D.C. United were the latest victims of El Mago, falling 2-0 to the Columbus Crew thanks to a first-half Lucas Zelarayan brace.
The hosts scored 10 minutes in, in their first real attacking foray of the night, as well as in the dying moments of the first half. United had some decent spells of possession and attack, but couldn’t find the net.
Here’s what we’re thinking about after Saturday night’s loss. Let us know in the comments what’s on your mind.
Keep it clinical. The Black-and-Red certainly weren’t short on chances but were missing a bit of clinical finishing in the final third against the Crew. We look forward to the team coalescing and capitalizing on more of their chances as the season progresses.
Mentality matters. Despite going down two goals, the Black-and-Red played the match through to the end, a refreshing change of pace since Rooney has taken the helm.
Miller keeps it respectable. Tyler Miller shielded D.C. United from some very dangerous shots by a fiery Columbus. Once again, we’re thankful to have him between the sticks.
Play That Man His Minutes
Props to readers who knew to read that header in a comically bad Russian accent.
It’s time for Teddy KDP to start. After creating the equalizer and scoring the gamewinner against Toronto last week, Ted Ku-DiPietro again appeared as a substitute in Toronto, and again was active and influential. Ku took Pedro Santos’ spot on the left side for the final half hour of the game, and helped the team set up camp in Columbus’ end for the final stretch of the game.
Both weeks, we’ve seen what the 21 year old can do when caution is thrown to the wind and Wayne Rooney throws everything forward to try to make up a late deficit. Both weeks, Ku-DiPietro looked willing and able to make a difference.
He has on-ball ability and instincts that few on the team can match. Able to create and take space on the dribble, vision to spot and skill to hit the slip pass, a nose for goal, a nonstop engine, and a competitive fire that you can see from Harpers Ferry… the kid needs to be on the field.
I’m less sure where he should slot in, whether that’s on the left for Pedro Santos, or on the other side in Chris Durkin’s hybrid position pinching in from right midfield, or even up top alongside Christian Benteke in place of Nigel Robertha. None of the current starters have been especially bad or ineffective, and they’ve each had strong moments in those roles, but something’s got to change.
United haven’t created enough, or good enough, chances over two games. Before the final, successful stoppage-time flurry in the opener, the Black-and-Red had all of half of one expected goal. They managed around 1 xG in Ohio, depending on whose model you use. In both games, los Capitalinos were on the wrong end of the expected goals battle (which in one game, of course, isn’t predictive, but over several it becomes more telling).
Yamil Be There?
OK, a few notes: I appreciate the effort taken to bring Yamil Asad in the first time, and to keep him, which was an unfortunate failed effort with Velez. I appreciate he’s been a good player for the club, and I also appreciate the increased presence of homegrowns on D.C. United’s roster and in appearances that Wayne Rooney has promoted in guys like Jackson Hopkins, Matai Akinmboni and Ted Ku-DiPietro.
But Asad’s rise from training consideration to appearance remains personally confounding in that I don’t understand this organization’s affinity for him. Consider that the last time D.C. United was stuck in MLS’ basement in 2019, he signed a pre-contract with the club for 2020. A pre-contract mind you, when a conditioning stint in Loudoun for a player who played 19 minutes over the 2019 calendar year could have been beneficial, for a player who ultimately made near the senior roster maximum salary in 2021. Now here we are again, following Asad’s time with Universidad Catolica, where his last appearance was the first time he played more than 45 minutes all season, and his biggest impact may have been his March car crash where he had been drinking (not the first time this has happened in Asad’s career). In the comments on his re-re-signing, Dave Kasper mentioned Asad’s passion for the shirt, a curious note as Kasper and Asad’s fellow Atlanta United alum (and then GM) Lucy Rushton decided against picking up Asad’s option for 2022 following a presumed falling out with then-coach Hernan Losada, whom Kasper fired five months later.
I hope Asad can regain form and/or confidence and channel his play from a few years ago (he will turn 29 in May after all). And while I’m happy that Hopkins and Ku-DiPietro are getting time, I’d be happier if Kristian Fletcher (who had a goal in his only MLS start and who assisted on Ku’s game-winner last week) had been getting the look that Asad seemingly walked back into the rotation with Saturday night.
Let’s hear it in the comments. What are you taking away from this one?