Saturday, September 26, 2009

Big Z

Back at home after the awesome Terps-Tar Heels showdown at Ludwig Field, I decided to decompress by watching a meaningless Cubs-Giants matchup in San Francisco. One of the things that has precipitated my transformation into a bore on the Trib's coverage of the Northsiders was the exasperated whining about Carlos Zambrano. From what I gather, Caballo's failure to show up to training camp in shape, despite being in the middle of a 5-year, $91.5 million deal; his inability to take reporters' questions seriously; his lack of consistent focus; his inconsistency; his temper; and his unique sense of humor have resulted in constant condescension and derision from certain beat writers. Enough so that the idiotic non-stories of "Will Carlos waive his no-trade clause to be dealt to x?" have become a staple of lazy column-inch filling over the last few months.

Well, long may Z be a target for the Trib. The dipsh*ts that write constantly critical pieces will harp on how Zambrano's performance last night justifies the average fan's frustration (the logic apparently being that because Zambrano is not masterful in the majority of his starts, he is not worth keeping), but I think that even they understand that the average Cubs fan loves Big Z and will always love Big Z because of the mere promise of performances last night. And it is not even what he did on the mound; its breaking up the double play that led to a run scored; its the discipline at the plate that led to another run batted in later in the game; and its the goofy bow to Fukudome at the end of the game.

Carlos Zambrano is one of the best pitchers to don a Cubs uniform. And he has more fun in that job than nearly all that preceded him.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


A few months ago, I expressed my supreme disappointment in this season's assemblage of Cubs players -- the first time I can remember not liking a Cubs team -- in polite company and declared that I would not be attending any Cubs games this year. My mother-in-law pointedly responded: "Do you think they'll notice?"

Fair enough. But I tilt at windmills (as evidenced by continuing to post aimless ruminations on this blog) and, so, with equal futility have undertaken a boycott of the Chicago Tribune. The Trib doesn't care. The moronic baseball sportswriters for that publication don't care. But I do. And, my enjoyment of Chicago sports has improved by leaps and bounds since ignoring that daily.

In the interim, I have reacquainted myself with the formerly loathsome Chicago Sun-Times and have come to truly appreciate the great work done by Arlington's Daily Herald -- a paper with writers worthy of the teams they cover.

In a blogpost today, Bruce Miles takes Jim Hendry to task for his attitude towards beat writers over the last week. Miles doesn't seem to have any agenda other than to report his disappointment in Hendry's behavior and doesn't express himself in terms of hyperbolic outrage; the stock in trade of Sully and Rogers (who don't seem to understand that they live in glass houses). Miles is also suitably subtle about his digs at the hysteria that has gripped the Tribune, stating only:

It probably hasn't helped that the Trib is running a referendum on whether Hendry should be given one more year.

That seems a fair and restrained observation. It is a much more polite way of saying that it probably hasn't helped that the Trib has assigned corrosive, self-lauding clowns to cover the city's best franchise or that the Tribune hasn't helped anyone this season, except, perhaps, Cardinals fans.

Personally, I think Jim Hendry should lose his job -- new ownership should have an immediate opportunity to put their stamp on the wayward franchise and Mr. Hendry has, unfortunately, not performed well enough to merit a second chance under this regime. But even if I agree with the ultimate conclusion of the paper's current campaign to slam someone else related to the franchise, I am more troubled by the unmoored negativity and condescension of the Tribune. It is not just that the attacks are so aggresive, it is that they are so parsimonious as to be indefensibly idiotic.

Bang the drum all you want about signing Milton Bradley or how much the clubhouse misses Mark DeRosa, but the Cubs pen only converted 39 out of 60 save (65%) opportunities this year which is slightly worse than the pen's performance last year (converted 44 of 67 save opportunities; 66%). In 2007, the Cubs' bullpen converted 39 of 53 save opportunities (74%). The Cardinals pen converted 42 of 56 save opportunities this year (75%). If the Cubs pen had converted 3/4 of their save chances this year, the team would have won an additional 6 games: this would put them just a couple of games behind the Rockies for the wild card spot and firmly within the playoff hunt. 13 of the 23 blown saves came from Hendry acquisitions Kevin Gregg and Aaron Heilmann. But, of course, the storyline of poor decisions regarding who to put in the bullpen is not nearly as fun or controversial as soap opera tales of a locker room gone mad (you know what cures dissension in a clubhouse? Winning. Winning makes even Jeff Kent tolerable). So what we get is more of the same horsesh*t drivel driven by faux outrage at the personal inadequacies and shortcomings of players. And everyone pretends that the results of the baseball game are predetermined by the morality play concocted and narrated by unimaginative voyeurs. Whateve.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


We missed Maryland's hammering of Duquesne last week and I was eager to check out how the Terps' legions would fare against Jersey City's finest. The match did not go according to plan and the team is likely very disappointed with the result: one goal against an inferior squad that was down a man for most of the game. St. Peter's freshman Bolivian goalie Carlos Suarez played a good game and made some great saves, but the inability to win by a more comfortable manner was more the result of some really poor finishing. Maryland managed 29 shots on goal and, while throttling St. Peter, only required Will Swaim to make one save. The lowlight of the game came when sophomore Matt Oduaran had a clean one on one against Suarez, went way too far wide to the right, and blew a gorgeous chance that should have been converted.

None of that, however, detracts from the enjoyment derived from being at Ludwig last night. With only 750 people in the stands, our lot moved to the seats next to the touch line. Through the first half, we were treated to some expert play from Drew Yates on the left side of the goal box. Yates routinely got himself into space and whipped in crosses that no one met. When finally Drew moved towards the top of the box -- an area where he has routinely drawn fouls and won free kicks -- his movement set up the only goal of the game.

In the second half, the entertainment was Ethan White and London Woodberry, with a sprinkling of Widner Saint Cyr. Ethan White is excellent. He's confident and devastating and was so untroubled during the match that he took the time to chastise a visiting St. Peter's fan for shouting insulting inanities at the referee. Separately, what Jeremy Hall and Rodney Wallace offered on the left side last year, Woodberry and Saint Cyr can do on the right this year. When Widner and London were on together attacks up the right flank demanded the attention of the handful of fans. The freshmen on this team are just very impressive.

Next up is the match of the regular season: UNC versus Maryland, Friday night.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

True Dat

I cannot express this strongly enough: Thank You Bruce Miles!

Chicago Tribune: Please release Phil Rogers (you know, one-trick pony, no-talent hack, "has ESPN called yet about giving me a show?," Phil Rogers -- that guy). Cut him now.

Sadly Gerould Kern is just the Editor, not a magician. He cannot turn douche into wine.

How is it possible that the Trib fired everyone yet still retained the likes of Rogers?

Saturday, September 12, 2009


The folks at Avoiding the Drop prodigiously churn out blog posts covering a massive variety of topics related to soccer. I have thoroughly enjoyed the depth and breadth of the coverage on the site, but would draw particular attention to two great recent posts:

The Geography of Fandom addresses something that has fascinated me during our various trips to England. How can such a small country support so many football clubs? Rather than just idle curiosity, Avoiding the Drop looks at the numbers, noting that 762(!) teams entered the FA Cup or, broken out by geographic area, one club team for every 66 miles of land in England (a technical point: six of the 762 teams entered in the FA Cup -- Colwyn Bay, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport County, Wrexham, Cardiff City, and Swansea City -- are from Wales, not England, so the calculation should be 50,346 miles divided by 756 teams or one team for every 67 miles). If the U.S. had the same football club density in their professional pyramid, this country would have 56,972 teams.

The second post, The Distribution of Money in the Champions League and Europa League, is similarly fascinating because of the willingness to look at the actual numbers. UEFA's July 2009 report makes clear how important it is for teams to make the Champions League group stage. In 2008-2009, only two teams that began in the UEFA Cup made serious money from the tournament: Manchester City (5.4 million euros) and Hamburger SV (3.7 million euros). In order to earn those amounts, both teams had to reach the quarterfinals of the UEFA Cup. In comparison, each of the 32 teams that reached the group stage of the Champions League received 5.4 million euros just for qualifying. The lowest amount earned by any team qualifying for the group stage was the 6.3 million euros earned by the Belarussian-side FC Bate Borisov. PSV Eindhoven, which, like Bate Borisov, did not make it out of their group, walked away with a 25.6 million euro door prize. In comparison, fellow Dutch sides FC Twente and N.E.C. earned 365,000 euros each for reaching the round of 32 in the UEFA Cup. Ajax made just 455,000 euros by reaching the round of 16 of the UEFA Cup.

While the numbers underscore the massive gulf that separates the Champions League and the Europa League, a closer look at the payouts highlights some irrational absurdity. The team that earned the most money from the UEFA Cup -- Werder Bremen (7.1 million euros) -- had already banked 22.3 million euros from the Champions League before it bowed out of the group stages. In this way, Werder Bremen did better financially by dropping to the UEFA Cup than the teams that made it out of Bremen's group -- Inter and Panathinaikos -- which earned only an additional 2.2 million euros each by moving on. Indeed, Werder Bremen made out better than Liverpool, Villareal, Bayern Munich, and FC Porto, which earned only an additional 4.7 million euros each before falling out of the Champions League in the quarterfinals.

Better and Better

I can't be bothered to show up to any game on time. Twenty-five minutes late to tonight's Maryland's ACC opener and I didn't get to watch much of the match while chasing my daughter around Ludwig.

Charlie Davies'
alma mater might be facing a tough season. Before tonight, BC has dropped two of three games, losing to Harvard and Rhode Island.

From what little I saw of the game, however, the Eagles are not as bad as their record would suggest. BC's freshman keeper, Justin Luthy, is not bad; nor were fellow freshmen Kevin Mejia; Sacir Hot; Isaac Taylor; Kyle Bekker; Colin Murphy; Stefan Carter; and Charlie Rugg. For those keeping track, seven of BC's starting XI are freshmen.

Having BC early on the schedule may have been good luck for Maryland. But, it might just as easily be argued that getting Maryland scheduled early is good luck, because Maryland is also getting better every game. There seems to be an inverse relationship between attendance and performance on the pitch -- numbers dropped 45% between the first and second game and 31% between the second and third game and the team's confidence seems to have grown by an equal amount.

Starting winger Karou Forbess was in the stands at RFK to check out former teammates Rodney Wallace and Graham Zusi on Wednesday night and I don't think one is going too far out on limb by predicting that several current Terps will build professional careers as well. The second goal tonight was something that has been building and will likely be repeated several times this year: a corner kick of the foot of Matt Kassel with the ball put in goal off the head of center back Kevin Tangney.

At the moment, Maryland's defense is doing double duty: shutting down the opposing team's offense (Maryland had 23 shots on goal, BC managed 9), threatening to score on set pieces in the final third, and Taylor Kemp marauding at left back. A word about Kemp: he is fun to watch and has proved, to open the season, to be an able replacement for Rodney Wallace. And another word about Ethan White: he is exceptionally strong in the middle. Forwards slide off of him and he plays with incredible confidence in the goal box.

Outside of the defense, I enjoyed getting a chance to see Kwame Darko and London Woodberry in the midfield. Both made the most of limited opportunities and perhaps they will have a chance to build on that performance against Duquesne on Tuesday night.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Nine of the last fifteen books I have read have been about soccer. I am tearing through a tenth -- David Winner's self-indulgent (but wondrously short) Around the World in 90 Minutes -- and have an additional stack of books on the sport that I am eager to start. At my current ridiculous (obsessive) pace, I will have read more books on soccer in the last three years than I have read about all other sports combined in 33 years.

I feel a certain urgency to reading everything I can, as every page seems to enhance my enjoyment and appreciation of the pastime. And because I was raised without any acculturation to the sport other than AYSO soccer, the exercise is also an artificial attempt to download, en masse, a historical context for the contemporary game. To that end, Winner's book has been opened at the perfect time. Yesterday, a significant portion of the world was glued to results (from the Faroe Islands' insanely impressive win over Lithuania to Uruguay's huge win in La Paz -- which potentially sets up a breathtaking matchup in Montevideo on October 13th -- to another embarrassing performance by the El Tri at the Azteca). I was one of them and delayed my arrival at RFK by half an hour just to see the first 15 minutes of Paraguay-Argentina. Winner's tales of Gdansk and Seoul reveling in their respective teams' 2006 German tour provide a beautiful backdrop to the current mania of qualifying for a 2010 South African tour.

There are times, however, when knowledge is gained too late. The last book I finished was an English translation of Filippo Maria Ricci's wonderful Elephants, Lions & Eagles: A Journey through African Football. The book -- really a collection of short essays -- describes an amazing variety of topics in a limited number of pages. One of the topics is the Liberian national team; Ricci sets out a 2003 article he wrote for Gazzetta dello Sport regarding a Africa Cup of Nations-qualifying match (Tunisia, 2004) between Liberia and Guinea. Ostensibly, the story is about Liberia's struggles to compete amidst a renewed civil war. Though a home game for Liberia, the team was forced to play in Accra and, worse, the Liberian FA was without funds to pay for the team's travel to the match. So the team fielded for the country was drawn largely from a refugee camp in Buduburam, 25 miles outside of Ghana's capital. In describing the intensity of passion describing football played in the camp by the refugee inhabitants, Ricci writes: "Inevitably enough the local hero, Francis Doe, was christened the new Weah." Say what? Francis Doe? Our Francis Doe. Yes, indeed.

Now, if I had paid attention and read Paul Tenorio's article describing how and where Louis met Francis, I would not have been as surprised. But I didn't and it took randomly reading an Italian journalist's reprint of a newspaper article to realize (five months after his departure) how amazing Doe's personal story is.

Doe has moved on to the Egyptian Premier League, to current top-of-the-table Al Ahly where he scored in the squad's opening fixture this season. And while his former teammates enjoyed a runout against Real Madrid at FedEx Field, Doe had the privilege of being part of a side destroyed by Celtic and Barcelona at Wembley in the Wembley Cup.

I hope that Doe finds success at Al Ahly. I am confident that had he came into a DC United side that had any interest in entertaining its (dwindling) fan base, he would have become a local legend. But that was not to be, to the detriment, I believe, of both the franchise and its supporters.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Soggy Night

Two things were guaranteed following Maryland's loss to UCLA on Friday night: (1) attendance was going to drop dramatically (from 6,718 to 3,710); and (2) Sasho Cirovski would get a more urgent performance from his players.

I paid a great deal more attention to individual players last night and I really, really like the Terps' new backline. Outside of Kevin Tangney, the 6' 2" red-shirt senior, Maryland's back four is not particularly physically imposing. The other starting center back, freshman Ethan White is 5' 11", and the two fullbacks, sophomore Alex Lee and freshman Taylor Kemp are 5' 10" and 5' 11", respectively. But they are very disciplined and very good. While sophomore defensive midfielder Matt Kassel may have started the season as the best pro prospect on the roster, former DC United Academy member Ethan White has been impressive.

The defense was supposed to be Maryland's biggest weakness going into this season, but the question posed by the first two games is how Maryland will score. Our impeccable timing meant that we walked into the stadium just in time to see sophomore Karou Forbess make a good run on the left and cross to an unseen player (Jason Herrick) for the Terps' first official goal of the season and we walked out of the stadium at the end of regular time -- thoroughly waterlogged -- prior to Herrick completing his brace and winning Maryland's first game of the season.

For the portions in between, when we were comfortably seated in the stands, although Maryland dominated offensively, it never looked like the Terps seriously threatened to score. The dominance is reflected in the statistics (Maryland forced David Bingham to make eight saves on 19 shots; MacMath, in comparison, recorded two saves on seven shots), just as it was on Friday against UCLA (Brian Perk made 10 saves on 19 shots, while MacMath only made one save on UCLA's seven shots). Of those 38 attempts on goal, few seemed to pose any real questions for the opposing keeper. Maryland also hasn't been that impressive on set pieces. Senior Drew Yates is particularly adept at drawing fouls just north of the goal box, but the Terps have not been able to do much with the ensuing free kicks in a dangerous area.

Cal equalized on a hard low shot that slipped through MacMath's hands in the middle of a downpour. Maryland, for its part, did not respond with long shots that would similarly challenge Bingham. Instead, Maryland again became unnerved in the second half and, despite dominating in the midfield, started rashly booting hopeful balls up in the hopes that Herrick, Casey Townsend, or sub Billy Cortes (who played well) could bring the ball down and convert. Abandoning the possession game seemed to be a reaction to frustration with an inability to capitalize on the good play after Herrick's goal in the fourth minute. That said, Maryland was better last night than Friday and, with considerable room for improvement, the best is yet to come.

Two other notes: first, for a massive roster, Cirovski uses remarkably few subs. In the game against UCLA on Friday, Sasho introduced four subs: freshman Widner Saint Cyr; junior Billy Cortes; freshman London Woodberry; and freshman John Stertzer. UCLA used five. Last night, none of the three freshman played and Maryland only used two subs: Billy Cortes and sophomore Matt Oduaran. Cal, in contrast, used seven (and got their goal from freshman sub Anthony Salciccia). Don't know what this means, but one conclusion that can be drawn is that the coaching staff has also been reasonably pleased by what they've seen from the back four.

Second, I was not paying a whole lot of attention to Cal's players, but it was hard to miss the senior (?) transfer Jeff Cosgriff in the middle of Cal's team. Cosgriff was the biggest player on the field (6'4") and commanded attention throughout the game. Cosgriff was also noticeable due to a rough foul that led to the issuance of a yellow card in the first half. Red-shirt junior Hector Jimenez has assisted on all three goals of Cal's season thus far and is clearly the heart of the team, but it will be interesting to see how Cosgriff fares as he gets more time playing with the rest of the squad.


For the most part, I blew an opportunity to watch Charlton play on tv Saturday morning by, first, failing to wake up until 8 am and, second, taking over a half hour to find a service that actually would allow me to see the broadcast of the match against Brentford. But when I finally got the game on my laptop, it was just in time to see Izale McLeod come on as a substitute and do what I thought no longer possible: contribute positively in a Charlton shirt. Izale's time at The Valley has been no picnic and having been at the center of controversy last season while on loan at Millwall, he seemed to have been one of the many young strikers to have been frozen out of the squad. When Izale was first signed up -- fresh off a 24 goal effort for fake Wimbledon in 2006-2007 -- the YouTube highlights were enough to get me in his corner. But YouTube highlights are, well, YouTube highlights and he, apparently, was unable to build on those performances in practice.

Setting aside the remarkable six-game winning streak that Phil Parkinson has begun the season with -- for a dispirited team, in tough financial straits, that most feared would face another relegation battle -- what has rendered me ashamed of my lack of faith in PP is the turnaround performances of guys like Izale and Lloyd Sam. Sam had another magnificent hour on Saturday and, catching the highlights later on cafctv, he looked like a worldbeater. And I think it is fair to say that the current management has the squad pointed in the right direction.

But what had my tongue wagging on Sunday was not Charlton's continued good run or the U.S.'s win over El Salvador or DC United's pathetic performance against FC Dallas . . . it was what we witnessed when we flipped on Mexico-Costa Rica. Both Izale and Lloyd have been described as "confidence" players, which I understand to mean athletes with tremendous physical gifts that, if their self-belief is shaken, are unable to harness those natural talents. I think the label might also be applied to Gio Dos Santos.

I have an inexplicable and indefensible dislike for Gio Dos Santos. Prior to Saturday night, I thought of Gio as a football primadonna unwilling to play with enough heart to bring his considerable skills to bear for the benefit of teammates in any meaningful way. The consistent theatrical diving seemed like a cheap and cowardly way to avoid having to do the hard work required to compete at the highest level. That is, until last night. I was wrong.

Through most of the first half, Costa Rica seemed intent on breaking Mexico. In San Jose, Costa Rica seemed unimpressed by Mexico and not even remotely intimidated by Mexico's stronger footballing tradition. One of the lasting impressions was a Costa Rican player standing over Blanco with venom in his eyes... CONCACAF has changed and Mexico is no longer the class of the region. And in this setting, under intense pressure (if Mexico did not manage a result, World Cup qualification was in doubt, although still quite possible), Gio alone turned the game around. On a ball that switched the field from left to right toward the end of the first 45, Dos Santos was given acres of space and drilled home a goal of sublime beauty. Two more goals put the game firmly on Mexico's side of the ledger in the second half, both created by gorgeous taps from the left foot of Dos Santos. The second, cleanly converted by Franco, was faithfully replicated by the third, this time sent home by Franco's sub, the very impressive Jose Andres Guardado Hernandez. On all three goals, Dos Santos showed incredible skill; world-class skill that would seem to indicate that he might yet be one of the sport's greats.

Saturday did not play to script. Mexico may not be in the steep decline it seemed to be. With Dos Santos, Guardado and Vela (who did not feature in Mexico's 18), the green and white should scare every team in the region. No other country in the CONCACAF has young talent performing at such high levels. After several embarrassing misfires, Mexico may have its swagger back.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Place to Be

There were 6,718 people in the stands and on the grass at Ludwig Field tonight to watch a promising Terps team fall short against UCLA for the season opener. So Maryland lost 2-0. Sasho Cirovski has put together a new team that plays attractive soccer and, although attendance will likely drop now that Maryland has shown that they are a young side and that they are vulnerable, they are, once again, well worth the price of admission.

Perhaps Maryland will not enjoy the same dominance they displayed last year, but the promise of pulling together a team that could make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. They just have to qualify. And, to do that, it may only mean finding a few players that can put the ball in goal.

For two-thirds of the game, Maryland was the far more impressive side. After giving away a goal against the run of play, the Terps fell apart. If ever Rich Costanzo has doubts about what he meant to the team, tonight proved Costanzo's value by his absence. Without Rich anchoring the team as captain, the team lost confidence and started to give up possession under little duress. UCLA's second goal was inevitable; Maryland had lost its discipline and form and UCLA is good enough to take advantage.

Very little time to think about any disappointment: Cal visits on Sunday night after beating Gtown 2-0 this afternoon. UCLA, in turn, will play Georgetown Sunday afternoon.


One more comment on Wicks: the hand-wringing from soccer correspondents and some quarters of United's supporters regarding Josh's "disgraceful" behavior is maudlin and grossly overblown.

Having watched the fourth quarter of tonight's Boise State vs. Oregon match, let us contemplate what disgraceful behavior is: Byron Hout, a defensive lineman, embarrasses his Boise State teammates -- which beat a decent opponent on their home turf -- by seeking out and insulting LeGarrette Blount, the starting tailback for the Ducks. Blount responds by punching Hout in the face, quickly ending the trash talk. Hout got hit while a Boise State coach was trying to pull him away and chastising him for his lack of class. After the punch? When Hout regains his footing, he is blistered by the coach for insulting Blount. Blount, in the meantime, has to be restrained from going after Boise State students and starts shoving police officers trying to restrain him.

Blount's collegiate career is probably over. And maybe Blount is a hothead who was bound to detonate at sometime during his senior season. But for Hout's idiocy, it doesn't happen tonight.

Whatever might be said against Wicks' rash and stupid act, it does not change the fact that Montero is a wind-up merchant.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


For 88 minutes last night, I resigned myself to what has become the established script at RFK -- a six man midfield clogging the pitch, keeping possession for long periods of time, and doing absolutely nothing of interest. An unwise decision to bring a backpack to the stadium (which requires entrance through Gate A) delayed my arrival at my seat until two minutes after kick-off and, having missed the banner display from Barra Brava, I looked at the players on the field and flagged down the first beer vendor wandering by. How many do I want? Well, if that is Emilio up top, with Moreno, Gomez, Simms, Olsen, Fred, and Pontius in the middle, I will take as many as you'll sell us. And don't be a stranger. One member of our group decided that her time would be better spent in search of the mythical two dollar 16-ounce domestic beer (and, later, two dollar hot dog). On reflection, it was a close call.

For 88 minutes, the game was what it was and what United has devolved to for the second straight season -- only with far, far more talent on its roster this year -- a chance to get out of the office, hang with friends on a beautiful night whilst consuming expensive beer. There were moments when we stirred -- Steve Zakuani put in a better performance than I had expected based on past viewings of the Sounders. And there was something about a goalkeepers' hop over a cheater that caused about five minutes of excitement (and my inability to stop screaming f-bombs despite being surrounded by a youth soccer team). But any outcome other than a Seattle win would only have come by the worst luck of the new MLS franchise.

But in the 89th minute, when United pulled one back from (what else could it have been?) a set piece, I was reminded of what drew me back to RFK in the first place three years ago. Fans in full throat, inciting, nay demanding, that United awake from torpor and act like they appreciated the fact that 17,000 people had paid to watch them play. Unconstrained enthusiasm from both the left and right side of the pitch is not regularly on display behind Soehn's teams (and, to be frank, this took place in reaction to, rather than in support of, the unimaginative performance of his squad), but experiencing one of the rare exceptions was an absolute treat. Although the result was unfortunate, the last seven minutes of the game voided the disappointment of the previous 88.

Unfortunately, Wicks' rash reaction to Montero overshadowed the game. There have been some ridiculous things said about the incident. Charles Boehm's contention that Wicks "stomped on Montero's ribcage" is pure fantasy. For the first 67 minutes of the game, those at RFK were treated to a shameful display from a churlish Fredy Montero, who established, in no uncertain terms, that he is a dirty player. This played against type for me, as I had previously been impressed with Montero's skills -- indeed, when in London after the Sounders' friendly with Chelsea, I found myself singing his praises to friends telling them that they would soon see Fredy in the EPL. I retract those statements. Schmid had recently been on a campaign to decry the targeting of Montero, but methinks it has little to do with his goal scoring record but instead with how he approaches the game. Setting to one side the intentional fouls, Montero's pride in diving and feigning injury should give Sounders' supporters pause. I believe, perhaps incorrectly, that if Zakuani or Ljungberg had poached the first goal, Wicks would not have had the same reaction -- and, if Josh did repeat the action, United fans would uniformly be calling for his head. But the goal was scored by Montero. The same Montero who, four minutes earlier, pointedly kneed Wicks in the head while he was laying prone on the ground after fumbling the ball momentarily. The same Montero who, now, came in hard off another rebound not held cleanly by Wicks, that found Fredy's right foot while his left foot found the middle of Wicks' chest. Likely furious at both Montero's recklessness with respect to his head and the fact that his bobble had put the ball in a dream spot for the twit, Wicks got up with menace made a beeline towards Montero while he was on the ground and left both feet with a disregard for whether he hurt Montero or not. It was incredibly stupid. Wicks tried to menace a dishonest player who, seeing the opportunity, made a meal of it. The replay shows Montero pull his right hand to his chest -- indicating that Wicks' certainly hit it with his foot. But what happened afterwards disgraced the game further, with Montero grabbing every part of his body (including the leg he had lodged in Wicks' chest), while the refs got together to discuss. Ultimately they made the right call, Wicks deserved a red, but it burns that it happened because of Montero's absurd simulation.

The main problem was that the Wicks incident distracted from a far more important issue: how poorly DC United is performing. On this point, Santino Quaranta's comments to Paul Tenorio of the Washington Post gave voice to the frustration to a lot of United supporters. Quaranta: "We run out of ideas up there." Spot on. Sort it out Payne!