Saturday, March 26, 2011

DC United Week 2: What the Heck Was That?

Maybe it was New England's turf field. Maybe United were still excited about last week's win. Perhaps three players who started for the first game of the season was too many to deal with. It does not matter, DC were flat in their first away game of the season. In contrast to last week, there was a lack of vigor on Saturday and at times (especially in the first half) it looked like Joseph Ngwenya and Chris Pontius were the only ones working.

For most of the game, United's players looked like strangers on the field, there was little coordination and several times it looked like players were not expecting to ball to come toward them. Najar fought for the ball, cross it into the box, only for no one to be on the other end. What happened to the link-up play?

But if United needed a boost, it was New England who received it early in the game after a clear handball five feet from the goal by Zack Schilawski, went uncalled in the eighth minute. A few minutes later, Shalrie Joseph converted on a penalty kick after Dax McCarty jumped tried to clear the ball in the box with a wild kick that caught a sparrow-in-flight-like Pat Phelan in the shin. In total, there were five yellow cards called in the game and one red card. There was also a penalty kick taken by Charlie Davies in the 89th minute, but it was too little too late.

Coach Olsen tried to compensate for New England's midfield in the second half, changing his 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2 and bringing two subs on.

Attitude Adjustment Needed?
It is unclear what happened this week. Maybe the pressure of facing the Revolution at Foxboro? Afterall, in an era where MLS is trying to play-up team rivalries, the differences between these clubs are real. This is not like last year's "rivalry" between United and the expansion Philadelphia Union; two teams that had never played each other, but which journalists parroted MLS in playing up the rivalries between these cities in other sports. Oddly enough, perhaps the missing ingredient this week was character. It was disconcerting watching Charlie Davies pat Revs goalie on the back after saving a goal and smiling and hugging other players at different times. I think most people want to see him do well, but we also want to see him less chummy with opposing teams.

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