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!

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