Curt Onalfo is a self-proclaimed optimist. He is also a careful observer of the game and a smart person. He knows that something is not working right now for D.C. United. Coach Onalfo has stood behind his players and continues to do so. He emphatically believes that the players currently on the roster are capable of much more than they have shown through the early portion of the season. Yet finding the right way to put the players into positions where they can perform ay their best is not an easy challenge. Onalfo is committed to success and is working to solve that tricky problem. There were some strides made this weekend.
Knowing that more offense was mandatory, the formation shifted a little in order to ensure added width in the attack. It was effective for most of the first half. Santino Quaranta and Chris Pontius were more aggressive moving forward, and both sent dangerous crosses into the box. The main target man was Danny Allsopp, who was in the starting lineup for the second straight week.
Allsop was much more involved than in the first half in his last outing. Going up against the two strong and talented center backs of Chicago, Allsopp was the first to a lot of head balls and was trying to knock them down to his teammates. Also, and to me more importantly, he was just as good with the ball at his feet. There were a number of times when he controlled the ball in very tight spaces. He seems very comfortable playing the short quick passing style in the penalty area that D.C. United is famous for. His best scoring chance came on an acrobatic scissors kick from near the penalty spot after a hard rebound quickly bounced right at him. He managed to send the ball on target, but it was blocked away by a defender. I always watch forwards very carefully and it looks like Danny is finding his feet.
There was another player for D.C. United that had an even better performance. Andy Najar is only 17-years-old. He looks young up close, but for anyone who watched the way he played in the center of midfield, Najar could easily be mistaken for a long-time veteran. Najar is a product of D.C. Uniteds Youth Academy and the Academy staff deserve a lot of credit for identifying and developing him. Najar helped win possession for D.C. many times and was aggressive in the attack, playing a very positive style. When he lost possession he was quick to recover defensively and was named D.C.s man of the match at RFK Stadium. He may not be ready to play 90 minutes of every game, but he has as big of an up-side as any rookie ever for D.C. United.
While there were some things that improved, this is D.C. United, morale victories do not exist. Coach Onalfo, while supporting his players, also challenged them. The basic message conveyed in the post-game press conference was that the players need to be a little tougher, a little hungrier, and a little better. United doesn't have another League match for two weeks and the open date in the schedule gives D.C. extra time to prepare, extra time to get healthy, and extra time to work on their problems. It also gives each player for D.C. United an extra few days to look in the mirror and prepare to respond to Curt Onalfos challenge.