A few thoughts about the game itself before we get to the player ratings:
D.C. United coach Ben Olsen was a disappointed man when he spoke to the media following Saturday night's 1-1 draw against the Los Angeles Galaxy at RFK Stadium. "I'm happy that we battled back and found a way to get a tie," Olsen said, "But overall, it’s not good enough, and that starts with me. I think we’re maybe fortunate tonight, and I’ll take the blame for that."
There's a certain amount of truth in what Olsen said. While the final statistics are relatively even (Los Angeles had five shots on goal to United's four and nine total shots to United's seven, while each goalkeeper made three saves and United took four corners to Los Angeles' two), you would have found very few people in the press box or in the stands who thought that the home side could take something from the game. Until, that is, Charlie Davies broke into the box, went down, and was given a penalty, which he duly converted.
If ever a game cried out for quickness in attack, this was the game for United. For all their talents, thecentral midfield tandem of David Beckham and Juninho have never been the quickest afoot, and there was a sense before the match that if United could execute a quick pass-and-move game even half as well as Real Salt Lake had March 26, then Los Angeles might be in real trouble.
With the exception of some good interplay in the first half between Josh Wolff and Chris Pontius, that kind of play rarely came to pass, and that was what pained Olsen, who has always advocated a ball-to-feet game in his time as coach. The most troubling thing about United's lack of fluidity is that there's no obvious quick fix. No doubt the team's youth has a lot to do with it (three of United's starting eleven were rookies, after all). But Olsen said when I asked him how the team's flow could improve, "We can do passing drills until we're blue in the face. The question is, do we have the guys to make those passes under a little bit of pressure?"
Of course, Los Angeles didn't exactly take the game to United either. They had three golden opportunities to go two-up: a header by Sean Franklin that went harmlessly over the crossbar, a shot from Mike Magee that was cleared off the line by debutant Ethan White, and an 80th minute chance from Magee that was tipped wide by Bill Hamid after Magee somehow had the ball drop to him while he was unmarked 10 yards in front of goal. Those chances, and a five-minute spell of possession at the start of the second half aside, the Galaxy can hardly say that they bossed the game.
Finally, a word on referee Abbey Okulaja: He did well to keep the game from spinning out of control (though only just), but after taking a second look at the replay, Beckham should have been sent off in the 40th minute for his airborne, two-footed tackle from behind on Wolff. I do think, however, that the second yellow on Quaranta was justified. As for the penalty, well, it was soft, but Gonzalez did bring it on himself by sticking his arm in Davies' chest instead of continuing to usher the striker toward the end line like he had been doing. A soft penalty is still a penalty, after all. So, not a great day at the office for Okulaja, but hardly a well-below-average performance.
On to the ratings, which are based on a scale of one to five, with one meaning "poor" and five meaning "outstanding." Yes, I'm aware that most ratings are given on a scale of one to ten, but I find such ratings overly complex and ultimately meaningless. So, let's get to it.
D.C. United Player Ratings-Starters
Bill Hamid: 4/5. Made a couple of smart saves in his first league start and showed no ill effects of his offseason shoulder surgery. Was given very little chance on the Galaxy goal.
Marc Burch: 3/5. Went the full 90 minutes, but was anonymous in doing so. Was caught out of position in the move that set up Magee's 35th minute chance.
Dejan Jakovic: 3/5. A solid, if slightly subdued return for the Croat, who fit in well in Ben Olsen's latest back four.
Chris Korb: 3/5. Adventurous going forward and was one of the few United players whose final ball managed to trouble the Galaxy defense in the first half. Loses a point for being outjumped by Magee on the corner that led to L.A.'s goal.
Ethan White: 5/5. My man of the match. A late replacement for the ailing Perry Kitchen, White looked composed on the ball and showed great positional sense. And that's before we get to his block.
Dax McCarty: 2/5. Lots of industry, little end product. Looked off the pace for much of the game.
Chris Pontius: 4/5. Linked up very well with Wolff from midfield and should, perhaps, have had an equalizing goal in the 74th minute.
Santino Quaranta: 2/5. Was lucky to not pick up two yellow cards in three minutes even before his eventual sending off. With the exception of the corner that led to Pontius' chance above, his dead-ball delivery was poor.
Clyde Simms: 2/5. Like McCarty, the returning Simms deserved credit for trying to facilitate the attack, but just couldn't find a way through.
Blake Brettschneider: 2/5. Had one long crack at goal in the early going and made an inviting target for crosses. The trouble was, he couldn't actually get to any of them.
Josh Wolff: 3/5. Had a golden chance to equalize in the 68th minute, had his touch and control not failed him. Looked dangerous with Pontius on breaks.
Charlie Davies (on for Brettschneider--53rd minute): 4/5. Won a penalty, scored said penalty, chased defenders and the ball all over the park. Great show of industry
Andy Najar (on for Korb--72nd minute): 3/5. Showed his versatility in putting in a solid shift at right back. Effective at counter-attack passing.
Branko Boskovic (on for McCarty--81st minute): 3/5. Took one corner and was solid in possession.