Written by Chris Snear on March 9, 2013 | No Comments »
Posted in Chicago Fire, Chivas USA, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew, DC United, FC Dallas, General, Houston Dynamo, Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS, Montreal Impact, New England Revolution, New York RB, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders, Sporting Kansas City, Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps
At around the 55-minute mark as Chris Webb of www.Unitedmania.com and I were kibitzing with WTOP Radio’s Alex Caudana, we both looked at each other and agreed that this game had nil-nil written all over it.
United were carrying the play and had most of the ball but were not nearly sharp enough in the final to where a goal looked imminent and on the other side, Real Salt Lake were even less threatening.
But alas, five minutes later in the 60th minute, Lionard Pajoy cleaned up a rebound off a sensational John Thorrington chip from just outside the penalty area for a 1-0 lead and the game winner.
So on a day where Toronto won their first MLS match since last July, DC United extended their regular season home unbeaten streak to 17 games, and 19 overall.
After a lackluster first 25-minutes during which United were clearly out of sorts and not composed on the ball, they righted the ship and put on a solid overall performance the rest of the way but not without a sprinkling of head-shaking decisions.
“We started off shaky,” said United coach Ben Olsen. “Defensively we were pretty sound from the start but we looked too revved up and guys looked antsy on the ball. We forgot how to play soccer for a little bit. But about 25 (minutes) in, we settled down and we looked good from there on out.”
United looked and played in the attacking third like a team with some new parts that still aren’t quite lubed and fully integrated into the engine.
They favored their left flank in attack but switched the point of attack quite freely in the last quarter hour of the first half.
“The last 15-minutes of the first half and up until that goal in the second half, we had a good rhythm going on and I liked the way we were going about things,” said Olsen. “When we scored, we dropped off and panicked a little bit and didn’t manage the game as well as we would have liked to but we hung on and that’s important at this stage of the game.”
After the goal, United made some poor decisions as to where to go with the ball in the middle of the park or made the right decision but executed it poorly.
“It’s all fixable stuff. The stuff that we see that is wrong is streaky stuff,” Olsen added. “You see us at times be a pretty good team; the way we move the ball and get outside backs involved and that’s an important thing. If you see no light there’s trouble but for large stretches of that game I liked the way we went about it.”
But the one constant throughout the night was the defensive shape and the denial of time and space.
“Shut-out. That’s what we play for obviously,” said center back Dejan Jackovic, who in tandem with Brandon McDonald, were exceptional all night. “It was a little close toward the end. I feel like we started defending a little too early. The last 20-minutes were a little bit tough-a lot of balls were getting served in. Defensively our shape was great, we were compact and they really didn’t have that many chances. They tried to play a lot of balls over the top that me and BMac cleaned up.”
Olsen added, “I thought Dejan was pretty sharp tonight and BMac and the back four were very connected and we didn’t look out for each other in Houston and the back four did a great job of that tonight.”
But a key element in settling the midfield and redirecting the Salt Lake attack was the interplay with Thorrington and Perry Kitchen.
Kitchen drifted higher up the field far more than he is accustomed to because Thorrington dropped back deeper for defensive purposes or to collect and settle the ball.
“Him and Johnny are creating a relationship,” said Olsen about the tandem. “John is very comfortable on the ball. He likes to get it off our backs at times and I think John sensed that the game need him back there to slow us down and get more possession and he did that and the last thing we want is Perry right on top of him.”
The veteran Thorrington understands his role, his skill set and more importantly, understands what it takes two win in this league. He was removed after injuring his knee blocking a shot in the second half. Though he did not speculate on the severity of the injury, he was hobbling badly as he left the locker room.
“Our job is twofold-to screen the back four and then also dictate the play a bit going forward. We take turns doing that I felt really good about how it worked today,” said the South African born Thorrington.
His situational awareness and quick mental speed basically created the opportunity for Pajpoy’s game winning goal.
“The ball rolled out to me and I wanted to hit first time but didn’t think I’d get good contact on it so I took a touch and then, knowing I was gonna get bum rushed, I just thought of trying to chip it, said Thorrington. “Everybody tends to rush the ball so I just though rather than trying to smash it through a crowd, I’d go over it and thankfully Leo was there to head it in. I was happy for him and that he got rewarded with the goal.”
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