You’ll never believe this, but there are some real positives to take from DC’s loss

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.


16 thoughts on “You’ll never believe this, but there are some real positives to take from DC’s loss

  1. Here’s the problem, Aaron: 2009 was a rebuilding year; 2010 is a rebuilding year; and given that the 2010 team appears to be worse than the 2009 team, we’re looking at 2011 being a rebuilding year as well. And that sort of thing isn’t necessary in this league. How did LA do in 2008? And how did they do in 2009?

    From the stadium, to the roster, to the play on the field, to even the freaking *website*, this organization has lost the plot entirely.

  2. I just got through watching the visitors take all three away from my Sounders, so I feel ya. I thought DC was looking very promising in the second half. They were a bit soft and unfortunate on the first goal and the second was just a stunner. Credit to Nicol and Mansally.

    That being said, there was never any point in hiring Onalfo. You have a lot of young talent, and the promising performance was vets organizing young guys well. I am sure all of that was despite Onalfo. You don’t quite need to “rebuild” to be competitive. You need a manager and a couple of good players.

    So, while I agree with you that tonight was not so bad for DC, I think you should seize to the opportunity while 0-6 on goals and no points to get rid of Onalfo.

  3. I’m glad you were optimistic. I saw 20 minutes of creative, intense play and then the same old garbage I saw last year. This team can’t seem to create real opportunities, won’t shoot from outside, and can’t seem to make the last pass that will spring someone (Tino’s beautiful run in the second half excepted).

    That was a game you have to win, NE sucks, didn’t have Joseph, and was playing for a draw and we couldn’t get it done. It’s going to be a long season.

    Barklage reminded me of Bobby Convey, just on the right side. He was open and waving all first half, but only got the ball passed to him when he was covered.

  4. It was more of the same from Pontius. Face it, he can’t score in MLS and it’s time to put those who are paid to in the game instead of on the bench.

    And if Tino is now playing his favored position, he needs to move back out wide. I saw nothing except a fashion statement from him last night.

    I’m not worried about the upcoming season. I’m convinced it will be the last one in DC.



  5. I was focusing more on your statements regarding moving of the franchise. Chang says the team isn’t going anywhere, and, for now, I trust Chang. He really seems to want to keep the team in DC, and that’s great. Plus, even if we were to move to St. Louis, it would take at least a couple seasons to build the stadium and whatnot. So I don’t think this will be the last year in DC.

  6. And your solution is what? Not to rebuild at all? All I’ve heard is carping, and it’s just getting tiresome.

    BTW, the LA example doesn’t really apply to us. They’re in a completely different place than we are. We might be there in a few years. Who knows?

  7. That’s certainly how the Knicks worked it out. Never accept that you’re rebuilding, always trade for the bigger name, regardless of baggage, become the worst team to pay luxury tax.

    Last year, I though DC’s FO strategy was, for the first time, kinda clever. My thought was that they were doing half a rebuilding job while still carrying some of the old guys to try to squeak into the playoffs. They didn’t, but they came darn close, and it took some serious injuries to prevent it.

    I’m a bit more pessimistic now, because you’d think the longer-term objective would have been to do the other part of the rebuilding process this offseason, and they haven’t seemed to pull it off.

    I am hoping that significant signings are coming down the pike this year, because this is right now a team with a lot of decent players, but that has no edge. Seems like Moreno and Quaranta are each out there for the tactical purpose of covering for what the other doesn’t do well, like thinking that playing two halves of a center-mid is the same thing as having a center-mid.

    It’s also a bit disappointing that in the offseason Pontius was able to easily identify his prime weakness at the end of last year, but so far is unable to improve upon it.

    And I’m also bothered by, as Jay alluded to, the FO bringing in a guy like Allsopp to score goals and then the coach finding reasons not to play him. Judging by the Goffblog, yes, there were some reasons, but they look like kind that are sufficient to someone looking for reasons (we still could have shifted Pontius to the right and brought Allsopp in, for instance). You knew Pontius’s struggles finishing, and you knew Moreno’s age and tendency not to shoot, and you brought in Allsopp to address this. And supposedly he was good in training, so . . . .

    I wouldn’t have minded as much if we were losing to teams people thought were going to be good this year. But KC and New England are not those teams. We still have to play LA and Seattle and Columbus and Chicago and New York and Salt Lake, who all seem to look better than the two teams we are now 0-2 with a -6 GD against.

    So, if the FO accepted we need to rebuild, I guess I wish we’d done it a little faster, since the schedule gawdz seemed to be trying to help us out.

    That said, Pena does look decent (though he’s hardly a rebuilding-type player, is he? And it also looks for all the world like this need would have gone un-addressed if he hadn’t fallen into our laps at the last minute). I do think Pontius can probably start in this league as long as he’s not the player closest to goal. And this is a team that, with the addition of one major player, somewhat a la 2004, could get a lot better in a real hurry.

    So I hope that guy’s coming.

  8. They can’t keep playing at RFK forever. The absolute joke of a game day experience on Saturday should probably keep the casual fan away for all but the biggest games. The absolute joke of a local TV/Radio schedule will keep the casual fan away from the non-big games as well. The product on the field speaks for itself. I heard more than one season ticket holder complain on the metro ride home about how crappy the team looked. Louder than all of us “experts” on the internet as well. As much as we all want this team to stay, I believe that ship sailed in DC with Poplar Point and in MD with PGC. The disappointing noise from the MLSFO is discouraging as well. The franchise will likely get folded and re-awarded to another city when said city shows MLS a stadium plan, whether it’s St. Loius, Baltimore or wherever.



  9. I haven’t, nor will I, watch a replay of Saturday’s game. I saw pretty clearly from my seats why we’re falling short, but there are a few good things happening on the field.

    First, Pena was a good pick-up (for now). I do wonder how he’ll hold up over the course of the season, but that’s to be determined.

    Second, neither Tally or Wallace are great fullbacks. Additionally, Wallace is probably better suited as a midfielder. He doesn’t have a lot of size and uses his speed to recover from coverage mistakes. This usually isn’t a big deal, but it often results in getting turned around as he did on the Revolution’s second goal.

    Our two biggest concerns on attack stem from two of United’s most veteran (and loved) players, and both may suffer from the exact same weakness. Jaime and Quaranta both appear to be slower decision makers. I’m not sure if it’s because they both feel more pressure to control the attack or something, but Jaime, in particular, held onto the ball so long at times that runs that Castillo, Pontius, and Barklage were making ended up as a wasted effort instead of potential goal scoring opportunities.

    Santino on the other hand just isn’t spontaneous enough to be creative. He’s certainly talented, but he doesn’t create an attack. He’d be better suited as a roll player.

    The final point that really bothered me was when Talley came off. If you’re tied 0-0 in the second half and at home, don’t you think if you had to bring a defender off then you could at least go for the win and put on a striker?

    The Talley/James substitution was too cautious and defensive. And at that point of time, New England showed no interested in scoring. Why not put in someone to put New England back on their heels?

    Other than that, it was nice sitting by the Salvadorans for the first half. It was hard not to get excited when Castillo had the ball, simply because everyone sitting around us got excited too. I just wish he didn’t have to pass the ball to Jaime (where the attack ended).

  10. That’s a little harsh. If you’re referring to Lot 8, then yeah, I know what you’re talking about, but a) that was only a small part of the game day experience, and b) lot 8 is the least likely lot for casual fans to use, and most of them probably didn’t give a second thought to just parking somewhere else. The people who were stirred up by that situation are those who are very used to using it, almost by definition not casual fans.

  11. For the record, Lot 8 didn’t hamper my tailgating experience.

    It looked awful, sure, but I only had to carry my tailgating supplies a short distance to my normal tailgate plot of land.

    No harm, no foul.

  12. Casual fans are the ones who look at RFK as a whole and see nothing but a joke. For $30 a ticket we shouldn’t be subject to football lines on the pitch, the CF parking situation (not just the biohazard-zone look of lot 8, supposed lighting problems, and complaints about thefts, but the whole lack of communication about how/where to park, a minor inconvenience to the supporters groups and diehards, but those people who only come once or twice a year couldn’t have been too impressed), a marginally improved concession detail that couldn’t even roll out the heaviest hitter for what could be the largest crowd all season. Most of the blame lies with the city/DCSEC or whoever, but most people don’t know that. And it’s true, the product on the field is all I care about, but a career in concessions & customer service has attuned me to those details. It definitely wasn’t as bad as the $2 dog and beer night, but it’s obvious no one is throwing the dollars into upgrades at RFK. The answer is obvious: Why would they? For 15-20 events a year for the next three or so years? Without a guarantee that the team will still be in the area. DC can’t/won’t commit to that. The eggs-in-one-basket dream of Poplar Point was thwarted and the scramble has been on now for two years.

    With the amount of people that abandoned the team last year, the FO can’t be relying solely on the El Salvadorean community to boost the numbers. They have to win back the family of four with kids that play soccer. I didn’t see it happening Saturday, and I can’t see it happening at RFK. The longer a stadium deal isn’t made, the tougher a spot the team is put in. You can’t dangle that carrot on a stick for 2013 to the fanbase. You’ll wind up with a Dallas or Colorado-type situation, only tempered by the fact that any move within 30-50 miles of downtown DC still puts you in a pretty urban area, unlike Plano and Commerce.

    Basicallly, the more I look at the situation, the clearer it becomes. One day RFK will fail a safety inspection and United will be SOL. That day is sooner rather than later now.



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