In their final preseason game before the season (hopefully) kicks off next Saturday, the Wizards put two past USSF-D2 squad AC St. Louis on a wind-swept pitch at Swope Park. The goals came from English newcomer Craig Rocastle and midfielder Chance Myers. (In an odd coincidence, Myers assisted Rocastle's goal and Rocastle assisted Myers' goal.) The Wizards were without Josh Wolff and Jimmy Conrad who were involved in the MLS labor talks. They were also without midfielder Birahim Diop, winger Roger Espinoza and forward Davy Arnaud. All three had minor knocks. After the jump: A look at the lineup, first impressions on the numerous newcomers and some scattered thoughts on the Wizards.
The attacking was okay. A lot of that probably due to the dramatic shift in weather. During the reserve game (also a 2-0 victory over UMKC) it was 60° and sunny. By the time the senior squad kicked off, the wind took over. Remember last year's game against San Jose and how awful it was? Well, it was half that bad. No rain/sleet/snow today. The Wizards controlled possession and the game wasn't really as close as the score would indicate. To put it nicely, St. Louis are a fundamentally solid defensive team ... and that's it. They really only threatened a handful of times. Chance Myers also ran them ragged in the second half.
The first team started in a 4-5-1 (they switched to more of a 4-3-3 when attacking). Here's how they lined up: Goalkeeper: Jimmy Nielsen
Defenders: Michael Harrington (r), Pablo Escobar, Matt Besler, Korede Aiyegbusi (l)
Central Midfielders: Stephanè Auvray, Craig Rocastle, Santiago Hirisg
Wingers: Kei Kamara (r), Ryan Smith (l)
Striker: Teal Bunbury
Chance Myers replaced Kei to start the second half. Graham Zusi (for Craig Rocastle) and Jonathan Leathers (for Ryan Smith) came on later.
•Nielsen has good command of the area, and he looks bigger and more athletic than Kevin Hartman. He's blonder too. •Escobar had a few nervous touches, seemed out of sync with Besler and had some really sick green shoes. It was his first real game action, so my opinion on him is likely to change. I'll always love the boots however.
•Aiyegbusi has so much heart and courage that it more than makes up for his lack of stature. He also played the first half with only one shin guard. •Auvray is like everything we hoped Hirsig would be last year. (Not a knock on Hirsig, but Auvray is a real box-to-box midfielder.) •Rocastle, despite his contributions to the score line, didn't really impress. He seemed a little lazy on the ball at times and put the wrong foot on a few passes. Like Escobar, I need to see him more to form a solid opinion. •Smith is going to be a beyond-adequate replacement for Claudio Lopez. He's younger, he's faster and, while he tries tricks, he doesn't rely on them. He seems to rely on great pace and good touch instead. •Bunbury was sort of on an island by himself — he's not quite a target man yet but he's also not a lone wolf. He showed a lot of one-on-one potential late in the game, but it was wasted by a bad shot.
•Harrington-Myers on the right-hand side is going to be nice. Myers seems healthy and really looks like the former No. 1 overall draft pick he is. •Besler did a nice job of overcoming the language barrier with Escobar to organize the backline. His maturation is going to be key to keeping the pressure of Nielsen. •Hirsig played like a man playing for his job — which I believe he is. He was all over the place and put an audacious shot about an inch too wide. I kind of hope they keep him. But I just can't see the team keeping FIVE holding midfielders, especially FOUR international holding mids. (Rocastle, Auvray and Diop the others.)
•I didn't learn too much from the reserves game (I only watched about 50 minutes) but it can't be a good sign that Michael Kraus is playing on the backline. As a fellow fan noted, they seem to be searching for a spot for him. I'm almost certain he's not going to make this team. Same goes for Mauro Fuzetti, who also played at wingback in the reserve game.
•I don't think we should make too much of Jack Jewsbury playing with the reserves — he is working back from an injury. But I do find it very odd that Zoltan Hercegfalvi was playing with the reserves. He's sort of an expensive guy to be that far away from the starting lineup.