No Luck For Losers | a DC United Match Reaction

First, let's pull a 180 on the usual bevy of moans and complaints and point out what was positive about the performance last night.

  • United actually played like a "modern" 2010 MLS side, pressing high with energy and urgency, hitting quick one- and two-touch passing sequences without dwelling on the ball for ages, and, most importantly, constantly moving off the ball
  • As a result of the energy and movement, United were doing most of the prompting in the game, though this unfortunately meant not just chances for United, but the inevitable errors that allowed Chivas opportunities on the counter.
  • By putting high pressure on the Chivas midfield and defense (Olsen's stamp on the team?), the Goats were often forced to play more quickly and more direct than they wanted, allowing United defenders to anticipate hurried and lofted balls and to recycle possession.
  • United's play in the middle of the park was impressive in the first half. I don't know if perhaps I was simply blinded by the fact that guys were actually moving off the ball, but there were moments, often flowing through Boskovic and King, that were fluid and effective, pushing the ball into dangerous areas rather than simply maintaining possession.
Of course, as can often be said of losing teams, despite all of the positives, there was a lack of consistency and effectiveness of application that came back to bite United in the end.
  • For all of the movement and energy off the ball, there weren't many incisive runs in search of that final ball through for a shot. Instead, the best chances came from distance or fell to rookie center back Barry Rice in the broken scramble after set pieces. It took the introduction of another rookie, Najar, to start making attacking runs through on goal.
  • And that points us to the biggest deficiency United faces in achieving parity with the rest of MLS: raw athleticism. Most MLS sides have the likes of a Zakuani, Richards, Nyassi, Kamara, or Cummings; a guy who unlocks the defense with either blistering pace or a combination of speed and power. The closest thing United has to that option? Najar.
  • While Boskovic had some excellent moments in the first half, he was completely invisible in the second, save for when he was taking set pieces. And I'm still at a loss why he and Quaranta flipped flanks and then stayed flipped, given Quaranta's overwhelming tendency to cut the ball back onto his right and the fact that neither were making the sort of inside-out runs you'd expect of playing a guy on the flank opposite his favored foot.
  • I'm struggling to understand why Moreno stayed on the field the entire game. Please don't tell me it was because Chivas gave him a damn plaque at the beginning of the game. There were moments of guile and magic in the early stages of the first half, but the abiding image of Moreno's outing will have to be him holding the ball too long and being stripped of it. Sure, he probably should have had more whistles in his favor, but the sad truth is that the speed and physicality of MLS have passed him by. I still think he'd be a capable player in a league that allowed more time and space on the ball, but MLS isn't that league.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, Tino's impatience is killing me. He plays like a video game with three settings: (1) fire away from 35 to 40 yards, (2) charge insanely at 2 or 3 defenders and try to beat them on the dribble, or (3) hit massive cross-field or over the top balls. Don't get me wrong, I like those moments of daring...but I like them when they come in isolation, as a surprise element. Everything Tino does is daring, thereby making the unpredictable paradoxically predictable. All a defender needs to do is let him commit to the rash decision that will only come off a small percentage of the time.
All of that being said, this was a game decided by one lax moment and a couple moments of luck. Outside of those moments, the play was pretty even, perhaps even shading United's way. Chivas' winner was typical of United this season. For all of the energy they put into closing down the Goats' defense and midfield on the ball, they inexplicably stood off, allowing a ball to be driven from defense onto the head of the unmarked Justin Braun. Take nothing away from the finish, it was pretty damn good, but closing down the passer and tighter marking should have negated the situation. 

On the other end, one of those moments where you like Tino's impatience was almost rewarded, but for a few inches on the rebound off Thornton's heel. You could argue that United should have shipped at least another two for lax moments at the back that went unpunished, but there were those White and Najar chances for United as well. 

It's hard to be broken up about a loss at this point as they're pretty much the expectation that makes even a point seem like the bestest birthday present ever. About all we can do for the rest of the season is evaluate who should be here next year and what our protected list looks like for the expansion draft.


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