Monday, September 6, 2010

Bottoming Out

The decision to not spend three hours on the metro going to watch DC United get beat once again at RFK was due, in part, to listening to Charlton fall flat against Exeter nine hours earlier. Toggling between the two feeds on the CAFC Player did not change the general theme: an underwhelming performance from a team that needs to be playing with desperation and drive. And they are not. Despite Phil Parkinson having his team in place, the team seems to bleed no more for the shirt, for the club, and for its supporters than those (arguably more talented players) that preceded them but were found wanting.

I do not think that the same thing applies to DC United. Indeed, but for the long trip and the inability to convince anyone to join me, I had every intention of going and was even enthusiastic about the game.

D.C. United's performances are getting better. The players get stuck in. Even if the fans -- read: me -- aren't willing to put out the same effort, the season is not yet lost to them. Andy Najar had his worst game of the season and still United controlled much of the match. This was due primarily to the continuing resurgence of Santino Quaranta who has not only taken to the captain's armband but has transformed himself into the embodiment of leadership on the field.

Quaranta balanced Najar on the wings of the midfield with Pablo Hernandez and Stephen King powering the team's offensive surge from the middle. Clyde Simms slotted back with Julius James to anchor the defense with Jed Zayner and Jordan Graye at fullback. The makeshift four person backline was more than adequate, as the only goal was scored off of Bill Hamid's gift to Schelotto.

One of the beautiful things about the run of play under Ben Olsen is that it brings into sharp focus the deficiencies of Curt Onalfo's reign. I mistakenly believed that Onalfo was getting the team on track, but Olsen's decision to tab Quaranta with the captaincy underscored the absurdity of Onalfo's choice of Carey Talley as captain. Talley proved once again on Wednesday that as incredible his career and as wonderful his approach to the game is, he does not merit a roster spot, let alone being the captain of a team. Olsen, I think, hammered that point even further home by moving Simms back rather than risking an extended run with Talley partnered with Julius James.

The other harsh reality is that Danny Allsopp, who seems like a very nice guy and an exceptional professional, may not be good enough to be the first option at forward for an MLS team. Allsopp is getting decent service and had at least two chances on goal that should have been converted that were left wanting.

The only major negative for me coming out of watching DC United's fixture from the comfort of my couch was that Fox Soccer's coverage made it impossible to turn away from Kurt Morsink. Morsink played competently on the field -- this was not even close to his worst performance this year -- but I cannot dismiss the totally unsubstantiated conclusion that he is a negative influence on the team. Jordan Graye, who once again put in a good shift of work for United, got into a stupid argument with Hilario Grajeda over a foul called against him and, rather than drop back into defense, persisted in arguing his point. It was a mistake and something that left the Crew with an advantage on the ensuing free kick. And Morsink let Graye know that he had made a mistake and continued to berate the rookie after a Crew player whipped in a dangerous ball across the goal face from the position that Graye had abdicated. That would be fine as Morsink is a veteran and Graye had screwed up, except the team probably would have been better off if Morsink had simply covered rather then screamed and, if memory serves, Morsink has placed a priority on arguing with referees over positioning several times this season.

Never mind. The team continues to play hard. Since Onalfo was fired on August 4th, United has been in every game they have played ... with the two goal loss to FC Dallas only resulting because of a goal by Jeff Cunningham in injury time when United was pressing for the equalizer. Eventually, I believe, the pieces will come together and they'll have seven more chances in league play to see if it happens this season.

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