Another 24 hours packed with soccer. Charlton's unraveling at Preston North End barely warrants mentioning... I was not able to catch the match on tv or radio, but, by all accounts, Charlton was not very good. One might legitimately ask how many times Pardew can rip the commitment of his squad (as he did throughout the second half of last season and after the Carling Cup disaster against Yeovil prior to the PNE match this season) before he is held accountable as the gaffer of the squad.
On the other hand, Maryland's trip to the Home Depot Center and huge comeback victory over UCLA does seem to justify further elaboration. The football itself was not great but coach Sasho Cirovski's unwavering dedication to winning the match bodes well and evinces massive confidence in his side. Down a goal since the 27th minute, Cirovski brought Omar Gonzalez forward, opting for a three-man backline, and bringing in sophomore Sean Flatley to cover as the lone center back. The Terps consistently threatened but looked awful when any opportunity on goal presented itself. I had resigned myself to a hard-fought, unfortunate loss when Flatley lashed home a Graham Zusi corner with his head forty seconds from time.
For much of the second half, I was disappointed with Rodney Wallace's play who I may have unfairly built up in my mind based on two very good performances last year late in the season. Wallace had an excellent chance on goal late in the second half that he seemed to play poorly and managed only a wayward shot from his left foot that had no chance on goal. I was, therefore, greatly heartened to see Wallace's perfect break seven minutes into extra time that saw him free in the box, juke the goalie with a decoy move to his left, calmly cross back to the right, and net the game winner. Wallace's pace creating the chance and the enthusiastic celebration of the goal made clear why I watch the sophomore play, even when Cirovski has seemingly chosen to use him at fullback, rather than an attack-minded winger.
Tonight I made it to RFK and had a great time. Despite the disappointing result (a scoreless tie), the game was a blast. A full-throated display by United supporters drowned out the meager offerings from the ESC until the very end of the match (the Emperor Supporters Club traveled with only slight more in number than were at the embarrassing thrashing in Annapolis at the hands of Crystal Palace Baltimore). Louis Crayton was phenomenal. Although he may make fans nervous with the flair he shows -- choosing on two separate occasions to dribble around Dane Party Richards rather than clear the ball -- he is rock solid in goal and fully deserved the man of the match designation based on some incredible saves (and his third clean sheet). Gallardo subbed in late and looked healthy. Joe Vide was amazing and continued a run of quality performances with United. Tonight was the first time that I wanted to get an autograph at a United match, if only to commemorate Vide's wonderful effort. (Vide's game follows a great piece last week from Goff on him (registration required)).
Not all was roses. The refereeing for the match was horrible and served as an unfortunate reminder as how generally good the refereeing has been for United's matches this year. The poor, inconsistent calls put the players on the pitch in jeopardy. And while I came into this season with mostly apathetic feelings towards the Red Bulls, I have now developed a healthy antipathy for the club. The classlessness of the ESC at an Annapolis high school during the US Open Cup and the dishonest play of several Red Bulls tonight -- principal amongst them the detestable Mike Magee, who flashed his cleats several times to the back of United players on challenges but whined incessantly when Vide gave him the same treatment (followed up by similar cynical complaints after his manhandling of Moreno lead to an apparently accidental smack to his face; Magee's complaints would be comical if not for the danger he posed to other players on the pitch and the pathos he was able to muster to support his false charges) -- has made them the only side I truly dislike in the MLS.
More negatives: Emilio looked like he hurt his groin fairly significantly and I cannot imagine that we will see him Wednesday at the U.S. Open Cup final. Moreno's horrific miss wide left on the penalty kick stunned the crowd. Perhaps not as much as the introduction of Dyachenko for the unimpressive Doe, but it is a close call regardless. At this point, there is no reason to have Dyachenko in any close game. The fact that Dyachenko is a senior player on the roster and Vide is now a developmental player is an embarrassment to the club and to all of its supporters. I can understand what Dyachenko is supposed to bring. He's a big target on set pieces and should be able to get his head on some crosses. He's a big target for Crayton to hoof it up to and, to be fair, he had one good flick on off of a Crayton boomer. But United fell apart when he got on the pitch. Rod cannot hold position, cannot distribute, and wanders around aimlessly (at one point, Rod, likely in frustration, showed annoyance with Crayton after a ball was sent up to the other side of the field -- what Dyachenko seems to have not realized is that Crayton had singled him out and was waiting for Dyachenko to set himself up as a target before giving up and launching the ball elsewhere). He was only able to avoid his obligatory yellow card after the clueless ref chose not to punish him for a pathetic late challenge to the back of a Red Bulls player at midfield. Nothing in Dyachenko's fifteen minutes on the pitch justified leaving Quavas Kirk off the bench for this match and I think it is now well past time for Soehn to be called out for his continued reliance on a player that has failed to bring anything to the proverbial table for the bulk of the year. After the game, Dyachenko came over to our section, along with Marc Burch and Francis Doe to sign autographs and thank the fans. While seeing him up close and passing up the opportunity to be an a^^hole, I confirmed that I do not dislike Dyachenko. He is a quality human being. He works hard and he is unfailingly nice to fans. But there are a lot of players who I have liked that were simply not good enough to play even at this level. Last year Kpene and Addlery, two of my favorite players to have ever worn the shirt, were told to look elsewhere. It is pointless to blame the player for his shortcomings, but the same does not apply for the manager that continues, inexplicably, to overlook those failings and put the player in a position where he cannot succeed on a routine basis.
Oh well. I only have to wait until Wednesday before United gets a chance to reverse the disappointment from tonight. Charlton's off until September 13th and the only thing really to look forward to from the Addicks is the departure of Zheng Zhi (really? the only midfielder on the roster that has the ability to get into the box and create goals and there is no serious thought that he might be retained?) and, perhaps, the addition of another Premier league reject who will poison the dressing room -- bitter for having had to slum it in the Championship (at least it won't be McShane, who will have an opportunity to shine in Hull's porous backline).