I expected a motivated, energetic DC United to come out looking to dominate an RSL side that has struggled mightily on the road. And I suppose we did...for about 10 minutes. But after a few initial wasted chances, my expectations started to slowly, inexorably erode as DC continued to look more and more aimless in attack--old, slow, too patient, and lacking in ideas. The inevitable random chances of the late flurry aside, never did I get the feeling that we were going to break RSL down. So can we be bothered to shrug off the slumber induced by this game and hit the talking points? I suppose we must...
* Wrong way round? Hindsight is 20/20 and all that, but do you think that if Tommy had this one to play over again, he might take the opposite approach? Instead of starting with the patient, technical guys trying to break things down, maybe we go with energy and movement to (1) drag the RSL defense around, thus creating more space initially, and (2) wear down the defenders, thus presenting the technical types with tired opposition to pick apart. My notes for the first half feature the phrase "too slow" somewhere north of 500 bajillion times. Of course, all of this looks a bit different if a certain Brazilian takes his chances.
* Fred's no finisher. You love that Fred gets himself into the spots that he does. The problems arise when he actually tries to do something with them. Let's take a sampling of my notes
7' - Fred with a typical "finish"
12' - Fred miserable in the box again
24' - Fred misses yet another sitter. He's crossed the border from ridiculous to pathetic this season.
49' - Why can't anybody but Fred end up on the end of the last ball? Aaarrrgh!
I don't know which is worse for my blood pressure: Burch's crossfield wayward rockets, our adventures in goalkeeping, or Fred's finishing. At what point does the FO start to think that $200k+ needs to buy more than getting in good positions?
* Tommy the Tinkerman. I've sometimes been critical of this new Soehn trend towards making changes at the half, but I thought he made the right one this time around. Jaime was involved in pretty much nothing but giving the ball away during the first half (speaking of things that had to be playing havoc with my blood pressure). We needed more energy in that position, and the change was apparent almost immediately with Quaranta covering more ground and getting wider and further forward, while Pontius pushed higher (and made more dangerous runs) than Quaranta had been doing on the right wing. Of course, much like the early pressure, we failed to sustain that kind of attacking energy. But those glimpses make you wonder...
* Why does Gomez + Moreno + Quaranta make Quaranta tentative? Quaranta seems to get involved and express himself more when he doesn't have both Gomez and Moreno on the field with him. Is he deliberately holding back in these situations in deference to them? Is he being instructed to do so in order to let Gomez and Moreno have more influence on the match? Whatever the case, it's a worrying trend, because you want your best attacking players on the field together in order to create multiple points of danger for the defense to have to focus on.
There's more, but, much like United's attack for much of this match, I'm feeling a bit of apathy creeping in, so let's condense the field, RSL-style, with some quick hits...
* Wicks saved our bacon with a couple of big saves. He had his worrying moments as well, but that's pretty much de rigueur for United keepers these days, is it not?
* How does 5'9" Robby Findley win headers in the box against us? A worrying reminder of the "towering" Dax McCarty doing much the same earlier this season.
* 8 shots? Only 1 on frame? That's nowhere near good enough, particularly in our house (loved the "Chang We Can Believe In" banner, by the way). Even if RSL played things compact and a bit bunkerish, they still managed as many shots on frame (8) as we mustered in the entire match. True, many of them were weak and from distance, but we could have hit a few weak shots from distance as well to draw out the defense.
* Burch is simply not a good defender. Anybody else get the impression that Movsisyan was just licking his chops as he came on, knowing that he'd get to run at Burch? Perhaps we're missing a strong left back even more than we're missing consistency in net.
So are there any positives I take from this match? How about the fact that we didn't lose? There were a few dicey moments, but we did manage to hang onto a point that I'm pretty sure we would have watched slip away last year. I guess it's also a boost for our leaky back line that they got their first league shut-out since April 4th against the Dynamo.
Still, it's hard to feel anything but frustrated. It's one thing to suffer against a team that sets itself out to defend. It's another entirely to almost completely fail to test them--to watch our own attacks peter out to nothing while RSL's glacial, predictable buildup continues to create chance after mediocre chance. Is there perhaps a mix that Tommy needs to get just right when he has all of his weapons available? The right blend of youthful energy and patient experience that maybe doesn't necessarily see your best eleven players in the starting lineup by default?
Or do we just need to have Fred spend half of his time on the training pitch doing finishing work?
All right, let's see if I can rouse myself enough to sputter out a closing...