You could almost smell it wafting in over the crazy angles of the ballpark bleachers, down across the grassed-over infield, caught momentarily in an updraft of hot air from Sean Wheelock, and finally down off Tommy Soehn's brooding glare. The Foul Stench of Inevitability.
The first half was promising, with the defense shutting down KC and the offense not exactly sparkling, but creating a few decent chances. Yet as soon as the Wiz bagged their first early in the second half, it only seemed like a matter of time before they got the second. United started pushing forward, and the gaps duly started appearing. Even when Peralta slammed United's apparent equalizer home, I was unfazed, waiting for the inexorable raising of the linesman's flag. Result? KC 2, DC 0.
So, what went wrong?
* No wide threat. On a couple of occasions in the first half, Mediate and McTavish raced through, only to be either (a) mugged with nary a PK call in sight or (b) flagged offside (though the same linesman did return the favor in the second half--fair play to you, Mr. Ray Charles). But this danger was never consistent. Instead, we tried to force too much through the middle--the standard DC calling card--with predictable results. One has to wonder if this would have been the case had Fred started. That said, I think resting folks for Pachuca is probably a wise move. It's early in the season, and the team still has time to gel and start getting results in the league.
* KC came out of the half with a fire in their bellies that DC couldn't match. Instead, DC looked a bit flat and listless, and paid for it almost immediately. A few minutes after KC's first went in, DC started to push up, and getting hit on the counter began to look more and more likely. Still, United had their chances. And, it has to be said, they did create the better chances in the first half as well. If Emilio is in form or Salazar makes a call or the linesman keeps his damn flag down, maybe the story would have played out differently. Such are the vagaries of fate and MLS officials.
* KC's got a good little team to run about their crappy little pitch. Not sure how deep they are, or how they'll handle teams that actually decide to pressure their fullbacks, but they looked pretty dangerous once things started opening up a bit in the second, and they possessed the ball fairly well, which reminds me . . .
* Whether it's down to not being all on the same page yet, the wind, or the negative nexus of dying brain cells created by Wheelock's disturbingly ridiculous commentary, DC wasn't stringing the passes together like we're used to seeing. Too much hit and hope and too many mishit (or misread) through-balls. Again, I'm not too terribly worried yet. We all knew that Harbour View wasn't MLS quality, and that it would take time for all of the new pieces to settle into place. Once we start connecting the dots a little better, I'm confident that we'll create more chances (and hopefully start finishing them as well). As it was, we had a fair few. There was just a final ball or a solid finish missing from the puzzle.
In other words, take heed the Hitchhiker's Guide, and . . . DON'T PANIC! At least, not yet anyway.
On a final note, I had to watch this one on MLSlive.tv, which is an absolute steal at $19.95 for the season, even if the quality is poor and the ABC/ESPN/FSC games are missing. But watching on MLSlive.tv got me stuck with Sean Wheelock. Wow! Sure made me appreciate Dave Johnson all the more. What game was he watching? Every time he noted a "clever play" or "great pass" it ended up being a turnover. And my goodness, every time Emilio touched the ball, it was like the Grim Reaper had showed up for dinner. "Look out! He's got the ball! Hide the women and children!" I know he's a dangerous striker, but sheesh! And please don't get me started on Erin Whats-her-name doing the sideline bits. Give me an A, give me an M, give me an A . . . T . . . E . . . U . . . R. What's that spell? Ouch.
Onward to Mexico!