Let’s remember the MLS playoffs are like Arizona State: You have to screw up really badly to not get in. So, in spite of D.C. United’s start to the season, there’s still something to play for. If the summer transfer window brings the star striker United sorely needs, then this team might eventually play for something more important than the honor of being the first team dumped out of the playoff race. But the team needs to start getting results now, even with this incomplete roster. United needs to be like the second Death Star: operational even though unfinished.
Here’s Wednesday night’s lineup for United, now with 100 percent less Pajoy! Hamid | Woolard, Jakovic, McDonald, Korb | Sanchez, Kitchen, Augusto, Porter | De Rosario, Rafael. Glad to see McDonald back in the lineup after last’s week’s smoldering pile (McDonald’s game, not the Columbus scoreboard). McDonald has been rock solid for this team for two years, he works hard and he’s a team leader. It’s easy to forget that he was acquired for a 32nd-round pick and a DVD of the movie “Victory.” United fans should rally around Brandon McDonald.
Here’s kickoff from RFK. United’s front office says that attendance for this match is at least 8,000. Um … I guess 4,000 of them are in the bathroom.
1’ – I mentioned that United needs to buy a striker this summer, and my dream purchase is Didier Drogba. Of course, that’s almost certainly a fantasy for a million different reasons. But with Federico Higuain and John Rooney appearing in MLS in recent seasons, could we maybe get Drogba’s less-distinguished younger brother? Is there a Steve Drogba out there somewhere?
4’ – Jakovic takes down Will Bruin in the box, but there’s no call. Will Bruin is more toxic to United than chocolate is to dogs — he just scores and scores and scores, and when he’s not scoring he’s almost scoring.
12’ – Hamid with an amazing save! That was incredible — how much would you pay for that save? Well, according to recently released salary figures, United paid — let me crunch the numbers here — $12.70 for that save. Is that right? Bill needs a raise.
16’ – Goal Houston! Guess who…it’s Will Bruin! Actually, it’s Dejan Jakovic first losing track of Bruin, then going through him like a ghost a second later. And Jakovic — who is normally very good — makes $303,000 a year. Maybe he should peel off a few twenties and give them to Hamid to atone for that play.
25’ – Sanchez lets his man run right by him, and Bruin bangs a shot off the post! Here’s a prediction: Sanchez will come out at halftime. Ben will not stand for that kind of lazy defense.
27’ – Goal Houston! 2-0! Sickening stuff: Jakovic plays a back-pass that puts Hamid under pressure, and Hamid … I don’t want to recreate the whole sequence. Just know that it contains all the elements that you would expect: cringe-worthy defense, Bruin and United being in an early hole.
32’ – Augusto is just not a good enough passer to succeed at this level. Even when he completes a pass, it’s slightly off-target. Maybe we only think of him as a “flair player” because he doesn’t play any defense.
37’ – Houston seems to have decided that it’s just going to let Korb cross the ball. Which is not a bad strategy: Korb’s crosses are five times more likely to find the VW Pavillion than they are Rafael’s head.
41’ – United actually has a decent amount of possession. Of course, that and a nickel will get you 20 minutes of playing time from Bill Hamid.
45’ – Please no more set pieces from Sanchez. They float like small rocks cider a duck in water.
Halftime: 2-0 Houston. The Red Bulls have posters on the subways up here in New York with a picture of a player and a short phrase. Henry’s says: “Born to finish.” Dax McCarty’s says: “Every minute. Every play. Everything I have.” May I suggest a few for United players? Sanchez: “Ticket back to Panama is already booked.” Augusto: “Sparking the attack. Your counterattack, specifically.” Rafael: “Making you miss Pajoy.” Jakovic: “89 minutes of focus.”
46’ – Saragosa is on for Augusto. Our midfielders are like Italian prime ministers; we keep going: “How about this guy? No? Okay … how about this guy? What if we try the first guy again?”
48’ – Korb curls a shot just wide! I’d really like to see him get one, partly to reward his hustle and partly so teams start defending against him.
51’ – Rafael heads a corner over the bar! Rafael has been alright today. His decisions have been iffy, but he’s linked up with teammates a few times.
59’ – Pajoy comes on for Sanchez. It can’t be good for Sanchez that I support this substitution.
62’ – Kofi Sarkodie blocks two shots from De Ro off the line! Did either go in? I can’t tell. Much like this team’s disintegration, it occurred too quickly to really know what happened.
63’ – United gets a free kick just outside the box (and it did look like that’s where the contact occurred). Pajoy — not De Ro — will take it. Pajoy hit a free kick off the crossbar last week; I guess this is his reward. And he sends it into the wall. Hope that was fun, Lionard.
78’ – Goal Houston! It’s Bruin, which — let’s admit — is kind of hilarious. Maybe this is some sort of elaborate performance art piece where United let a league-average player repeatedly torch them just for the irony.
79’ – When do we hit rock bottom? I keep thinking we’re there, but the only creativity this team has show is in finding creative new ways to be disappointing.
81’ – The fans are leaving to beat … well, not traffic, because there are only a few thousand of them. Maybe that should be United’s 2013 slogan: “D.C. United: Good Parking Available!”
86’ – As we search for recriminations for this train wreck, I think the first finger has to be pointed at whomever is doing our scouting in Latin America. Augusto and Sanchez are not working out, and it’s too early to tell with Rafael but it’s not looking good. One of the best ways to gain an advantage in MLS — oh, goal Houston, 4-0 — is by scouting Central and South America effectively. We haven’t done that.
Full time: 4-0 Houston. Dave Johnson says: “Man of the match should go to the fans who stayed.” Yeah, I’ll agree with that. Tough break, Kyle Porter.
Hamid: 5. His 12th-minute save kept Jakovic from being involved in five goals. He obviously could have done much better with the clearance on the second goal.
Woolard: 4.5. Woolard and Korb have very different styles of playing fullback, and unfortunately neither was effective tonight.
Jakovic: 1. This is the first “1” I have ever given out. The absence of a red card and a felony conviction were the only things keeping him from a “0.” I don’t want to be too hard on a player who’s been good most of this year, but he was Uwe Boll-level awful. The frustrating thing is that some of his mistakes seemed to be due to laziness or lack of concentration; he spent most of the match marking nobody (especially not Bruin). I was glad to see McDonald back in the lineup after last week, but because Jakovic’s missteps seemed to be due to apathy as much as error, I might want to see him sit Saturday.
McDonald: 5.5. He bounced back. Hooray.
Korb: 4. Lots of hustle and exactly two good crosses.
Sanchez: 2.5. People keep saying, “He plays for the Panamanian national team!” News flash: The Panamanian national team is not good.
Kitchen: 5. One of the few players who hustled tonight.
Porter: 6. The only player who hustled and was effective tonight.
Augusto: 3. I’m convinced that we won’t see him for a while.
De Rosario: 5. He gets paid like a star, but this year he’s only been good.
Rafael: 5. Better. Decent. Passable. Okay.
Saragosa: 6. Maybe he just looked comparatively good because he replaced Augusto.
Pajoy: 4. The Italian Prime Minister analogy also applies to our strikers.
DeLeon: 5. Good to have him back — we need him. And about four other guys.