Graye Matter | a DC United Match Reaction

Some things this post isn't going to be about.
  • referees and their questionable parentage
  • firing Onalfo (as I show admirable restraint)
  • lack of quality in attack (though other aspects...)
  • blaming Jordan Graye entirely (despite the title)
Now that we've got that out of the way, let's settle down for a bit of reflection. DC United didn't play an awful game against the best team in the league. They didn't surrender too many clear-cut chances. They managed to maintain possession much better than in previous matches. And there were signs that the new additions were starting to make things tick over in a more attractive manner for United.

So what went wrong?

There's a lot to be said about the lack of variety in attack and the lack of a pure finisher. United have (injuries permitting) a broad assortment of clever, slow manipulators and physical, hustle-types in attack, but they lack both pace and that lethal touch in the box. Of course, that ignores the fact that United simply aren't creating enough chances for a predator to take advantage of. And that latter point gets us closer to the big albatross we're dragging around.

You might also point out that the only quick touches that King and Simms had in the midfield wheelhouse went backwards or well out of the reach of any attacker. That's a problem. With the introduction of Boskovic, the ball started to move faster, and even when it went back, the resulting space led to balls played forward with more success. That simply wasn't happening in the first half, though perhaps the lack of mobility from the injured Pontius meant that such balls simply weren't on. 

Some criticism might also be spared for United's frustrating inability to pull the trigger in and around the box, victims of the "Arsenal disease," save for Quaranta, who seemingly never met a chance at a long shot or low-odds through ball he didn't like (though, to be fair, he was more guilty of the latter than the former in this match). Cynics might take Kasper's (or was it Payne's?) evaluation of Hernandez (who I definitely liked in this match; more later) as a "different kind of forward" and point out that having the kind that scores might be helpful. 

But the big thorn at the moment is decision-making. Over the last two matches, Graye would have to be the obvious scapegoat, but that ignores giveaways by King, Simms, Najar, McTavish...look, the list could go on for quite awhile so I'll keep it brief dangerous spots, whether through an ill-advised attempt to maintain possession or a poorly-chosen or weakly hit pass. Just because Graye's errors have been the highest profile and most punished doesn't mean he's the only culprit. Nor is the defense/transition the only area affected. Earlier I highlighted the lack of dangerous chances. And much of that isn't just because of the final ball, it's because the ball never gets into spots where the final ball comes into play. 

So why are we dealing with such a rash of poor choices? Youth might be one excuse. The back line and midfield have their fair share of less-seasoned heads. But LA, and indeed most of MLS, can point to similar issues with far fewer negative consequences. Coaching might be another if you think that either Onalfo and Co. are preaching the wrong messages or setting out their tactical stall in a manner that reduces passing options, adds complexity to the decision-making process, or expects too much from limited or inexperienced players.

But probably the two biggest contributing factors are lack of confidence and consistency of lineup. Losing teams don't play with confidence and the attendant expectation of success. Without confidence, second-guessing becomes the norm, resulting in too much time on the ball and poor decisions both with the ball and without. It also breeds the sort of desperation that seeks the killer ball rather than the patient build-up.

And we've already seen the effect of too many lineup changes as the Soehn era wound to a close. True, both with Soehn and with Onalfo, many of those changes are dictated by injury, but that doesn't lessen their negative consequences. A team not used to playing together at rhythm, picking passes and runs, knowing when to cover, when and where to exploit space—that team is doomed to being static, predictable, and given to unforced errors. Sound familiar?

At least that's how I see it. What's your flavor of interpretation?

Some quick hits before I go...

* I liked Hernandez's play, but it's a shame we don't have a buzzing forward that says high to complement him.

* Boskovic seems to really add a spark when he first hits the field, but fades quickly. Fitness or opponents dealing with an unfamiliar opponent but sussing him out quickly? Or maybe chasing games isn't where he'll be most effective for United? I'll lean heavily on the latter.

* The injury bug is getting beyond ridiculous. Hard to blame Pontius' foot injury on the training staff, but another muscle injury (Jakovic this time)? And we're going to toss another friendly in for good measure? Nice.

Two home losses and we're now 10 points out of a playoff spot with less than half the season to go. And all but one of the teams in current playoff spots have games, often multiple games, in hand on us. All the eggs are in the proverbial basket on Wednesday night. If we don't see a full strength lineup (barring injuries, of course) set out to roll Harrisburg in the Open Cup, heads should be on platters. If we then field a stronger lineup in the friendly at the weekend, I'll build the damn guillotine myself.



  1. I just hope we win the Sal Zizzo weighted lottery. We should have the best chance and that would be a nice young quality player to add as we build towards next season.

  2. How did Perkins catch a pass from you? That would be about the only thing he can catch. He continues to disappoint in important situations. Do you think he would be still playing if he were some keeper brought in for the league minimum, or is he only on the field because the FO overpaid for "talent?"

  3. I don't know what you saw in Boskovic. I know what to expect from a Eastern European playmaker, and strength, control, and tenacity are always present. This guy lost the ball pathetically, had he been playing Graye's position it would have been much worse.

  4. I thought my view of Boskovic was pretty clear above, but I'll elaborate...My impression is based on his first two appearances. In both, he made some neat touches in tight space that showed the vision and quick thinking we currently lack in central midfield. Sadly, in both matches, that early promise faded rapidly, which is where our thinking intersects before you take a metaphorical leap off the anonymous internet high board.

  5. "...metaphorical leap off the anonymous internet high board" -- Love it!

    I'm willing to give Bosko a little time to get match fit and get to know his teammates and the league. A rush to judgment here will serve no one well.

  6. Agreed. Though, to be fair, hyperbole is the lifeblood of the internet, isn't it? ;-)