No real match reaction this week as I didn't get to see the full game and wouldn't test your patience by doing analysis based on the Match Day Live "condensed" match. I know, I know, if I were a "real" fan, I'd go back and watch the whole thing when I get a chance and dissect the rotting corpse for any sign of a hope-shaped tumor. Sorry. Perhaps if the season were less painful, I might be favorably inclined to do so. As it stands, I'd just like to advance a few general observations...
1. No sharp edges, weak in the middle, slow at the back
It's easy to beat us. All you have to do is wait out the huffing and puffing of our early possession (that's our "style," right?), watch a few chances either go sailing over the bar or get put tamely on target, start to swarm the midfield with grit and energy, and then outpace and outmuscle our defense as the second half wears on. It's not a question of "if" at this point; it's "when." Now do I think that the athleticism of Jakovic and James might be big helps dealing with the later? Sure (did anybody honestly think our septuagenarian center-back pairing was going to keep a clean sheet?). And do I think that much of the failure to take chances is a confidence game? Probably. Hell, I'll even concede that there's some bad juju in effect here. The ball never bounces right when you're losing.
2. Management failures
But these are the sort of problems you hire a manager for. He needs to figure out what adjustments have to be made to compensate for the weakness in midfield (4-5-1 until the ship gets righted?). He needs to figure out how to get guys motivated and refusing to quit when they go down a goal (and you can see that happen, even in "highlights" mode). He needs to boost confidence and work on defensive organization and use the limited tools at his disposal to make the team difficult to beat, even if they can't match their opposition for talent or danger.
Those of you who watch euro-ball, bereft of the jackboots and skull-crushing truncheons of the Parity Police, will have seen well-drilled, disciplined teams with small squad numbers (Fulham, Birmingham, Mallorca?) that punch well above their pay-level and talent-ceiling by virtue of organization, grit, and leadership, competing effectively with the moneyed-elite of the Old World. Bitch and moan all you like about Messers Kasper and Payne's miserable failures in the roster-assemblage dance (go on along, I'll be there to join you in a moment, folks; anybody else notice the Perkins trade scoring for Philly this weekend--Fred assisting the #7 draft pick?), but that doesn't excuse the heads dropping, the lack of sharpness and focus, the mysterious decline in confidence in the wake of halftime team talks, and the inability to defend set pieces and counters. That's on the manager's head.
3. Sympathy for the devil
It's going to be a long 2010. We may even challenge the 2009 Red Bulls for levels of ineptitude. But take a look at how those same Red Bulls have started 2010. Look really closely at what went on there this off-season. Sure, we're not going to land a shiny new 25k stadium any time soon, but that's not why the Bulls are competitive this year. Nor is it a case of completely blowing up last year's roster, though they did do some pruning and made timely additions.
No. The big change was cleaning house at the management level.
Sorry to say, but even an effective player or two signed in the summer (and do you really trust the current FO to find "effective" players without throwing ten guys at the problem and hoping two stick?) isn't going to save this sinking ship.
You may now return to your beers. I know I will be...
Oh wait. Hold the beer a second (sorry, I know it's a lot to ask, given the circumstances). I'd just like to take a moment to address this disturbing trend I see floating around the DC United-o-sphere. You know the one; it's the "get a #10, and everything will work out fine." It has permutations, a common one being calling for Onalfo's head because his midfield isn't creative/attacking enough (you have seen the battles we're losing in midfield, and the results of ineffective defensive efforts in that self-same middle third?).
Sorry to say, but the #10 argument smacks of the Paynesian, don't you think? Living on past style and glory? Over-aware of our own former success and greatness? Maybe I'm wrong. What the hell do I know? Am I a professional football player or manager or front office dude? Nope. I only play one in video games.
See how I did that? A perfect imitation of a 2010 DC United attack. Lots of positive buildup, but indecisive in front of net.
Now, at long last...bottoms up!