You know, there are quite a few times when you blame the ref and know, in your heart of hearts, that the result probably would have been the same no matter who was handed the whistle. This is not one of those times. Still, as disappointed as I am, I'm going to view the draw as a positive because, even with Jair's epic fail, we still probably would have earned a result if not for having to play with two defenders bleeding on the sidelines while LA got back into the match. It's been a long off-season, so wait for it . . . wait for it . . . let's hit those talking points. (Damn that felt good!)
* What was in the rooks' halftime orange slices? Let's face it, Wallace was pretty miserable, and Pontius well-nigh invisible in the first half. But from the opening whistle of the second, both started playing with aggression and confidence and increasingly became influential in the match. Wallace broke up plays and had a couple of nice dashes down the left. Pontius was doing his best Moreno impression, first with the weaving dribbling runs, and finally with the curling shot from the edge of the area (we'll ignore the Galaxy's feeble defensive efforts on the later). If these performances are indications of things to come, we might have had a very good draft indeed.
* Speaking of slices. As I mentioned earlier, were it not for the clash of heads that removed McTavish and Janicki from play, I think we hang onto this one easily. I'd like to call out two guys on this one. First, Marrufo. Two players down, bleeding from head wounds and you let play continue? Aren't head injuries the type of play you're supposed to call a halt for? I won't blame the Gals for not putting it into touch, either. They're trying to win a game, and they're supposed to play to the whistle. Marrufo is to blame for not blowing play dead. Second, Tom Soehn. You're under heavy pressure and you've got two cogs missing from the center of your defensive wheelhouse with only ten minutes to play. How do you not throw at least one guy on immediately?
* And while we're on the topic of subs. What was the thinking with bringing on Boyzzz for Olsen? I can understand pulling Olsen if he's out of gas. I can understand bringing on Boyzzz for his pace and guile to operate on the counter against an LA side that was throwing players forward. What I don't get is why you bring on a winger for a holding midfielder when you've got a two-goal lead. Pulling McTavish inside to play Olsen's role left a winger trying to play defense on the flank, which he didn't exactly do a sterling job of.
* Donovan's snarling at the refs has surely got to be punished at some point, rather than continuously rewarded with favorable treatment by the whistlemen. And while we're on the whistlemen, I want to highlight three points. #1: I haven't looked at replays yet, but my initial reaction on the United PK was that Gomez was offsides when Emilio flicked the ball on to him. Nevertheless, the PK was given. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but was Dema not the last man? Did he not deny a certain goal-scoring opportunity? Now explain to me the color of the card he received again. Right. #2: Please see the complaints above about play being allowed to continue with two guys down with bleeding noggins. #3: Yes, the game is fast, but how can you call a handball unless you definitely saw the ball hit the hand? Even in live action, I could see on a crappy web feed that that ball came off the bottom of Wallace's leg. Will Maruffo (or his linesman) face sanctions? Yeah, right.
* Second half improvements, but the defense and passing were still shaky at best. Early season rust is to be expected, but we look behind many of the teams I saw playing yesterday. Some of that will be down to integrating new pieces (particularly Jakovic on the back line) and having four starters sidelined. The encouraging things were: (1) we were pitching a shutout until the bleeding heads debacle and Jair's goddamn whistle, and (2) there were some passages of play that showed how good we can be when we get things moving quickly with the slick, one-touch passing. That said, there were far too many times when we were tentative or wasteful with the ball.
* Why didn't Emilio dish to Gomez on that break where he was in behind after Benny did the "inactive" stroll?
* Burch = defensive liability. Still.
* Can Kapitan Kissypants please go back to Europe and stop bothering us?
* I like that Delagarza, or however he wants his name spelled, for LA! Nice little player.
* Where were the anti-Beckham banners, LA fans? Or did the Scientologist thug-squad confiscate them at the gates?
* Benny may be slower and not have the engine anymore, but he's crafty and feisty, two things we missed badly last year. It was massive to see him out there for us wearing the armband. Long may it continue!
As full of rage as I was when Donovan headed home the second, it's some surprise to me that I'm actually feeling a little better about the result upon reflection. I thought a draw would have been a decent result going in, considering what we were missing. Giving up a 2-goal lead stings badly, but the stars that aligned to create this result won't happen every week. Am I confident that we're a playoff team? Not yet. LA was missing major pieces as well, and aren't exactly playoff-calibre either. Also, the soccer on display was often pathetic. Let's put the meter hovering somewhere around tentatively hopeful that we might put in a better showing this year than I expected.
Question: Is there a midpoint between the enthusiastic Vamos United! and the world-weary "ugh"? Vamugh United? Sounds vaguely Gaelic.