Don’t think you were alone if you went into the half shaking your head and wondering how United were 2–0 up. Some combination of luck, Boskovic free kicks, and Hamid’s reflexes opened a margin that didn’t seem so pronounced on the field, particularly after the Guy injury forced Heaps to move Feilhaber inside where he belongs.
Still, it seemed harsh and bewildering to see United ship two goals so quickly to start the second half. That’s where we hit the point we so often have this season – United wobbling and looking ready to collapse as they have so often in recent seasons, the fans breaking out the iron undies through force of habit. And then?
To the talking points!
Heart transplant. Languid Pivot or Dynamic Presence? Which do you prefer? United has proven that it can play two styles depending upon who operates at the heart of the machine, but, while I’m on record as preferring De Rosario higher up the pitch, I still think he’s the better a-mid option for the set of players United have at their disposal. True, Boskovic’s free kicks are a big bonus, but United just seem more threatening and less ponderous with De Rosario at the helm. Transition is quicker and the flank play more dangerous.
The Santos Factor. I’ll admit it, I’m stunned at how effective Santos has been. Not only the goals, but his general hold-up and connective play – amply demonstrated by his beating two men with a clever drag-back, playing De Rosario into space, and getting on the end of the return ball to win the match. Much like De Rosario in midfield, Santos makes the team function better. Salihi may make better runs and be a more reliable (if marginally less spectacular) finisher, but Santos combines better with those around him, can win balls in the air, and provides a dash of the unexpected, both with the ball at his feet and with his shooting from range.
Hamid MOTM. Don’t think there’s any question about this one. He was beaten twice, but made three (at the very least) excellent saves to prevent sure goals and swung the balance of the game with each. In the first half, he saved 1 v 1 on the break against Sene to prevent New England leveling the match. And in the second stanza, he came off his line to break up another Sene burst and keep the Revs from pulling ahead. But the reaction save off the late headed chance was, along with the Santos goal, the defining moment of the match. That’s a huge save to put United clear atop the Eastern Conference.
The General. Benny’s starting to come into his own tactically. We’ve always known he could motivate; he could do that when he was playing. But the in-game adaptations that he’s starting to make are promising. While I thought that maybe he packed it in a little too early (though not Soehn-early), he did see the problems that the Feilhaber-Joseph midfield axis was creating and swapped in Wolff to help clog the middle.
Good to see DeLeon back on the field. Didn’t look as explosive, but the control was still there, and he’s bound to be working off the rust.
Where the hell was Korb on Sene’s opener for the Revs? Out of position and jogging back. Did have a subtle bump later to put off Joseph on a headed chance though.
I wonder if the frequency of Bum Hammy Hammer strikes has something to do with the slipperiness of the RFK pitch.
Is it possible to hate Heaps the coach more than Heaps the player (or Heaps the commentator for that matter)?
With United pulling clear atop the Eastern Conference, I’m still not sure I can reconcile myself to the feeling that they have a legitimate claim to be counted among the league’s top tier. That’s the last few years of caution keeping me constantly looking over my shoulder, waiting for the surprise blow to the back of the head. And it’s not like United have been particularly lucky with injuries either. They’re a genuinely deep team with good balance across the roster. Question is: do they tempt fate come the transfer window to mess with a winning formula in search of that extra, championship boost?
Hmmm. Why would I be expecting surprise blows to the back of the head having just spent a couple of hours seeing Jay Heaps’ face every couple of minutes? Shocking. ↩