I still don’t know what I’m cheering for with United. Obviously, I want them to go deep into the playoffs, but I don’t think that’s possible with this roster. I guess I’m cheering for them to quickly crater so that they buy at least one quality attacker. That’s probably not a good thing to cheer for. If I had a friend with a drinking problem, I wouldn’t be taking him to dollar shot night hoping that he would hit rock bottom and eventually get the help he needs.

Tonight’s lineup is interesting: Hamid | Korb, Woolard, McDonald, Riley | Pontius, Kitchen, DeLeon, De Rosario | Pajoy, Rafael. Ah-HA! Rafael is in the lineup. This is good both because we get to see him play and because it saves me a rant about how we have yet another Designated Pine-rider.

Two other personnel-related notes: First, I’m declaring shenanigans against Team Canada for stealing Dejan Jakovic for international friendlies this week. Canada, I’m sorry (pronounced “SAH-ree”), but the next tournament you’re eligible to qualify for is Disney Soccer Challenge 2025. Let us have Jakovic. Second, at some point Emiliano Dudar slipped out of town and I completely missed it. So, um…yeah, I guess we go with Woolard at center back. Tell me, front office: what was the plan if James Riley hadn’t become available just before the season started?

Here’s kickoff from a packed house at RFK. And by “packed house” I mean you could fit the entire crowd in my house, but it would be tight.

2’ – Columbus sends a ball flashing across the face of goal. You could call that a warning shot if you were expecting Columbus not to try to score goals.

10’ – Nice move between Pontius, De Ro, and DeLeon, aka “all the known sources of offense on the team”.

14’ – Goal Columbus! Josh Williams heads in a free kick; United were a shambles on that play. If Williams had been wearing an explosive vest I think he still would have been afforded less space than he was given. And Hamid came for the ball but got nowhere near it. That has to be one of the easiest set-piece goals in history.

17’ – Hamid saves a shot from Higuain (Federico, not Gonzalo, which is to say: Billy, not Alec) after United’s defense does more backpeddling than Michelle Bachmann.

19’ – Do you think Federico Higuain and ex-Red Bulls midfielder John Rooney ever got together and swapped stories?

21’ – Goal United! Rafael scores an amazing goal from 35 yards! Welcome to DC, Rafael! That was practically his first touch of the match. Suddenly we all see what the scouts saw.

22’ – Rafael has now scored as many goals with his feet for United as has Lionard Pajoy.

24’ – Hamid makes a big save with his right hand! This is what you get with Hamid: amazing saves with the occasional mistake mixed in.

27’ – Uh oh – Nick DeLeon is hurt. We’ve all been complaining about the lack of offense on this roster; maybe now we can start complaining about the lack of depth, too.

33’ – Pajoy sends a shot into the side-netting. When Pajoy winds up to shoot, my body deflates, knowing the shot will be off target. Does that happen to you, too?

38’ – Marshall takes down Pontius…that should be a penalty! We don’t get the call. Debatable, but I would have given it.

40’ – Kyle Porter scores, and it’s given, then cruelly taken away! The question is: was Pajoy offside (the answer to that question is usually “yes”)? It all depends on whether Pajoy was “active” – the linesman thought he was, the referee thought he wasn’t. Then the referee conferred with the linesman, and decided maybe Pajoy was active after all (I assume the linesman’s argument was “you’re making me look like a jerk”). I guess the referee also decided that he blew his whistle, when it seems that he didn’t.

Halftime: 1-1. I think the Porter goal should have stood; I don’t think Pajoy was active (though we’re dealing with a murky rule here). If the goal had stood, Columbus would have a right to be upset; you basically have the linesman throwing a dummy flag to freeze the defense.

47’ – Porter plays a great cross…couldn’t Pajoy have gotten on the end of that? It looked like he didn’t even lunge at it. Come on, Lionard; you’ve got 16 inches of hair and you couldn’t get a touch on that ball?

53’ – Hamid with an unbelievable double save! Anyone scouting Bill Hamid just needs to watch this game to know what he’s all about: unbelievable saves and the occasional mistake.

54’ – We are getting murdered on set pieces. Nobody is marked, we’re losing every second ball. The vein in Ben’s forehead is probably visible from space.

58’ – Goal Columbus! Guess what – it’s off a set piece! After the ball bounces around the box for too long, Ben Spies hammers it home. That was bound to happen eventually.

65’ – Pontius sends a cross to De Ro, who heads it just off frame. United are at least generating some offense, though I’m surprised our midfield hasn’t taken more control.

70’ – If you thought Rafael came off 30 minutes ago, that’s understandable. But he’s actually coming off now.

71’ – Somehow Gruenebaum keeps United out! Pajoy, McDonald, and De Ro all had chances, but the Columbus ‘keeper does unbelievable work to preserve the lead! The save of the week was surely in this match, though I’m not sure at which end.

83’ – Weird play by Gruenebaum – he just threw the ball out of bounds, but nobody was injured. The referee then blew the play dead for no reason. The ref is having a hard time knowing when to use that whistle.

90’ + 2’ – Hamid makes another great save! Does it matter? I’ll keep typing ellipses until we know … … … … No. It does not matter.

Full time: 2-1 Columbus. We probably deserved a point tonight and we got it…last week in New York.

Player ratings:

Hamid: 6. In this match, we saw why Hamid might become an elite goalkeeper but why he’s not one yet. He has all the tools: size, athleticism, reflexes, and leadership. But he still makes a few too many mistakes.

The entire defense: -1.5 off of your given score. The marking on set pieces was so bad that I usually couldn’t tell who was responsible.

Korb: 4. He needs to take better care of the ball.

Woolard: 5. Started slow and improved in the second half, which is probably because he hasn’t played in a while.

McDonald: 5.5. He almost scored with his feet on two occasions. I thought the one in the 71st minute was going in for sure.

Riley: 5. He’s been solid. It’s telling that Robbie Russell doesn’t seem close to getting a look.

Pontius: 7. It’s troubling that Pontius hasn’t scored yet this year, but he’s playing well.

Kitchen: 6. Kitchen is such a defensive player (that’s not a bad thing) that I think using him as the lone defensive midfielder works fine.

DeLeon: 5.5. Looked pretty good until he looked pretty injured. Hopefully he comes back soon.

De Rosario: 5. When United took three points from our first two matches (the maximum, since we were beaten soundly in Houston), I thought “well, I guess De Ro’s suspension didn’t cost us.” But he’s clearly in preseason form, so I guess it cost us after all.

Rafael: 5. He scored an unbelievable goal and did practically nothing else. He barely had any touches. I don’t know what to make of him yet.

Pajoy: 3.5. He makes hard work of some very easy passes. And then there’s that “can’t score” thing that we’ve talked about.

Porter: 5. Looked like a decent replacement. We might be seeing a lot more of him.

Neal: 6. Oh yeah – Lewis Neal! I forgot about that guy. It was a pleasant surprise when he came off the bench, like finding $10 in a jacket pocket.