Honestly! Every time Garth Lagerway started to wax poetic about the disparity in quality between the two sides or about the class of United players and their ability in possession, the ball was inevitably given away cheaply. I know, I know - curse of the commentator and all that. But come on! That was just plain creepy.
Speaking of creepy - how about that officiating? I thought that Jorge Gonzalez got through the first half mostly intact. A few worrying inconsistencies and brutalities that were let go (a scissor-job on the edge of a box is not a yellow?), but that's par for the MLS course. Unfortunately, towards the end of the first half, things started to go more sour than usual. I'm still scratching my head about how Olsen got yellow for going up strong for a header in the box when he had been flattened by an elbow just minutes earlier and didn't even get a call.
In the second half, it went from bad to Graham Poll. To be fair to the official, he was pretty busy screwing both teams hard. In fact, he was so intent on screwing them over in this game, that he went a step further and thoroughly screwed United for next game, where they'll be missing Olsen, Fred, and Gomito through suspension. Despite such a decimated midfield, at least we'll almost certainly have Simms back on the field, where he can destroy things in the middle and prevent the kind of goal that Beckerman, who I thought looked lost for most of the game, stepped up and delivered from distance.
Both teams suffered poor penalty calls after the break, though United's was particularly egregious as McTavish was somehow whistled for allowing himself to be wrestled to the ground. RSL may have a bit less cause for complaint as Gros pretty much fell over an outstretched leg that might have been just outside the box as well. But both keepers came through to make sure that justice was served and the official didn't get away with murdering the game entirely (though he did stab, poison, and shoot it, only to have the game emerge, Rasputin-like, stumbling through the fog towards the Volga...Anacostia....Christ, where has my mind wandered now?). And I'm still not sure how Mantilla didn't walk in this game. Actually, given the number of hard, late tackles McTavish dished out, I'm not entirely sure how he emerged unscathed either.
Regardless, United holds serve at home in Estadio RFK and takes another big step towards the Supporters' Shield. United was tired and RSL is improved and playing with a bit of fire (and desperation). This is the type of game that I would have expected to drop points in early on this the season. But confident teams find a way to win and it's encouraging that despite the royal ref-job, despite RSL's strong play, despite the tired legs, the boys did just enough to get the three points.
Now they'll have a week and a half off to catch their breath before the next round of the chronic fixture congestion that has characterized this season. Late September through early October will be packed as Copa Sudamericana gets tossed into the mix with the playoff run-in. We've already clinched our berth in the post-season, now it's time to cement home-field throughout the playoffs. Vamos United!