Goff’s update on United’s long, meandering, Moses-in-the-desert-type search for a stadium was on the front page of the Post today. The big news: there’s still no news (as Goff himself likes to put it: “zzzzzzz”). Baltimore is wooing United (we knew that), there are options in the District but nothing concrete (knew that too), and the District’s tight budget makes a stadium project a tough sell (that category is swept. I’ll take “Potent Potables” for 200, Alex).
I hope everyone realizes: if United can’t get a stadium in the area, they will eventually leave. The economics just don’t work for United at RFK; they will never make money at RFK. And no owner will hold on to a team that is projected to lose money forever. Well, almost no owner: Roman Abramovich (Chelsea) or Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Manchester City) might, but as far as I can tell both of those guys own teams for the same reason a middle-aged divorced man buys a Corvette.
D.C. United leaving town is the worst thing that could happen in my sports universe. Worse than the U.S. failing to quality for the World Cup. Worse than Joe Buck and Troy Aikman being assigned to broadcast World Cup matches. Worse than watching my favorite baseball team become the first team in history to lose 100 games while spending 100 million dollars (I lived through that one). It is the sports apocalypse. It is Armageddon. It is a scenario that I don’t want to even consider. But the possibility is also real enough that it can’t be ignored.
With that in mind, I am introducing the D.C. United Armageddon Clock.
In the short term, United face Colorado on Saturday, a team that went nuclear (wordplay! +2 transition strength) on United in the second half of a 4-1 Rapids victory earlier this year. You may remember that earlier game as the none-of-us-predicted-seven-of-the-eleven-starters match; injuries and suspensions resulted in a very strange starting eleven for United that night. Blake Brettschneider started that match. Someone named Rodrigo Brasesco also played. I think Ben Olsen was in goal.
United’s starting eleven is a lot easier to predict for Saturday. The back line of Woolard, White, Jakovic and Kitchen has played well for two matches in a row, so they’ll probably start again (unless Marc Burch is fit enough to go, in which case he’ll probably get the nod over Woolard). Najar, McCarty and Pontius will play in the midfield. If Simms is healthy, he’ll play, if not, it’ll probably be King. Ngwenya certainly didn’t stake his claim to a starting spot in the lineup last match, and Brettschneider doesn’t seem to be in favor, so Davies and Wolff will probably be the strikers. Colorado is missing Omar Cummings because of an ankle injury and Brian Mullan because of a broken tibia — Steve Zakuani’s right one, specifically.
Here are some things I’d like to see:
Some offense from the center of the midfield. I think Dax has been okay so far this year. Not great, not bad, just okay. But it bothers me how little he seems to be getting forward. He’s played a good part of the year at the top of a midfield diamond, and yet I’m having a hard time remembering any shots or assists he’s had this year. It seems that he might just be a deep-lying midfielder by nature. I wonder if it might actually make sense to drop Dax to the bottom of the Diamond and put Fred in the playmaker role. Or maybe put Fred on the right and hand the keys to Najar.
Some offense from the offense. It seems petty to complain about the lack of offense from the midfield when the strikers have put in so many poor performances recently (Seattle match excluded). At the beginning of the season, it’s easy to type a sentence like “it will take the strikers a while to gel”, but it’s frustrating to actually watch that gelling unfold.
More positive play from Najar. I think it’s pretty obvious that before the Seattle match Ben said something along the lines of “enough with the backpasses — move the ball forward” (except that he probably said it using Google Translate, so Najar heard something like “give the ball to history — advances your walking”). Whatever he said, it worked, because Najar has been running at people and creating a lot of offense for the last two matches.
Possession with purpose. Sometimes, United do the equivalent of a basketball team passing the ball around the three point line for 23 seconds and then chucking a doomed shot as the clock expires. If the Wizards did that, Comcast wouldn’t put a “60-40 possession advantage” stat on the screen, because that stat would be meaningless. It’s good to keep the ball, but you need to actually probe the defense and be quick enough to advance the ball when opportunities present themselves.
A marking mistake from Marvell Wynne. We always seem to get one of these when he plays for the National Team; could we please get one at the club level?