I have probably among the supporters of American soccer been most critical in the last week of MLS’ recent failures in international competitions. But tonight, despite the final scoreline DC United did MLS proud and fought valiantly until the final whistle sounded, a whistle that came two to three minutes too early.
Luciano Emilio’s finishing was abhorrent tonight, but otherwise DC looked like a hungry team with an immense about of culture and skill. Jaime Moreno showed even at 34 he’s still lively in the big matches and for the first time since his signing we got a true taste of the impact Marcello Gallardo can make for this team.
Also encouraging were the signs that Fred’s slump is over as he showed a quality playing on the right side late in the match after Mark Burch came in on the left side, that has been missing from his game this year. Franco Neil who Dave Denholm and I ripped this past week on the American Soccer Show showed his quality and spunk coming on late and stimulating the DC attack. Add Benny Olsen back to the mix and you’ll have a very potent MLS team even though it is little late for my liking since I believe MLS needed DC United to get through tonigh.
Not to cry over spilled milk but I have some real issues with the officiating in this match and feel it had a very negative impact on DC United’s fate. Here are the most striking examples.
- Fred was no doubt taken down in the box when he had beaten the Pachuca defense and was in on goal in minute 56. Not only was it a missed PK call, but it was even worse a situation where Fred was in on goal and the last defender pulled him down.
- Fred was taken down right outside the 18” a minute later and was not awarded a free kick.
- Gonzalo Martinez was taken down in the midfield clearly with the Pachuca midfielder not playing the ball around minute 76 and yet the “play on” sign was given.
- How does a referee come up with two minutes of stoppage time when 3 goals were scored and 6 substitutions were made? What’s worse is the second DC goal cut into the scant stoppage time. Pachuca’s legs were dead and DC had found their feet and spunk with Rod Dyanchenko and Franco Neill linking up with Fred. It seemed DC would get at least two more opportunities to even the aggregate if even a decently fair amount of stoppage time had been given.
Now off to watch Houston, a team I had much less hope for than DC tonight given all the injuries the Dynamo have and the poor MLS track record in Costa Rica. A reason exists why even when other teams win titles and DC United seems down, I refer to them as the”signature club of MLS.” Again tonight, the black and red proved even under the toughest of circumstances they are almost always the best ambassador the league has.