Ben Olsen. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

2nd-half collapse leads to United’s 4-1 loss in Los Angeles

Carson, California, March 7, 2016 – For forty-five minutes it was all going to plan for D.C. United and head coach Ben Olsen as they opened their 2016 campaign at the Stub Hub Center.

Get an early goal from debutante Lamar Neagle. Check.

Control the tempo and create most of the dangerous opportunities. Check.

Keep the Galaxy off balance and limit their scoring opportunities. Check.

Then the second half began and it all fell apart as the Los Angeles Galaxy stormed back with four unanswered goals to mitigate what was a hopeful result for the Black-and-Red. Mike Magee, the 2013 MLS MVP, made a triumphant return to the City of Angels with a pair of goals and an assist to lead the Galaxy to a 4-1 win over D.C. United before over 25,000 at the Stub Hub Center.

United could not have gotten off to a better start when high pressure forced Steven Gerrard into a turnover that Chris Rolfe pounced on. He was met almost immediately by Galaxy defender and Bryans Road, MD native son A.J. Delagarza. The collision resulted in the loose ball hitting Neagle in stride who took off towards goal. As the defense was closing, the newly acquired Neagle, a surprise starter for Fabian Espindola, unleashed a left-footed worm burner that got under the arms of Galaxy goalkeeper Dan Kennedy for the quick 1-0 lead.

United kept the Galaxy under wraps for most of the first half and cruised into halftime with the 1-0 lead.

Then Mike Magee came on. Magee, who has torched United throughout his career no matter where he has played (Metrostars, Galaxy, Chicago and now back to LA) wasted no time in making his presence felt. The Galaxy should have tied it up as early as the 52nd minute but the crossbar and Andrew Dykstra made back-to-back saves on Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes respectively.

Just three minutes later the rout was on. Rookie defender Daniel Steres, a surprise starter for the Galaxy in his own right, barged through the penalty area and rocketed home a header from six yards off of a Magee corner kick. United were clearly stunned at this point and began to break down defensively.

However, United should have retaken the lead just minutes later when Neagle fed a beautiful defense-splitting pass to Nick DeLeon who charged towards goal. DeLeon easily beat substitute goalkeeper Brian Rowe (first half for injured Dan Kennedy) but couldn’t beat the far side post as the shot pinged away in frustration.

That missed opportunity was the key point in the match as soon after the Galaxy had the game-winning goal. Sebastian Lletget, who was giving United left-back Taylor Kemp headaches all night, cut back on Kemp and clipped a ball to the far post. United’s defensive positioning on the play was poor to say the least and Magee found himself wide open from 10 yards out. Magee simply lofted his second touch over the head of the committed Dykstra and the rout was on.

In the 83rd minute the Galaxy made it 3-1 after Robbie Keane converted a penalty kick after Dykstra inexplicably left his leg out to trip Magee who’s shot had already gone wide of the goal. The Irishman calmly put it past Dykstra and then the rout was complete when United fell asleep for a second time on a free kick and allowed Magee to dart in between two United defenders to power home a diving header and the final nail in United’s coffin.

United now must regroup and come back home before traveling up to another place that has been a house of horrors for them in recent years. Gillette Stadium in Foxborough to take on the New England Revolution. The Revs pulled off their own miracle with a last-second headed goal in stoppage time to tie the Houston Dynamo 3-3 yesterday afternoon in Houston.

 

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