Sunday, April 4, 2010

Packed Weekend

Friday night = Bulls visit the Wizards at the Verizon Center. Saturday night = D.C. United home opener versus the Revolution. Sunday afternoon = my first league soccer game.

As a general matter, I have not enjoyed watching the Bulls at Verizon. For the last decade, the Bulls have brought teams that are pale visages of the most dominant professional sports franchise in Chicago in my lifetime. The most recent Bulls-Wizards playoff series was a miserable experience as a fan, concluding with my wife's oath that she would never see the Bulls play in DC again. But I walked out of the arena Friday night almost deliriously happy with having gone to the game. Derrick Rose is worth the price of admission. For the duration of time that I have been in DC, no single Bulls player could claim to be that good. Rose, however, is superb. We sat behind the basket and seats near the floor are rewarded with a close and personal view with the speed and vision with which Rose plays the game.

Rose's quickness has been evident on television since his short time at Memphis. But a new appreciation for his smooth acceleration -- and the fear it creates in defenders -- is given by the view on the ground. And then there is the explosion encompassed by Rose's leaps... it is so violent and so fast, I cannot imagine that Derrick will have a long NBA career. The best play of the game for Chicago fans was a break created by a Wizards missed shot, where Joakim Noah brought the ball up court with Rose flashing on the wing to right. Noah found Rose on an alley-oop and everyone in our section was treated to Rose's high wire act.

But the truth is that despite Rose, the Bulls aren't very good. I am not a big fan of the Vinny Del Negro era and greatly missed Ty Thomas Friday night. Kirk Hinrich, Flip Murray, Hakim Warrick, and Brad Miller were not terribly impressive. Noah, Taj Gibson, and James Johnson played decently -- you can easily see why the coaching staff loves Gibson -- but Luol Deng does not seem like he is fully back from the injuries that have bothered him over the last few seasons. And so it looks like another era is going to be pissed away. This time not by the ego of Jerry Krause but, rather, the vague hope that some big time player will want to save the franchise. But, come what may, as long as Rose keeps suiting up healthy for the Bulls, I imagine that I'll want tickets.

On Saturday, I took a seat in RFK's Mezzanine for the first time during a United match. Our season tickets for the Nationals were in that part of the stadium but I had not quite made the connection that its a good place to take in a footie. The perspective from the Mezzanine is terrific and I had a great vantage point to take in what seems like a good partnership between Cristian Castillo and Rodney Wallace on United's left side.

Nevertheless, about forty minutes into the match I wrote friends that couldn't make the game that although United had dominated the game, they would lose the match because they pose no offensive threat. The 2-0 loss was, then, not unexpected and its difficult to imagine what Onalfo sees in an attacking partnership between Moreno and Pontius that merits continuation. Pontius's first touch is pretty poor and he seems to pose the most threat to score when given an opportunity to head in crosses. Moreno plays slower than he played last year, but the team tries to build a lot of plays through the middle and this is not to Pontius's strength. At times, it looks like Onalfo's offensive gameplan would be best served by having a striker like, say, Luciano Emilio -- a guy who can chase down booted balls, can get himself into space, and can get off quick shots. That doesn't exist on United and although Allsopp was supposed to be the man up front, he's played so little in the first two games of the season that its impossible to make any judgment about what he can do.

New England's two goals were disturbing, but more troubling was the fact that other than a Quaranta free kick, United did almost nothing to even raise the possibility of a goal.

No matter what, it was a beautiful night to be out watching a game and even if United gets slammed all season, my expectations are sufficiently low that I'll still be content.

Club soccer today. It shouldn't have happened. I made a mistake. No way should have I tried to test myself against serious players (the location of the match, the Maryland Soccerplex, added to the lustre of what I was hoping was the equivalent of a pick up soccer match). But it happened and I played the full 90 without running. But boy oh boy is it tough to play this game.