Thoughts on DC United v. Houston

If you can't decide whether to be thankful there was at least a point earned or whether you should be screaming obscenities to the heavens, you're not alone. The answer, of course, is that you should be doing both in equal measure.

Welcome to DC United 2011: Back to the Mean. Ugh.

Some quick thoughts before I settle in for the Gold Cup final.

* I know Charlie did his ankle and needed to be subbed out, but this DC United's only defense is to keep attacking. Ben can't bunker, maybe not even with a multi-goal lead. Rongen was quick to criticize Brettschneider for not keeping the ball in the corner, though he also took pains to point out that the transition that followed wasn't Blake's fault. True enough. Brettschneider was the only man ahead of the ball when Houston started moving upfield. Yet somehow Houston ended up with numbers in the box, a crosser who wasn't closed down, and an unmarked Brian Ching laughing with disbelief that no one could be bothered to mark him, much less challenge him as the cross drifted onto the killing zone of his noggin.

* Problem #1: Defending crosses and runners cutting in from the wings. My 8-year-old daughter was shouting "get tighter, close him down" right along with me after a number of unchallenged crosses and runners either coming in off the wing or lumbering through the middle without challenge. It's one thing to stand off a tricksy winger, but Brian Ching? On the dribble? Oy vey! Note to United fullbacks and wide midfielders: it's a lot easier for the men in the middle to defend crosses if the crossers are challenged in some small way.

* Problem #2: The featherweight midfield. If the salary cap space isn't spent this summer on somebody with range and tackling ability for the center of midfield, I hold out little hope for a playoff spot. We may be pretty good on the ball in the middle (credit to Fred for a decent performance off the bench and to McCarty for managing not to look terrible on the ball), but I'll simply present one moment that demonstrates the problem in spades. Brad Davis. Brad freakin' Davis! Waltzes through challenges by both McCarty and Simms, left sprawling in his wake in the center circle. Brad freakin' Davis. Pathetic.

* Problem #3: Organization. It's there when the game is settled and the opposition isn't pushing with numbers or conviction. But when the heat gets turned up, suddenly guys are scrambling, losing marks, uncertain whether to commit to the ball or to keep an eye on runners. It's almost inevitable that chances are going to come, and United were lucky on a handful of occasions before Ching finally got that second goal. Another reason leads are tricky for United to defend.

* All of that said, I'd like to know what the ref had against Brettschneider. I mean, there were others who suffered a number of fouls that weren't called, and on both sides (this is MLS after all), but Brettschneider seemed to be penalized for daring to fling himself about with abandon and succeed. He would win balls, get knocked down, and the ref would turn away. Half a dozen times at least. Maybe if this ignored hold-up play isn't ignored, there aren't so many breaks or so many chances at the other end for the defense to make a mess of.

* Credit to the attack for creating a good number of chances though I'm still not sold on the Wolff-Davies attack. I think they're both better working off of a burly, Brettschneider type and don't seem to complement each other well. They may arguably be the two best United forwards (though I would argue otherwise, but we'll leave that for later), but not when they're deployed together.

Quick hits?

* Quality from the wings. Pontius with the strike to open, Najar with the dancing to close.

* No more Dax taking set pieces please.

* Softish PK, but we should be to last to complain in that department at the moment.

* Need to find consistency. Good in 10-15 minute spurts, but need to sustain that level of play and concentration, particularly at home, particularly coming out of the half and in the last 15 minutes.

Okay, time to start prepping for the second half of the double-header. I'll be back tomorrow morning with a reaction post to the Gold Cup final. Assuming, of course, no repeat of the last time we held this cross-border soiree. Might take me a bit longer to crawl out from whatever convenient rock presents itself if the US goes down in similar flames tonight.


  1. And there's your USA recap title: Similar Flames. Oy.

  2. I'm not so sure I'd go as far as flames. Mexico were better, but the US had their moments, and this was a much tighter affair. Color me shocked at the Mexican resilience. That hasn't exactly been their strong suit of late.