I'm Probably a Cutter
I said that I probably wouldn't write about DC United again, but last night's loss to LA was a kick to the genitals. The loss to the Crew in the U.S. Open Cup was a kick to the genitals. When they lost again to the Crew a couple days later, it was a kick to the ol' rod-and-tackle. It's good to feel again.
Actually, I'm completely serious. Last night, Brendan sent me a text saying that he was "foolish" enough to believe that DC might actually pull off a win when leading 1-0 in the 80th minute. I respond that I was similarly foolish and we have been watching our team concede goals late all season. Actually, Brendan, that was the emotion talking. You were right to believe. Six weeks ago, you never would have fallen for it because there was no reason to believe it. This time, the team gave us a reason.
Why Brendan Was Right to Believe
What happened last night? Losing last night's game can be chalked up to bad chemistry between Jakovic and Simms. Simms is playing through an injury and has spent large chunks of the season on the bench - that his chemistry might be off is disappointing, but understandable.
Graye then proceeded to completely lose Landon Donovan, who made an excellent run and executed a perfect header that left Perkins with no chance. Wow, a rookie-defender lost the best player in the league who made us pay for it? Shocking.
But the game should have been out of reach for LA, Boskovic and Hernandez both squandered chances. That happens, it's not something to be proud of, but plenty of teams fail to maximize chances (see: Arsenal - Sunderland).
Go back seven weeks or longer. You can't point to "what went wrong" because the team played so poorly, it seemed more a result of inevitability than individual errors.
A lot went right last night. You didn't see the first half, did you? 0-0, but DC United absolutely out-classed LA. That's not to say that LA didn't have chances, but United's attack picked it's way through the LA defense with a lot of creative short passing triangles, good ball-skills, believe it or not, retention of possession, speed (from the wings), and a lot of imagination. Brendan, I'm telling you, there were parts that were positively sexy. LA's chances came from long balls over the top, hoping that Buddle would leave James or Jakovic in the dust, which he could not do. For 75 minutes of that game, DC were the better side and not by a small margin.
That's How We Should Be Losing
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year and we have waited 2/3rds of the season to see signs of life. We have the youngest squad in the league, as we should. Graye isn't in the running for rookie of the year, neither were King or Zayner in their rookie years. However, all of them look like they will be very solid MLS players. Najar is a phenomenon. Jakovic is already, last night's single play not withstanding, one of the best central defenders in the league. Julius James has found his legs, he marked Buddle out of the match last night and has taken good players out of the game all season. Hernandez is improving by leaps and bounds as he adjusts to the league. He needs to work on his strength and balance, but his skill is starting to shine through, he carved out a lot of space last night and he is starting to beat defenders. Tino's entire game has improved, save his shooting. Did you see him dribble through two defenders last night? I expected him to put his head down and try to beat the last one and shoot over the bar. Instead, he looked up and laid the ball off to Hernandez. Boskovic is improving, but the jury is still out on whether he's worth the DP money.
Regardless, that is a pretty good base on which to build and that leaves Pontius and Wallace who are out injured. Even Burch looked pretty good in his couple of games this season. I'm not saying that we're going to run the table next year, but playoffs? Very possible. The year after, if the young guys continue their development, DC will have a very good team. There are still spots that need to be filled, chiefly goal scorer. Still, it's a very good foundation that are finally starting to mesh.
If we had played like this all season, we'd probably have a couple more wins and a lot more ties.