Ben Olsen struggled to find a positive note on Saturday night and it took a direct question from the press to get him to cite the only real joy from the nightmare season that he is living through. Andy Najar, the seventeen year old prodigy who now wears his number 14 continues to amaze.
“I feel like a kid like Andy, he could step into the World Cup and play the way he plays. He just doesn’t care where he’s at. He loves to play the game and he plays it in the proper way. And not just the goals, all the other little stuff, the way he tackles, the way he runs up and down the field. It’s wonderful to watch. It really has been a huge bright spot this year.”
For his part, Najar was only marginally positive, “I think we had a good game, we gave it all, and we hoped for things to improve, we hoped for things to go our way, but we lacked concentration at key times, and we lost, unfortunately.” He was more insightful than he realized.
He scored his fifth goal of the season with brilliant and cool-headed footwork, tying him with Santino Quaranta and Freddy Adu for the most goals by a DC United rookie. Quaranta, now United’s captain, provided him a fine crossing pass to set up the series of quick moves that saw him put the ball in the net for an early DC lead.
The captain was still not satisfied, “Any stat that anybody gets, you can throw that down the toilet. To be honest with you, I want to win games. Good for him for scoring goals, but we’re just not good enough as a team.”
Despite a growing sense of DC United’s control, Houston scored, in Quaranta’s words, “Out of nowhere—that’s when the game changed. The ‘Here we go again’ thing, same story all year. I don’t know what else to say.”
Bereft of solutions, reporters turned to Jed Zayner, fresh off some winning years with the Columbus Crew. He admitted befuddlement, but volunteered that, “If you’re not detailed every minute of the game, it’s gonna bite you in the butt.”
He partially agreed with Quaranta about the deflating effect of the Dynamo comeback, but placed the full effect later, “I think heads down on the third goal. The second goal I think we were still fighting.”
He also offered that good things have been happening under the new interim coach’s tutelage, “I feel bad for Ben, because he’s an awesome coach. We all love him. We all know that there’s a better feeling out here. We’re playing better, we’re fighting harder. We’re getting goals and that’s been rare this year.”
Zayner also holds out hope for the future, “You look at Columbus. I was there when we were the worst team in the league. Three years later, the best team in the league. It takes that core, the building. Diamonds have to be built. They have to be rough and have to be smoothed. That’s what our team has to do. We have to be smooth.
“These last two games were the toughest to deal with. — We had a statistic before LA that if we scored the first goal we were 2 and 0 or 3 and 0. It’s a stinger when you go up and then give goals away. We’re not defending well and then countering well.”
His final comment touched ironically on one of the evening’s more telling moments, “It’s tough to teach details in the game. It’s tough to teach a detailed mentality sometimes.” That is especially true for younger players.
United’s staff have rightly allowed Andy Najar to attack in his own aggressive manner. He has responded well, showing great wisdom and a reading of the game far beyond his years. Olsen’s praise has been well earned.
He has done especially well in working hard at both ends of the field, developing his defensive mindset more slowly, but nonetheless steadily improving in support of his backs. However, he lost track of Brad Davis during the buildup to the Dynamo’s first goal.
From above, it was clear that Davis was slipping in behind him and Najar was cheating quite a bit up the field and too far inside. When the cross came through from the right, the rookie’s mark had an unimpeded shot. The fact that it went in off Devin McTavish did not make it any less a product of Davis’ freedom from pressure.
Failure to attend to detail doesn’t plague only rookies. Canadian international Dejan Jakovic had an uncharacteristic slip up earlier in the season and Clyde Simms, usually reliable and steady with the ball, hesitated an instant too much to allow Landon Donovan to slip past him and Jakovic to score in Los Angeles.
Now it’s off to Colorado next weekend with the added element of altitude to sap concentration. Olsen’s baptism of fire continues.
DC — Andy Najar 5 (Santino Quaranta 2) 29
HOU — own goal (Devon McTavish) 66
HOU — Geoff Cameron 2 (Brad Davis 9) 70
HOU — Dominic Oduro 4 (Brian Ching 3, Lovel Palmer 1) 100+
Houston Dynamo — Pat Onstad, Richard Mulrooney (Danny Cruz 69), Adrian Serioux, Ryan Cochrane (Eddie Robinson 63), Andrew Hainault, Corey Ashe, Lovel Palmer, Geoff Cameron, Brad Davis, Brian Ching, Joseph Ngwenya (Dominic Oduro 59).
Substitutes Not Used: Samuel Appiah, Mike Chabala, Cam Weaver, Tyler Deric.
D.C. United — Troy Perkins, Devon McTavish (Junior Carreiro 83), Julius James, Dejan Jakovic, Jed Zayner, Andy Najar, Branko Boskovic, Kurt Morsink, Santino Quaranta, Danny Allsopp (Carlos Varela 74), Pablo Hernandez.
Substitutes Not Used: Jordan Graye, Stephen King, Jaime Moreno, Clyde Simms, Chase Harrison.
HOU — Ryan Cochrane (caution; Dissent) 29
DC — Andy Najar (caution; Reckless Tackle) 69
DC — Jed Zayner (caution; Reckless Foul) 79
HOU — Brad Davis (caution; Delaying a Restart) 82
DC — Julius James (caution; Reckless Tackle) 89
HOU — Geoff Cameron (caution; Reckless Foul) 93+
Referee: Alex Prus
Referee’s Assistants: -George Gansner; Adam Wienckowski
4th Official: Landis Wiley
Time of Game: 1:58
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-85-degrees