United Match Reaction | Hot, Flat & Crowded

I apologize for the lateness of the hour. I had a birthday party to attend with the little one, and while I'm thankful to Match Center for having the archive available so quickly, I'm not best pleased that the 800k stream included 10+ minutes of the end of a movie and then proceeded to end midway through the second half. This necessitated jumping to the 400k stream and allowing it to play through (with frequent fast-forwards) in order to finish the match. Despite the streaming media pain, the joy was well worth the effort...

Enough of my sob stories. Let's hit those talking points!

* Not a match for the purist. Follow the bouncing ball. So should we blame the basketball court surface? The 100+ degree temps on the field? Both? There was an awful lot of head tennis and long ball madness, though that much had to be expected. Any time either side attempted to get the ball down and play, they surface conspired against them. No wonder every goal came from balls over the top or crosses. I still wonder why, knowing that such a match was in the offing, Osorio started with Oduro up top. Rotation policy? Regardless...

* Thank whatever deity you so choose that Kandji didn't start. After the defense looked relatively solid in the first half (yes, even Burch), Kandji created all kinds of problems and opened up space for his teammates as Burch and Jakovic struggled to contain his power. Having to split the focus from negating Angel to negating both Kandji and Angel left Angel free to score one and create the opportunity for the Red Bulls' second.

* Crayton is rapidly approaching liability status. His flapping at crosses was frightening to behold...and I've beheld Rimando! True, he had a couple of decent saves, but this has now become my biggest worry on the roster. Crayton doesn't look good. Certainly not worth the cap figure he commands. Wicks strikes me as third-stringer material at best. And Kocic didn't seem to be the answer from what I saw of the Open Cup highlights. Maybe it's time to toss Kocic in the fire and hope he survives, much like Guzan's rookie season. Crayton is simply getting paid way too much to not be among the top 5 keepers in MLS. We could use that cap money elsewhere and get more bang for our buck. Summer transfer window?

* Quaranta the creator. Speaking of bang for our buck, we've certainly had our faith in Tino repaid with interest. Witness the two moments of class that created the first two goals. Situation #1: killing a bouncing ball on the break with a touch off the sole of his boot before crossing hard to the runner on the back post. Situation #2: an instinctive, first-time lobbed cross on the volley. Luck? Perhaps a bit, but he got the ball into a dangerous area where the predator could do his work. Anybody else you'd hold up as man of the match?

* Pontius' secret weapon. I noticed last week that we started letting Pontius take long throws late in the match as we chased the game. We did the same this week. I have a question. Why aren't we letting him take all of our long throw ins from the first whistle? The dude can launch them. Why not exploit that throughout the match? Are we too proud of our feted "possession football" approach?

* Great never say die attitude. Not only by Khumalo and Pontius in grabbing the stoppage time winner, but by the whole team in fighting back through the heat, fatigue, cramping, and pain. That will be my abiding memory of this match. After last week's dramatic late equalizer, we're seeing stirrings in this team of the sort of heart that was mostly absent last season. Now, if we could just figure out how to instill a killer instinct, because...

* We should have been at least 2-0 up. Quaranta and Emilio both squandered golden opportunities to pad the lead. At least this time, the Bulls' comeback was more down to their forcing the issue than our sitting back, but I still worry about this shortcoming. We need to be able to finish teams off when we're in position to do so. Part of this is continuing to attack. Part is some of our really wasteful finishing. At least last week's most obvious goat in the finishing sweepstakes managed to redeem himself this time around with the winner.

Those boos raining down at the final whistle were sweet music indeed. Maybe I'm being too hard on this club, expecting too much by looking for some nebulous "killer instinct". Let's face it, I wasn't hopeful going into this season, and our current position is somewhat surprising to me. Much of that is down to how well the rookies and new signings have blended in to the team. There was hemming and hawing about a "rebuilding year," but I'm tempted to want the future now. Christian and Jaime have given us great years, but we've got some kids who play with skill and heart. There is a core of young players here, led by the phoenix that is Santino Quaranta, that give me hope.

Vamos United!


  1. Once senses this is a transition year as a new core of players is beginning to emerge to replace the old core (Gomez, Olsen, Moreno). We now have something to begin building on in the years to come and it has happened through the draft (Pontius, Wallace, Kocic, Barklage, Jacobsen) and the USL (Simms, Janicki, Kmumalo). If Santino strings two good seasons together, then I think we can count on him for some time to come and he is off to a good start.

    The backline and the keeper remain issues in the near term. I would like to see Janicki back in the middle over Jakovic, try John on the left and keep Namoff on the right. Crayton's contract expires in June and at this rate it looks like we will be in the market for a new keeper. The one from the Thunder was pretty good or maybe we get Robles to come home.

  2. "The Phoenix" That's a great nickname for Santino. Much better than Q1

  3. About Crayton becoming a liability... Last season, he exuded confidence and I thought he always controlled his area well (let's choose to forget his failed nutmeg attempt that resulted in a goal last year). This year, he's really shaky all of a sudden, and I'm not sure why. Is he not physically fit, or is our GK coaching really that bad? I know nothing at all about coaching keepers, but I'm seriously starting to doubt DC's quality there. Anyone have any thoughts to add?

  4. I'm struggling to remember if Crayton was this bad on crosses last year. I recall being nervous about some of the balls he chose to come for, but I don't remember crying "Rimando, Part Deux" at any point. Perhaps we were so blinded by competence after the Wellsian trainwreck that we ignored the fact that Crayton was a journeyman in a third-tier Euro-league for a reason.

    The shame is that he's still a pretty good shot-stopper.

    As for Jakovic v. Janicki, I wish we'd just go to a four-man back line and get them both in the mix. Still, if we stick with 3-5-2, I'm going to favor Jakovic. Janicki is solid defensively, but Jakovic's distribution is invaluable to a team that runs on possession. I suppose it depends upon whether your taste favors the simple and dependable over a more complex and nuanced vintage. "Eye of the beholder" and all that...