It occurs to me that the primary beneficiary of United's offseason decision to not bring back Dema Kovalenko - beyond the salary cap implications - was Freddy Adu. All the minutes Dema played last season? They're Freddy's this season. I'm betting this wasn't lost on Dema when he trotted out for warm-ups for FC Metalurh Zaporizhya in February in the Ukraine. If I'm Freddy, I'm hoping I wake up Thursday morning without a limp.
The Post pre-game article predictably and understandably focuses on Bruce Arena's Red Bull's coaching debut. What is noteworthy is this quote from Arena:
Since then, MLS has gotten itself onto firmer financial ground, but, in Arena's view, the quality of play has stagnated.
"I don't think it has moved along as well as I would've thought," he said. "It doesn't seem like it's that critical at the league level to produce top-quality teams. People want to see good soccer and I don't know if the league has given it to them. We've got to work harder toward that and take an aggressive approach to make it happen."
I agree. I've been hesitant to believe that this year's United is as impressive as their record suggests, and one of the major reasons is how bad some of the teams in MLS look and how poor the quality of some of the soccer I've watched has been. What was so encouraging about that first half of soccer against (an admittedly exhibition-speed) Madrid was the crispness of United's play: if United comes out tonight as motivated and sharp, they should pick up three points easily.
If, however, Arena puts his team's success over improving the aesthetics of MLS play, a least tonight, the Metros will come out and hack and grind and foul and uglify, the same strategy most MLS teams employ against United. Looking at the personnel of the Metros, that's the only reasonable choice he has.
Count how many times Freddy finds himself on the ground and looks up to see Dema walking away.