Such Heights...and Such Depths | a DC United Match Reaction

Go ahead. Admit it. You saw that coming didn't you? I mean, I wasn't prepared for Julius James to limp his way to late almost-glory in a target man role only to have his effort negated by a stoppage time PK (Fred giveth PK's, and Fred taketh them away). But based upon everything leading up to that point, this one felt pretty much exactly like last year in Columbus, didn't it? Last game of the season. Needing a result. Playing reasonably well. Pinging the post a couple of times. Season over.

Which United's season pretty much is at this point unless Dallas and Seattle tie and New England loses. Not out of the realm of possibility, I'll admit...

Talking points (as I nervously watch Seattle v. Dallas in the background)...

* Can't fault the effort. Going into the second half down a goal, I thought we'd struggle to find an equalizer and get hit on the counter while we pushed forward. Instead, we almost immediately fashioned the chance that should have led to said equalizer, and proceeded to control most of the half, finally getting our reward from the spot. And you'd have been forgiven for thinking we were pretty much going to limp to a draw when Soehn's masterful substitutions left us with a half-lame Julius James playing target man. But James donned his Superman cape and put us minutes from the playoffs, only for United to succumb to one scramble in the box too many.

(Crap. Atiba freakin' Harris just belted one past Keller from 25'. Now I have to pull for the damn Sounders to equalize. Screw you, Soccer Gods!)

* Missed Opportunities. It's the story of the season writ large. Gomez breaks clear in the box and...drags his shot wide. James leaps for a corner and...nods it onto the post. Olsen spears the bouncing ball and...finds the one spot on frame that Hartman could stick a hand across. Wallace snatches at a chance on the edge of the box, managing to keep it down (for once) and...rockets it off the inside of the post. Inches. The Gomez chance went a couple of feet wide. But a couple of inches on any of those other three? And lets not forget the worst three missed opportunities of the season...
September 12th, Home to Seattle, lost 2-1
September 27th, Home to San Jose, lost 2-1
October 3rd, Home to Chivas, lost 2-0

Three home games in a row with our playoff lives on the line, and we dropped them all. A result in any of those games and we're home and dry at this point. Here's hoping that, in the final reckoning, even if we somehow scrape our way into the playoffs, that Tommy pays for those losses. Speaking of SeƱor Soehn...

* Question for Tommy #1. So what's the deal with acquiring Szetela in the summer, sticking him in the doghouse for a few months, only allowing him limited minutes in a less-preferred wide midfield role, and then handing him two consecutive starts, in the middle of the park no less, in do-or-die games for all the marbles in two competitions in a week? What the hell was that? Think Szetela might have been a more useful option when the midfield injury/suspension crisis hit in the midst of our season spiraling out of control last month? Instead, you work to kill his confidence and match sharpness before handing him starts in two must-win games. Yeah, that makes sense...

* Question for Tommy #2. Yeah, so I get that you were forced into the Gomez sub by injury. And I can understand wanting to have Olsen on in the second half as the spiritual heart of the team (though I wonder if maybe putting him on for Emilio, who was once again clearly useless, and putting Moreno up top with Szetela and Olsen pushed higher and Simms sitting deep in a central midfield troika might have done a tastier trick...heck, maybe Olsen should have been the sub for Gomez...). But making your third and final sub with half an hour to go? Go ahead and play the "desperate times, desperate measures" card, but I, for one, am less than impressed.

* Question for Tommy #3. And this one should probably be addressed to some of the senior playing staff as well...So why were we continuing to attack when we're up a goal with 10 minutes to go, knowing a win would have almost sealed our playoff spot? Note that I'd normally applaud trying to get another goal rather than being cynical, but...there is a time and a place for cynicism. 10 minutes to go with two guys struggling with bum hamstrings and a win pretty much punching your post-season tickets is one of those times. Instead we saw a lot of quick, direct, 50-50 balls. Bodies getting forward. Even Moreno and Olsen, who should know better, weren't looking to play possession. Was there any guidance from the sidelines, or did the players just get carried away with having grabbed an unlikely lead? Were they trying to pad the goal difference "just in case"?

Quick Hits...

* No change of pace. Our attack has one gear, and it's not a high one. How many times did Pontius chug onto hopeful balls in the late going with no support in sight?

* Why does every team we face, even the crap-tastic, miles-out-of-the-playoffs Wizards seem to have better off-the-ball movement than us? The game is pass and move, not pass and stand around waiting for the guy with the ball to pull something out of his ass.

* At least Soehn wore a tie for his funeral.

* At least we're not TFC (5-0? To the Red Bulls? Seriously?)...though they probably have a future in their burg, whereas United...

At this point, Dallas just went to half-time up 1-0 on Seattle. RSL put the Rapids down by a 3-0 count, putting both RSL and the Rapids in a tie on 40 points with United. If the Dallas result stands, they'd be in and RSL (by my hasty calculations) would nip DC and Colorado on goal difference. And that doesn't even factor in whatever New England can do tomorrow. So I'll be staying up late to see if the Sounders can do us a solid by getting a draw (which puts us in the head-to-head driver's seat by virtue of our results versus Dallas).

But then, hoping as I am for United somehow to live to fight another day, I have to wonder...If we somehow sneak into the post-season, does that keep the front office heads from rolling? Tommy's not the only one to blame, though he should shoulder his fair share.

I'd love to have at least a couple more match reactions to do before I hit my own "off-season," but I'm afraid the post-season "autopsy" series is more likely to be on my to-do list come Monday morning.

Vam-ugh United!?!
(been a while since I broke out that old chestnut)


  1. To pile on to your Question #3, even while being up a goal, remember that the team was also still playing in a 3-5-2 formation, with what looked like a back line of Fred-Jakovic-Burch. In what realm of reality does THAT make sense?? Wallace and Simms should have both become additional defenders from the moment that James scored his unexpected goal.

  2. I tweeted that very question during the match only to be admonished by the official mouthpiece (@dcunited) and told that Simms was playing in the back.

    I guess both of our eyes were deceived then, huh?

  3. Well... I called this outcome. DC simply is not good enough simply mediocre. They didn't deserve to be in the playoffs.