United's 4-1 thrashing of the Red Bulls was my first chance to make the pilgrimage to RFK from the wooded wilds of central Pennsylvania this year, and I was richly rewarded for the journey by rain, smoke, goals, and a new perspective on some of our players. I'm a bit exhausted given the return journey, early Father's Day breakfast, and all that life entails, so we'll hit some quick talking points that I may expand on later in the week.
* This was my first live look at some of the new blood. Obviously, Gallardo was suspended and Niell and Carvallo were confined to the bench, so my impressions were limited to Peralta, Martinez, and a bit of Kirk. If anything, my eyes merely confirmed what the television implied. Peralta is competent, though a bit slow, doesn't track runners as well as he possibly could, and resorts to hoofing it a bit too quickly for my liking. Martinez, on the other hand, seems ferociously competent, and is completely unafraid and fully determined to make vital tackles. He also reads the game well, cutting down angles for though balls, running down wide threats, and keeping his head up when in possession. I was a bit concerned that playing him on the right with Burch on the left--which Soehn's comments had pretty much confirmed for me as early as the aftermath of the reserve match against Chicago--might lead to Burch getting schooled for pace by Dane Richards, but that threat never really materialized, whether through good play by Burch, cover from McTavish, or outright incompetence by the Metrobulltards. As for Kirk, I guess he was alright. Tommy was doing a lot of talking to him off the ball--I'm guessing to make sure that he tracked back defensively, but pushed the Bulls back enough to keep that left flank honest.
* Tactical shifting or Rod's no Gallardo. We've seen the wings (Quaranta and Fred) swapping sides for most of the season, to decent effect, but the move to put Dyachenko on the right wing and pull Fred into the middle said to me that: (1) Rod just isn't able to play quickly or intelligently enough in a deeper central midfield role (in the hole between two deep lying mids and the strikers, I've seen signs, but not as one of a midfield pair), (2) Fred can do some nice things in the middle, or (3) Soehn must be trying really hard to build Rod's confidence (or his trade value!). To that last point--how else do you explain him continuing to be on the field in the second half and on the wing (where he's completely unsuited to playing) to boot?
* The thing about Fred. You know, I've never been Fred's biggest fan, and am sometimes at a loss to see why some folks are so high on him. There are moments of flair that make you come off of the couch a bit, but nothing that seems magical. But that's from the couch. I think that maybe what he brings to the match doesn't translate across the airwaves. When you're in the stadium and see some little bit of Brazilian samba, there's a collective gasp from the crowd, and spontaneous "oohs", "aahs", and general joy, even if the move doesn't come off. It's a sort of "take me back to the playground and let's have fun" moment that makes you appreciate that what you're watching is a game that is meant to be fun and enjoyable--an entertaining narrative, not a life and death struggle with statistics and playing the percentages and keeping things safe. I'd forgotten that from when I saw him play last year, but was reminded in spades this time out. So Fred, if you can spare a moment from the new baby, just let me say that the bit of juggling skill on the dead run late in the second half gave me, and my wife and daughter--neither of whom can boast much of an understanding of the game--a thrill that I'm massively grateful for.
* And speaking of thrills, how great a combination is rain and smoke? True, I sent the wife and daughter (well perhaps not "sent", but rather "okayed") retreating for cover, but that just allowed for a bit more exuberance (and possibly obscenity, if I must be honest ;-) on my part. Full props not only to the supporters' groups, but also to those who stayed out in the rain to participate in the collective joy of nature and the demolition of a toothless rival.
* Well, perhaps not entirely toothless. I'll give van den Bergh credit--he was the one sharp fang in the Red Bull arsenal. From set pieces or prompting from the wings and in a more central position, he was pretty much at the heart of everything that was dangerous about the Bulls, and prompted many moments of near Zach-tastrophies--be they whiffed punches, dropped crosses, or whatever. Needless to say, Wells didn't do much more for me in person than he does on the TV, though he seemed a bit more confident in coming for the ball than I've noticed earlier in the season.
All in all, a fantastic night. Four goals, a hat-trick for the reborn Luci, rain, smoke, humiliation for the Swamp Things, and my just-turned five year old yelling "DC-Uni-ted" along with the drums. Quick tip for the parents out there though. It's probably not wise to take your kids to the bathrooms nearest the Barra's halftime concourse dance, drum, and beer fest. To be fair to some of the kids participating in the pee + chanting celebration, only a few looked scared or shy, and quite a few were adding some high notes to the collective noise. Not sure what those kids' parents thought of "Fuck the Red Bulls" though ;-).