“You need to take CONCACAF Champions League more seriously”, we said.
“You better not start the B squad, we want to win this thing and we care about it”, we said.
Well, based on the result and echo off all of the empty seats in RFK, we don’t know anything about anything.
Ben Olsen spoke to Pablo Mauer earlier last week week about where CCL will rank in terms of lineup choices and prioritization. Olsen was abundantly clear that advancing to the knockout rounds is a “nice to have” and insuring a safe spot in the MLS playoffs is a “need to have”. This was demonstrated by the lineup fielded by United against Waterhouse FC, which consisted of a majority of players getting either their first action or first start with United this season. The only players who have played a major part for United this season were Johnson, who played because he is suspended for league play, and Lewis Neal, who captained the side.
United started very brightly with a great ball by Conor Shanosky to David Estrada that led to an easy tap in for Johnson. However, within 5 minutes of that goal, the balance of play shifted to Waterhouse, who pelted Joe Willis (and the dugout behind Joe Willis) with a barrage of long range shots. Willis made one vital save near halftime on a chance that would have leveled the game.
The second half was equally unremarkable for United. The game became more physical, party because of the rain and also because of Waterhouse’s tendency to fall over. Players such as Nana Attakora and Conor Shanosky played well in their first opportunity, with Attakora playing an unlikely RB with a number of runs all night (although he didn’t quite have the speed to be useful as overlapping attacker). Kyle Porter was uncharacteristically flashy, with a number of stepover and moves that usually got him past the first defender, but nothing ever resulted in a solid attacking chance. David Estrada had flashes of competence, with another assist his pass to Espindola against Colorado, but he also held on to the ball too long a number of times, and neglected to pressure his man occasionally, much to the chagrin of a demonstrative Olsen. Alex Caskey played a surprisingly competent fullback, making a number of attacking runs and shutting down a few attempts by Waterhouse to widen the field. Jared Jeffrey had one of his worst games that I’ve seen since he arrived last year, with major problems locking down the middle of the field and being continuously caught in possession.
I thought Collin Martin had an uncharacteristically poor game, which is really unfortunate because I am a big proponent of his and believe he has a serious future with United. Whether it was because of wet conditions or unfamiliar teammates, Martin lost the ball a number of times in the midfield and was unable to really influence the attack. I imagine he will have many more chances to make an impact in this tournament, especially in the away games in Jamaica and Panama.
Despite an uneven performance, United won the game and sits atop their group and is set to field their first team against Sporting KC this weekend. Aside from more goals to pad their goal differential, this game couldn’t have gone better for Olsen and United’s reserves.