United Reborn. So said a sign in the crowd during DC United’s 3-1 victory last night over the Columbus Crew, in a battle of rebuilding Eastern Conference teams. While both are rebuilding, they are coming from different places. Columbus is rebuilding after being second in the East last year and winning the Supporter’s Shield the year before, but with two first round playoff exits. While some (Hans Backe) would argue that the Supporter’s Shield should be more important than the MLS Cup, it is obvious that Columbus does not agree. United, on the other hand, is coming off the the worst season in MLS history.
The first half looked a little like last season: a lot of possession, some chances, but nothing being converted. However, the second half was something not seen last year. Josh Wolff’s hard work turned into a deserved goal, Charlie Davies slotted home a penalty kick, and he outworked the Columbus back line to put away his second goal. DC United did not reach 3 total goals in league play until their first win, the 6th game against the then Kansas City Wizards on May 5. That was also the day they got their first points of the season. This year, 3 goals and 3 points in the first game.
It is too early to declare that United is Reborn. It is too early to make any serious predictions about the prospect of postseason play (even though I already did). But regardless what else happens, this team will be more fun to watch than last year’s version and Olsen will not let them quit, no matter what the circumstances.
On to the ratings:
- Pat Onstad – 6: He got into trouble on a few crosses, but he settled in later in the game. He made some key saves and, all in all, looked good. There was nothing he could do about the PK.
- Jed Zayner – 7: Gave up a foul in a semi-dangerous area early on, but he played well the rest of the game. He did a good job getting forward, played in a nice pass into Joseph Ngweyna, poked away a ball from Jeff Cunningham that he would have put on frame, and he cleaned up a mistake made by Dejan Jakovic early in the second half. And he assisted on United’s first goal, scored by Josh Wolff. Hopefully it was just cramps that took him off in the 70th minute.
- Dejan Jakovic – 5: His clearances were average; his favorite play seemed to be punting the ball high up into the air in no particular direction. He was also beaten once or twice into the box, but he became more solid as the game went on. The penalty he gave up was not his fault, however. I hope Perry Kitchen continues to be a good influence on him, as he has all the talents to be a high class centerback.
- Perry Kitchen – 7: Perry Kitchen will be one of the best center backs in the league. He had poise under pressure and shut down Columbus’ designated player one on one, when he was the last man to beat. I almost want the U-20 National Team to lose their qualifiers, just so he will be back to us sooner.
- Marc Burch – 7: Marc Burch had a nice clearance off the line early in the game to keep the score level. He also played well going forward, playing a nice ball into the box that Josh Wolff juuuuust barely missed, and assisting with Charlie Davies’ second goal. It is a little surprising after he barely got any playing time in the preseason, but his performance seems to solidify his starting role. Preseason competition pushed Burch, and pushed him back into his starting spot.
- Andy Najar – 7: Andy Najar picked up where he left off last year, but also added a noticeably better job with his defensive responsibilities. He put in some nice crosses while being double teamed all night. If teams continue to double team him, that will keep more space open for McCarty, Pontius, and the strikers.
- Dax McCarty – 8: All night, Dax McCarty was outworking and outhustling everyone in Columbus’ midfield, and put some nice moves on Columbus’ defenders while in the attack. He was controlling and organizing the midfield, linking up well between the defense and the wingers and strikers. The only blemish on his play was some poor set pieces, but those should improve.
- Clyde Simms – 7: A classic Clyde Simms performance: nothing flashy or exceptional, but did the defensive heavy lifting in the midfield.
- Chris Pontius – 8: Like Dax McCarty, Chris Pontius was outworking the defenders that he was matched up against, making dangerous runs and putting in dangerous crosses. He had some nice shots early on, especially the ones where he turned and put the ball on frame. That was sorely missing from United last year. His hustle also drew a penalty, which was converted by Charlie Davies.
- Josh Wolff – 9: My man of the match. Josh Wolff was dangerous from the beginning of the game until around the 75th minute, when he began to tire. He has running hard and fast, and could have had two more goals if not for great saves by Columbus’ keeper. He embarassed Julius James, catching him napping and almost beating him for a goal. He also had good crosses that could have (and should have) been put on frame by Ngwenya. He looks to be snatching the starting spot which seemed to be Ngwenya’s to lose (which he may have).
- Joseph Ngwenya – 3: This was not a good game for Joseph Ngwenya. He was dispossessed early and often and his first touch was often heavy, leading to turnovers. When he was given good opportunities from Wolff, Pontius, and others, he could not put them on frame, either skying them over the goal or having to play the ball back because he did not shoot fast enough. I am sure he is hearing the footsteps of Charlie Davies challenging for his starting spot.
- Charlie Davies – 9: There is not much more to say about Charlie Davies’ debut that hasn’t been already said. While expectations must stay tempered, it is an encouraging sign. His speed and skill on the ball looked a step ahead of MLS defenders. His first start could come as soon as this coming Saturday in place of Joseph Ngwenya.
- Rodrigo Brasesco – 7: Came on at around the 70th minute for a (hopefully) just tired Jed Zayner. His 20 minutes of play left me confident that he can do a good job standing in for Perry Kitchen while he is away with the U-20 National Team.
- Santino Quaranta – NA: Only got one or two touches on the ball; did play well in today’s Reserve League match, though.