First things first: I wrote a match preview, but it didn’t get posted (the Post has a new content management system, and it’s glitchy). So, if we ever release a DVD of this blog, I guess I’ll include that “lost preview” alongside some audio commentary and deleted Kurt Morsink jokes.
The upshot of the preview was that United are only three games into the season and they’re already using a makeshift defense. Three of the four spots in the back line tonight will be populated by backups, and in some cases the backups to the backups. Now that the starting lineup is posted, I see that injuries to the back line were only the tip of the iceburg: we’re also missing Simms and Davies, and Wolff is apparently not 100 percent. Ben’s starting lineup is: Onstad | Burch, Woolard, Brasesco, Korb | Boskovic, McCarty, Morsink, Quaranta | Pontius, Brettschneider.
That’s a bit of a shocker: no Najar, no Ngwenya or Wolff, Brettschneider gets the start. In fact, only three of tonight’s starting lineup were in the 11 on opening night (McCarty, Pontius, and Burch). That was two weeks ago. Somehow, United have turned over eight spots in the starting lineup in less time than it takes for a gallon of milk to go bad.
Apparently it’s about 30 degrees in Commerce City tonight - one degree for every fan at the game. You can clearly see the writing spelled out by the seats - it says: “MLS will never go to the international calendar because this country is too flipping cold.”
1’ - This is how I like to enjoy soccer: in low def with commentary in a language I don’t speak. Actually, it’s not so bad - there are many times when I wish I didn’t speak the same language as John Harkes.
3’ - Good work from Brettschneider leads to a shot over the bar from Boskovic. I’d expect Brettschneider to show a lot of hustle if nothing else; this is a big opportunity for him.
14’ - Wreckless challenge from Conor Casey earns him a yellow. It doesn’t help his case that he LOOKS like a thug - if you asked central casting for a goon, they’d send you Conor Casey. He reminds me of a bad guy from an 80’s movie - there’s something very Cobra Kai about him.
16’ - The commentator is running through United’s injury list. I really hope that we don’t reach the point where we start playing the “can you make a better lineup with the healthy guys or the hurt guys?” game that I’ve found myself doing each of the past two seasons.
20’ - United have been the better team so far - they look energetic and sharp. I wonder if Ben told them to press and try to get a goal before their lungs explode at about the half hour mark.
24’ - Boskovic suddenly looks winded; he just let Smith dribble right by him. Eric Wynalda says that the altitude starts to hit you right around the 25-30 minute mark, and if Eric Wynalda says it then you know it must be thoughtful.
25’ - The announcer is calling Larentowicz “Big Red.” Not “Grande Roja” or whatever it would be in Spanish. I guess they have that gum in Mexico - good branding, Wrigley.
30’ - Boskovic flops down just outside the box in an attempt to draw a foul. I’m with the ref: that’s not a foul in the U.S. When Branko is released in a few months and Kevin Payne says “he had some trouble adjusting to the league,” think back to moments like this one.
33’ - Outstanding switch from Burch to Quaranta, Tino sends it to Boskovic, and Branko sends it way over the bar. I hate to say it, but our DP is hands down our worst player on the field. The late-round draftees, waiver-wire pickups, and other manner of guys getting paid in food are outplaying him.
34’ - Announcer just called Dax the “ginger ninja” - also in English. I guess “ginger ninja” needs no translation - it’s the “je ne sais quois” of English.
37’ - GOAL COLORADO! Brasesco absolutely eaten alive by Caleb Folan. Folan worked himself into a one-on-one situation, cut inside Brasesco with no trouble at all, and fired past Onstad. Really, really bad defending.
38’ - Watching the replay, I am at a loss to describe how bad the defending was by Brasesco on that play. Folan didn’t require any kind of trickery to create space for a shot - he just pushed the ball to his left. Brasesco was not only backpedaling, his was actually forcing Folan toward the center of the goal. That is sub-rec league. That’s a candidate for the worst one-on-one defending I’ve ever seen.
39’ - Tino sends Brettschneider through but Blake can’t get the angle right. Nice to at least see some fight back.
40’ - Dax catches Mastreoni for a yellow. Pablo looks hurt, which I understand. But he also looks offended, which is ridiculous because he’s Pablo Mastroeni. That’s like Kobe Bryant complaining that you’re traveling.
HALF TIME. United owned the first 25, Colorado owned the last 20. I can’t say I like United’s chances - the altitude makes the Rapids heavy favorites in the second half.
For those of you who doubt the impact that altitude has on soccer, consider Bolivia’s home and away records during qualifying for the 2010 World Cup: 14 home points, 1 road point. And it’s like that every cycle - Ecuador, too.
46’ - MLS will never merge with the Mexican league. Why? No agreement on whether the second half clock should start at zero or 45. More than once I’ve flipped over to a game on Telemundo and thought: “harsh...that dude is getting subbed off after TWELVE MINUTES!”
50’ - Korb gets the better of Casey. Korb has been good; he’s covered a lot of ground and won some one-on-one battles.
51’ - Casey seems to have pulled a hamstring and has to come out. So we get Omar Cummings instead. Great.
53’- Najar comes on for Boskovic, and not even Boskovic’s mother could disagree with that move. Very disappointing night for Boskovic.
56’ - Very bad foul call leads to a Colorado free kick, but nothing comes of it. Still, the ref’s been okay; if that ends up being the worst call of the game, then it’ll be a massive improvement over last week (and the week before, for that matter).
59’ - The announcer is calling Najar “Andy Najar Rodriguez.” What’s that about?
64’ - Cummings looks dangerous...until you notice that he’s wearing mittens. Not gloves-mittens. Pin-to-your-jacket mittens. That is adorable. Nobody looks dangerous in mittens. If you saw Charles Manson wearing mittens you’d want to tousle his hair and give him some cocoa.
69’ - GOAL D.C. UNITED! Korb sends in a long cross and finds Tino all alone at the back post, and Tino smashes it home! 1-1! Good work from Korb, and very nice finish from Tino. Let’s see if United can hold on for a poi...
70’ - ...and no, they cannot. Goal Rapids. Some guy named Jamie Smith. 2-1. Onstad was caught in no-man’s land; he thought about coming, but didn’t (I’m not sure he would have gotten there). Pretty good finish from this Smith character.
71’ - One of my favorite soccer expressions is “space doesn’t score.” It applies to Daniel Woolard on that last goal - he was playing his position, but he let Smith run right in behind him. Mark somebody.
75’ - Andy Najar has contracted back-pass-itis, also known as Eddie Johnson’s Disease. Symptoms include tunnel vision and an inability to turn.
78’ - Remember at the beginning of the season when I said that the flat 4-4-2 with defense in the middle and attackers on the wings doesn’t tend to generate much offense? Well...it’s not generating much offense.
80’ - Goal Colorado. Ugh...3-1. United looking very ragged now. A cross comes in, and once again the United defender doesn’t move until it’s too late - it was Brasesco this time. Folan with the finish.
87’ - You know what I think Tino’s problem is? Depth perception. I think maybe he just has horrible, horrible depth perception. He doesn’t seem to have any earthly idea how far away the goal is.
90’ + 2 - Goal Colorado. 4-1. Brasesco completely gives up on the ball, and I completely give up on Brasesco (for this match, anyway).
90’ + 3 - I think it’s good that we, as a culture, tend to not tolerate excuses. But let’s realize: the effect altitude has on your body is a real thing. This is science, not astrology - altitude makes a difference. So I’m writing off this horrible last 20 minutes as an aberration and looking forward to next week.
Onstad: 4. You can’t really say he was to blame for any of the goals, but an in-form ‘keeper might have got his hand on one or two of them. He’s not going to keep Bill Hamid out of the lineup, though.
Burch: 6. Good game from Burch on both offense and defense. Colorado didn’t get much down the wings - they had to go through the middle (which, by the way, totally worked).
Brasesco: 3. Did I mention that I wasn’t impressed by Brasesco’s defending on the first goal? If anyone - maybe a linguistics expert - can find the words to describe how bad that defending was, please leave them in the comments section.
Woolard: 5. Pretty okay. Somewhat reasonably average. Acceptably passable.
Korb: 6. United may have lost both games that Zayner has missed, but Korb is not the problem. This was his second good game in a row.
Boskovic: 3. So, he earns his way back into the lineup by lighting up the reserve league, and then he does this? The thing is: we’re stuck with this guy. I want him to play well.
McCarty: 6. Good passing, good hustle. The typical Dax McCarty game.
Morsink: 5.5. Played good defense and passed well in tight areas, though his longer passes usually missed the mark. I know he’s a defensive midfielder, but I’d like to see him get forward just a little bit more.
Quaranta: 5. Great hustle, took his goal very well, but the good moments were paired with equal numbers of bad ones. He must have the lowest pass completion percentage in the league.
Pontius: 5. Started brightly but faded badly.
Brettschneider: 5.5. Also started well but faded...notice a theme? Good first game, though; if nothing else, he gives United a legitimate back-to-goal target option to pair with any of their speedy guys.
Najar: 3. I gave him a low rating in the opener and the message board let me have it (respectfully, as is the norm on the internet). But look: he’s not playing well. No two ways about it. And because he was a sub tonight, he didn’t have the same altitude excuse as everyone else.
Wolff: 4.5. Didn’t do much, but by the time he came on United were too winded to do much more than hoof long balls in his general direction.