Homer: Keep your head down, follow through.
[Bart puts and misses]
Homer: Okay, that didn’t work. This time, move your head and don’t follow through.
Olsen just keeps changing and changing in hopes of finding something that works. Almost every player on the roster has had a start, even Conor Shanosky, whom I had started to think was an imaginary player United had invented for tax purposes. Dwayne De Rosario is on the bench. Marcos Sanchez went from starting to cut in one week. Most teams have a core group of guys who get most of the minutes, but United’s minutes seem to be assigned according to some sort of dart-and-Ouija-board-based system.
I know what Olsen is trying to do: He’s trying to establish a culture of accountability. If you don’t perform, you don’t play, no matter what your resume. I generally agree with that logic; resumes don’t score goals, and giving undeserved minutes to a player with a bad contract only compounds the problem. But chemistry is also is a real thing. Confidence is a real thing. United has to stop completely shaking up the lineup after every bad performance. The best way to predict how a player will perform is to look at his performance over the past several months, not at his performance over one game or one week.
This should be our starting 11, when healthy: Hamid | Woolard, Jakovic, McDonald, Korb | Pontius, Kitchen, DeLeon, Porter | De Rosario, Ruiz. Ride this for a while and see how it goes. I’m not married to this exact construction; if you prefer Riley to Korb or Townsend to Ruiz, I’m not going to argue with you. There’s room for tweaks and adjustments. But after 13 games played we need to have a rough idea of just who is United’s best 11.
This iwas the lineup of the doomed for Saturday’s match at New England: Hamid | Korb, Woolard, White, Riley | Porter, Thorrington, Kitchen, DeLeon | Pontius, Ruiz. De Rosario is still on the bench. The only explanation for that that I will accept is that his liver-spotted old-man knees are being benched because this game is on turf.
Having watched the game — a hard-fought but dire 0-0 draw — it doesn’t deserve a line-by-line breakdown. Just know that both teams gave an energetic but unskilled performance; it was a lot like the dance sequence from “Along Came Polly.” Ruiz — the man you hate to love — held and distributed the ball well, though he was hardly a threat because he was playing with his back to goal 40 yards out. Pontius looked like he might be playing his way back into form. White showed why he’s not quite ready yet (his marking and positioning are spotty) and why he’ll be given time to figure it out (his speed, strength and tackling are outstanding). Sainey Nyassi was vengence-subbed on but couldn’t make a difference. The Rev’s Midnight Riders didn’t have an opportunity to shoot their rifles to celebrate a goal, instead just standing around looking like they showed up early for a Tea Party protest. It was a forgettable night.
Hamid: 6.5. How much credit do you give a guy for making saves he should probably make? I gave him six and a half points.
Korb: 5. Played good defense but didn’t get forward as much as he usually does. Here’s an indication of how this season has gone: Chris Korb is United’s leader in minutes played.
Woolard: 6. I’ll say it again: I like him a lot as a central defender. It fits his skill-set better than fullback.
White: 6. At one point, Juan Agudelo — who is not exactly sluggish — pushed the ball past White, but White ran him down. White has a great first step and exceptional speed for a center back.
Riley: 4.5. It’s hard not to focus on what he’s not, specifically: Andy Najar.
DeLeon: 6. He’s taking more of a leadership role, tucking in and calling for the ball more. In my “preferred lineup” above, I have him playing the attacking midfield role; I don’t think that’s his best position, but United doesn’t really have anybody better right now.
Thorrington: 4.5. Thorrington is a decent player, but he’s not the type of player we need. Stylistically, Perry Kitchen is his fraternal twin, and Marcelo Saragosa is his identical twin.
Kitchen: 5.5. Kitchen immediately doubled over when the whistle blew. He is busting his (elbow) out there.
Porter: 4. Personifies the plenty of hustle/lacking finesse MO of this team.
Pontius: 6. It looks like he’s getting a little sharper every match; I hope I’m not just seeing what I want to see. Amazingly, he still hasn’t scored this year.
Ruiz: 6. He didn’t come anywhere close to scoring a goal, but his flicks were almost as impressive as his flops.
Nyassi: 4.5. Playing against your old team less than a month after being released is usually worth at least a goal and an assist. I’m disappointed.
De Rosario: 5.5. His knees did not burst apart like spring snakes from a joke peanut brittle can upon stepping on the turf. He needs to start.
Townsend: 6. Can somebody tell me what’s not to like about Casey Townsend? We haven’t seen him much, but I like what I’ve seen. Remember: He just has to be better than Pajoy, Rafael and the remnants of Carlos Ruiz to justify a start.