Boy, that felt awfully familiar, didn't it? Makeshift starting lineup due to injuries/suspensions. Decent amount of fight and a few nice combinations in the middle third. Missed marks and poor one-v-one defending. Lack of a cutting edge. Undone on the counter. It could almost be 2010 all over again.
That said, biblical weather at altitude without half of the normal starters...Maybe not so much of a surprise to come out on the wrong end of a spanking, even if things looked pretty even up until 2-1. How about a roundup of talking points?
* Bye-bye Boskovic. So frustrating that he has those neat little touches and moments where he sees (and attempts) things nobody else on this roster can, but then there's all that time he's not on the ball. Barely making an effort on defense. Striding about languidly, or, to put it another way, not making hard runs off the ball. And the diving! I don't remember him going to ground so easily last year, but then maybe I was distracted by Pablo Hernandez falling over if the wind changed direction (speaking of another one that promised much technically, but just didn't fit the league). Boskovic has got to be fourth or so on the depth chart both out wide and in the middle. That's not good enough for a DP. Summer move back to Europe?
* Brasesco burned. Okay, so maybe he'll get better as he learns the league. Maybe he's more comfortable at right back. Maybe Folan is just a beast (he certainly looked the part — big, strong, quick, and technical). But Brasesco's footing/positioning wasn't great on Folan's first, and he wasn't exactly dominating the air on the second. All of that aside, I thought that Braseco and Woolard, though nowhere near the level of physically brought by the Rapids' forwards, did a decent enough job for most of the match. Things fell apart at the end, but considering they're not the starters and I'm not sure they've even played together in the middle in a competitive match, they held their own until...
* Things fall apart. Until the second goal, United might even have staked a claim to being on top in this game. They weren't giving up much defensively, only being undone by a moment of magic and some suspect defending at the end of the first half. We saw the fight we've come to expect, and the equalizer was a nice piece of play from Korb (with possibly the only good cross of the match save one Tino corner) and a good finish from Quaranta. But when that second went in from Smith, it was like United hit a brick wall. True, maybe the weather and altitude had an effect physically, but the crushing blow was the psychological one, combined with...
* Impact subs? Unless I missed something, I only saw a handful of touches from Wolff after he came on for Pontius, and only one of them went in a positive direction. This was the big problem last year. No cutting edge up top and nothing dangerous coming off the bench. Now, of course you have to look at Davies being missing as a big factor here, but where was the insistent, driving Wolff of his debut at RFK? For that matter, how long do we wait for Najar, also on as a sub, to start sparking again before we begin to whisper about the dreaded Sophomore Season Curse (something I've been worried about since those first few glimpses in pre-season)? Contrast, if you will, Colorado having the depth to go to Cummings off the bench.
* Brettscheider looks a useful player, though not one that should be starting at this point. Can he transition his reserve scoring to the first team or is he just Cristman in a younger package?
* The Marc Burch plan of attack: cross first, get your head up and think later. Sigh.
* Should Onstad have come for the cross that Smith nodded in for their second?
* Is Woolard that slow or Folan that fast?
* If there's a d-mid that dives and bitches more than Morsink in this league, it's Mastroeni.
Be honest. When you looked at who we were missing and what we were going up against (and where), did you really expect to take anything here? I had outside hopes of riding a hard working defensive outing and the crappy weather/field conditions to a draw, but little more. Still, it stings to ship four considering we played decently enough for the better part of the match and even managed to find an equalizer.
The response this week (home in the Open Cup qualifier to the Union midweek and home to LA at the weekend) is a defining moment early in the Olsen Era. What response does he get and does the returning depth make the difference? I know it's still very early and this may smack of hysterical over-reaction (what else are fans/bloggers for? ;-), but to my mind, the answer shapes the season. Is this a brave new dawn or are the shades of 2010 rearing their ugly heads?