Grand Theft Auto | a DC United Match Reaction

Eighty-eight minutes into this match, the post-mortem taking shape in my head made for grim reading. It was splashed with gory reminders of last year’s numerous “toothless attack, defensive letdown, no creativity in midfield” sad-sack match reactions. It was laced with words and phrases like “stagnant” and “static” and “useless” and “balls magnetically attracted to the touchline” and “pedestrian.”

How then to take a draw delivered on a plate by an incompetent ref fooled by a dive?

There will be those that point to heavy legs after three matches in seven days. There will be those that point to Arena’s Galaxy specializing in 1-0 wins even without their best player. Some may even shrug and nod in the direction of two second- or possibly third-choice rookies (plus Marc Burch) on the back line.

All true to some extent, but then what to make of an incredible lack of decisive balls from midfield, an attack that was largely narrow and static, and giving up a goal on a header direct from a corner to a guy who is what, 5’8”? And let’s not forget that we very easily could have surrendered a stoppage time winner when Franklin came steaming onto Magee’s cross with a big chunk of net to aim at but skied the finish.

That would have been a fitting end to a night that was 90+ minutes of misery with one pinprick of light provided by Davies from the spot…after a bit of professional play-acting.

Some talking points…

  • I’m going to say this again because it pisses me off to no end. How does Magee score direct from a corner? With his head? Mike Magee? I’ve been harping on the set piece defending since we got our first glimpses of this team in pre-season, and it hasn’t gotten anything like better.
  • Santino Quaranta never sees a low-percentage through ball he doesn’t like. I’ll forgive him the red card. Stupid to give Okulaja the chance to send him off, but at least he was giving his all for the cause. What I can’t forgive is the near constant conceding of possession through wasteful passing and holding the ball too long.
  • I was actually not too hard on Burch in my notes. There might even have been a mention of a good ball or two…until he hit three balls in a row into touch just when DC seemed to be building a little momentum in the mid to late second half. Sigh and shrug, that’s all I can do. And while I'm at it... I love Jakovic's potential and the threat he poses when stepping up from the back line with the ball at his feet, but he made some terrible decisions with the ball tonight. There comes a time when potential's not enough any more and progress needs to be made.
  • Lots of running, too little quality. Until Boskovic. I’ve been hard on him of late, but at least he brought precise, well-struck balls from midfield that found gaps in the defense. I do have to wonder about Benny waiting so long to bring on Najar and Boskovic. My halftime notes said “Davies for Wolff, Najar for Quaranta.” Thought we might have seen some earlier looks to the bench when we weren’t creating much.
  • Shades of Moreno on Davies’ chipped PK down the middle, and, credit to him, he got into a dangerous spot, felt the slightest bit of contact, and made Okulaja make a decision. Since Abbey usually makes the wrong one, that’s a pretty good tactic, even if it’s done with a wink and a nod towards the “rules.” I suppose that’s what strikers do, right? That said…am I the only one who winced a little when he went to get in the car as part of his celebration? Sure, he’s a kid having fun, but still…

So what message am I left with here? Do I praise the late equalizer from 10 men with a mini injury crisis in defense coming off three games in a week? I’ll admit that, as much doom and gloom as I was feeling through almost the full 90, I went 180 degrees when that ball nestled delicately in the back of the net. But when the euphoria wore off, as much as I want to think there’s a different character about this team and as much as I want to believe that we’re taking baby steps in the right direction, those specters of last year loom large. Surrendering a cheap early goal. Not creating enough in the final third. Wasteful in possession. And that late, late Franklin chance… Had the fates been looking a different direction the roller-coaster from despair to exultation would have plunged right back down into the trough of despair.

I suppose it’s of some small comfort that this team is doing enough to keep me guessing and asking questions. Are they gritty comeback specialists just beginning to come into their own? Are they the type of team that’s unlovely to watch but somehow manages to get results? Are they eking out points on a long, slow march to competence?

Are they just lucky?

There’s that old saw that says you make your own luck, and maybe that’s the difference. This team, for all its faults, can manufacture a bit of luck when they need it. Or, failing luck, penalties…


  1. Comment system ate the long version of this, so short version:

    1. Magee scored because Korb is apparently horrible at defending in the air; Angel took advantage of this, too, moving over to wide left and winning header after header (especially off LA goal kicks) against Korb. (Credit to White for bodying up well on Angel and giving him nothing, which I think led to the decision to move out wide.)

    2. Burch frustrates me endlessly. Defensively, not awful. He generally stands in the right place and got in a handful of good tackles, though he can be beaten for pace pretty easily. With the ball, worst player (with any attacking responsibilities, so exempting Hamid and White) on the team. Takes forever to make decisions, lets the defense get set, never picks out runs quickly enough to do anything other than turn the ball over, and uses his right foot so rarely I wouldn't be surprised if he peeled off his shoe and it turned out he is an amputee. Makes Quaranta seem decisive and penetrating. Neutralizes Pontius, because teams can double-team Pontius, knowing that if he drops the ball back to Burch, Burch will give them all the time they need to recover.

    3. Najar as Alves? I kind of liked it. Better than going to 3-5-2, at least, and something different for other teams to think about. Horrific give-away on the one time (I think) he got the ball advanced down the right flank, though.

    4. McCarty. Very, very good, other than one or two misplayed balls.

    5. Boskovic. "precise, well-struck balls from midfield that found gaps in the defense" is exactly right -- best game from him this season that I've seen (missed Open Cup, which I think he played in?). He plays the kind of precise, on-the-ground through balls that fast, smart strikers like Wolff and Davies crave. Hope Ben can find a way to get him on the field effectively and frequently, because our ceiling with him is much higher than our ceiling without him, in my opinion. (Even though, so far, we've generally played better without him than with him, with him I think we can do things -- be unpredictable, move quickly, and take advantage of quick spaces -- that we won't without him.) He's like the anti-Mark Burch.

  2. Yeah, that's the "short" version.

  3. The 08 team was designed to win "international" titles. Then 09 was a rebuilding, 09 was also a rebuilding yr, then we have 2010... I'd say DC lost respect from the true DC fans, not the fans who believe blindly what the FO says or does. Now in 2011 it's another rebuilding yr. But no change has happened! The same ppl still run DC, the same ideas, the same game plan r being used! It does matter who coaches DC still will b like this until real change is seen in DC! I haven't seen progress with DC. It's funny you've mention it that, DC still has the 2010 mentality the same "nucleus"(a Payne word) just different shape. DC is in borrowed time, with reality setting in closer! DC's FO never really fix DC, they just decided to invest more in the media aspect of the business. Point blank it's the same shit but different toilet. And u gotta admire how Payne and Co. seem to elude blame especially Payne! i know DC will not make the playoffs again! sad but true!!!

  4. RIGS,

    You can't "know" that DC will not make the playoffs again. You can think it, but you can't know it.



    I want to emphasize your points on the midfield. I agree that our midfield is stagnant and futile. I think we need a new formation.

    How's a 3-4-3 or 4-3-3?

    We seem to have enough possession but we don't do diddly (Ned Flanders) with it.

  5. To my mind, formation's a red herring at this point. Doesn't matter how many numbers you put on whichever line if you're static, narrow, and can't connect more than a handful of passes with accuracy and at pace.

    My hope is that this is a transition stage, a period of keeping things simple and compact, grinding out results to build confidence (get the holes in the boat plugged before attempting to cross the ocean). Slicker, more watchable stuff may come when there's more belief.

    Or so I keep hoping.

  6. IM[very novice]O, they need to keep Tino off the field even after his red card suspension. His accuracy on crosses and corner kicks are AWFUL. Why do we keep starting this guy?