First Impressions - D.C. United 1 : 1 Chicago Fire
Every fiber of my being says to be taken seriously, I should embrace the cynical. And yet, well, I can't. If, like me, you consider United to a perpetual work in progress for this season, then while the picture remains incomplete it does seem like a few corner bits were filled in during this match. Yes, United took a lead. Yes, United gave it up. And yes, United emerged with a draw when a win seemed within reach. I know, this all argues for me to be annoyed and frustrated. I know all the cool kids right now are writing their FIRE SOEHN posts. But to me... To me, here's what I saw that makes me happy to look for the next episode of our favorite running melodrama.
First, the defense. They were embarrassed on the goal surrendered to Nyarko, and they gave up some chances, but... they only gave up one goal. And yes, to me, that's as much as I hope for from this defense in any season. Namoff has an exceptionally good game (exhibit 1: An excellent tackle in the box on Nyarko in the 29th minute), Burch didn't look abused, and Jakovic was beaten by Nyarko's speed but was otherwise better than what he was against L.A. This was a better performance by a defense. Simms and Olsen seemed more comfortable in midfield, though this in part may have been the home field advantage. Wallace and Pontius were not run at all night on the wings, but part of that seems to have been the way Chicago was running their offense. Still, they weren't a defensive liability, which I think you might have wondered about. I'm not expecting a consistent upward trend from night to night, but if this is what we get on any given match with the defense, then one goal allowed will be enough.
Let's talk keepers. Last week I was happy with Wicks, but wondered about his ability to actually make a save. Perhaps he should have done better on the goal he allowed, but in general this game showed good things. When he came off hish line, he got the ball. And in the 89th minute he saved a point for United with a quality save. A difficult save. So as a keeper, I don't feel like all is lost if I see his name on the roster sheet.
United generated chances. Emilio scored one nicely, Olsen's header, had it been about seven inches to the left, might have iced the game, and Chris Pontius skied a shot over the bar. I would have liked more finishing, but I'm willing to accept only one goal provided United generates some chances, which they did.
Do I have concerns? Yes, I do. Despite the results to date, to my eye United looks like a team that players better with a lead. Really, I know I'm writing this after two leads have been squandered, but in both games United's best stretches of play came after their goal was recorded. With the match level, they seem more nervous, tense, and less creative. I worry about how this team would respond if they were to go down a goal in a match. Of course, that would be a situation to never see tested. But it does concern me a little. How will they respond?
I know. It's a draw, and that feels ugly, and United has yet to win a match this season. But this is a team that had the fewest number of draws in the league last year (only 4). In my mind, these are games that United lost last year, not drew. If we are drawing games instead of losing them, and working towards winning instead of drawing, then I think there's a reason for hope. Of course, this mean's I'm a sap for the man, an easy mark, but given that my expectations were to be wallowing in darkness, dread, and despair, I will accept being the patsy. For now, it feels nice to risk naivete.