I know this will surprise many of you who have read my ramblings about DC United, BUT, despite the 2-0 loss, there are some legitimate positives to take from the game, especially after a bit of re-viewing. Here they are:
The defense was better and Pena did help. Yes, the two goals were disappointing, but I am not sure the center of defense had too much to do w/either of them. If you want to point fingers, Rodney Wallace and/or Julius James might be the better recipients. I don’t know what it says about our league that Pena, who’s closer to Onalfo’s age than his defensive partner’s age, could help as much as he did, but at this point I’ll take it.
I am investigating tickets to get on the Brandon Barklage bandwagon. I had a couple of friends telling me this offseason that Brandon Barklage could be the big breakout young player for United this season. To say I didn’t quite believe them in an understatement akin to me saying that I only kind of mildly dislike carrot cake or that I find Daniel Snyder only mildly embarrassing. But, after seeing a more than credible performance out of him especially in the first half, I am ready to start believing. What I don’t understand is why his teammates would not give him the ball out right where he spent most of the first half calling for it in open space. He got so few passes I couldn’t decide whether he was a) Chris Albright, who by the end of his DC tenure couldn’t buy a pass from his teammates or b) One of the three guys who voted “no” on the MLSPU strike ballot. I need to see him cross a bit more before I get on board completely, but now I am ready to believe.
The attack was willing to be a bit more direct and less one-dimensional. Not that I am a massive believer in the high ball into the penalty area approach, but it at least helps to have it in the bag of tricks and DC looks willing to try it more than they traditionally have. Anything that can break United of its habit of trying the same slow-moving, tight-spaced attack down the middle can only help this offense. It didn’t work tonight, but I could see it helping us in the future, especially if they can find a way to get Allsopp in the match and into the penalty area.
Despite not having (owning?) finishing boots, I still like Chris Pontius and I still think he’s a starter in this league. He clearly had a bad night in front of goal. That free header he got in the first half has get on goal. It just has to. All that being said, I disagree with sentiments I heard out of some supporters that Pontius looked lazy or disinterested out there. I think he looked discouraged sure, but he did just blow 1-2 open looks in front of goal. His ability to find space on the field and free himself of markers leads me to believe that he is a starter in this league, but I don’t think its as a striker, and I really don’t think it’s as a de facto lone striker with Moreno dropping back as much as he did tonight. Do I know where to play Pontius, no. But that’s why I don’t coach or even play Championship Manager anymore.* To me, I want Pontius getting the ball in front of him, running at speed. Maybe I’m wrong though, I am still not sure.
If I squint at the words and over think them enough, it sounds like Will Chang is calling a 2010 a rebuilding season. Now, my good buddy Charles Boehm went to great pains to make clear that Chang didn’t call it a “rebuilding” year. Regardless, that’s a good thing. This team needs to be rebuilt. It doesn’t surprise me that it might take more than one season. I am completely, utterly, 200,000% on board with rebuilding the team if that’s what they’re going to do. I was on board when the Caps did it and I would be completely on board if that’s what DC is doing. If the team is going to be honest with both itself and its fans and make 2010 a rebuilding year, I will happily, gleefully tag along while it makes the tough decisions with the few remaining veterans and bloods even more young talent…. and maybe even holds on to next year’s first round draft pick. Hey a man can dream, can’t he?
The weather was stupendously great and the traffic wasn’t nearly as bad as many had warned. When you live in DC, where we pretty much went straight from winter blizzard misery to cherry blossom tourist season misery, you’ll take that. Don’t say that I can’t appreciate the small things.
There is still no better place to watch a game than with the DC United supporters clubs. I watched the 2nd half with Ed in the Barra section tonight, something I had not done in a very long time. There is still nothing else like the Barra and Screaming Eagles. Seattle can have all their marching in, brass bands, Brit announcers and sex dungeon-owning owners, but give me DC fans any single day of the week.
Anyway, we’ll see what happens next week in Philadelphia. Unfortunately I won’t be able to make the trip to that match as it’s my grandfather’s 80th birthday party that night.
As much of a lunatic fan as I am, and as much as I’ve done crazy things to watch soccer (drag my other set of grandparents to a dive bar in Cambridge, MA to watch Arsenal-Chelsea a few years back, for example), even I can’t imagine missing my grandfather’s birthday. After serving as a surgeon in the Air Force and in private practice, being a devoted husband for over 50 years, giving birth to my mother and two aunts, and always being there for his 8 grandchildren, my being there on his birthday is something I could never imagine missing for any reason.
Happy Birthday Papa.
* That and the fact I have never found anything more addictive and frighteningly able to take me away from hours of more productive activities. Now, I just refuse to put CM on any of my home PCs. I just refuse let it even near my. It’s the same policy I take with Thin Mints. I simply cannot be trusted. I don’t even want to be in the same zip code with them.