Last Two Weeks: 0-1-0
Beginnings are hard. They’re the start of new stories, new relationships, and new adventures, and they require a lot of work. It showed, Saturday night in Kansas City, that United didn’t do enough of that in their spring training. On a cold and rainy evening in front of a sell-out crowd, United faltered repeatedly to open their season with a 4-0 loss to the Wizards. It wasn’t what anyone with United wanted. Curt Onalfo, new coach for D.C. United, wanted to beat his old team. Keeper Troy Perkins wanted to show his stripes as a veteran keeper worth the loss of Fred. But it wasn’t to be.
Instead, the Wizards wiped the floor with DC, pressing hard against a weak defense, and forcing mistake after mistake. Most frustrating seem to come on the right side of the backfield, where it seemed like no one was playing. Several times, Perkins would make a huge save, only to be beaten badly when the rebound couldn’t be cleared. It looked like the midfield was playing in quicksand. In short: United’s debut looked like a training match. Let’s hope they figure out their communications problems before Saturday’s home opener.
Last Two Weeks: 3-2-1
Place: 1st in the East
The Caps have sewn up the top of the East for the first time in franchise history, but Sunday’s brutal loss to the Flames (after a 4-goal first period…) and Thursday’s shootout loss to Carolina says the Caps ought not rest on their laurels. It’s always preferable when a win cinches things up, but Philly’s loss will do just fine. There are just seven games remaining until the Playoffs, and several of them should be tough. Two against on-the-bubble Atlanta, one in Pittsburgh, and two against on-the-bubble Boston are five of the last seven, promising a difficult physical road to the playoffs. Here’s hoping the Caps can stay healthy.
Ovie crossed over the 100 point mark yesterday with a 2nd period goal, and Nicklas Backstrom crossed 90 with the assist. Alexander Semin should break 80 with his next point. The potent Caps offense has been their saving grace all season, I’m hoping that they can carry their healthy offense through to the end of the season and a successful Stanley Cup run.
Last Two Weeks: 0-8
Place: 14th in the East
The free-fall continues. The Wiz have lost 15 straight. Their last win was a month ago against New Jersey. The remaining talent looks lost on the court, except when they’re fighting with Coach Flip Saunders. It’s all over but the draft position.
Record: 8-17 (Pre-season)
Last Two Weeks: 8-6
As I said above, beginnings are hard. No one knows that better than Nationals fans, who’ve watched as their fledgling franchise has struggled these last few seasons. The Nats are focusing on new beginnings this season, and the first among them will be that of Ian Desmond. Drafted in 2004, when they were still the Expos, Desmond will start on Opening Day at shortstop, said manager Jim Riggleman this morning. Desmond has had a breakout Spring while Cristiàn Guzman has struggled. While Strasburg and Storen will get a lot of the press, this is a big moment for the young shortstop, to get the vote of confidence from the skipper in your first big-league spring training.
I’m looking forward to Opening Day in just a week, when the Nats and Phillies will face off at 3pm at the ballpark in Southeast. The final roster spots are still up for grabs, including the last spot in the starting rotation. While John Lannan, Craig Stammen and Jason Marquis have their slots locked up, Garrett Mock, Scott Olsen, J.D. Martin and Livan Hernandez are fighting it out for the last two slots. This is not a rock solid starting rotation, and the addition of Stephen Strasburg by July won’t be a magic makeover for the Nationals’ starting pitching. The bullpen remains largely a question mark. Even if closer Matt Capps is looking strong in the 9th, he’s only useful if the guys pitching in the 7th and 8th (okay, 5th through 8th) aren’t throwing the game away.
There’s a lot of potential in this squad, but this is not a championship team. This is a team that will have to fight and struggle for every curly W. Worse, they’re going to be fighting for those wins in front of, at best, a half-full stadium. There are a lot of hurdles for this year’s Nationals. Look for a full run-down next weekend.