Two weeks ago, when DC United collapsed late, allowing two goals to the New England Revolution in rapid succession in what became a 2-0 loss, I saw a father and son walking out of the stadium.
The boy couldn’t have been more than 5 years old. As they left through one of the exits, one of the more hardcore fan folks ran by yelling, “DC Uni-ted!!!”
On cue, and as he continued to walk, the boy responded … “SUCKS!” He was wearing a United jersey at the time. His father seemed more stunned at the reality his son had grasped rather than the language.
Last night at RFK, an announced crowd of 18,407 (about 2,200 less than the home opener) showed up to watch what basically amounted to the same script play out again. The only real improvement for United was that this time, they held the game at 1-0 for 9 minutes. In the New England loss, Kenny Mansally scored in the 80th minute, then doubled the lead just 129 seconds later.
United couldn’t shoot straight, or most of the time simply wouldn’t shoot. Aimless passes in the offensive zone either led to turnovers, or in one laughable instance, a cross was blocked by one of the passer’s own teammates. The club failed to put a shot on goal until the second half, and then helplessly looked on late as Marco Pappa and Brian McBride scored in the final 10 minutes to giftwrap a 2-0 win for the Fire.
Pappa’s goal was well-taken, but it was one most players not on United would score, a solid look from the middle of the field. Fair enough … nice goal.
McBride’s goal was a traveshamockery – the result of a long ball toward the area by Fire goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra that McBride glanced past United goalkeeper Troy Perkins’ near post. When it went in, I thought a defender might have poked it home … in fact, I was almost hoping that was the case, because then the embarrassing nature of the goal would have been somewhat understandable. But no, McBride deserved the celebration. And Dykstra, who is the GOALKEEPER, remember, earned a rightful assist.
What United deserve right now is far different. Last year’s team wasn’t really that good, either, but this roster is sans Luciano Emilio, Fred, Ben Olsen, Josh Wicks, Milos Kocic, the list goes on and on. Some moves I agreed with (Fred), others not so much.
But regardless of the individual moves, what’s left is a roster of players without a clue of how to play together. When one makes a smart run, no one passes to him. When one gains ground then holds the ball up to find a teammate, as left midfielder Christian Castillo did several times last night, there was no one in advanced position willing to accept the ball. Castillo would then have to make a negative pass, and someone else in the defense or midfield would turn the ball over. Perhaps under pressure to make something happen, the old veteran Jaime Moreno often dribbled into 3 or 4 Fire defenders in the attacking third, giving the ball away rather than passing wide where opportunities had opened up because of Chicago’s overplaying Moreno defensively. The restarts United earned often were dealt with by the first defender, and given a good late look, Santino Quaranta blasted a ball toward Annapolis rather than hitting the target or a teammate.
But that’s just a sample of the follies. United is getting nothing at all through the central midfield, lacking the ability to link from defense to midfield to forward. Injuries have taken a toll, and the club suffered another one last night when Chris Pontius left the match early, but it’s fair to wonder if even at full strength, would the club create or convert any chances.
Through four matches, the club is winless, pointless, and the only reason it has the two goals it has were because of colossal mistakes by Philadelphia’s back line and goalkeeper a week ago in the Union’s 3-2 win. Meanwhile, DC has conceded 11 goals in those four matches, on pace to let in an amazing 82 this season. Sure, four games is a small sample size … but does that total seem all that unrealistic right now?
There are significant questions among fans about just who exactly United is going to beat. At 0-4, the club has already lost matches to over half of its Eastern Conference brethren. They’ve yet to see teams such as New York or Columbus, let alone anyone in the Western Conference. Even if you look at a horrid total such as 20 points for the season, where will they come from? Where is this roster going to get, for example, 5 wins and 5 draws in 26 remaining matches to hit that number? And this is a roster that has constantly been tinkered with over the last year, with numerous defenders and other players signed since the 2009 preseason. But that “identified talent” hasn’t gotten the job done. Not even close.
Meanwhile, there seems to be a growing sense among long-time fans that the organization has lost the plot. Once, United was known as an organization that paid attention to every little detail, and that approach led to success on the field more often than not. Now, there seems to be more concern with lining up artists for the “It Takes More” concert series in the pre-game and gaining more Facebook friends than other teams than there is doing what’s necessary to put a winning side on the field. The Pietasters may be a great band, but fans would rather see a 1-0 win.
I’m sure the organization is trying, to argue otherwise doesn’t make any sense. But whatever they are trying ain’t working, that much is clear. And as a result, there must be accountability and if necessary, there must be changes. I’m not sure it matters who coaches this group right now.
Honestly, if someone remade the movie “Major League,” but with a soccer theme, you wouldn’t be surprised to see Rachel Phelps walk in the board room and say, “Welcome to another season of DC United soccer.”
That’s a stretch perhaps, and maybe it’s too early for such judgments. But it doesn’t seem like it. Especiallly with fans becoming more fearful of the possibility of the team fleeing to St. Louis, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, or Sheboygan should a stadium solution in DC or Baltimore not be found. Nothing we are seeing on the field inspires any confidence.
On the field, if you can find where the points are going to come from for this club, feel free to state your case. And while any team is capable of pulling off a couple wins to bag six points here and there … I’m just not sure where those games are on their schedule. And after last night and everyone I talked to, I’m not sure anyone else is, either.
It takes more. … No kidding.