppage.
26’ - Let’s do a few more of those since nothing else is going on: there have been fewer shots than the PTA-sponsored after-prom event.
31’ - On goal kicks, Ngwenya always — always — underestimates the flight of the ball and misses the header, so much so that I wonder if he’s really trying hard to win them (those things can hurt).
34’ - Goal Seattle! 1-0! Both Woolard and McDonald get on the wrong side of a tackle, allowing Fucito (full name: Mike Fucito, but he sounds like a better player if you just say “Fucito”) to get free and slot past Willis. Really bad defense from both Woolard and McDonald on that play; if two players make bad mistakes at once, you’re usually going to give up a goal.
38’ - Davies shoots...throw in. Categorize that, MLS chalkboard people.
41’ - De Ro shoots from a long way out. Rongen says one of my least-favorite things that color commentators say: “why not?” Because your odds of scoring from there are vanishingly small, that’s why not.
43’ - Najar with a great run, but it’s blocked in the end. Najar and De Ro have been pretty good. Everyone else, not so much.
45’ - Goal Seattle. 2-0. I’ve been complaining all season that White has a bad habit of heading the ball into the middle of the field, and here it cost United a goal. United are oscillating between uninspired and bad this match.
Halftime. 2-0 Seattle. Things are as bleak as the Seattle sky; I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see us coming back to get anything out of this match.
On a different note: what’s up with Chris Pontius’ role in that Red Card Cancer ad that they play at half time? Obviously, a great organization, but a very weird ad: at one point, Pontius has his arm around a kid, and they just kind of stare at each other and walk. Why is this a silent film? Couldn’t they give Pontius a line of dialogue? Maybe something like:
Pontius: Hey Billy, D.C. United and Johns Hopkins are teaming up to fight cancer.
Billy: That’s great! See you at the hospital!
50’ - Davies had a hat-trick last match - if he gets on the ball two more times then he’ll have a hat trick of touches this match.
53’ - King comes in for Davies. This is obviously partly because Ben wants to save Davies legs, but also because he’s done absolutely nothing in 53 minutes.
54’ - Rongen: “Ben is saving Davies’ legs for the stretch run.” Or stretch saunter, in Davies’ case.
59’ - Goal Seattle! 3-0, and it’s now all but officially over. Montero sneaks in behind Kitchen, and Willis can only push the ball onto Fernandez’s feet.
61’ - De Rosario comes out, which is Ben’s way of confirming what we already knew: this game is over. Wolff comes in.
63’ - At this point I’m only watching to see if the Fan Man from the Tyson-Holyfield fight or that streaker from the U.S.-Honduras match (sorry, no link — family newspaper) makes an appearance. So, while these guys are kicking it around in the rain, let’s talk United’s striker situation. United haven’t had consistent performances from their strikers all year. Ngwenya is terrible - at the beginning of the year, I thought he’d be a good value, but he wouldn’t be a good value even if we were paying him in redeemable coupon books. Brettschneider sometimes looks like he has a future in this league, and other times looks like he was drafted in the second round of the supplemental draft. Wolff has been good at times, but has had a bunch of small injuries and hasn’t been consistent. Tino and De Ro aren’t really strikers. Which brings us to Davies. I don’t think that Davies has shown much at all this year. He’s had a couple of good matches — last week at Chivas, for instance — but in general, he mostly just stands around and waits for someone to give him a tap-in goal. MLS chalkboard — a great resource of which I only recently became aware — says he had 13 touches in 53 minutes tonight. 13! By comparison, Wolff had 16 in 29 minutes. In fairness, Wolff played at the end of the match when United were attacking more, but Ngwenya played the whole match and had 33 touches. Davies doesn’t move enough - his speed is useless if he’s standing still. For every game he’s had where he’s active and moving and testing the back line, he’s had two where he’s standing around waiting for someone to put the ball on his foot three feet away from goal.
Full time: 3-0 Seattle. Earlier I likened United to Smashing Pumpkins...I guess we have Machina/the Machines of God and Zwan to look forward to.
Willis: 5.5. None of the goals were really his fault.
Woolard: 3.5. He’s just not very fast - speed exposes him.
McDonald: 4.5. Decent game other than the horrible positioning on the first goal.
White: 4. One of the first things you learn as a defender is to play the ball away from the middle of the field. I don’t know why White does it so often.
Kitchen: 4. He got punished for letting his man get behind him on the third goal, but he actually did it twice: he pinched in and let Montero get behind him in the fifth minute. He could have been involved in two nearly identical goals.
Da Luz: 6. Well, this was good news: Pontius’ replacement came in and played pretty well. Then again, I thought Chris Korb played pretty well, and Ben has since put him in the witness protection program.
Simms: 4.5. On the Simms “eh” to “meh” scale, this was more of an “eh”. Maybe one day he’ll earn a “huh” or even an “oh”.
Najar: 7. Much like an intern, this 18-year-old gave an enthusiastic effort while everyone else was mailing it in.
De Rosario: 6.5. Positive points for setting up Ngwenya a couple of times, negative points for apparently not realizing it was Ngwenya he was passing to.
Ngwenya: 3. Worth mentioning: in the 71st minute, he couldn’t finish a chance that he himself created. That’s as positive as it gets for him this year.
Davies: 2.5. Just not involved in the game at all.
King: 5. Played well when no one cared.
Wolff: 6. Ditto.
Burch: No rating. Presumably was not very mobile but played some nice balls with his left foot. I don’t know — I wasn’t paying attention by then.