Plenty of fans were saying last night that this match was like a microcosm of our season. I disagree. A microcosm of our season would have included DC United grabbing an early lead and taking it into halftime. It also would have included many chances to go even further ahead, but we would have had multiple goals disallowed and/or our opponent would have scored after some poor officiating. And then we would have failed to put away chances to avoid everything coming down to the wire, and we would have been held back by injuries (ok, maybe that last part is true).
What we saw instead was a team that clearly wanted a victory. They fought hard, which is something that we weren't saying much during our three straight home losses just a short time ago. The team unfortunately left too many points on the table over the course of the season, and those opportunities will be second guessed from our couches, rather than from the bounching seats of RFK Stadium. Because our season has come to a premature end.
1. Julius James played well defensively as the center of our three-man backline. But after limping around on one foot and being moved to forward, it was his go-ahead header that will be a lasting image. I'm tempted to throw out all voting for the Grosy Award and hand it to James for that performance.
2. There's no doubt that the game changed at half time with Ben Olsen and Jaime Moreno joining the lineup. Olsen was able to hold more possession in his first 5 minutes than Szetela had in his 45. Moreno scored on yet another PK, and both players seemed to motivate the team to give their all. Which makes you wonder why they both weren't starting in the first place...
1. Steve Cronin made some very good saves in this match, despite looking a bit shaky at times in the first half. I'm not sure what the team will need to do to get him back next year, but they need to find out.
2. I was once again impressed with the effort of Fred. He earned the foul that led to the tying PK goal, and also made some positive contributions defensively despite some obvious cramping late in the match. His red card for a handball to keep the ball out of the net was the correct call, and I think every one of us would have done the same thing.
1. Rodney Wallace was getting beat nonstop by Kei Kamara in the first half, including getting beat on the Wizards' first goal. Wallace came within 2" of total redemption when his potential game-winning shot struck the post, but unfortunately it wasn't in the cards.
2. There were some questionable roster decisions by Tom Soehn, as has been typical over the course of this season. Even the players have complained about the coach's inability to establish a consistent starting lineup. And I just don't understand the decision to leave Olsen and Moreno home from Mexico mid-week, and then start both of them on the bench. It's doubtful though that we will have the chance to question Soehn's lineups ever again.
When the final whistle blew, it didn't feel real. And you could see that on the players' faces as well. It was as if they were each asking themselves: "How did we get here?" How did we take a team with this much talent, and drop so far so fast? You'd be hard pressed to find somebody who would argue that the 2009 DC United team was not better than the 2008 DC United team, yet they were in the same exact position at the conclusion of the season. One point out of the playoffs. Was that because of mismanagement? Poor coaching? Lack of production? Lack of effort? Officiating? Injuries?
You could chalk up our underperformance this year to any of those things. I'm not sure which one was the most crucial, but it doesn't really matter what I think. I'm much more curious about what Will Chang and Kevin Payne think.
Tom Soehn's career in DC will likely end any day now. This makes you wonder if anyone else's career in DC is about to end also. Dave Kasper? Moreno and Gomez? Emilio and Fred? Bryan Namoff?
Surely I'm going to have a lot of write about over the next few weeks. I would much rather be writing more match reactions, but this organization is sure to still keep us bloggers busy.
Last note: I've said it before but I'll repeat it here: If we are changing head coaches we need to do it NOW. The expansion draft is exactly one month away. And I want our new head coach to be the one making the important decisions about who to protect.