Sunday, November 28, 2010

Divided and Falling

The last time we saw Rodney Wallace, he was sitting by himself in the stands at Ludwig watching some of his former classmates finish out a fantastic regular season.

We will be back out at Ludwig this afternoon -- one week after seeing the Terps convincingly dispatch UPenn in the second round of the NCAA tournament -- and it will be interesting to see if Wallace will make it out as well.

The trip out to College Park should be a little more difficult for Rodney as he'll be out in the Rose City for the Timbers' inaugural season in the MLS. He will not be wanting for familiar faces as he'll be joining fellow Terrapin Jeremy Hall and another local product and DC United defender, Jordan Graye.

I need to maintain a bit of discipline about my thoughts on United. The club continues to do a tremendous job with regard to its supporters. There was simply no question that we would renew -- and expand -- our season tickets for the next season. No matter how dire the product is on the field, we've generally greatly enjoyed our trips to RFK and are looking forward to another year.

But the team itself is likely to be, once again, awful. Protecting Kurt Morsink after losing Jordan Graye was the final straw. I, admittedly, have little to offer by way of meaningful analysis of the relative attributes of players and strategies. But what I lack in competence, I have made up for in resilience by way of witnessing nearly every horrid minute of United's seasons over the last two years.

Jordan Graye had a solid rookie campaign marred by two gaffes that he was unlucky to have turned into goals for the other side. Graye's crosses and distribution were better than anything offered by United's other wide players. That is not to say that Graye's deliveries were exceptional, but rather underscores the absurdity of having signed Danny Allsopp to play up front with little ability to feed him the ball in the box.

Kurt Morsink, in contrast, underperformed and with a few notable exceptions was a negative influence on the field. Morsink made a mockery of on-field leadership by consistently hectoring others and failing to live up to his own exhortations. A fair review of tape from this past season would expose numerous examples of piss poor play from Morsink.

I am inclined, Rod Dyachenko excluded, to support United players regardless of perceived deficiencies, but Morsink lost me early on in the year and his failure to follow through on plays -- to give his best effort with limited talent -- infuriated me in the stands. Morsink was an emblem of the team's shortcomings rather than a ray of hope for a resurgent 2011 campaign.

And, more importantly, Morsink sits in a position -- center midfield -- that is already competently patrolled by Clyde Simms and Stephen King.

Morsink is a good player. He has built a career as a professional soccer player and he earns his salary. He would probably be an important contributor to another MLS side -- unlike Rod Dyachenko, who did not have the skill to play in the MLS but was asked to do more than he could by Coach Soehn -- and so my annoyance is not really a personal sleight at Kurt. Instead, it is exasperation at what United's front office has seen and how they've assessed the last couple of years.

Perhaps McCarty will be a useful addition. I don't know. Dax had a couple of games this last year where he imposed himself on the pitch in a way that Rodney Wallace has not yet been able to do. But both Graye and Wallace were promising, good young players and United, frankly, pissed Graye away. Ascribing value to Morsink, after not doing the same for Graye -- on top of benching Graye for much of the remainder of a meaningless season but playing Morsink -- does not bode well for a meaningful turnaround in 2011.

I've had several days to reflect on the loss of Graye and Wallace. Rather than come to grips with the new reality, I've just become increasingly disenchanted with United's management. At least I will get to see Jordan and Rodney (and Jeremy Hall) play for a competitive side when the Timbers visit RFK. Nevertheless, for some reason, that prospect doesn't salve the wound.

Best of luck to Graye and Wallace (and Hall) in Portland. We'll miss you.

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