First Impressions -- D.C. United 0 : 0 Real Salt Lake
They say some nil-nil draws can be exciting and dramatic as a scorefest. This was not of them. Tedium was an ever-present blanket at RFK, draping fans and players alike in a humid embrace. It was a game where even Clint Mathis running his mouth like a deranged poodle defending his turf from a mastiff was more a pleasant diversion than a source of interest. Forget Tony Limarzi's excited inflections, this game should have been called by Garrison Keillor. "Well, the news at RFK is of the languid summer, the trees venturing towards green. In soccer at RFK, it is considered impolite to score, since most of the forwards are Lutherans and that sort of excitement might lead to rock and roll."
Even Fred's misses were not as exciting as normal. This match was a volley over the bar, a routine miss instead of the glorious and epic miss from last Wednesday. The Barra was displaying a "Sing or Leave" sign to its faithful, and the match made the second option a serious consideration. Part of this was the lack of engagement from United's attack. Jaimo Moreno was silent for 13 minutes. I had utterly forgotten he was in the game until the 14th minute, when he kicked off a stretch of multiple bad giveaways in the defensive third. The great addition of Moreno was his ability to the hold the ball, right? Not so much.
Similarly, Emilio seemed reluctant to pull the trigger on a shot, passing up chances to try and put the ball right on his foot only to find his momentum had carried him to a difficult angle. Christian Gomez showed a few scant signs of passion, at one point pulling off a classic forty yard sprint with the ball that ultimately went wanting. The only first half player demonstrating any desire to score was Santino Quaranta, and even he ultimately was disgusted but what he saw, even rightfully yapping at Jaime after Jaime never made a run on a nicely headed through ball played by Tino.
That being said, the defense was better. While RSL dominated the shots category in the first half, most of these were distance affairs with little traffic to bother Josh Wicks. At the end of the half he made an excellent stop to preserve the deadlock. In the second half, Wicks came alive, pulling out three excellent saves. Wicks is the first keeper to have a game where the presence of the keeper ultimately saved whatever hope United had for points. Similarly, Marc Burch's game defensively was strong. While his marking off the ball remains a little suspect, his tackling was excellent and timely, and was ultimately crucial in thwarting some RSL advances.
Tom Soehn deserves credit for pulling Moreno at half-time and replacing him with Pontius. The addition of Rodney Wallace two-thirds through also at least added someone willing to make the runs Fred was not. But tactically, this team was consistently trying to play over the top against an RSL back line that seemed content to handle it, boxing Fred or Tino to the side and then turning the play back.
If you decided to pass on the Freedom game and only watch the United match, you made the wrong choice. This game is forgettable, a waste of a strong defensive and keeping effort by an attack that seemed to thing their three day weekend had already begun.
Your man of the match is quite rightfully Josh Wicks. Merit awards to Burch and Tino. Censure to Moreno and Emilio.