Ah, youth. It has its pleasures and it has its pain.
Oh boy does it ever have its pain.
The young defense has had its teething troubles this season, and I was shocked that they managed to shut out LA last week on the road. Looks like they just deferred the inevitable. Three rooks and a USL guy arrayed ahead of a second-year keeper isn’t anybody’s recipe for consistency. It probably doesn’t help that they were maybe a little overconfident after a successful west coast swing to boot.
Still, the biggest problem at the back looked to be organization in dealing with the player dropping off the lone forward into the space between the lines. Whenever a centerback stepped out to deal with this guy (Stephenson or Dawkins), the fullbacks failed to pinch in to close off the spaces the tireless Lenhart was exploiting1. Whenever the centerbacks stayed at home, the central mids2 didn’t deal with the threat effectively either.
Lenhart and Dawkins going 2 v. 6 and still managing to find a route through a pack of defenders for 2-3. Sigh.
Hamid coming for a ball he’s never going to get, allowing Lenhart to apply the kiss of death at 2-4.
Up until those failures, it was sloppy and open and United were making plenty of mistakes, but they looked just as likely to take something from the game and carried a decent threat going forward. And therein lie some points of positive note.
Simms serving as the fulcrum, switching fields, particularly to Najar, from deep, was a welcome addition. I’ve been pretty down on Clyde this year, but I liked this.
Brettschneider’s goal was a beauty. Great turn. Great finish.
Is Najar the only United player in the last, I don’t know, 3-4 years to make far post runs? He’s knocked home a fair few now and it’s still surprising to see someone in a black shirt turn up in those positions when I’m so used to seeing balls served there dribble harmlessly out of play.
So the big question we’re left is: was this an anomaly or can Olsen and/or experience fix the problems at the back? Every time you either think this season is either going to be (1) written off as a “rebuilding” one or (2) a pleasantly surprising one, the despair or hope gets reined back to the mean. United are a middle of the pack team that will probably be there or thereabouts when it comes to the brawl for the final playoff spots. No more, no less.
Tough night all around3.
Probably didn’t help that Lenhart probably played the game of his career. ↩
The holding pair were playing higher than in the previous two games and making more forward runs as well. I suppose that’s playing at home versus on the road, but maybe Olsen learned that United still need to play with caution and bodies behind the ball lest they get exploited mercilessly. ↩
See the “Quick Thoughts” on the USA-Panama game. ↩