Waking The Red: Happy Relegation Bowl 2013! Anyone could have predicted TFC struggling this year, but what the hell happened in D.C? Is there hope that whatever went wrong can be fixed by Ben Olsen or will a change need to be made there?
Black & Red United: Is there a toast we say for the Relagation Bowl? "Here's to staying up!" comes to mind - not that going down is a worry in North America... But I digress. Mostly on purpose, because, as a D.C. United fan, I want very few things less than to look at the year 2013 so far. The team failed to improve in the offseason, and in a league that is making strides the way MLS is, that's a recipe for doom. We thought the consistency and added depth would prove to be a good thing, but the losses of Branko Boskovic, Hamdi Salihi and, especially, Andy Najar were too much to overcome. Combine that with Dwayne De Rosario starting to show his age and regressions from attackers like Chris Pontius and Nick DeLeon and the center back pairing of Dejan Jakovic and Brandon McDonald, and you have yourself a last place team.
There's hope - not a lot, but some, especially after Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup performance - that Benny & Co. are righting the ship. We haven't heard nearly enough rumors of summer transfers, though, and some new blood in the roster is sorely needed.
WTR: Alain Rochat is now a United player, what do fans make of the signing and what difference do you see him making for DC?
B&RU: Speaking of new blood, there's Rochat, who seems likely to debut for United and start at left back on Saturday. He's a veteran in what has shown to be a painfully young defense this season. This team needed somebody to know when to slow things down in the back and when to dig in, and even if Rochat isn't the top left back in the league, he should provide those elements to United. With the team beset by injuries - thus proving that the Black-and-Red are entirely less deep than originally thought months ago - Rochat's versatility may come into play as well.
WTR: Now for the obligatory Canadian portion of this. How come De Ro hasn't been playing? How's Jakovic looking this year? How has Kyle Porter settled into the team and does he look like becoming a part of DC's future? Can we have all 3 for the Gold Cup please?
B&RU: De Ro hasn't been playing because he hasn't been De Ro. Before his hat trick in Open Cup play this week, he had a single goal on the season to go along with a lone assist, and the team was losing. Every other starter had been pulled at one point or another to no avail, so really, it was Ben Olsen throwing anything he had at the wall to see if something would stick. (It didn't.)
Dejan Jakovic thrilled us all last season. Since his arrival at RFK stadium from Serbian club Red Star Belgrade before 2009, we've al seen his speed - especially in recovery - his comfort on the ball, and his emergency defending ability. But it never all came together for an extended period - he'd always be undone by switching off at an inopportune time(s). The ceiling was high, but we weren't sure if he'd ever reach it. Then, 2012. He pulled it all together and combined with Brandon McDonald to create a lock-down defense down the stretch. This year, it's like 2012 never happened - back to the same old mistakes and brain farts.
Kyle Porter has been a little bit of fresh air during United's horrid run this season. His willingness to take players on has been complimented by improving crossing ability and better understanding with his teammates. He's willing to try a lot of things, and many of them come tantalizingly close to coming off without quite getting there. He's somebody to keep an eye on, for sure.
It's Gold Cup - I don't think we can stop you. Just don't hurt our De Ro (again) or our Dejan (again) or our Porter, k?
WTR: Lineup and score prediction.
B&RU: United finally got some bodies back from injury just in time to lose half the team to the trainers in Wednesday's Open Cup win, so let's see what Ben Olsen will cobble together. It'll be a 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 with Bill Hamid in goal and a defense of Chris Korb, Dejan Jakovic, Daniel Woolard and Alain Rochat. Perry Kitchen and John Thorrington will hold down central midfield with Kyle Porter (currently listed as questionable, but I think he'll go) and Nick DeLeon on the wings. Dwayne De Rosario will occupy the space underneath target man Rafael Teixeira de Souza (and hopefully not Lionard Pajoy).
I think this is the one where D.C. get off the schneid in league play: 2-0 for the boys in black.