There is an inordinate amount of sports commentary in this country: radio call-in shows, television breakdown shows, newspapers, websites, press conferences - the list goes on and on. But despite all of the questions posed throughout sports media there are very few answers. The two most important questions pertaining to D.C. United recently are, "Why can't this team score?" and "What will it take for them to break out of the slump?"
The first question has many answers. United should have played a pass a little harder, should have held the ball a little longer, should have taken a shot a little quicker. The reasons are easy to understand, but difficult to fix in a game. The second question has one answer, and it is a simple answer: Magic.
It will take magic and probably just a little bit from one player. Which player? Any player. But the magic has to happen in order for D.C. United to score, and once they score, the magic will flow throughout the team.
The necessary magic is not like the magic you see in Las Vegas. The kind of magic United need is the powerful kind that changes people's lives; the kind of magic that was in Alecko Eskandarian when he scored 14 goals for United a year ago, the kind of magic that Nick Rimando created when he saved the final kick in the penalty shootout of the Eastern Conference Final, the kind of magic that Jaime Moreno provided all of last season when he was the best player in Major League Soccer.
D.C. United have played pretty well all season, and in their last outing they played very well, there was just one thing missing.
In the old days of D.C. United, the club almost always got their magic from one person - Marco Antonio Etcheverry. He provided magic in the hurricane 10 years ago, he provided magic in MLS Cup 96, he provided magic in the amazing four-goal comeback two seasons ago, and he was always the mystifying source of United's attack.
D.C. United will never have another "Diablo," but it is time for a United player to take over the role of providing what the team needs when they need it most. If D.C. is going to make a surge in the conference standings, then Wednesday's match vs. Chicago is when they need it most.
There is only so much that can be said about United's attacking struggles. The players know what needs to be done. Drills in practice only go so far and no amount of preparation from head coach Peter Nowak could get the team any more focused than they already are.
At this point, it is all up to the players. One of them needs to find the magic that can put D.C. United back on the right track. Etcheverry was at United's training session on Tuesday. He didn't say much to his former teammates, but based on the reactions of the players, coaches, team officials and fans that saw him out there, perhaps he sensed that his team could use a little boost. On Wednesday, someone on the field will need to do what Marco won't be able to do from the stands.
Tony Limarzi is a contributor to dcunited.com. He is also the voice of D.C. United soccer, calling all of the Black-and-Red's games live on WMET.