That was the story of this match, as it so often is in MLS where teams are more evenly matched than is often the case in other leagues. With Joseph missing through suspension and the Revs’ string-puller-in-chief Feilhaber not fit enough to start, I had high expectations. And the early going seemed to bear me out. United were on top in the early going.
But a quick counter put them on the back foot, leaving all that early promise in shambles. Still, United fought back, and a moment of De Rosario magic resulted in Santos heading home the equalizer (corner kick goal? really? and had a second attempt from a corner cleared off the line to boot). Through the remainder of the first half, United were edging things, so much so that I had a creeping sense of optimism (strange to say it, but it’s true) about the second half.
Unfortunately, that optimism looked a bit misplaced as the second stanza progressed. Neither team was dominant, but the Revs were generally the better side, carrying much of the play. When Jakovic had to come of injured (yet again – this refrain is getting tired, isn’t it?), forcing Russell into the middle and the woeful-in-the-air Korb on to wallow in the shadow of the Revs’ big front men crashing the back stick on crosses, I fully expected the worst.
And it so often looked like turning out so. Feilhaber came on to bring calm and vision to the Revs’ engine-room, prompting more effective wide play and springing runners through the middle. I thought United needed another body in the central midfield to act as a tourniquet.
Benny thought otherwise. Thankfully, he was right.
Thought it came completely against the run of play, some hustle from DeLeon and quality from Pontius created the winner. The closing stages would have been nerve-wracking, and really should have been given United’s past few years, but the final ebb never arrived.
Full credit to Santos for getting another goal and to Cruz for painting every blade of grass with his boots, but they’re frustrating players in many ways, particularly when they have the ball at their feet. Santos too often dwells and concedes possession. Cruz usually dribbles into blind alleys. Of course, given how much Salihi is struggling to make an impression and that Santos is putting the ball in the net regularly, I’d find it hard to argue that he should be benched. Not sure Cruz should be keeping Najar out though.
Given Kitchen’s excellent turns in the few shots he had at the d-mid role last year, I wasn’t terribly nervous about his being the heir-apparent this year. True, the thought of Morsink as Plan B made me a little queasy, but the acquisition of Saragosa drew me back from the ledge. This was easily his best outing of the year though. He covered tons of ground, was smart (and capable) with the ball, and resisted the Simms-trap of playing constantly negative or horizontally. I can’t imagine we’ll be able to hang on to the kid much longer as greener pastures await, but perhaps the Olympic failure is a double blessing. Not only will he not miss time with United the summer, but he’ll avoid the attentions of potential suitors scouring the Olympic playing fields.
Do we declare the off-season defensive bolstering a success yet? LA abomination aside, United haven’t given up more than a goal per game. But more impressive is that they are conceding far fewer good chances and seem generally less susceptible to the complete breakdowns and massive brain-fartery that have haunted them over the past handful of seasons. Defending set pieces, another long-term Achilles heel, also seems better. It’s a long haul yet, but the start has been encouraging.
Pleasantly surprised with Wolff’s outing. Long-time readers will know I’m not a huge fan, but he looked decent for an old codger. Should have finished his golden chance though…
Willis with another solid outing in net. Couldn’t have done much with the goal, but made a couple of critical saves and bossed his box.
Still not sold on De Rosario in central midfield unless he has two covering behind him. I’ve long been on record as saying you need him in and around the box as much as possible.
That said, the other options aren’t terribly palatable. Boskovic’s window for earning a new contract is starting to close, particularly so if he can’t get on the field.
A quality start to a busy week. With the expansion-fodder from Montreal rolling into town midweek, United has an excellent chance to cement their place in the Eastern Conference playoff spots ahead of the first shots being fired in the Atlantic Cup next weekend. It’s still very early in the MLS season, yes, but better to stay with the peloton than to chase the pack through the summer, right?
My sympathies, and I’m sure you’ll join me here in extending them, to the player on the recent loss of his father. ↩