Quick Thoughts on United v. Red Bulls

Apologies for the lack of posting of late. We have a new addition to Clan Fullback, and the baby is taking priority over blogging. Still, I was able to catch much of last night’s loss to the Red Bulls and have a few thoughts which my sleep-deprived brain will struggle to transmit to my fingers…
  • Maicon-nective Tissue - I can’t see how Salihi continues to start ahead of Santos. While the Albanian is the better pure finisher (ignoring the odd wild-card spectacular from Santos), the team functions better with Santos in the mix. His hold up play and ability to pick a pass when he drops deep (witness the assist to Pontius among many other examples) creates both more possession and a larger threat from the flank players pushing past him. In a related point, Boskovic looked pretty impressive from the perspective of a provider when he came on, delivering the sort of service that Salihi was not getting in the first half. Conundrum: if you start Boskovic to provide for Salihi but require Santos for target/hold-up play to link the lines, you can push Pontius to the flank, but where does De Rosario go?
  • I’m Not Loving It - For all his physical gifts, when McDonald tries to play soccer, the trouble starts. If I were Benny and this were FM, I’d give him “Limited Defender” instructions. Keep it simple. Don’t over-complicate things. Get the ball to the flanks rather than trying those ridiculous cross field passes that inevitably seem to end up at the feet of the opposition. Sadly, it’s not just with the ball that these issues crop up. Occasional lapses in positioning, particularly from early crosses, and a lack of anticipation often mar generally solid defensive performances. See also in the "not a very good soccer player" sweepstakes: Danny Cruz. Sigh.
  • No Panic Buttons - All of that said, and ignoring the rapid-fire opener and relatively bright start, United looked like a team that hasn’t been playing many matches of late. When they started to get into their stride as the second half wore on, possession shifted and the chances started coming, last ditch blocks from the Bulls and wayward finishing stealing a point that was there for the taking. Some of that had to do with the substitutions (Santos linking the lines in place of the anonymous Salihi, Boskovic pulling strings and prying open gaps, getting Danny Cruz as far away from the playing field as possible), but I suspect getting up to the speed of the game (and the Red Bulls set a fairly good pace, full credit to their under-strength side) and building rhythm played their part.
So, home next to a Montreal team that’s been hot on their own patch, but stuttering on the road. It’s worth remembering that they managed a draw on their first visit to RFK, though United were fielding a less than full-strength side. That said, Montreal have found themselves as a team since that early meeting. Olsen has generally been able to inspire responses from his team when they were required. A thumping delivered to the expansion side before the break would do just the trick in confirming that United’s standing in the table isn’t a false one…

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