Midweek Musings on the DC United Match


by Jason Goodbody

The family was on vacation and so we all "watched" the St Louis CITY SC vs DC United "match" in a "soccer bar" in East Scottsdale Arizona this last Saturday. By "watched" I mean we set up my iPad at the end of the booth because it turns out that this self professed "soccer bar" didn't have MLS Season Pass. It did however have what seemed to be the entire chapter of the Phoenix-Area Illini Alumni Club celebrating Illinois clobbering Duquesne in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. No Duquesne fans spotted.

By "match" I mean I am unsure of what I saw, partly because there was a ketchup bottle in my sightline for part of the game but also because it didn't feel quite like soccer. With a series of long balls from both teams without much buildup in the middle during the first half and DC United sitting on the ball and laying on the ground to protect a lead delivered by Christian Benteke before halftime made for tough watching. The stops and starts throughout the course of play led Bradley Carnell to apologize for the viewing experience, saying "You pay good money to watch a game, and tonight, there was no real rhythm, and a lot of disruptions", adding that it could become "real frustrating". And frustrating it was.

So, my musings may be a bit limited to what little I was able to see. But that hasn't stopped me before and you may not be able to tell the difference from any other week.


This game was to have been a battle of similar styles; who pressed best, who counter-pressed the press best, and who countered the counter-press the best. Despite the scoreline of a 2-2 draw, St Louis CITY SC led DC United across measurables like;

  • Shots: 14-10

  • Shots on target: 9-3 (this is a better number to focus on for obvious reasons)

  • Passing accuracy: 72% - 62% (still not good as CITY remains second to last in the league)

  • Corners: 6-0

  • Expected goals: 2.68 - 2.30 (these are very specific numbers given how subjective this stat can be and soccer scientists can't seem to agree how this is measured)

  • Fouls: 15 - 21 (pssst…also seemingly subjective)

  • Time spent lying on the ground after being fouled: 2 minutes - 22 minutes, probably

The one stat line CITY seemed to unintentionally dominate DC was in time of possession, holding the ball for 55%. Unfortunately, the vast majority of games CITY has won came from allowing the other team to own possession and aggressively countering off of steals. In ANY other sport, having the ball more would seem like a good thing. Welcome to St Louis CITY SC soccer. When done well, it is a beautiful thing to watch. When done not so well, Coach Carnell will most assuredly apologize for what you see.

Defense is a team effort

Tim Parker's back sprain has revealed how much the team needs leadership on the back line. The talent is there as one-on-one defense continues to be a strength even in Parker's absence. Tomas Totland, Joakim Nilsson and Anthony Markanich have been among the better players in the league in terms of individual measurables such as tackles won, aerial duels, interceptions, and clearances. But good defenses are system defenses and must be greater than the sum of their parts, working together to form an impenetrable back line. Unfortunately this year CITY has been quite penetrable and is tied for 8th among the league in goals allowed. We've seen crosses and breakthroughs due to our defenders' lack of communication, misalignments, misassignments, and leaving attackers unmarked. This can improve with a fiery redhead in the center defense barking out direction and holding teammates accountable. Fortunately Parker is that fiery redhead and we expect his return this weekend.

Set piece goals count too

The other concerning measurable is open play goals, better defined by scoring while running around trying to score. Of CITY's nine goals this season, five have come after a whistle or an assistant referee pointing to the tall flag in the corner. CITY had one of each during the DC match; Josh Yaro's first ever MLS goal off of a Indiana Vassilev corner and João Klauss's hop, skip and jump of a penalty kick.

Now, don't get me wrong, scoring off of corners and penalty shots and foul-induced free kicks is a good thing, but for CITY to start turning its ties into wins, being able to score while running around trying to score would fall into the list of things we should do more often instead of relying on a referee's discretion. Remember, the refs are coming back after a long disagreement about how much they are to be paid. There's no telling what mood they will be in.

Dad's home: The referees are back

Since the beginning of the 2024 season referees had been locked out by the MLS after they overwhelmingly rejected a new labor contract before the season began. For all the #paytherefs callouts on social media, frustrated fans lamenting on how poorly replacement officials have performed, and jokes about how players' parents would be running the sidelines with borrowed yellow flags as volunteer assistant referees, we will get what we asked for as MLS referees return to work starting this weekend after membership of the Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA) recently voted to ratify a new contract.

Effectively, the dads are back home after being away for a while and while we might give them a big hug and celebrate their return as they enter the pitch, the moment they slip up we will fall into a teenage tantrum, scream at them, and complain how they are the worst refs in the world and why can't they be more like Premier League referees.

Welcome back! The fans will be ok. Just let us work through this and get used to you being back. Here, have a glass of wine.

Scattershot Musings

  • We are going to tie our way into the playoffs, aren't we? Let's get 5 more wins, go 6-0-28, and make it in with 46 points
  • There were a lot of DC United players strewn about on the field like there was some sort of gas leak. I think the ball may have been moving for only 50 minutes of play during the whole game and 15 minutes of that was CITY players playing around with the ball while waiting for DC players to recover.
  • João Klauss de Mello has been sooooo close so many times this season teasing us into believing he is making his way back to early 2023 season form where he scored 5 goals in the first 5 games. The Brazilian forward and seemingly St Louis fans' favorite uncle hasn't had a single goal contribution since scoring twice against Sporting Kansas last September. Let's hope this last week's goal breaks the seal.
  • Josh Yaro scored his first ever MLS goal last weekend and a proud fanbase teared up, looked at the person next to them and said, "that's our Joshy".

  • The DC United match was a great example of why the off field treatment rule and timed substitution were critical rule updates. Moving forward, players suspected of injury will be carted off to recover or just asked to execute their performative feigned injury on the sidelines without stopping play. Now everything will be right with the world and we'll have nothing to complain about.
  • Coach Bradley Carnell on the DC United game, "You'll have to evaluate who was slowing down the play and who was trying to speed up the play." I like salty Bradley.
  • This last week the club received an offer from Norwegian team Molde FK for Samuel Adeniran who is in his final year of his contract. CITY said "Thanks but no thanks". Perhaps if we had more depth at striker, Lutz Pfannenstiel may have entertained the offer but more likely he signaled how much the club values Big Sam who we signed from the Seattle Sounders before the 2023 season for $94K and presumably a large burlap bag of Seattle's Best Coffee.
  • In researching this article I searched social media for "DC United" and most of the results were comic book fan clubs. That is unfortunate for them.

See you next time.  #AllForCITY

Check out musings from the LA Galaxy match. 

Photos courtesy of Jason Patrylo