I'm going to keep this mercifully brief, or at least I'll try. Why brief? Well, I could pretty much point you to a couple dozen match reaction posts from last year that would sound almost word for word what I'm going to say here. Defenders who didn't appear to speak the same language? Check. Lots of possession but no idea what to do with it? Check. Excessive vulnerability to the counter? Check. Big zilch in the finishing department?
Big ... fat ... check.
They're all there. All of last year's squalid crew. The stench of 2010 was all over this abomination. You remember the feeling? That one you got 5-10 minutes into the match when you realized there was no way United was going to get a result, no way they were even going to find the net? Damn if I didn't have that feeling. Normally when I watch a team I'm heavily invested in, I've got this fluttering combination of excitement and nervousness playing havoc with mind and body. This match? Not a flutter to be found. Much like last year, the result felt pre-determined.
Talking points? If I must...
* Our fullbacks suck. Suck at marking/positioning. Suck at crossing. Both were caught wrong-side of attackers on the opening goals. I think Korb even managed to lose an aerial "battle" to the tiny Luke Rodgers...with Rodgers winning the ball with his foot. Ugh. Now Korb is a rookie and probably #3 on the right back depth chart, forced into action by injury. What latest excuse can we dredge up for Burch? You'd maybe forgive his defensive shortcomings if he could contribute to the attack, but my abiding memory of the first half was hearing Olsen shouting "Burchie! Forward!" after yet another pause, survey the field, cut it back, negative pass sequence. He's the "ugh" that keeps on giving, and no one's willing to put the lame horse down (at least I assume he's lame, why else would a professional soccer player only use one foot?)
* No cutting edge. Sure, we've been scoring at a decent clip thus far, but here, against decent opposition (much like against LA), we were found out. The dual problem? Lack of ideas and quick feet in midfield combined with some mis-timed runs (or runs not even made though the space and ball were on) by Davies (though he was mistakenly called off on what should have been a one-on-one when United were only down 1-0), who still isn't all there yet. Wolff had the opposite problem. Great runs, but nothing to show for them, even on those few occasions where the ball was delivered. There comes a point when, for all of his useful hustle, off-the-ball work, and connecting play, he needs to step up, be a forward, and put the ball on frame. Too many times he got caught with the ball at his feet or couldn't pull the trigger soon enough. Ngwenya? Runs a lot, I guess. Didn't ever feel like he was going to be a threat. And Pontius? Lots of endeavor, but was it him who whiffed on that glorious crossed chance at the back stick in the first half? Still, he's the only guy in a black shirt who looks like he really wants to take defenders on, and, until Boskovic arrived, the only one who looked like he might pose a threat to Condoul's net.
* Molasses on the passes. Last year's big bugaboo, the slooooooow play, not only in the build up, but on those occasions where United actually mounted something resembling a break. McCarty had a few positive switches of field, but those were completely overshadowed by his dwelling on the ball in useful positions. Of course, the other thing that was too slow was another that haunted us last year—the closing down, particularly of the opposition midfield. Sure the spacing and communication of the back line were sub-par, but with the opposition midfield and fullbacks given ages on the ball, it looked much worse as they were able to get their heads up and pick useful passes.
* What does Boskovic have to do to get a goal? If there was anything positive to be taken from this dire match, it was how dangerous Boskovic proved after his introduction at the half. Unlike in the opening stanza, where the ideas in midfield were limited to Fred, who often arrived at said ideas after spending a few long moments with the gears sparking and spinning, Boskovic came in looking to get the ball moving into dangerous spots. That said, he often as not failed to connect. But he more than made up for it by having his shooting boots on. Only the crossbar, post, and a strong hand from Condoul kept him from finding the net in a performance that really deserved a goal.
I suppose I could point out here that the referee seemed to have missed the "call anything physical and card half of it" memo, but both teams were hurt by that. I guess if nothing else, it made the 2010 bad vibes resonate even more strongly. I think I just want to bury this hurt now and move on, so let's wrap this up.
United had their reality check delivered in painful fashion. They're firmly in the third of four tiers of teams in MLS, that group of 4 or 5 that are probably going to be scrapping for those extra two playoff spots come season's end. Could they step up a tier if Boskovic really started asserting himself, Davies got his sharpness back, and the defense got organized? Quite possibly. Until that time, there are going to be some painful lessons, though hopefully none so painful as this.