So what's worse, United fans, having the worst offense in the league or the worst defense? Unless we get somebody planted on the bench that has a clue about how to structure a defense or import a player that's going to be vocal, bang some thick (or just inexperienced) heads, and do the organizing on the field, we're looking at another year wandering lost in the non-playoff forest.
There was a minute there, when Burch capped an ever so slow pendulum swing with a blast through a disintegrating wall, were it almost looked like we were a decent team. In typical fashion United had already shipped the early goal in the traditional fashion: lose the ball in a bad spot, fail to close down the midfield passer, leave a gaping channel for a forward to slip into, and bang! You'd think we'd be running out of bullets to shoot ourselves in the foot with.
But alas, that gun seems to be one of those revolvers in the Westerns that never runs out of slugs. Just as we managed to fight our way back into the game, showing flashes of connective play and tightening up at the back, finally capping the comeback with the Burch Bomb set piece, a dropped mark on a cross meant a header thumped past a flailing Hamid.
There was a chance coming out of halftime that United might find a way to fight back, particularly with Najar showing signs early in the second stanza that he hasn't forgotten how to play like he did last year. But United is nothing if not well stocked with Achilles' Heels. Set piece defending has been highlighted on these pages far too often, and two more wound up in the net, first on another poorly marked header, then on what you might charitably call a rookie mistake from Ethan White, though even rookies should know you can't be offside on a throw in.
The talking points are the usual suspects, so let's just skip right to the Quick Hits, shall we?
* The ref bit both ways. We should have had a penalty. Probably should have had a red called against us too. But then Houston got away with card-worthy crap as well and had their fair share of calls to bitch about. It is what it is, and it's not going to get better any time soon.
* Davies had two good chances when it mattered and didn't put either on target. I'm looking for improvement game after game as he gets his wheels and sharpness back, but I'm not seeing it.
* Houston dumping balls into the corners for slowish forwards created danger. United dumping balls into corners for quick forwards (all right, Wolff ain't so speedy anymore, but still...) resulted in squat. Can't cross? No dangerous runs to cross for? Don't have anybody who can finish a cross? D. All of the above. Oh wait, Pontius might be able to, but seeing as how he's the only one creating danger with the ball at his feet, it's hard to ask him to beat his man and cross to himself, though didn't FSC have him on the lineup card twice earlier in the season? Maybe they had a point?
* Minute 23. McCarty kills a promising move on the break. Again. On a side note: he was better in this match. Not good, but better. Of course, most of that better was happening when we were already dead and buried. Simms the back-or-lateral pass machine + Dax the turnover machine = fingernails all over anybody's tactical chalkboard.
* Anybody else getting sick of Wolff's "tricky" flicks? You know, the ones that come off about once in ten attempts? Would he start for any other team in this league?
* Our lines are too static going forward. Shape is fine for defense. In attack? Predictable.
* I know I'm not the only one that cringes every time Burch takes that big touch forward, lifts his head, and cranks back the left. Pretty much a guarantee that possession is about to be surrendered.
I'd like to close with a thought I had during the match. As header after header was lost and Houston's physical forward line battered our backs into submission, I said to myself, "Man, it would be great to have a veteran back there not afraid to bang bodies and take no prisoners. Somebody who wouldn't be falling down as his mark nodded a cross home or attacked the ball when defending a set piece."
We had that guy in pre-season. We let him go for nothing. He's played every minute for a Crew defense that's only let in four goals in six games. His name is Julius James, and he's not the greatest defender on the planet, but he was the best of a bad lot last year, and I'd take him over every goddamn one of the options we've got back there now. That includes Jakovic, who I've long admired from a technical standpoint, but just can't defend (oh the irony) any more.
Ugh on a stick. It's going to be another long, painful season, isn't it?