Monday, April 03, 2006

Everything Begins Anew

The wonderful thing about sports is that every season begins with hope. Only one team wears the champion's crown at season's end, so most hopes are dashed, but until then, every fan can dream that her/his team will be the one to win it all.

Yesterday was DC United's season opener, the memory of the 4-0 drubbing that sent us careening out of last year's playoffs diminished by time and an umblemished record in the new season. We hosted Red Bull New York, the rebranded MetroStars, now owned by a company that makes an energy drink (a chant soon followed -- "what a waste of vodka"). This is a team we've dominated for the first ten years of the league, and should have done the same yesterday. But after 18 minutes, we were down 2-0, thanks to a very nice direct free kick from 35 yards out, and a major defensive screw up. While those goals were against the run of play to that time, i.e., United looked to be the better team, for the rest of the half the Red Bulls were playing with confidence and United looked shaken.

United was missing two defenders (one injury, one illness), our starting goalie (injury), and our playmaker (suspension). The absence of the playmaker (Christian Gomez) was felt most acutely, as United struggled to find any offensive rhythm. But with one substitution at halftime, our fortunes changed. Alecko Eskandarian, himself coming off an injury-filled 2005 season, and currently recovering from a sports hernia (and he probably wasn't healthy enough to play the full 90 minutes), scored about 10 minutes after coming on to the field. Ten minutes after that, we tied it up, and that's how the game ended, 2-2.

Ordinarily, a tie on the road is a big lift for the visiting team, and a letdown for the home squad, but given that United came back from a two-goal deficit, the roles were reversed. Hopefully the second half performance signals what will follow during the rest of the season. With Gomez returning from suspension next week, there's no reason to think otherwise.