The 2008 season for DC United is shaping up a lot like the start of the 2007 season. Disappointing exit from the CONCACAF Champions Cup followed by a poor start to the MLS season. United lost for the third time in four league matches when the visiting Columbus Crew defeated United 2-1 in front of 13,329 at RFK last night. Defensive lapses were the name of the day as United continues their struggles behind the ball which allowed Columbus to score twice in an eleven minute stretch midway through the first half.
"We've been through a tough stretch. I feel it's deja vu from last year" said Head Coach Tom Soehn after the match. "I didn't think we were as sharp as we needed to be. We talked early about our wings breaking them down and making sure that Schelotto and Moreno on the counter attacks didn't hurt us. We gave them way too much space and they punished us for it."
Columbus struck first in the 32nd minute when Alejandro Moreno got on the end of a well worked combination that had United's defenders spinning in circles. Schelotto worked a give and go with Frankie Hejduk who blew past defender Marc Burch and crossed for Moreno who beat Bryan Namoff to the ball and tucked it into the empty net for a 1-0 lead.
United responded quickly when Bryan Namoff found himself alone to collect a lovely pass from Emilio, and rocketed a shot off of Columbus midfielder Adam Moffat and past a stunned Will Hesmer to tie the score at 1-1.
However, the lead was short lived lead as United's defense broke down again and Columbus went ahead on an own goal by United defender Gonzalo Peralta. Adam Moffat had wormed his way through a struggling United defense and lofted a cross into the goal mouth where it hit the big United defender and bounced into the net.
United threatened a few more times and had two seperate shouts for a penalty but Emilio and Moreno's attempts in the box were waved off by referee Jair Marrufo and Columbus took a deserved 2-1 lead into halftime.
Soehn was baffled with the miscommunication that seemingly plagued the United back line all night long. "It should have been better than it was. They punished us when we didn't do a good job."
United came out of the locker room with all the posession in the second half and were pushing for the equalizer. With United in an all out attempt to level the match, Soehn inserted Rod Dyachenko and Franco Niell into the match in the 57th minute and went from four in the back to a three back line to help generate more numbers in attack. United should have equalized in the 66th minute when fantastic work on the left sideline from Marcelo Gallardo's cross was wasted when midfielder Fred misfired his volley attempt at the far post.
Columbus then was quite happy to put 10 players behind the ball and spend the remainder of the match thwarting United's repeated attempts to break the bunker. Wave after wave of United attacks were easily dealt with by the organized Columbus defense. United almost got the tying goal when Peralta unleashed a shot from 25 yards that narrowly missed wide left in stoppage time and that was it for United. Columbus now stands alone atop the Eastern Conference with 9 points from four matches.
DC United is off this weekend and will return to league play on Saturday night April 26th for a rematch with Real Salt Lake at RFK Stadium. "We've got a long week coming up and were going to work real hard to make sure we are where we need to be because we're not there yet."