First Impressions -- D.C. United 1 : 0 Houston Dynamo
Pick your cliche: you have to crawl before you walk, you have to win ugly before you win with style. I'm not sure that either of these are true, but as a comforting and convenient fiction, I will take United's 1-nil victory over Houston. It was not a pretty affair, it had a fairly dreary open for both sides, United never looked as good as they had looked at moments in LA or hosting Chicago, but unlike those two matches, United finished up at the end of the game. And if you offer me a season of 1-0 victories like this, I will take them. Win ugly, fine.
There are a lot of things to digest in this match... far too much for a first impressions post. There was Emilio's play and his pressure for 85 minutes (until he ran himself out.) There was the return of Fred, who subbed in for Gomez, but in a strange move Fred remained on the right and Chris Pontius took Gomez's role in the center. There was the debut of Ange N'Silu, who shows moments of intriguing skill and intelligence, but also drifted out of the match for stretches. There was Gomez who had a strong opening to the match, but seemed to fade just before half-time.
And, of course, there was a red card shown to Jaime Moreno just six minutes after he entered the game. I think it was a harsh red, but it was a red I have seen before (though not in any MLS game in my memory). Still, if I have this right, it was a tackle from behind (dangerous territory) and the studs were somewhat up, so while I can whine about center official Baldomero Toledo, I can also admit that from my initial vantage point in the stands, it seemed like a defensible call.
Two things stay with me. The first is that United wins this match, and won it even as their play was frustrating to watch, even as Tom Soehn and the team bunkered down from about the 60th minute onward. The second thing was that I forget how nice it is to watch a match with friends (I got to see this guy, and this one, and this one, and several of our commenters, and it reminds me that even when the soccer is ugly, the people are beautiful. Cue string orchestra). And so I return home, pleased with three points, disquieted at my own ungrateful nature for not being satisfied with just the win but also demanding sometime more, but ultimately reassured that somehow, even in a mass of red cards, red faces, and black shirts, the world is a good place.
Man of the Match will likely be Emilio (just as much for his work applying pressure as for the goal, a goal partially gifted to us by our old friend Bobby Boswell). We'll talk about Clyde Simms and his tackling, Luis Crayton and his flopping, and United's overall bunkering in the debrief.