Compared to last week, this game was refreshingly free of both the inane and the absurd, so I think there will be a lot less comedy from me. Which is a shame, since my soccer analysis can be both inane and absurd. I’ll give it a try anyway.
1) I wouldn’t call this the prettiest game we’ve ever played, but we still won, 2-0, didn’t we? Part of that is because DC United sucks. But it’s also because we’re a very good team, and very good teams win the ugly ones.
Why was it so ugly? Well, from what Coach Porter’s saying, the loss of Diego Valeri required us to play a more direct style, with less possession, more punting, and a slightly uglier aesthetic. If you look at the statistics, you’ll see that DC had a higher percentage of possession, more total passes, and more shots. Fortunately for us, every time DC got the ball in front of the net, they blew it, spraying shots at everything except the goal. We were lucky. If we give up those kind of opportunities to a good team, we lose.
2) Possibly we gave up so many chances because we had a new guy in the back four. Pa Modou Kah is certainly a lot more experienced than 20-year old Andrew Jean-Baptiste, but he’s also only been on the team a week and a half. He’ll be better next game.
But what about that next game? What happens when Futty Danso comes back from his red card? Does Kah stay in? Personally, I think he should. Jean-Baptiste makes me a little nervous, always wrestling with guys back there. He seems like a penalty kick waiting to happen.
And I like the idea Kah and Futty back there together. This whole “Great Wall of Gambia” thing we’ve got going on is fascinating. But I will admit, there are questions. For starters, who’s in charge, Futty or Kah? More importantly, will they have theme music and costumes? I think they should wear vampire teeth. And yes, I’m completely serious. Think of the intimidation factor. The opposing team will hear rumors that we’ve got two big tall Gambians back there, but they won’t know what to expect. How could they? Does anyone know what happens when you play two Gambian centerbacks side-by-side? Maybe they grow vampire teeth. I say we give it a try. (Editor’s Note: I love African football)
3) Three words. Rodney Freakin’ Wallace. The guy’s a machine, isn’t he? Non-stop energy, from start to finish. I saw him rockin’ it on the left side, the right side, forward, back, middle. He’s everywhere. You know how much I love Diego Chara, right? Well, everything Chara does for our defense, RFW is doing for our offense. And how about that goal, eh? An absolute laser right between the goalie and the near post. That’s a world-class strike, right there. Does MLS give an award for Most Improved Player, because if so, they might as well start inscribing the trophy right now.
4) Also fabulous: Darlington Nagbe. For years we’ve been begging him to be more aggressive. Well, Valeri’s absence Saturday must have flipped that switch, because Nags came out firing. I love it when he’s got the ball at his feet and decides to pin his ears back and run straight at the defense. He’s a blur. His aggressive play and shots from distance really opened things up for the rest of the team. The question now is whether this sort of energy will continue once Valeri’s back on the field. And should it? There’s a side of me that wonders if perhaps everything we saw versus DC was a one-time thing.
5) Case in point: we started the game with two strikers – Ryan Johnson and Frederic Piquionne. You’d expect them to be the scorers, right? Except they weren’t. In this weird, direct offense we had Saturday, the scorers became the playmakers and the playmakers became the scorers.
RFW’s goal? That happened because Freddy Piquionne got the ball, held it for a few seconds, let the defense rush out to stop him, then flipped a nice little pass to the suddenly wide-open Wallace. One missile strike later, we’re up 1-0.
Nagbe’s goal? Similar, except this time it was Ryan Johnson holding the ball, pulling the defense to him, then lofting it forward. Nags fights off not one, not two, but three DC defenders, then sends it through the keepers legs.
I’m starting to wonder if there really is no single, definable offense that we can call “Porterball.” Caleb Porter seems to mix it up just a bit for every single game. And when we face Chicago, with Valeri back on the pitch, I’m sure that, once again, we’ll see something new.
6) So, we lost to Montreal way back in early March. Since then, 11 straight games without a loss. When does it end?
Probably not against Chicago. It’s a road game, yes, but Chicago’s really not that good.
After that, we host Dallas, who only have the best record in the league. Still, it’s at home. I say the streak’s safe for that one.
It’s the next week when I think we finally lose. We visit the LA Galaxy on June 19th and, lemme tell ya, they could not have looked better this Sunday night, destroying Seattle 4-0. They dominated every aspect of the game. Offense, defense, set pieces, possession. They looked like the best team in the league. So if our streak has to end – and it does – then I think it’s against LA.
But until then, let’s enjoy ourselves, right? I saw some heavy legs against DC, so I think we’re having our week off at just the right time. Take it easy, boys. Spend these next two weeks getting healthy, then come back against Chicago tanned, rested, and ready to go.
And please, please, PLEASE bring your vampire teeth.