If A Tree Falls In An Empty RFK...? | a DC United Match Reaction

I'm sure you'll forgive me for placing little weight on the fact that our half-scrubs beat the half-scrubs of the last place team in the Western Conference (to our Eastern Conference cellar dwelling) and consequently won't be spending much time on the reaction post. With that said, is there anything that we can take from this match? I'll try to tease out a few questions...

Formation Change?

United ran out in what looked suspiciously like the 4-2-3-1 I employed so successfully in my DCU|FM Challenge. I'm curious as to whether this was enforced by our lack of fit forwards or reflects a larger shift on Onalfo's part. Whatever the case, there were patches, mostly early in the second half, where United were able to string together some pretty sequences of possession. Key to those sequences were the mobility of the attacking line, particularly Cristman in the lone-wolf role up top. When he pulled wide or dropped deep, allowing the three in support to flood into dangerous spots, United did something that it has been struggling mightily to do in league play: cause discomfort for the opposition's defense. 

That said, I was disappointed that we didn't control possession better. True, Dallas had equal numbers in midfield, but there were large chunks of the match, particularly in the first half, where the ball didn't seem to leave United's end. But for a handful of wasted finishes by the Dallas front-runners, this could have been a very different story.


Sorry, had to do it. The kid looked good floating beneath Cristman, combining with the latter on two goals. While the chip into space for Cristman's opener was the highlight of the first half, his persistance in chasing defenders and confidence to run at them when in possession (best moment: Najar strips the ball in midfield and charges immediately into attack, splitting three Dallas defenders before one of them knocks the ball loose. Cristman, trailing the run, fires over from distance) belied his tender years. Not that we can hitch our wagon to a 17-year old, pray for the best, and hope somehow to make the playoffs, but the kid definitely deserves serious minutes, and he took his goal well.

Happy Now?

With Perkins' struggles early this season, much has been made of the fact that both Hartman and Busch, solid, reliable MLS veteran netminders, became available shortly thereafter and would have come much cheaper than Fred + a first-rounder + cash. Hartman certainly didn't make the United FO question their decision in this match. He gifted Castillo the soft second and charged out to flap at Cristman's header for United's decisive fourth. 

As for Perkins? He made a couple of good stops, but still showed a bit of hesitation in controlling his box and clearing balls. I'd expected Hamid to get a look in this match and wonder if starting Perkins was a confidence move on Onalfo's part. Here's hoping the win gave him some, because our defense doesn't look like it's going to shut down anybody anytime soon.


I hesitate, as I said, to put too much weight on this performance. We'll get a much fairer picture this weekend when the Bulls come knocking. In the meantime, I'm left wondering if United's success in non-televised, sparsely attended matches thus far (Carolina Cup + Open Cup qualifier) reflects an inability to handle the intensity a packed house brings or demonstrates our current level of quality (USL2 Charleston, TFC and Dallas at the wrong end of the MLS table and likely to stay there, RSL struggling out of the gate). Food for thought.

Et tu?


  1. I was pleased to see United looking coherent despite the fact that the junior varsity was out in force. And yes, DC did try out a modern 4231, the formation of the moment.

    Problem there is that Cristman, try as he might, isn't the mobile false-9 the formation wants. I agree that he tried, and when he succeeded the attack jumped into focus; but like Barça with Ibrahimovic at the point, DC suffered when Cristman played as a traditional post-up striker.

    Good to win a game, even against Dallas, even in an Open Cup play-in or whatever. This season has been brutal on my poor wife (the Utd fan in the house).

  2. Lots of positives with Najar and Cristman. Getting more and more worried about Wallace every game. At this point I actually wish Marc Burch was healthy.

  3. @'Sean'
    I'm not sure you can say the 4231 is "of the moment" considering it's been in use for over 10 years now (though perhaps not in MLS, which is maybe where you're coming from). And it doesn't really require a "false nine" either. There are a variety of striker types that can function as lone strikers (none of which we possess in abundance), but I'm going to argue with you that Cristman certainly was far more mobile than anybody else United have played up top: running onto a through ball for the first, pulling wide to assist on the third (and nearly another a couple minutes later), and again breaking behind the Dallas back line to nod in Simms' chip for the fourth.

    Wallace still looks good going forward. Graye struggled at first, but started to gain in confidence at the end. With Castillo still struggling, I wonder if we might see Onalfo try Graye at left back with Wallace at left mid, where he can add the speed we so sorely lack in attack.

  4. I'm not willing to take too much from this match either. Great that the team actually found the net (it was hiding behind the opposition defense all along...) and had moments of actual fluid play. However, this was our a/b side against FC Dallas' a/b side and nothing more. Hopefully, the confidence and belief from getting a win will propel the team forward to a victory over the Red Bull New York Red Bulls of Harrison, New Jersey on Saturday. We need three points from Saturday's match and to take them from the RBNYRBoHNJ would be icing on the bitter cake we've been eating this season...

  5. Agree with you about the formation and the questions raised by the performance of the midfield. With so many of the "usual" starters out with injury, it's hard to see where this will lead . . .

  6. It's possible I missed Cristman's best moments, as I was afk about 70% of the first 20 minutes or so (those children, they dinna understand).

    And I call the 4231 the 'formation of the moment' as a nod to its increasing popularity around the world, not just in MLS. Although now that I think of it, I've seen Chicago, Seattle, LA, KC, Columbus and RSL as well as DC line up in it already this season.