Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Back in the Saddle II

I skipped the Italy-Spain match on Sunday to watch D.C. United take on the San Jose Quakes at RFK with some trepidation. If United regressed from its recent form, the frustration felt as an observer would have been augmented by the possibility of having missed an historic Spanish victory over the Azzurri.

When the game started, however, I was not terribly troubled by the decision. While I checked in back home for the status of the PKs, United's performance was enough to demand full attention. United are undefeated over their last five matches, having won four of those games, and have pulled themselves out of the cellar of the Eastern Conference. The results alone do not tell the tale of how the team has improved.

On Sunday, we watched what looked to be a comfortable backline of Namoff, McTavish, Peralta and Martinez protect a shaky Wells in goal. Wells' unfortunate bobbling of an easy ball denied the defense a well-deserved clean sheet, but other than at goal, the backs were incredible. Namoff chased down and won balls, tackled spiritedly, and effectively shut down one side of a pitch. With McTavish sacrificing in a move to center back, Peralta was able to mark any potential attackers for the Quakes and frustrate the hapless offensive assaults from San Jose. And then there was Gonzalo Martinez. Martinez's performance was a revelation. Freed from the obligations of a central defender, Martinez not only committed bone-crushing tackles, but presented a dangerous attacking option each and every time he was given space. D.C. United's second goal was simply brilliant. Martinez's maneuvers in the box to find space and then crack home a goal just inside the far post sent the crowd into delirium.

The settled back line, along with the continuing resurgence of a dangerous Luciano Emilio bode well for United as they move to SuperLiga play in July.

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