Sunday, March 5, 2017

DC United 0-0 Sporting Kansas City: Professionals, Grimly at Work

5 o'clock, 5 o'clock, 5 o'clock, 5 o'clock, 5 o'clock, 5 o'clock...
[This ties in with something I plan to post either tomorrow or Wednesday, depending on how god’s willing, and in which way. He’s cagey…]

DC United versus Sporting Kansas City, a game that knotted in fairly dreary zeroes, was on the TV the entire time I was in the same room, or a room adjacent thereto. I’m solid from about the 30th minute on, but I was preparing what turned out to be a pretty disappointing pot roast up to that point. So, that’s the disclosure portion out of the way…

Both DC and KC field solid professionals – aka, players who don’t fuck up a lot – so disciplined performances all ‘round, both Saturday and generally. Not a lot of daylight to be had between them, then, and this game felt pretty goddamn technical as a result, but for all the wrong reasons.

The name didn’t so much lack for highlights – KC’s ‘keeper, Tim Melia, saved both the shot and a rebound on a penalty kick, fer crissakes – as the ones it provided delivered on the defensive side. To hit this game solely from DC’s perspective, they handled just about everything KC could throw at them, up to and including an imbalance in possession, but a larger distinction showed up on the attacking side, where DC looked just…slower than Kansas City. I mean this last point in a “running in mud” kind of way: every KC player appeared able to run down any DC attacker in three or five strides.

To put that more directly, does DC have a speed problem, or does KC just have a fast team? With RFK riding off into the Demolition Sunset at year’s end, I’m worried it’s the former (e.g. DC’s slow). They weren’t impotent all night or anything – they had a couple shots around the 70th where they almost scored on both sides of Tim Melia off the same corner – but both Patrick Mullins and Lloyd Sam were invisible, while KC’s Jimmy Medranda/Graham Zusi combo punched quite a bit heavier than Taylor Kemp/Patrick Nyarko.

What I just flagged there touches on at least one part of what I wanted to watch for today – e.g., how KC’s shifts (Zusi to right back) and additions (Ilie Sanchez) worked out, and, alongside that to compare Zusi to DC’s Nick DeLeon. As much as I think KC’s combo (Medranda/Zusi) paired better, DeLeon feels like he’s a little ahead of Zusi at the right back position. With the skills he honed in midfield and on the wing down the years, DeLeon offers a damn reliable outlet for building out of the back, and he gets forward reasonably (if only that) to boot.

Tracking Sanchez – sorry, Ilie - proved a little tricky to track. That’s probably to his credit – and it’s plausible to argue he aided the possession imbalance – but I didn’t see him dominating the midfield, at least not in any outsized way beyond what KC did generally. There was also Gerso Fernandes, who looked fine, but KC still feels like a work in progress. A 75th minute breakout sort of underlined that thought: KC broke out with, maybe 4-5 guys, and just three DC defenders in front of them; each player’s run canceled out another’s, on the first, then second wave. Knowledge of tendencies aren’t there quite yet, basically, and it’s possible they may never arrive, I suppose. That’s something a team has to at least consider, right?

To flag an issue, though, DC’s speed/age issue feels like the bigger problem. Marcelo Sarvas, especially. All for this one…

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