Astonishing. I’m not really sure what to think, what sort of coherent narrative I can assemble to summarize the absolute incompetence that defined this match. It was like Christmas in August: both teams (or all three if I include the officials) dishing the gifts left and right. Should I be pleased with a point having played a man down for over 90 minutes (stoppage time included) or disappointed at not beating a side we need to be beating? Should I find comfort in not losing at home for once or should I be nauseated by the errors (two by United, one by the ref) that led to three goals being allowed at home?
To the Talking Points…
De Rosario up top. Not that it takes any special genius to see it, but it looks like Olsen was reading the same tea leaves as I was when it comes to De Rosario needing to play up top. In a match defined by mistakes and poor decisions, his trio of goals both rescued a point and highlighted that if United are to make the playoffs, it will be on his back, particularly on the back of his clutch goals. Keep him up top. Given all that positive noise, I’m loathe to point out that he did miss a chance to grab an unlikely three points heading into stoppage time. Still, we’d be moribund without his addition…
Clumsy like the Wolff. By contrast, I was less pleased with Olsen’s choice of his partner up top. I won’t fault Wolff’s work rate or desire. But am I the only one who sees him killing more danger than he creates? The worst moment in this match? Quaranta hustles and spins to knock a ball across the box. Pontius is steaming in alone from deep. Wolff…cuts out the ball, dallies on it, loses possession. Sure, he’s a striker and he wants a go at goal. And maybe he doesn’t get the shout, though it sure looked like Pontius was pissed he didn’t let it run. I also don’t see the sense in Wolff, who tends, in his advanced age, towards a deep-lying forward role, playing alongside De Rosario, who wants to exploit those same areas. Is Olsen too married to Wolff’s fighting spirit and leadership qualities at the expense of all other advantage?
Our fearless leader. While I’m on Olsen…I’m not going to fault him for going ballistic and getting sent off; that was clearly the only sane response to an abomination with a whistle. I’m also not going to question leaving two up top when down to 10 as that demonstrates a desire to attack at home and wasn’t really exploited (as I assumed it would be) by TFC’s flying wide-men1. But I do have a couple of questions. First, why pull King when losing a man with 83 minutes to play? Not only were both Wolff and Quaranta in their first matches back from injury (not to mention Jakovic being in his second back) and probably not fully fit, but neither Quaranta nor Pontius is particularly adept defensively in midfield. Then again, in Olsen’s favor, we weren’t obviously punished by that decision. I do wonder about TFC’s third goal though. The obvious bit of concern comes courtesy of the center official for allowing the throw to go forward as White is still sprinting on to the field. Ridiculous. But MacDonald was clearly done with a muscle injury when the training staff went out to have a look at him. Why wasn’t that sub up and ready to come on immediately? Surely the switch could have been made sooner?
Hamid’s red. Let’s continue with the whistlemen a touch, shall well? Happily, my angry note: “idiots with flags and whistles ruin this as a contest 7’ in” was ultimately proven wrong as there was still entertainment aplenty. That still doesn’t excuse the first of the two big mistakes (amidst a parade of smaller ones) by an officiating crew clearly not up to the task of handling a match at this level. But let’s stick with this one moment. Granted, Avila’s flip was spectacular, MacDonald should have taken charge and cleared into touch beforehand, and Hamid shouldn’t have been charging out in that situation, particularly on a wet field. But…Hamid’s feet were tucked beneath him, he was trying to minimize contact, the field was wet, it was the 7th minute, there was no goal scoring opportunity prevented, and the challenge was clearly more clumsy than malicious. There will be plenty similar that won’t even be (and haven’t been) whistled for fouls this year. It’s a yellow in mind, no doubt. But the AR was right there. He’s the one who whispers that this was a sending-off offense2. He’s the one waving his flag and begging for attention. Sounds like prime MLS center official material to me…
Weakest links. Sticking with the officiating: how did Andy Iro finish the match without a card? Besides being generally clumsy in the tackle and missing clearances to gift chances to United, his foul in the box that led to the equalizing PK sure looked like “denial of a goal-scoring opportunity” to me. Even if it’s not a straight red, it’s a yellow at bare minimum. That failure is on the officials; the rest of Iro’s miserable outing is one United fans can be thanking their lucky stars for. Sad. Of course, United had their own high-profile mistakes from Cronin in their own net. To be fair, he had to be surprised at coming on and hasn’t played significant first team minutes for quite a while. His early efforts had me fearing the worst after he started punching everything lobbed into his box. I thought he’d settled well by halftime, but the flap shortly after the break that gifted TFC their opener was pathetic.
How does the ball fall to an unmarked player’s feet in the six-yard-box off a corner? Set piece weakness continues.
Pontius is a terror with the ball at his feet. Pity his defense is so weak…(4-2-3-1, 4-2-3-1, 4-2-3-1…)
Ethan White had two excellent headed chances in the dying minutes. The first might have been a touch high for him off the corner, but the second was a free header at the back stick that he put right at Frei.
Six minutes of stoppage time? Playing to nearly eight? Par for a downright miserable course from a clown with a whistle.
Torsten “Busy Hands” Frings. Remember 2002 and the famous non-call of the handball on the line against the US? Tonight I saw him sneak a hand up to grab at De Rosario’s shorts as he was falling in the box. Was it enough to put DDR off?
The general putzing about with the ball in the center of defense and center of midfield needs to stop. We give up way too many counter chances from these situations and have been doing so for ages.
So, having worked my way through all of that and having had time to let the emotions settle a bit, what conclusions do I reach? TFC suck. MLS whistlemen suck. DC United? We don’t quite suck, but that’s mostly because we have Dwayne De Rosario. He’s not the only good thing about this team, but at the moment, he seems to be the only productive good thing about this team. That said, we’re still very much a work in progress and DDR is still very much into his 30’s.