Next up on the D.C. United Preseason 2014 Extended Tour: The Return of Chris Pontius. He’s starting tonight. In my USA-Mexico recap, I floated the idea that Pontius could still make the World Cup roster. Many people found this idea hilarious (while — let’s be frank — the rest of the post topped out at “kinda funny”). But I stand behind that statement; we saw his ability level in 2012. He was better than Zusi or Shea. I don’t know if he’ll regain his 2012 form, but if he does I don’t see how you can keep him out of the conversation.
The full lineup is: Hamid | Riley, Jakovic, White, Korb | Pontius, Neal, Kitchen, DeLeon | Silva, De Rosario. Our attacking four in our 4-0 loss to Houston on May 8: Rafael, Marcos Sanchez, Kyle Porter, and De Rosario. Lionard Pajoy came on as a sub. Our attacking four tonight: Pontius, DeLeon, Silva, De Rosario, with Doyle on the bench. This is better.
Here’s kickoff from Howard University Football Stadium…
6’ – And we’re off! Goal LA! A giveaway by Jakovic lands right at the feet of probably the best player in MLS history 20 yards from goal. Guess what happened next. You can give Donovan pink eye – and someone did – but don’t give him the ball that close to goal.
9’ – A good buildup ends with Riley missing the goal by about 40 yards. Christopher Columbus missed his target by less.
15’ – It’s becoming very hard to get the ball off of Perry Kitchen. In a season in which several players deserve some sort of public Termination of Contract ceremony, Kitchen has progressed.
20’ – Here’s something to talk about: United are involved in a minor controversy for taking part in an ad campaign to promote the health care exchanges that are part of Obamacare. Republicans sent a letter to major sports leagues warning them against doing exactly that. But the Republican list of “major sports leagues” did not include MLS, leading to this brilliant Jonathan Chait headline: “Republican Hatred for Obamacare Undermined by Republican Hatred for Soccer.” Some would say that a sports franchise should not get involved in politics, and I completely agree. But Obamacare is not politics; it’s the law. It’s not a campaign promise, it’s not a bill, it’s the law of the land. Obamacare is happening, these exchanges are happening and some people’s mission to become the Teruo Nakamura of Obamacare won’t change that. United’s participation in this campaign is the equivalent of running ads encouraging people to fill out their census forms.
21’ – Slogan suggestion: “Our 2013 season proves that disasters can strike at any time. Get insured.”
22’ – Slogan suggestion: “Hi, I’m Chris Pontius. I never thought I’d spend most of a year in physical therapy at the age of 26, but that’s what happened! Get insured.”
23’ – Slogan suggestion. “Hi, I’m Lionard Pajoy. Under the Affordable Care Act, you can get insurance even if you lose your job. Which is going to be very relevant to me in about a month and a half.”
29’ – United actually looks halfway alright. 7/16ths alright. 41/93rds.
38’ – Goal United! Pontius picks Omar’s pocket, which is huge because when you come after Omar you best not miss. If Omar had made that mistake against Mexico, it would have been a huge blunder. Against us, it seems almost merciful.
41’ – It’s fall – shouldn’t DeLeon’s hair be changing color soon? He’s had his moments this half – he just had a great knifing run through the defense.
Halftime: 1-1. This half supports my argument that we’re not nearly as bad as our record suggests. As if it’s possible to be as bad as our record suggests. Our record suggests we should be on trial in the Hague for crimes against soccer.
46’ – Donovan is on the sidelines with a bloody sock. I guess bloody sock heroics are for playoff games against the Yankees, not regular season games against United.
50’ – Half of the field is in the shade. If this was rec league, all 22 players would be on the shady half of the field.
57’ – This game is a competition of who can go longer without making a bad mistake.
63’ – Spanish announcer said “puss in boots” – in English – five or six times. What could that possibly mean? Has he nicknamed someone Puss In Boots? I’m trying to think of contexts in which that would make sense and coming up with nothing.
65’ – Keane rounds Jakovic, but Riley bails him out. Jakovic is Canadian, so he doesn’t care about health exchanges. Which is relevant because he might be playing himself out of a job.
68’ – Porter comes in for Chris “Puss In Boots” Pontius. Could that be right? No … announcer says “Christopher Ree-chard PON-tius!” when Pontius gets the ball. I remain baffled.
76’ – I’d like to hear a statistics professor explain how it’s possible that not a single cross we’ve played all year has found anyone’s head. In Monte Carlo in 1913 the roulette wheel came up black 26 times in a row. Big deal. Chris Korb has played 7,644,412 crosses this year and none of them have found a United player.
81’ – Goal LA! MIchael Stephens rolls the ball softly and tenderly past Hamid. It was like that goal happened in slow motion. Did Hamid yell “NOOO!” as he dove, like in an action movie?
83’ – Goal United! 2-2! Wow…we ANSWERED! That was a twist I didn’t see coming. If you foresaw Kyle Porter scoring off a perfect header from 14 yards out then write to me and tell me how Breaking Bad ends.
Full time: 2-2. You know what: not too bad. I feel like I’m a parent judging an art contest between five-year-olds – “Nice job! Great try! Super effort!” – but this team s improving.
Hamid: 3.5. Big decision for Ben: who starts in the Open Cup final? I think it’ll be Hamid.
Riley: 4. I think that mishit in the ninth minute is skewing my perception. That was Nuke LaLoosh-type wildness.
Jakovic: 3.5. Is something going on? Seriously: is he okay? Is he covering up an injury, is something going on in his personal life? I don’t understand how his form could drop so far so quickly.
White: 6.5. United might as well hang a sign on RFK that says “defenders wanted.” White has had two good games in a row – he’s stepping up.
Korb: 5.5. I looked it up: Chris Korb has zero assists this year. How is this possible?
Pontius: 7. He looked better than I thought he would after such a long layoff.
Neal: 5. I have nothing to say about his game. It was fine. Here’s a cute cat video.
Kitchen: 7. I was looking for stats to support my argument that KItchen had a good passing game. But the stats I had don’t support that argument, so I’m ignoring them. He had a good passing game.
DeLeon: 4.5. Some very good moments, but quite a bit of sloppy passing. He should have more space if we can keep De Rosario, Silva and Pontius on the field with him.
Silva: 5.5. United has pretty much given up on long balls since switching to the Silva/De Rosario striker tandem. Or maybe it happened because McDonald got traded.
De Rosario: 4. Can’t win ‘em all.
Porter: 6.5. Early in the season, Porter just had to be able to fog up a mirror to earn minutes. Then he had to outplay Marcos Sanchez and Sainey Nyassi, which isn’t very different. Now he has DeLeon and Pontius to compete with, so expect him to step up his game.
Doyle: 5. Held the ball well, killed time, continues to render Pajoy and Ruiz irrelevant. So good stuff.