Friday, November 23, 2012


One of the lingering irritations of living in the Washington D.C. area is the poor quality of sports writing at the major dailies.  Over the last several years, other than Michael Wilbon, there have been exactly no sports journalists or columnists that I have taken any particular interest in or note of.

Happily, this is changing.

While at Comcast on Tuesday night watching Maryland dispatch Lafayette, I was struck once again by how well Pe'Shon Howard plays the point.  He committed a terrible turnover late in the game, looked very uncomfortable attempting open jumpshots, and occasionally failed to flash out fully at a Leopard looking to pop a three.  But when he was on the floor, he ran the Terps offense with poise and dropped some sizzling dimes.

I figured that I would come home and tap out another homage to Howard, one of the most underrated players on the squad.  But, as it turns out, this ground has already been covered much more competently by the Washington Post's excellent Alex Prewitt in a short post on Terrapins Insider on Sunday.   Prewitt really is terrific and does an incredible job providing context for what we're seeing on the court or on the field.  He seems to have little interest in mindlessly promoting Maryland's athletic program, nor does he appear to have any particular agenda in attacking coaches or administrators.  Instead, Prewitt provides insightful analysis and background.  He's a must-read for every Terrapin supporter.

But as grateful as I am for Mr. Prewitt's contributions, I am even more grateful for the work of the Washington Examiner's Craig Stouffer.

This has been a bittersweet season following D.C. United.  The dominant storyline is the team's return to competitiveness and falling just short of the MLS Cup game.  Despite limited interest for the bulk of the year, fans turned out for the playoff matches and the last regular season game (against Columbus).

We bucked that trend -- after going to home fixtures throughout the year, we gave away our tickets for the last three matches.  Although we fell in love with many of the players on this season's squad -- particularly Nick DeLeon -- by the end of the season, I was disenchanted and found myself rooting against Ben Olsen's favored sons.

My negativity has been further fueled by the lack of any meaningful analysis of the Olsen regime, as we are instead treated to inane hagiography.  I am, at this point, almost constitutionally incapable of giving credit to Coach Olsen for any one of the many undeniable things he has done to improve the side and develop certain individuals.

Craig Stouffer's summation of the season, published Monday, provided a balanced review that has been utterly lacking in the work of others covering the team.  As Stouffer observes, "Olsen’s coaching job will be universally lauded, but that doesn’t mean it was perfect."  Stouffer specifically questions Olsen's utilization of Branko Boskovic and Hamdi Salihi, something that has driven us nuts as we watched some really horrible performances in the midfield and at forward by players possessing nothing remotely close to the talent that Boskovic and Salihi offer.

Since United has bowed out of the playoffs, DC has parted company with Boskovic, a player who, along with DeRosario, offered the most innovation in attack we've seen in five years.  United has also locked up Dejan Jakovic with a new contract after Jakovic managed to play twenty games for the first time since 2009.  All signs point to Ethan White, again, being persona non grata in 2013.

But I take solace in the prospect of somebody actually holding management responsible.  Absent constructive critiques coming from those covering the team, there is little prospect that man management or personnel decisions will improve.  Stouffer can fill that vital role.

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