D.C. United v Seattle Sounders FC

Fixing the “age related” holes in the D.C. United roster

Leave a comment

An odd thing happened last night as I prepared to canvass the D.C. United locker room, looking for souls who could help explain how things have gone so terribly sideways for the proud club – one with such a rich history of success, even if so much of it can now be filed under “relatively ancient history.”

Obviously, there’s Dwayne De Rosario, who has been around the MLS block more than a time or two.

And then there is ..

Well, there is …

Exactly. There really aren’t many around RFK who have been in the ditch before, who know how to keep their cool, use their wits, keep steady under withering fire and plot a solution for safe escape.

Most of D.C. United’s front line players are youngsters. Chris Pontius, at 25, is one of the “older” marquee men around RFK. But, truly, when has he run the gauntlet of something like this?  Perry Kitchen, talented as the D.C. day is long, is just 21. His one time in real, white-knuckle pressure was with the United States under-23 side in that Olympic qualifying bid a year back – and we all know how that turned out.

Goalkeeper Bill Hamid (who was on the bench last night in Dallas, one of five changes for Ben Olsen) was there, too. He is just 22.

Even Canadian international Dejan Jakovic, although he’s 27, hasn’t been through the big-time wringer, with his biggest matches coming in United’s playoff contests a year ago and in a scattering of internationals with varying degrees of true significance.

(MORE: Ben Olsen makes wholesale lineup changes … but same result)

I thought about this perhaps being one of D.C. United’s problems, this lack of veteran cops on the beat, men who stare down a losing streak with “been there, done that” resolve. Men who could, in short, stabilize a listing ship.

Actually, we could certainly make the argument that a club-record seven-game losing streak is a ship tgat is more than “listing;”  that puppy is sinking, and right fast.

John Thorrington would be just such a person, but he’s hurt.  Marcelo Saragosa has plenty of experience, but he’s a role player at best. It’s hard to lead from the back.

I think this is likely part of the problem – and there really are so many issues to deal with right now for Olsen and United.  It’s getting harder to say how long this will continue to be Olsen’s issue for sorting. Either way, Olsen isn’t buying it, this “roster age” conundrum. Here’s what he said when I asked about this very thing last night:

It doesn’t take an old guy to mark on a corner kick. It doesn’t take an old guy not to slip, last time I checked. I’ve got enough age out there to win games. It will help when Nick DeLeon can play 90 minutes. It will help when Chris Pontius gets back. It will help when Johnny Thorrington gets on the field again soon.”

Exactly. It will help.

This isn’t necessarily a criticism of Olsen, or even of GM Dave Kasper, although roster selections through the years around RFK have certainly been all over the place.

It’s just to say: lack of a few more experienced, settled and composed types is making it harder to get things straightened out around that wayward lot.

Player ratings from the draw between Chelsea and Manchester United

during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford on November 7, 2015 in Manchester, England.
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The story changed late as Diego Costa pulled Chelsea level in injury time, but here we look at the full body of work. Who stood out and who didn’t?

CHELSEA

GK Thibaut Courtois: 7 – Forced into a number of early saves, including a spectacular one on Anthony Martial.
RB Branislav Ivanovic: 6 – Beat consistently by Martial in the opening 20 minutes.
CB John Terry: 6 – Got little face time, which is good for a center-back. Had a skillful volley that hit the hand of Blind. Proved vulnerable to low, driven crosses.
CB Kurt Zouma: 5 – Was a bit off his game until suffering a gruesome leg injury.
LB Cesar Azpilicueta: 5 – Had nothing going forward and was defending Lingard on United’s goal.
CM Nemanja Matic: 4 – Wasteful going forward, erratic on the ball, and terrible in the air. Did not even record an attempted tackle. Removed with 23 minutes to go.
CM John Obi Mikel: 6 – Distributed the ball forward quite well for a player known for his defensive presence.
LW Oscar: 5 – Totally invisible against Matteo Darmian, yanked for Hazard.
CM Cesc Fabregas: 5 – Seemed overshadowed by Juan Mata in the first half, but came back to be somewhat of a lynchpin in the second 45. Still, was relatively invisible in the attacking third outside of his shot in the 72nd minute.
RW Willian: 8 – Put young Borthwick-Jackson on roller skates and was a spark plug for the Chelsea offense once they got going.
ST Diego Costa: 7 – Had little service for much of the match, but made a perfect run and torched Borthwick-Jackson on his late goal.

Subs

Eden Hazard: 5 – Equally as ineffective as Oscar against Darmian, who had an outstanding game.
Gary Cahill – 5 – Let Borthwick-Jackson’s cross go right by him on Lingard’s goal. Little action otherwise.
Pedro – N/A

MANCHESTER UNITED

GK David De Gea: 8 – Was a brick wall in goal, preserving the lead on a shot from Cesc Fabregas with 19 minutes to go.
RB Matteo Darmian: 8 – Was ever-present up the right side, bombing forward to provide support. Defensively, recorded a whopping seven successful tackles, locking down Oscar and forcing Hiddink to replace the Brazilian with Hazard, who was also ineffective.
CB Chris Smalling: 6 – Distribution was poor but defended well in the box.
CB Daley Blind: 5 – Had a few poor corners, but his distribution was effective out of the back. Total brain fart on Costa’s goal, leaving his mark to try and jump the Fabregas pass; failed miserably.
LB Cameron Borthwick-Jackson: 4 – Really struggled to contain Willian early, but blocked a few crosses and served in the cross that led to United’s goal. Attempted a weak tackle one-on-one with Costa on Chelsea’s late goal.
CM Marouane Fellaini: 6 – Influential in the first half with his powerful presence, but faded through the second half and was substituted.
CM Michael Carrick: 7 – Had an outstanding first half in the middle allowing Fellaini to push up and press hard. Like Fellaini, also faded as the game went on and Chelsea began to gain control.
CM Juan Mata: 7 – Was solid in the attack early, distributing to wide areas.
LW Anthony Martial: 7 – Was crucial to the early pressure from United in both halves, but wasted his best chance in the 50th minute dragging a close-range shot wide.
RW Jesse Lingard: 7 – Stunning turn and shot for United’s first goal. Was active for much of the 90.
ST Wayne Rooney: 6 – Was relatively invisible in the first half. Forced a diving save from Courtois early in the 2nd half with a nice turn in space. Beautiful touch to assist Lingard’s goal.

Subs

Memphis Depay – N/A
Morgan Schneiderlin – N/A
Ander Herrera – N/A

Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United: Costa saves Chelsea with late strike

Leave a comment

With rumors of Jose Mourinho swirling around Manchester, Louis Van Gaal‘s squad had dominated the team that The Special One put together, and he was minutes away from a special win.

Then Diego Costa happened.

The polarizing Chelsea striker scored a minute into injury time to cancel out a stunning goal from Jesse Lingard and save a point for Chelsea at home and hold Manchester United to just a point.

The visitors owned much of the attacking intent in the opening 10 minutes, bursting down both flanks and cutting inside looking for an opening. Chelsea barely saw a sniff of the ball through the opening stages, unable to get out of their own half without giving away possession. Anthony Martial beat Branislav Ivanovic down the left and ripped a shot destined for the top corner, forcing a fantastic save from Thibaut Courtois on 18 minutes.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The Red Devils earned themselves a monstrous nine corners through the first 25 minutes, but couldn’t get on the scoresheet. Chelsea began to get themselves into the game past the half-hour mark. Nemanja Matic forced a save from David De Gea on a directed header across net, and Diego Costa had a tight-angled shot skitter wide after having beaten a pair of defenders. Oscar played a nice one-two with Cesar Azpilicueta in the box, but the Brazilian’s shot skied over.

[ RELATED: 3 things we learned from Chelsea vs Manchester United ]

The referee was called into action just moments before halftime as a volleyed effort from John Terry struck the elbow of Daley Blind on its way towards the net. Michael Oliver did not give the penalty, and replays showed his arm was up near his face.

After the break, United returned to the ascendency they enjoyed early in the game. Wayne Rooney ripped a low shot that forced a save from David de Gea just minutes after halftime, and Martial had one from closer on that he dragged just wide.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

There was a lengthy delay just before the hour mark as Kurt Zouma landed awkwardly on his right leg. The injury appeared very serious, and he was stretchered off in favor of Gary Cahill. Moments later, with Chelsea possibly unsettled, Manchester United capitalized. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson drove in a low cross to Wayne Rooney, who touched to Lingard. With his back to goal, the 23-year-old turned and cut a shot past Courtois for the lead.

Rooney tried the same effort on 73 minutes but fired just wide. Chelsea really struggled to respond after falling behind, but Cesc Fabregas forced a fine save from De Gea with a close-range shot at the top corner.

[ RELATED: Player ratings for Chelsea vs Manchester United ]

Lingard received a yellow card down the stretch, and was subsequently removed in favor of Memphis Depay, who saw the match out up front. Chelsea had little going forward through the finality of regulation, but with a healthy chunk of added time from Zouma’s injury, Diego Costa struck.

A ball through the scrum from Cesc Fabregas found Costa’s feet one-on-one with Borthwick-Jackson. Costa skipped around a weak tackle from the young defender, and with De Gea out of net, Costa easily poked the ball home to pull level. The Brazilian nearly had another to win it with just seconds left, but De Gea saved well again.

Three things we learned from Chelsea vs. Manchester United

Leave a comment

LONDON — Chelsea and Manchester United drew 1-1 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday as Louis Van Gaal‘s side showed more attacking intent throughout but a wonder strike from Jesse Lingard wasn’t enough to win them the game.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Chelsea equalized through Diego Costa in stoppage time and after an end-to-end encounter, a draw was probably the fair result.

Here’s three things we learned from a breathtaking clash in west London.

LINGARD’S MAGIC BORN AND BRED IN MANCHESTER

Right on the hour mark a moment of pure magic arrived for Manchester United. It was produced in United’s academy as teenage left back Cameron Borthwick-Jackson whipped in a wicked cross which took a touch off Wayne Rooney and then the ball dropped to Lingard.

The 23-year-old has spent four spells out on loan from Old Trafford but has been a regular since usurping Memphis back in October. This was easily his best moment in a United shirt as he controlled the cross, juggled it up to himself and hit a majestic volley into the top corner with his back to the goal as he fell to the ground. His double dab celebration on Super Bowl 50 day was memorable in front of the jubilant traveling United fans and it came just moments after Kurt Zouma had been stretchered off following what looked like a horrendous knee injury after he landed awkwardly. United have always had incredible pride at producing local lads in their academy. Lingard and Borthwick-Jackson both shone on Sunday for the Red Devils, even if they couldn’t see out the win.

COSTA BAILS OUT OVER-CAUTIOUS CHELSEA

After watching Chelsea play at Watford on Wednesday in their 0-0 draw and then today against United, it’s clear they are being over-cautious. Multiple times during the game the home fans moaned and groaned as midfielders hit a pass back towards their own goal. Costa was isolated for much of the match and when he did get on the ball it was often wide. Chelsea finished the first half well offensively, as a slick move between Willian, Mikel and Oscar set up Costa who dragged his shot wide.

In the second half the injury to Zouma seemed to unsettle their defensive shape and United pounced with Lingard’s moment of magic. In attack Branislav Ivanovic had a volley superbly saved by David De Gea and he also denied Cesc Fabregas at the near post. Costa toiled up top but misplaced passes and players looking back instead of forward. It looked as if Chelsea’s 10-game unbeaten run in all competitions was about to be ended, but at the death a slack pass in attack from Memphis gave Chelsea the ball back and a slip from Daley Blind on the edge of the box let in Costa to slot home and he almost won it late on with De Gea denying his Spanish international teammate. The Blues are still unbeaten since Jose Mourinho was fired in December but they still seem to be second-guessing themselves in games and under Guus Hiddink they aren’t the fluid attacking unit they should be with the players they possess. They aren’t losing games and are heard to beat, and the draw on Sunday will feel like a win.

MARTIAL WINS BATTLE OF THE WINGERS

After bursting onto the scene and scoring four goals in his first four games as a United player, Anthony Martial went missing for a while. There’s no doubt that in recent weeks the French attacker has been their best, and most consistent, outfield players this season. The same can be said for Willian at Chelsea and both wingers were in great form on Sunday.

Martial started brighter as he cut inside and drilled a powerful effort towards the top corner which Thibaut Courtois tipped away brilliantly. Martial, 20, also curled in a beautiful cross which was cleared but on the left flank he gave Branislav Ivanovic a very tough afternoon. On the same flank, but further up, Willian grew into the match and in a 10 minute spell before half time his pace and stepovers bamboozled Cameron Borthwick-Jackson. The teenage left back kept dropping further back as Willian’s brilliance continued and in the 36th minute his incisive run and double stepover put Borthwich-Jackson on his backside and his cross just evaded the onrushing Oscar.

The pendulum of power continued to swing from Martial to Willian throughout the match and the former cut inside from the left — that is fast becoming is trademark — and drilled a low shot just wide of Courtois near post five minutes after half time. Martial was involved in Lingard’s goal and as Chelsea tried to grab a late equalizer they switched Willian into the center with subs Pedro and Eden Hazard on either side. That stifled Willian a little but the switch worked as Chelsea piled forward and finally got the goal they probably deserved. These are not vintage United or Chelsea teams but there’s no doubt they have two world class wingers who are a constant outlet and threat.

BONUS: The two goalkeepers weren’t bad either, were they? Thibaut Courtois made two stunning saves from Lingard and Rooney in the second half, while David de Gea made great saves from Ivanovic, Fabregas and Costa at the death. Both goalkeepers are 25 and under and they will duel for many years, alongside Manuel Neuer, to be the best on the planet.

VIDEO: Lingard stunning turn and shot for Manchester United opening goal

Leave a comment

Manchester United has been on top for much of their trip to Stamford Bridge, but had been unable to put the ball in the back of the net. Until Jesse Lingard showed up.

A flat, powerful cross from Cameron Borthwick-Jackson came to Wayne Rooney, and his pretty first touch fell to Lingard in the box. With his back to goal, the 23-year-old turned and shot on the slide, burying the ball into the corner for Manchester United’s opening goal.

[ WATCH LIVE: Chelsea vs Manchester United live on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The goal is Lingard’s fourth of the season in 13 league appearances.