Don't Blame the Whistlemen (entirely) | a DC United Match Reaction

In the grand scheme of things, it is just a game. And in the long run, the karmic wheel should spin, and these terrible decisions by the Whistlemen should come into balance. But that does nothing to address the terrible frustrations of last night. Though, it must be said, not all of those frustrations lie at the feet of the men with flags and whistles. Some talking points...

* No killer instinct. Admit it, while we were dominating that first half and spurning chance after chance, you always felt that we were liable to concede something cheaply on the break. Fortunately, we didn't. Mostly that was down to some good energy in the last-ditch recoveries and poor Revs finishing, but the chance was always there. Yet I'm willing to accept surrendering those chances, particularly on the road, for the amount of attacking skill, energy, and intent that we had on display. But two posts and a goal were not adequate reward for said display, and highlight United's lack of a killer instinct, the ability to finish teams off that are ripe for the finishing. Also, would it be too much to ask that we...

* Put together 90 solid minutes. I'm struggling to recall here. Have we yet put together a solid 90? It seems that we either come out flying, only to collapse late, or come out flat, only to storm back into things. The fact that we storm back says that Tommy can make adjustments, but it seems that the talent only goes one way. When other sides make changes, we fail to adapt quickly enough. I'm reminded of a constant theme that I harped on last year: that other sides would simply turn up the energy, pace, and physical play, and United would wilt. While we did eventually fight our way back into this one, and deserved at least a draw, I saw shades of that old featherweight United at the start of the second half. The fact that we eventually steadied the ship is encouraging.

* Attacking mid controversy? While my notes for Fred's early performance mostly highlight much running with no reward and constantly losing headers, I do have to admit that I came around as the match wore on. The sheer ground he covered was impressive, and even if he lost challenges, he was still going in for them, which helped to keep us winning balls in their end or forcing them to dump long to isolated front-runners. And who knew that the key to his miserable finishing record was to move him further away from goal and make sure the bodies were tight around him, rather than standing a few yards off? It'll be interesting to see if Gomez gets his spot back automatically, or if Tommy sees this as an experiment worth pursuing.

* Flank play. I highlighted in my preview that keeping their wings quiet would be a key to the match, and for an entire half, we did just that. Pontius and Wallace were both a constant threat on attack, and Tierney (who probably doesn't belong in MLS but is the "quality" we'll be looking forward to with Garber's constant expansion plan) and Nyassi were both MIA. But the changes to start the second flipped that equation entirely, and we were at sea for a while. I wonder if Tommy was ever tempted to put in a fourth defender and try to shut down the flanks?

* Surprisingly effective. That's how I would describe Burch's crossfield blasts and Fred's ability to keep possession in the first half. Sure, they both faded a bit, but for a while there, it looked like everything Burch laid into ended up on Pontius or Quaranta's foot 40 yards away. And I've often chastised Fred for giving up the ball cheaply, but he was in fine form in the first half. Even if he gave the ball away (which he did far less frequently than in past matches), he harried the opposition to get it back. Perhaps he was auditioning extra hard for his preferred position?

* 50/50 balls. I bet if you showed me ten clips in isolation, so I didn't know which side the teams were lined up on, I could correctly identify which half they were from just by the effort and anticipation on display from the players on the pitch. Tommy had United flying at the opening whistle, but coming back from the locker rooms after the half, it was Nicol's words that seemed to resonate most.

* The verdict on Wicks? I don't know what you thought about their goal, but I thought Wicks should have either gotten a fist to that or stayed home. Despite that mistake, I thought he was pretty solid, and it's unreasonable to expect a keeper to be completely flawless. All keepers make mistakes. He did. We got punished. He also made some big plays as well. I'm still not happy with him as a first choice in the long run, but for now, he's decent enough to be getting results...if the refs don't interfere.

And I could go after the Whistlemen here, but instead, I'm going to fight disappointment with pathetic stabs at pointing-the-finger-of-blame misdirection humor in some Quick Hits...

* Back in black? What's the deal with everybody wearing light or white shoes for United? I think only Fred, Jakovic, and Moreno (for a change) had black shoes on. Maybe that's our problem?

* Why do we hate redheads? Let's face it, if we weren't so busy trying to knock Larentowicz unconscious and tenderize Phelan's gut with rockets from distance, maybe we could have put a few of those on frame. Reis hasn't exactly been his usual reliable self this year...

* Ironic yellow? Anybody else think that this game was going to enter Bizarro World when Pontius got yellow for laying into Heaps with a bit of a cheap shot?

All right. Are we feeling better yet? Probably not. But if Tommy plays his cards right, he uses both the injustice and the halftime let-down as motivation heading into the summer months. We were on a long unbeaten run. Maybe a bit of complacency was seeping in. Regardless of how fired up we looked in the first half, we didn't come out with the same energy to match the desperate Revs in the second. We eventually managed to find our way back and have some chances, but by then, it was already 1-1. And that would have been a fair result, given the balance of play, but if United were just a bit sharper in front of net, the chance of a single goal turning the match never becomes a factor. Time to break out an old mixed-feelings chestnut...

Vamugh United!?!


  1. No killer instinct is right on! It's like watching a cat toying with a mouse and not finishing the job. We should have finished them early. I have to say I’m getting tired of watching professional soccer players miss easy (what should be easy for them) goals! I’m talking to you, Fred. Regardless, the PK at the end was it was a bad call by the referee and a shameless display of poor sportsmanship by Twellman who clearly dove, threw his arms out cried to the referee. To top it off, he couldn't even refrain from grinning after he got away with it. Hard to take the league seriously when BS calls change the outcome of a game. I have never been a big fan of Twellman, now I can't stand him.

  2. So which is worse, the refs or the finishing? More to the point, which makes MLS look more bush-league?

    Ah well, at least our draws come naturally. Not like the "mutually beneficial" draws of the farce that is late-season Italian football.