The Washington Post

D.C. United vs. Columbus match diary

There’s some buzz around this team. Granted, some of that buzz is of the “they probably won’t suck!” variety, but there are also a lot of players and storylines to root for. The crowd tonight is pumped, although it’s smaller than I would have expected. I guess the hardcore fans know that this team is much improved; the casual fans just know that United were the worst team in the league last year.

Here’s how this blog is being put together: I’m typing this while watching the DVR replay Sunday morning, but I was at the game Saturday night taking notes. Actually, I was dictating notes to my wife, who had volunteered to type them into her phone. It was very Mad Men. Maybe next game I’ll see if there’s somewhere at RFK where I can plug in a Dictaphone.

Watching from home, I can see something that I couldn’t see last night: the field is in bad shape. Why does the RFK grounds crew insist on burning the football lines into the grass with hydrofluoric acid instead of using paint like the rest of the world? The Washington Convention and Sports Authority are essentially slumlords; we’re just going to have to live with silverfish and clogged toilets until we get our own place.

United’s lineup: Onstad, Burch-Kitchen-Jakovic-Zayner, Pontius-Simms-McCarty-Najar, Wolff-Ngwenya. Ben puts United’s DP on the bench, which is a gutsy move. Ben is his own man.

Eddie Gaven is playing for Columbus and still rockin’ the beard, so it’s time for some hippie jokes.

...and the 2011 season has started.

5’ - Teams feeling each other out...a phrase I’ve always thought sounds just a little bit creepy. Teams are groping each other’s shape, searching for an opening. That’s better.

7’ - Eddie Gaven once played an entire game barefoot because “it just felt more organic.”

12’ - Good work from Wolff creates a shot for Dax that goes just wide. Wolff has looked lively at the beginning.

14’ - Onstad looks to have been fouled on a corner, but no call. Doesn’t the referee know: if you get near, breathe on, or look at the ‘keeper, it’s supposed to be a foul.

15’ - Good work from Pontius forces Duka to take a yellow. Most of the offense has gone through Pontius so far; he’s validating Ben’s decision to use him instead of Boskovic.

16’ - Dax floats a free kick over everyone. I’ve played with the “Jabulani” ball before; it moves like those red kickballs we used to have in elementary school.

21’ Pontius plays Wolff in, and United have a penalty shout against ex-United defender Julius James. Looked like a penalty to me, but it was debatable.

23’ - Kitchen slips; we’ve seen a couple of players slip already. Could that play an important role later on (typing the game diary after the fact makes me sound smart!)?

25’ - Ngwenya balloons a shot way over the bar. Tough to blame that one on Jabulani.

28’ - Ngwenya has been bad. I think we’re about two Ngwenya mistakes away from hearing the “Char-lie Dav-ies!” chants.

30’ - One mistake away...

34’ - ...and here they come. Seriously: right as I put that in my notes, some guys around me started chanting for Davies.

38’ - Onstad has had so little to do that I think he is technically still retired.

40’ - United have been pretty good, but we really need to see Davies on for Ngwenya. Odds that Ngwenya is five minutes away from being Wally Pipped: 30 percent.

45’ - Eddie Gaven “plays” three instruments, but those instruments are the drum, the harmonica, and the didgeridoo.

HALF TIME. United have been the better team, which feels good to say. Wolff, Pontius, and Kitchen have been very good, and several other guys have been pretty good. Onstad could have played the first half in a Rascal scooter, which I’m sure he would have preferred.

46’ - Ngwenya starts the second half. I would guess that Ben is trying to avoid shattering the guy’s confidence.

50’ - Columbus have a penalty shout after Zayner takes a man down in the box, but it looked like Zayner got the ball. Watching the replay, I can confirm: Zayner got the ball. Good non-call.

51’ - GOAL UNITED!!! 1-0! Wolff collects a long ball from Zayner and slots it past Hesmer! Very nice take from Wolff - he’s played well and now he’s got the goal that he and United deserve.

52’ - Wolff celebrates by taking off his shirt and jumping into the Barra Brava (great way to win over the fans, especially the ladies). That’s an interesting move: taking off your shirt is a yellow card, going into the stands is a yellow card, but together they’re just one yellow card for excessive celebration. Come to think of it, he could have done a keg stand and shot pistols into the air and it would still be only one yellow card.

52’ - And now Davies has entered the game! At 8:47 on March 19, it’s officially fun to be a United fan again.

56’ - Dax taken down in the box...should have been a penalty! Watching the replay confirms what I thought I saw: that is a stone-cold penalty. What’s it going to take?

60’ - James gets a yellow card for a hard foul on Najar. Not cool, Julius; what did United ever do to...oh, right. Still not cool, though.

61’ - PENALTY FOR UNITED! Apparently THAT’s what it takes: Pontius is hacked down for a blatant penalty. Columbus actually have a decent argument: “We’ve been hacking them down in the box all game...why is THIS ONE a penalty?”

62’ - Davies will take it! His emotions must be surging right now. He steps up and...puts it home! Davies opens his United account! 2-0 United!

62’ - Great moment for Davies and United. This game is going just about as well as it could possibly go.

68’ - Columbus hit the post, and Zayner is hurt. United haven’t defended corners well, although in fairness Gaven’s corners have been outstanding. As outstanding as those nachos that he makes with the M&Ms in them.

71’ - Brasesco for Zayner. Zayner had a good game; let’s hope he’s not hurt too badly.

77’ - GOAL DAVIES, GOAL UNITED! Marshall slips (remember the foreshadowing?), and Davies rounds Hesmer and slots it past the defender and into the net! Great goal, great moment; I’m going to remember that one.

78’ - And United immediately give it back with one of the softest penalties I have ever seen. Jakovic is called for a hand ball in spite of the fact that the ball was kicked right at him and his hand was in against his body. Terrible, terrible call. The only good news is that it probably won’t matter.

79’ - 3-1 Columbus. Karma owes United a goal.

82’ - I once saw Eddie Gaven blow smoke rings into his pet ferret’s face and then laugh for 20 minutes uninterrupted.

86’ - Kitchen slips and does what Marshall should have done: he pulls down his man. Strangely, no card, not even a foul. Who had the worse game: Ngwenya, the ref, or the RFK grounds crew?

90’ - Eddie Gaven smells like a mix of Cheerios, incense, and couch.

FULL TIME! Perfect way to start the season: three points, and two goals for Davies. Outstanding. United were the better team, and anything less than three points would have been an injustice. This was a better game than any game they played last season.

Player rankings:

Onstad: 5. Flapped at a few crosses, but also made a few nice saves. A good game to get back into the groove; he didn’t really have much to do.

Burch: 6. Defended well, played a couple of dangerous balls into the box. Good to have him healthy again.

Kitchen: 7. I was very, very impressed. He really looked good; he made excellent decisions, and he won everything that got near him. If he plays like this all the time, then I understand why the coaching staff are so high on him; he looked like pure quality out there today.

Jakovic: 5. Didn’t have a great first half, but did better in the second half. He avoided his patented Horrible Mistake of the Game; hopefully we won’t see two next game.

Zayner: 6. A defender’s first job is to defend, and he defended very well. I feel like he sometimes resorts to long balls too quickly, but he also assisted on the first goal with a long ball, so what do I know? I’m anxious to learn the extent of his injury.

Pontius: 6.5. Very good game; he was dangerous, won the second penalty, and definitely justified Ben’s decision to use him instead of Boskovic. I’d imagine he earned himself the start against New England.

Simms: 5.5. I’d bet even money that Simms will go the whole season without ever scoring lower than 4.5 or higher than 6.5 in my player rankings. The guy is sound as a pound.

McCarty: 5.5. Lots of energy, some good passing, set pieces left a lot to be desired.

Najar: 4.5. Did some good work on defense, but he was pretty invisible on offense.

Wolff: 6.5. Excellent game. It wasn’t just the goal; he had good touches throughout the entire game. The striker situation sorted itself out pretty quickly, didn’t it? I’m sure it’ll be Wolff and Davies up top next game.

Ngwenya: 2.5. It’s one bad game; let’s not overreact.

Davies: 6.5. It’s one good game; let’s overreact! Simply put, he looked dangerous, something United were missing all last season. If you’re not sure how much this means to him, his post-match interview will tell you everything you need to know.

Brasesco: 6. Filled in well. If Zayner’s injury is serious, we’ll be seeing a lot more of him.

Quaranta: 9.5. He deserves a “no rating”, but I thought I’d give him an extreme score just to stir up the Tino debate a little bit.

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