It was an entertaining match, and not just because United won. Christman and Najar formed an energetic and effective partnership, and the rest of the team played with some urgency at last.
During the national anthem I counted the fans on the loud side and all of the fans standing in the mezzanine boxes (I did not dare count the folks on the quiet side lest my patriotism become obviously suspect). The results, give or take mistakenly counting a cameraman or an usher or two, were these: loud side: 195; mezzanine: 92. Assuming optimistically that almost 400 were sitting on the quiet side and acknowledging that more folks filtered in once the match started, you're looking at a total attendance of around 800. Oy.
Christman, who seemed to be positioned as the lone striker, played with lots of energy and movement, and not just when he had the ball. What a pleasure it was to see one of our forwards running at defenders and making runs to open up space. Speedy Najar, who transitions from defense to attack with lightning quickness, added much-needed spark to the offense. This pairing was rewarded on the first goal, where Christman split two defenders and, fed by Najar, lifted a cheeky ball over the keeper. Well done.
The jury may still be out on Najar as the total package, since he still has brain farts and, given his size, gets knocked off the ball fairly easily, but here is a player to watch. In the center of the midfield he may be a defensive liability without better better defensive support behind him, so we'll have to see how it goes. As for Christman, who would like to see how he pairs with Emilio up top?
Dallas played well overall, racing through the midfield with lots of nifty wall passes which led to a shot on goal in the 9th minute. DC's defense was under pressure a fair amount, with not enough closing down taking place in the midfield. In the 25th minute, Dallas ran through the midfield again, Castillo and Wallace were both beaten, the net was wide open, and Dallas's shot missed just to the side.
United's second goal came on a sensational driven free kick by Castillo from about 30 yards out, which the Dallas keeper completely muffed--he seemed to have the ball and then lost it, letting it squirt out of his grasp and into the side of the net. Dallas fought back in the second half, putting United's defensive weaknesses on full display, but United ended up getting the job done.
What to make of this? One wonders how the game would have played out had Dallas's attempt in the 25th gone in and its keeper had not fumbled the ball on the second goal.
More to the point, United's defense was often shaky (sadly, Rodney Wallace is not improving). But, more significant in my mind was this continuing hallmark of the Onalfo era: no effective defense from the midfield, which Dallas ran through like a hot knife through butter. In this regard and for other reasons, Christian Castillo remains an answer to a question nobody asked.
Given how many starters were out, it's hard to draw many conclusions about this match yet. Time will tell whether it was the sign of a new beginning or just was. Let's just enjoy the feeling of a win for now.
Talon Rating: Three Birds
Fullback hits the highs and lows, and ponders unanswerable questions.
BDR appears cautiously upbeat, sort of.
Shatz ponders the implications of the Christman-Najar partnership.