You know what's awesome about MLS?
Actually, nothing, it's really fucking rinky-dink. Never mind.
You know what's kind of entertaining about MLS, in a self-flagellating sort of way? There are nights in MLS when I actually pay money to go be afflicted with both Abbey Okulaja and David Fucking Beckham in the same night. Tonight? Was one of those nights.
I must begin with a deserved apology to BFF; I just watched the replays on MLSNet, and Charlie Davies most assuredly did dive for a penalty in the 88th minute. Omar Gonzalez barely touched him. But this ties in with the theme of what follows; United absolutely, positively did not deserve to walk away with a point from its match against the Gals tonight. And as badly as Abbey handled another game (Beckham should've been sent off in the 41st minute for deliberately attempting to injure Josh Wolff; Davies was manhandled from the moment he entered the game; and Quaranta should've been sent off at least twice before he actually was), it was gratifying for the worst of it, the bit that actually affected the league table, to go in our favor. For once.
Most of that doesn't matter, except maybe to the Gals, who should feel aggrieved. But who the fuck cares? They're the fucking Gals. Fuck 'em.
Here's what does matter: United played like shit. They're badly coached and far too many of them don't give a shit. Some key players who do seem to give a shit also seem to have shit for brains, or for talent. Details follow, but the bottom line is that United is still a very, very bad team. They may have enough about them to get a few more points than last year, but they're really fucking bad.
Let's start with the attack. The Gals are best up the middle, anchored by former Terp Omar Gonzalez (who I cannot bring myself to discommodate--he's going to be an awesome USMNT player). So you go to the wings, right? Well, Najar started the game on the bench, as did Boskovic. The starting wide mids were Quaranta and Pontius. Neither played like a winger. The problem here combined coaching and stupid play; Quaranta has become just a giant sack of balls running around the field hurling himself at things. Pontius has simply become retarded. Neither was doing anything to move the ball upfield, and both were far too eager to hold up the attack, back off, and probe for another opportunity.
I attribute this to coaching. Saint Benny very clearly coached the team to a slow tempo tonight. That was fucking stupid. Obviously, Benny was worried about breakaway speed from Gals like Angel and Franklin, and Benny's got no speed to go to on the back line, since the team traded away Wallace and Gray, and since so many guys are hurt (Goff says Kitchen had the flu). But the Gals are too loaded with talent for a team like DCU to break them down with patience and deliberation. The only time United looked to have chances was on the counter, and almost every single time, they were too chickenshit to try to close the counter. Pull up, back out, probe for an opening, turn over the ball--into a speedy and dangerous counter. It's almost as if they were coached that way.
There are also serious organizational problems on the back line. It's true that the team has suffered from nagging injuries, and it's a damn shame that Jed Zayner, who looked quite useful until he got whacked, has been hurt for so long. It's also a damn shame that Kitchen hasn't had time to gel, since he was with the soon-to-be-former-coach Thomas Rongen's U-20 US team. But that sort of situation calls for more coaching, more system, more organization. Every enemy attack--and we saw this on Wednesday night at the Plex against the Phunions, too--looks dangerous, every attack is thwarted by individual heroics. It worked tonight, inexplicably; the Gals' goal came, inexcusably, on a set piece. Whoops. More coaching.
Now, I'm constitutionally incapable of being too hard on Benny. For one thing, he's Benny, and for another, it's early in the season. But the team is lazy and stupid, and Benny needs to pull out the whip hand, and he needs to get some help to figure out how the fuck to organize a defense no matter what clods he has to throw into it.
The lazy part is also disturbing. Too many players seem to think they can just touch the ball, direct a deflection to a teammate and let it roll. Their lazy-ass teammates think they can hang out and wait for these lazy and incoherent dribbles to arrive. This has been a problem through about three coaches now. You have to go get the fucking pass. BFF seems to think it's a skill problem; I disagree. This is something you're coached on from youth. If you're good enough to play professionally, you're able to weight your touch. It's simply impossible that they're that technically unskilled. The problem is mental or intellectual.
Really Bad Players Who Should Dive Under A Bus Now:
Dax McCarty tops the list. He plays with some energy, but he has no touch and no common sense. He's the leader of the "let the ball bounce off me and call it a pass" party. He's a shitty on-field leader of the club, and he has yet to do one single thing in a game to give me any inkling of why he was worth Rodney Wallace, let alone why he should be this team's captain. Furthermore: he's a fucking dwarf. And a ginger. Right now, McCarty looks to be a worse acquisition than was Gallardo, and that's saying something.
Chris Pontius is out of chances. His play is remarkably stupid and uncreative, he won't make runs, and he's a Fredsux-quality turnover machine. For a wide mid to be unable to make runs and unable to deliver crosses is just unacceptable. And the number of times he was the one to hold up a breakout was appalling.
Santino Quaranta I already dealt with. He's just a big sack of testosterone and anger. Heart is no longer a problem for him, but he doesn't seem to have any remaining talent to go with it, or at least the intelligence to harness his talent (and experience--it's incredible how long he's been in the league, for his age) in a useful direction. Props to him for getting his ass back on defense, and congratulations to him for being no worse than my fourth or fifth most hated player on my own fucking club.
A number of guys aren't falling into this category because they didn't play. I'm mostly looking at you, Joseph Ngwenya. You fucking suck, dude.
Guys Who Are Going To Piss Me Off Real Soon If They Don't Get Their Shit Together:
Bill Hamid is clearly suffering from his injury layoff, and probably doesn't deserve to be on this list. He's not sure where he's supposed to be, and he's slow to come off the line when he needs to. He has a really poor command of the area. That's one of the few areas where he makes Pat Onstad look good--a confident veteran like Onstad, for all his physical deterioration, knows how to direct a defense. The defense never looks more disorganized than when Hamid is playing. Experience will fix this, and more playing time will increase Hamid's confidence about where he should be. On the other hand, Hamid has a wild side on the field that he can't let out of hand.
Mark Burch is someone I hate to put in this category, for obvious reasons. He's a Terp, and he will always be in my personal Hall of Fame for headbutting the Aztec No-Neck, Cuahatemec Blanco, a couple of summers ago at the Plex. But for the love of God, would some coach please make Burchie do six hours of right-foot drills for the rest of his fucking life? I've flown to the coast in less time than it takes him to run around the fucking ball to hit it with his left foot. And his touch is off, too--his ability to place those left-foot rockets ain't what it was two years ago.
Dejan Jakovic is adorably dirty and was responsible for a good third of the random unexpected heroics I mentioned earlier. He also has a wild streak a mile wide, manifesting mostly in a tendency to try to dribble upfield. This should be rewarded with a newspaper to his nose. Which is undoubtedly cold and wet. I love the guy, but Jeebus can he manage some scary shit.
Andy Najar is our darling. He's also short, and he needs to stop trying to play tall. He also very badly needs to figure out a new trick, because everyone's now seen the dribble-and-dash to the corner, and no one, least of all a wily veteran criminal like Todd Fucking Dunivant, is going to fall for it. He's obviously in the doghouse--he didn't start either Wednesday night or tonight--and when he gets into games, you sort of get a hint of why. It should be unsurprising that a teenager as celebrated as he was last season might cop an attitude problem, and this is one thing I have to commend Benny for--if the kid's too impressed with himself, he deserves the benching.
Inoffensive, Possibly Bland
Blake Brettschneider, Chris Korb, Ethan White
I've made no bones about how much I hate Josh Wolff. He's a dirty little bitch. But I have to hand it to him for his energy and his willingness to jump in and do things that have to be done. He's quickly earning his way into the position of our dirty little bitch, and I think Benny made a huge mistake by naming a permanent captain so early in this team's development. At this point, it would be a disservice to McCarty, as much as I hate him, to hand the armband to someone deserving--and that list begins and ends with Wolff--but Wolff is quickly becoming the guy who exemplifies on the field what the shirt is supposed to be about.
Branko Boskovic came in late, and sparked. It's about fucking time. But be that as it may, he deserves notice for bringing energy and touch and a willingness to move the ball forward--especially since he was the only one in the midfield willing to do that, in a game where the team was down and had nothing to lose by attacking without reserve.
Clyde Simms was responsible for most of the heroics that didn't fall to Jakovic. I counted five solid stops that would've otherwise been dangerous chances, if not run-of-play goals. Clyde was moving the ball well, and showed again why he's the best anchor we have. It remains a shame that the team couldn't find room for both Simms and Brian Carroll; it clearly needs more than one guy who can anchor the defense, and Simms is many shades better than anything else we have.
Charlie Davies is simply a blast. In each home game, he's come on and caused games to take a positive turn. He did dive, and big-time; if Abbey were a smarter referee, the penalty (and the equalizer) would've instead been a yellow card for Charlie. But it wasn't, and it was a much-needed point in the standings, and Davies is by far the most likely guy on the field to make things happen. It's a shame he's not in full-game condition yet, and we'll look forward to that day. He looks especially good up front with Wolff--the combination of Wolff's punkass bitchitude with Davies' speed and technical competence makes the team look more dangerous than it has in years.
Don't get me wrong. I expected a loss tonight, and I'm happy to have avoided it. I didn't know Donovan was hurt, and the Gals are a very talented and well-coached team that should simply mop up the fucking league without breaking much of a sweat. Beckham is a fucking punkass thug, and gets away with it because he's the money. I hope Bruce Arena is crying in Curt Onalfo's flopsweat tonight (Onalfo is the Gals' newest assistant coach). He should be, after getting pwn3d by a few lucky (for us) bounces and Abbey Okulaja's incompetence.
Fullback got up first. He's not wrong, and he's completely right that United stole a point tonight.