Immutable Futbol Rule #3: A discarded striker will always come back to bite the hand that used to feed him. Ah, Esky, how we used to shout after your sublime volleyed finishes, how we used to punch the air with every pile driver free kick, how we used to pray that you would punish Matt Reis for his transgressions. There will always be a place in my Black and Red heart for you, but please don't do that to us again!
Fortunately, United fought back and dominated large swaths of the second half to make me look like a prophet and drag themselves out of the Eastern Conference basement. Two wins in a row and three matches unbeaten is a good start towards getting things back on track. I liked the confidence that Soehn had in his team to bring in an extra attacker to go for the win on the road in an extremely hostile environment.
Speaking of class under fire, Baldomero Toledo gets a big thumbs up for a well managed match. In comparison to Petrescu's bungling of Toronto's match last weekend, Toledo looked confident and in control. A couple of minor incidents aside, I thought that he got all of the important calls correct and issued cards appropriately.
On to the player grades:
Troy Perkins (7): No punished mistakes, came out when he had to, and made the big save late. Almost punished for coming out on a late free kick and getting nowhere near the ball, but kept both the 4-man and 3-man back line organized. Had no chance on the goal.
Bryan Namoff (6): Rock steady but not spectacular. Was not as effective at shutting down Welsh as I thought he would be. Made a few errors in distribution and judgement and made some rash challenges, but was decent going forward.
off (56) Facundo Erpen (6): Subbed early because he was racking up the fouls, but I thought he did a decent job and dealt manfully with the brute Dichio. Only a few bonehead moves and one bicycle kick, none of which were too costly. He's looked much better since moving to partner Boswell in the center. If today's second half convinces Soehn to move back to the 3-5-2, I'm not sure that will take full advantage of Erpen's strengths.
Bobby Boswell (7): Much better than in previous weeks. Looked composed and strong and was reading the game more like he did last year. I still think bringing in another center back would help stimulate some competition for places that could force him to raise his game.
Fred (6): Flashed in and out but tracked back well defensively and had a few nice moments going forward. I'll cut him some slack as he's coming off an injury, but I'd like to see more from Fred on the attacking side next week.
Brian Carroll (5): Starting to look better and was distributing more effectively, but still had some woeful touches/passes. I just don't think he's suited to being the solitary d-mid in a diamond midfield. Does he have the pace or engine to play at fullback?
off (80) Christian Gomez (6): Better. Created an own goal with a wickedly taken free kick and was starting to show flashes of his MVP self from last year, but still not the dominant figure running the show that he usually is. Once the rest of the offense starts clicking, he should get more space and normal service should resume.
Ben Olsen (5): Tireless and feisty as ever. Did anybody else notice that kick he had at Welsh as the former fell to the ground in the second half? Also made a lot of poor decisions in possession and slowed play down a bit too much, particularly when it looked like we might have a counter opportunity.
Joshua Gros (5): He's still getting used to playing in the back, but only had a few decent forays forward and was at fault on the goal for not pushing up fast enough, thus keeping Esky onside. The potential is there. He just needs to improve the crossing and work on his positioning and reading of the game.
Luciano Emilio (6): Started to show his quality late and drew the penalty that resulted in the winner before banging a shot of the post. Doesn't get rated higher because he blew a gilt-edged chance on the long clearance from Perkins and didn't do much for most of the match.
off (87) Jaime Moreno (7): Scored the match winning PK to draw even with Kreis as the all-time leading scorer in MLS, but the high rating is more for the effort he showed in getting back defensively late in the game. I thought for most of the match that he was slowing the game down too much and dropping too deep, leaving Emilio stranded up top, but the composure to finish the game off and the defensive effort were quality.
on (56) Guy-Roland Kpene (7): Probably my man of the match. The kid has a sweet touch on the ball, thinks and plays quickly (something United has been sorely lacking), is aggressive, and can create - as demonstrated by the pass that set up Emilio to draw the penalty. His introduction changed the game for United. With Moreno missing next week for a Bolivia call-up, I'm guessing we see Kpene from the start. My only question is - can he finish? We've seen a lot from him, but no goals as of yet.
on (80) Clyde Simms (-): Not on long enough to make an impression, but it was good to see him back on the field. Perhaps he can be the answer as the sole d-mid that Carroll is not?
on (87) Stephen deRoux (-): Not on long enough to make an impression, though I was a little disappointed that he couldn't keep up with Wynne to prevent that late cross that Lombardo almost got a decent head to.
All in all, a good match for United. They came in against a confident team playing in front of a packed house and took them down. Now if they can just get that old counter-attacking flair rebooted, we might be on to something.