Ok, so the Wizards aren't invincible. Got that out of the way early in the season.
And, while that 1-nil loss to the Seattle Sounders yesterday may sting, there were a few positives to take away. (To be sure, there were negatives — too few shots on net, some reckless challenges, misplaced passes and a communication lapse or two. Instead of rehashing the suck — leave that to the Royals writers — let's find some positives.)Positive No. 1:
Seattle is a very good team with a huge home-field advantage. And, for 90 minutes (almost 60 of those minutes were played with a backline that would be all be carded at a bar), the Wizards played them to a standstill. Fredy Montero, Freddie Ljungberg, Pat Noonan and Steve Zakuani were all kept off the board. That's a week after keeping Conor Casey and Omar Cummings off the board too.
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Michael Fucito's game-winning goal was scored with a few generous allowances. Brad Evans took the throw-in that set-up the goal at least 10 yards (and that's being kind) forward of where the ball went out. Fucito
was onside technically but, since we like to have some fun on this blog, we'll complain that that rule sucks. We'll cover the Besler-Escobar communication lapse on that play in a bit. That wasn't a positive.Positive No. 3:
The high-pressure system Peter Vermes has installed works. While the Wizards didn't find the net in this game (though Kasey Keller barely got a fingertip on Chance Myers' shot in stoppage time) they controlled possession, forced the style of play and kept Seattle bottled up most of the game. The game came down to a few lucky breaks, and Seattle got the best of them.
It's a long season, the 'Zards are 2-1 and have only allowed one (fortuitous) goal. Realistically, results like this happen. How the team deals with it will be the best sign of how far this team has really come this year.
Next up? The Los Angeles Galaxy and their goal-scoring machine, Edson Buddle. (Um, the 'Zards might try triple teaming him. Double teaming him doesn't work.)
The ImpressivesJack Jewsbury
What injury problems? Suspected by many (yours truly included) as merely trade bait or a key sub coming into the season while he recovered from hip surgery, Jewsbury has not only started but has been a midfield force in every league game so far. His tireless work ethic and defensive intelligence kept the Wizards chugging along Saturday.Jimmy Nielsen
One play doesn't usually lead me to name someone man of the match. Nielsen's one-handed parry on Fredy Montero's point-blank shot did. (Well, it was that and the calming presence he brought to the young defenders in front of him.)
I'm starting to see what the Wizards love about Casino Jimmy: His distribution from the back is superb. That alone makes him one of the better keepers in the league. (It doesn't hurt that he also can handle a back-pass without turning it into a goal allowed. Can't say that much for about half the keepers in MLS this year.)Pablo Escobar
I think, after Jimmy Conrad went down, that we were getting a look at the future of the Wizards center pairing with Escobar and Matt Besler. His speed and athleticism are raw and awesome. And there aren't a lot of players like that playing centerhalf in this league. The future is fairly bright. Provided the two learn to pay attention for the entire game.Bonus: The Emerald City crowd
Seattle is great. It's just great. I gave them crap about their smug-ness earlier this week, but let's give them their due: They make soccer in America sorta awesome.
The Not So ImpressivesDefensive Lapses
I counted 8 times (at least) when the Wizards back four were either out of position or failed to mark a key player in the box. This almost led to a few goals, and, finally, DID lead to a goal. Escobar and Besler failed to communicate on the goal and showed their inexperience, but Michael Harrington has to have some culpability for not tracking Fucito into the area. Roger Espinoza was also guilty of poor defensive form a few times.The Officiating
This is the second of what I'm sure will be a year-long series of frustrations. While it wasn't as bad as last week's game, some of the mistakes made by the crew were just bad.
• Davy Arnaud's "obstruction" foul when he had position was just plain ridiculous.
• I've seen the goal called back because Ljunberg was in an offside position allowed more than a dozen times (cough, Didier Drogba vs. Manchester United, cough).
• And letting Evans basically have a free first-down on the game-winning goal was just plain unacceptable.The Wizards shooting
Before this game, the Wizards were among the league leaders in shots on goal (I only know this via second-hand information, as MLS doesn't have stats like this at the ready yet). At half-time, they had ZERO. After the game, they had a mere two shots on net. Pressure on the frame is what got them four goals against D.C. United.** Well, I'm sure DC's horrible-ness contributed a little bit to that score line too.