DC’s Statement over the Crew

So, my weekend viewing went a little sideways. My original plan had me taking in Red Bull v. LA – and I’m very glad to have stuck with that. The other one-to-two games I expected to watch were Columbus Crew v. DC United (first) and Real Salt Lake v. Chicago Fire (second); I sorta managed the former – by which I mean, I watched it in archived chunks, mainly because I ran across the final score before watching. I caught highlights for Salt Lake v. Chicago – great goal by Cuauthemoc Blanco, by the way (look for it on Youtube…now) – but otherwise blew off. I don’t know that I missed much – I mean, RSL lost…again – while Chicago’s new toys worked as advertised. At the same time, I can’t say New England v. Kansas City was a better game; I’d be surprised, in fact, if it was.

So, with the caveat that I didn’t watch every minute in real time, Columbus versus DC looked like a pretty educational affair. The scoreline flattered DC, if only just: by that I mean, Columbus isn’t significantly worse, but their attack suffers from fairly severe limitations; put in more blunt terms, this team really needs a “go-to” forward. In players like Luciano Emilio and, on Saturday, Fred, DC has those players – and that’s why they won.

It’s not all a wash for the Crew, though. The recent defensive stability of Columbus seems to have left the buidling with Chad Marshall; his replacement, Ezra Hendrickson, struggled all day – and he was almost completely at fault for DC’s insurance goal. I’m not a firm believer in Rusty Pierce, either, and, looking at the line-up, I wonder how much the decision to shift Stephani Miglioranzi into midfield (and I’m assuming this is what happened) hurt the Crew.

For all that, however, the Crew kept the ball about as well as DC and did, for as much of the game as I watched, limit their chances while setting up enough of their own. Those chances weren’t great ones – call the majority of ’em half- or even quarter-chances – but the Crew have enough in defense and midfield to keep DC out of their defensive third. Again, they just don’t have enough to win against a team as good as DC.

DC continues to impress me. Their success is not built on great players – I find DC’s roster good in spots, but overall underwhelming – but on their capacity to play as a team. The movement is crisp and coordinated, they shrink the field to a postage stamp with pressure well up the field, and, when they’re in position, they’ve got the talent to exploit the opportunities. It’s a good formula, one I think has been part of DC’s approach since the Piotr Nowak took over. Whether I’m right or wrong here, one thing is for sure: DC is a team to watch down the stretch. Put another way, I think they’ll be number one again in my rankings at least.

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