Well, that wasn't a particularly satisfying way to put our first tick in the win column, now was it? Yes, the Dynamo are a good team, despite their poor start, and any victory against them is a positive. Yes, Emilio showed why he gets DP money by pouncing on the Dynamo's one lapse to make them pay. Yes, we're starting to get some guys back from injury. But ignore all of that for a second. We looked flat and devoid of ideas, went unpunished for conceding too much space, and grabbed a junk goal (nice finish, but thank Boswell for the mental hiccup). A win is a win, but ugh! I suppose we should deal with the talking points...
* These guys have played together before, right? What was up with our passing? Too many lateral balls in midfield that got intercepted, leading to Dynamo breaks. Too many through balls to non-existent runners. Too many passes astray, short, slow, or too late, leading to fizzled attacks and losses of possession, often in critical areas. Sure, there were way too many bodies in midfield with both sides trying to squeeze five apiece in there, but, by contrast, the Dynamo players looked like they knew where they wanted to go with the ball and got it there in a hurry. Fortunately...
* StuHo is no DeRo. Nor could Davis, Mullan, or anybody else fill the "game-changer" vacuum for the Dynamo. Nobody was able to step up and produce a moment of inspiration, leading the Dynamo attack to devolve into a series of crosses lobbed into the box and shots from distance. Of course, this almost cost us given the fact that StuHo, Davis, and Clark can all pack a wallop from range. Which leads me to wonder...
* Why the hell we weren't closing down that yawning black hole outside the "D"? Scratch that. Let's make it more general. Why the hell weren't we closing down? Period. Full stop. The entirety of my first half notes are scribbled with "weak challenges for 50-50 balls," "not closing down crossers," "dropping off too much," "Houston with too much time to pick the pass/cross." When we finally managed to come out of the locker room with something resembling high pressure, we were operating in their end and wound up with a goal for our efforts. But in the end we resorted to sitting back and not challenging runners. Is this Tommy's reaction to D's "Theory of Hack'Em"? Probably not, considering there were still some dumb fouls around the box down the stretch. Whatever the case, I'm getting sick of typing in all caps for Wallace to "CLOSE DOWN THE GODDAMN CROSSER!" or "BURCH! WHY ARE YOU BACKING OFF A RUNNER INTO YOUR OWN BOX?"
* Of course, one guy who got stuck in, and sent off, for his efforts was Moreno. I'm still mystified at how that's a red. I expect the Karma Bank will have a deposit made in our name, and at the moment I'm exhausted just thinking about the horror that parades around MLS with whistles. If you want a wry chuckle, go dig through the US Soccer podcast archives for the "Referee Directives" series they ran before First Kick. Ugh.
* More moments of worry at the back, mostly involving Jakovic. I keep wanting to like the kid, and there are times when you can see some quality peeking out, but the brain farts have got to stop. On the MLS Match Center video feed (subject to mysterious and frustrating video outages, but you get what you paid for, I suppose), Glenn Davis was spouting off about him "not looking comfortable on the ball." Au contraire! I think he's too comfortable on the ball, and that's his problem. Here's hoping he does less pussyfooting once he gets used to being in a league where players with the ball are closed down quickly.
* Love how Pontius attacks crosses in the box. Now if only he could get headers both on frame and with power, not one or the other.
* Another MIA week for Gomez. Marked out of games or past it?
* Crayton, as always, left me nervous. But more or less nervous than Wicks? I'll go with marginally less.
* N'Silu looked useful. Strong. Good feet. But can he score?
So am I going to be a complete Gloomy Gus and take nothing positive from this match? Absolutely not! We didn't play well, yet managed to get three points against a good team, even after going down a man. Fred looked good in his limited minutes, taking on defenders and combining well with the other attackers. Here's hoping that we can step the quality up a level as the walking wounded filter back from the treatment table and onto the field.
Still, despite the win, and despite the undefeated start to the season, there's still something that feels very wrong. Maybe it's that I get this feeling from the team that they're somehow un-United-like. Ridiculous, right? We've got Olsen and Gomez back, how can we be un-United-like? Maybe it was the lack of any consistent possession or the ability to string five passes together. Maybe it was the fact that we didn't look dangerous in attack. Maybe I'm Dr. Miles Bennell and RFK is my Santa Mira? I'm not sure what it is, but it's discomfiting.
Vamos, Pod United?!?