Ben Olsen, Chad Ashton. Photo: Tony Quinn

United losing streak hits three games in dour 3-0 loss at Red Bull Arena

Harrison, New Jersey, August 30th, 2015 – D.C. United continued their poor run of play in MLS as they were completely outplayed in every facet of their 3-0 loss tonight at Red Bull Arena against their most bitter rivals New York Red Bull.

With the loss, United’s tenuous hold on the Eastern Conference lead is whittled down to two points and Red Bull have three games in hand. So, essentially United gave up the conference lead tonight after an awful performance which saw Red Bull control every aspect of the game. To a man Red Bull was better at every position on the field except for goalkeeper where Bill Hamid managed to keep this game from getting out of control.

Lloyd Sam opened the scoring late in the first half before Bradley Wright-Phillips doubled the advantage at the interval and then he completed the rout with a goal in the second half to send United to their third consecutive league loss.

Red Bull enforced their trademark high pressure from the opening whistle which in turn forced United into an uncountable number of turnovers that led to the domination from the home side. Exhibit A is the opener for Red Bull in the 33rd minute. United had possession of the ball in the defensive third of the field as Sean Franklin squared a pass to Bobby Boswell. United’s captain simply redirected the ball straight up the field twenty yards to no one in particular and Red Bull were off on an instant counter. Felipe found Bradley Wright-Phillips immediately at the top of the area and he quickly shifted the ball to Sam who tucked his shot away past the onrushing Hamid for the 1-0 lead. Sam tallied his third goal in three games against United this season and fifth in eight games total in his career against United which now officially puts him on the official United-Killer list with the likes of the immortal Imad Baba, Jack McInerney and Taylor Twellman.

With United clearly reeling, Red Bull took advantage and doubled the lead in the 42nd minute. A rather innocuous ball was sent into the corner where Mike Grella gathered it under token pressure from Taylor Kemp. Grella, sensing something special, blindly whipped in a cross into the goalmouth where Wright-Phillips beat Steve Birnbaum to the near post and hit a screaming one-timer volley from eight yards out that gave Hamid no chance.

Wright-Phillips would conclude the rout in the 64th minute when he beat a very poor offside trap from United to ghost in on Hamid and send in a shot to the far side netting.

On the evening it was a horror show for the Black-and-Red. They were beaten to every second ball, they were beaten to every tackle and were second-best on every 50/50 challenge. United seemed completely unprepared for what they were about to go through which seems strange seeing as they went through essentially the same type of beat down at Red Bull Arena in March when they fell by a 2-0 scoreline.

Somehow United will have to find a way to regroup and focus on their remaining six league matches. United will have the next two weeks off before taking on the suddenly red-hot (it figures) Colorado Rapids in Commerce City, Colorado on September 12th.

 

 

Aguilar lets it all out...

United in control of Group H of CCL play after 3-0 drubbing of Montego Bay United

Washington D.C., August 26, 2015 – D.C. United moved one step closer to advancement to the knockout stages of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League next winter with a thorough 3-0 win over Montego Bay United of Jamaica at RFK Stadium last night.

The win for United pushes them to the top of three-team Group H with 6 points out of six and a win over Arabe Unido next month at RFK will virtually seal the Black-and-Red’s advancement for a second year running.

With head coach Ben Olsen rotating his squad between MLS games, United put out almost the same exact starting X1 from last Wednesday’s 1-0 over Arabe Unido in Panama City. The same combination for that game-winning goal got United out in front in the 37th minute when Michael Farfan’s pass found Miguel Aguilar who worked his way free in the penalty area and put his shot between the legs of goalkeeper Jacomeno Barret for the 1-0 lead.

United should have doubled it’s advantage on multiple occasions early in the second half but found themselves wanting after easy misses from Facundo Coria and Jairo Arrieta. United would finally get that second goal on a bad clearance from the Montego Bay defense in the 70th minute.

From a corner kick United played a short ball to Farfan who initially sent the ball a bit too deep past the far post. However Coria did a good job in heading the wayward cross back into danger in the goal box. A very poor clearance from a Montego Bay defender saw Farfan back on the ball, this time much closer to goal. Farfan instinctively crossed it along the ground in front of goal where Kofi Opare’s sliding stab redirected the ball into goal.

United capped off the evening in the 90th minute with another penalty area scramble that saw a ball pop out to Conor Doyle who calmly slotted his angled shot past Barret from 10 yards away for the final 3-0 scoreline.

Up next for United in CCL play is their decisive return match with Arabe Unido at RFK Stadium on Tuesday, September 15th.

United now turn their attention to the years most important game to date – Sunday at Red Bull Arena against New York Red Bull. United stand five points clear of Red Bull but their rivals play away to Chicago tonight and with a victory there they could surpass United with a win on Sunday night.

Davy Arnaud struggles to maintain posetion

United’s struggles continue as they drop 2-0 decision at home to San Jose

Washington, D.C., August 22, 2015 – D.C. United continued their trend of giving up early goals at home and this time there was no miracle comeback to save them in their 2-0 loss tonight to the San Jose Earthquakes before a season-high 20,043 fans at RFK Stadium.

The loss for United (13-9-5, 44 points) is their second straight in league play but they will remain at least five points clear of New York Red Bull who are idle this weekend. Red Bull are United’s next league match a week from this Sunday and the Black-and-Red are in danger of letting their lead in the East and the Supporters Shield race slip away Even with a five point cushion, Red Bull have four matches in hand and are currently on a 7-1-1 run through MLS over the past two months.

For the fourth consecutive match at RFK, United gave up a goal within the first four minutes of the match. This time it was Chris Wondolowski who nabbed the early tally after United failed to clear out the area and somehow managed to lose MLS’ most potent goal-scorer over the past six seasons. Wondolowski was initially denied by Bobby Boswell at the top of the six-yard box but the failed clearance bounced back to Wondo who’s angled shot when through two United defenders and past Andrew Dykstra for the 1-0 lead.

United put forth plenty of energy and effort on the evening but lacked the final finishing touch and forward Alvaro Saborio had a night to forget in the finishing category. Saborio had a golden chance to level the match midway through the first half when his redirection of a Boswell flick in the penalty area somehow got deflected over the crossbar from just four yards away.

The frustration continued to mount for United as they had plenty of free kick and corner kick opportunities to grab the equalizer. However, as the night lingered on, you could just sense that United could not pull off the miracles they had been performing over the past month to turn deficit’s into victories.

After the break the visitors struck again within minutes of the restart. This time it was bona fide United killer Quincy Amarikwa who did the bulk of the damage in putting San Jose up 2-0. A very lax layoff pass from Sean Franklin (his first league start at right back in over two months) to Conor Doyle deep in San Jose territory was the genesis of the second goal. Wondo pounced on the errant pass and took off in the opposite direction. He spotted Amarikwa who torched Kofi Opare (starting for Steve Birnbaum who was carrying a knock from their CCL match in Panama on Wednesday) before laying a pass of to Shea Salinas streaking down the left flank. Salinas cut back deep in the box and sent a shot towards the far post that Dykstra simply did not get a good read on and it was 2-0 for San Jose.

That goal pretty much sealed the deal but United thought they had a goal in the 81st minute only to see Saborio’s wide-open header at the far post somehow miss the goal completely. The miss en-capsulized United’s evening and that was confirmed after the match when a clearly agitated Ben Olsen was in no mood to discuss his team’s shortcomings on the evening with the media.

Up next for United will be their second match in Group H play in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday night at RFK Stadium when Montego Bay from Jamaica come to visit. Olsen will most likely roll out a lineup very similar to the group of players who defeated Arabe Unido 1-0 this past Wedensday in Panama City, Panama.

United’s next league match will be at Red Bull Stadium on Sunday, August 30th and will most likely be the match that will determine who will win the Eastern Conference. Red Bull has won (2-0) and drawn (2-2 at RFK) it’s two matches this season with United.

Aguilar lets it all out...

Aguilar nabs late game-winner as United open CCL with 1-0 win in Panama

Panama City, Panama, August 19, 2015 – Miguel Aguilar’s first professional goal in the 85th minute was the difference maker as D.C. United defeated Arabe Unido of Panama 1-0 last night in the opening game of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League campaign. Aguilar, United’s first-round pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft this past January, was having a night to forget up to the point in which he gave the Black-and-Red the perfect start to their Group H play.

With Arabe Unido coming into the match with three points from a 3-0 home win last week against Montego Bay (Jamaica), a win for the home side would have made advancement very difficult for United (only the group winners advance to the knockout rounds next February). However the surprising result means that United could possibly clinch advancement from Group H if they win their next two games, both at home against Montego Bay (next Tuesday at 8pm) and then a rematch with Unido on September 15th.

After a not-too-unexpected tough start to the match for United, due mostly to the fact that the squad was completely rotated out except for defender Steve Birnbaum from last Thursday’s 3-1 loss to NYCFC, United finally began to settle into the match when Chris Pontius’ rasping drive from 30 yards out was easily handled by Unido goalkeeper Miguel Lloyd midway through the first half. United defended well and only gave up a handful of half chances to the home side with Andrew Dykstra coming up big on a long-range drive by midfielder Rigoberto Nino just a few minutes after Pontius’ bid.

The best chance of the half for United came in the 35th minute when right back Jalen Robinson sent in a perfect cross from 35 yards out that met the forehead of Jairo Arrieta only to see the shot go narrowly over the crossbar.

After the break United really began to control the tempo of the match, often frustrating Unido to the point of a couple of rough tackles, most of which went unpunished by the referee. With both sides taking turns running at each other with little success, the match seemed to be headed to an inevitable 0-0 draw, which would have been more than acceptable for United. However, a bit of luck on both ends of the pitch after the 80th minute turned ultimately in United’s favor.

In the 80th minute, Arabe Unido should have take the lead. Winger Renaldo Addles did well to get down the left sideline and forge a bit of space by beating Robinson to the end line. His cross through the penalty area should have been tapped home into an empty net but substitute Joel Barcenes completely overthought the play and attempted an audacious back heel instead of a simple left-footed turn into the goal. The result saw the ball go through Barcenes’ legs and out the opposing sideline very much to United’s relief.

Given that reprieve United took full advantage of it. In the 85th minute Arrieta did well to bring down and control a ball under heavy pressure. Turning inside into the midfield, Arrieta spotted Facundo Coria heading towards the goal and slipped the ball to him. Coria then touched the ball to his left to Michael Farfan who had his back to goal just about 25 yards straight out from goal. Without hesitating Farfan back-heeled the ball through the legs of an Unido defender and right into the path of Aguilar. The rookie took a touch to split a pair of defenders and his next touch was a toe-poke that beat the onrushing Lloyd to give United the improbable 1-0 lead.

United easily saw out the remaining minutes of regulation and stoppage time to bring a huge 3 points back to Washington D.C. With the match in the books, United now will turn their attention to their weekend match up against the San Jose Earthquakes at RFK Stadium on Saturday night at 7pm. The Quakes picked up their second consecutive league win with an unexpected 5-0 drubbing of Sporting Kansas City in Kansas City last night.

 

Ben Olsen. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

Poor second half dooms United in 3-1 loss to NYCFC

Bronx, New York, August 13, 2015 – This type of loss has been coming for D.C. United. They’ve just been too stubborn to let it happen over the past three weeks but tonight it finally caved in as they allowed three second-half goals in a 3-1 loss to expansion side NYCFC tonight at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

Thomas McNamara, David Villa and Kwadwo Poku all scored in the second stanza after United took a 1-0 lead in the 36th minuted through Alvaro Saborio.

Both teams came out relatively conservative though United had a golden opportunity in the third minute to take an early lead. Conor Doyle got loose behind NYCFC’s defense but a poor final touch prevented his one-v-one opportunity with Josh Saunders in goal. NYCFC had the next chance at grabbing the lead in the 21st minute when Villa’s hard angled shot was well saved by Bill Hamid.

United took the lead through some good fortune as NYCFC star Andres Pirlo put a back pass right into the path of a streaking Chris Rolfe. United’s leading scorer sprinted towards goal before squaring the ball to Saborio who’s shot kissed the inside of the far post before settling into the goal for his second goal with the Black-and-Red. United very nearly gave the lead up just sixty seconds later when the back line got caught out defensively only for Bobby Boswell’s lunging goal-line clearance of a Villa effort keeping United in the lead.

After that however it was all NYCFC as they put their foot on the accelerator right from the jump of the second half. Hamid came up huge in the 50th minute in what ended up being a bad sign of things to come. Just a minute later the home side was level as United fell asleep defensively, not for the first time. As the game was beginning to open up, Kwadwo Poku easily got behind Taylor Kemp and rounded Hamid and then slotted the ball to McNamara for an easy tap-in and his fifth goal of the season.

At this point United were simply trying to hang on to their 1-1 scoreline but the skill and class of Poku and Villa were too much for United to overcome. With United in a defensive shell and showing precious little in the way of possession or even passes strung together in the second half, it was Andres Pirlo who ultimately made the difference. In the 80th minute, Alvaro Saborio gave away a bad pass at midfield and then the Italian General simply picked apart United’s defense with an inch-perfect pass that had both Boswell and Sean Franklin playing the “you take it-I got it” game. As that indecision was happening, Villa forced his way between the two defenders and slotted a left-footed shot past a clearly exasperated Hamid for the 2-1 lead.

With United in free fall, Poku wrapped up his Man-of-the-Match performance as his physical speed and skill were no match for a back tracking Boswell. Poku simply overpowered United’s best defender and hammered a shot almost through Hamid for the final goal in a disappointing 3-1 loss.

Even with the loss United still maintain their 8-point lead in the Eastern Conference but now second place New York Red Bull have an eye towards the top of the conference as they have a healthy four games in hand on United.

Up next for United is a trip to Panama for their opening game in the Concacaf Champions League against Arabe Unido on Wednesday, August 19th. United is off this weekend from MLS action and will return to league play when they host the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, August 22nd at 7pm. The CCL match will be televised on Fox Soccer Plus at 8pm EST while their league tilt with the Quakes will be televised locally on Comcast SportsNet at 7pm EST

Hamid points

Return of Hamid key factor in United’s 1-0 win in Montreal

Montreal, Canada – August 8 2015- Bill Hamid’s return to the nets couldn’t have come at a better time as his timely saves powered D.C. United to a 1-0 win in Montreal tonight at Stade Saputo.

Hamid, making his first appearance since June 27th, made two one-v-one saves on either side of halftime to help preserve the win for United, their third in a row. After setting an MLS record with back-to-back wins after a two-goal deficit in the previous two weeks, United came back down to Earth and set another league record in recording a win with only one shot attempted for the entire 90 minutes. One shot..

Chris Rolfe got that game-winning shot in the 13th minute thanks in part to the high pressure he and Jairo Arrieta put on the Impact defense. Arrieta poked the ball away from defender Victor Cabrera and beat Wandrille Lefevre to the loose ball and Arrieta, subbing in for the injured Fabian Espindola, tapped the ball into the path of Rolfe who easily dispatched his shot to the left of Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush for his team-leading 9th goal of the season and the early 1-0 lead.

To say United then sat back and decided to defend could be the understatement of the year. After giving up late goals in stoppage time in losses to Philadelphia, Seattle and FC Dallas on the road earlier this season due to their bunker mentality, this game was very much traveling the same path. At halftime the Impact had a 9-1 shots advantage with Hamid coming up big one-v-one on Andres Romero to keep United out in front.

After the break not much changed, in fact it got a little more worrisome for United as their deep bunker could not afford themselves the opportunity to hold possession and relieve pressure. Hamid stoned Dominic Oduro on a one-v-one challenge midway through the second half and also kept Montreal at bay with stellar positioning and solid command of his penalty area. If not for some wayward shooting inside the penalty area, most specifically from defender Eric Miller (two misses) and Dilly Duka (big miss from 6 yards out in stoppage time), United could have suffered the similar fate that took them down in games earlier this season employing a deep bunker.

As it happens, United (13-7-5, 44 points) extends their Eastern Conference lead to 11 points over Red Bull who host NYCFC tomorrow night at Red Bull Arena. Red Bull has four games in hand and could theoretically catch United should they win all four of those matches. One non-win however drops them below the winnable threshold. Needless to say, despite the very poor offensive showing tonight, it was a huge road win, their fourth of the season.

Speaking of NYCFC, they will be United’s next opponent when they meet next Thursday night at Yankee Stadium. Due to both the Redskins and Ravens playing NFL Preseason games at the same time, this match will only be available via www.dcunited.com.

DSC_0063

United’s 5-goal second half key their 6-4 win over Real Salt Lake

Washington, D.C., August 1, 2015 – D.C. United scored five second-half goals on their way to an historic 6-4 win this evening over Real Salt Lake at RFK Stadium.

Chris Rolfe (above, photo: Martin Fernandez) led the way with two goals for the Black and Red as United (12-7-5, 41 points) further cemented their lead atop the Eastern Conference with their mind-boggling seventh come-from-behind win on the season. Just like last week United were behind by a goal inside of 90 seconds. Joao Plata scored through a thicket of players to the far post to put the visitors up 1-0.

With visions of last week’s 2-0 deficit against the Philadelphia Union streaming through their heads, United couldn’t believe they were reliving history. With a special emphasis on better starts in training all week, it was inconceivable to repeat their mistake from a week prior. Even worse, they fell behind by 2-0 in the 21st minute when Arundel High School’s very own Kyle Beckerman doubled the advantage with his long-range bomb off the far post.

Normally this would be enough for most teams to see their way to an unexpected loss but this version of D.C. United is a completely unique mystery at times. Chris Rolfe began the rally with some great individual work in stealing the ball of the feet of “All-Star” Tony Beltran and bending a wicked shot to the far post in the 42nd minute to give United some semblance of belief that they can pull off another two-goal rally for the second consecutive week.

After the break all Hell broke loose as both teams combined to score seven goals. Rolfe stepped up to convert a penalty kick after Bobby Boswell was wrestled to the ground in the penalty area by an RSL defender. Referee Boldomero Toledo pointed to the spot and Rolfe roofed his spot kick for his team-leading 8th goal of the season. Just five minutes later United claimed their first lead of the night when defender Taylor Kemp unleashed a rocket from 23 yards away that gave RSL goalkeeper Jeff Antinella no hope of stopping.

Not to be undone however the visitors came right back and leveled the match at 3-3 in the 62nd minute when RSL defender Aaron Maund out dueled Steve Birnbaum inside the goal box and headed in a Javier Morales free kick to the right of United goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra.

The goals were now coming thick and fast and United once again took the lead inside of 60 seconds when Fabian Espindola finally capped off a wild sequence in front of goal. The play started when Alvaro Saborio received the ball deep in the penalty area and then the former RSL man completely juked Maund to the ground and curled a goal-bound shot to the far post. However Antinella got a fingertip to the ball to keep it out when mad scramble in front of the open goal at the far post resulted in an Espindola last gasp touch to push the ball over the goal line.

Incredibly though RSL came back to tie the score in the 68th minute when Morales found Abdoulie Mansally on the far post and the former striker-now defender embraced his forward roots and roofed a shot from a tight angle over the head of Dykstra to tie the match at 4-4.

With the crowd of 17, 288 in stunned disbelief in what they were witnessing, United turned it up a few notches and put the game away for good in the 79th minute. United had won a corner kick opportunity after a brilliant one-two display from Saborio and Espindola as they split open the RSL defense with a series of moves that had the stadium buzzing. With RSL a bit unsettled, they failed to pay attention to Kemp who received the quick pass from Espindola’s corner and then sent in one of his now textbook crosses that met the head of Perry Kitchen to easily beat Antinella for his third goal of the season and the eventual game-winning goal.

With RSL now pushing forward in hopes of an equalizer, and who could blame them considering how the crazy match was unfolding, it was United’s best player on the night Nick DeLeon saving the best for last. DeLeon, flush with confidence after his goal last week snapped a year-long drought, unleashed a left-footed curling blast into the far side netting from 22 yards in the 85th minute that sent the stadium into delirium. Not only was this the best goal of DeLeon’s career, it was arguably his most influential performance since his game-winning goal to eliminate Red Bull from the 2012 playoffs.

United easily saw out the remaining minutes of what can only be classified as one of the most entertaining games in the 60-year history of RFK Stadium. This game will go on the short list right beside the 1997 MLS Cup win over the Colorado Rapids and the 2004 Eastern Conference Final win over the New England Revolution on penalty kicks that vaulted United to the last of their four MLS Cup titles.

Can this game signify something similar? How could anyone know the answer to that but this club this season are defying all the odds and it could very well be a possibility come this December.

Alvaro Saborio

Terrible start, Fantastic finish as D.C. United top Philadelphia at RFK

Washington, D.C., July 26, 2015 – The bad news – United has waited over a month to play a home game and they fell behind the Philadelphia Union 2-0 inside of four minutes. The good news – there were still eighty-six minutes to go and United used every one of them to their advantage in a stunning 3-2 come-from-behind win at sticky RFK Stadium this afternoon.

Alvaro Saborio, above (Phot0: Martin Fernandez), marked his debut with United with the opening goal of the comeback and Nick DeLeon ended it with his first goal in MLS in over a year as a season-high 19,125 fans were put through the emotional ringer once again. The victory for United (11-7-5, 38 points) pushed their lead in the Eastern Conference to seven points over second place Columbus. It was also the sixth time this season that the Black-and-Red had won after conceding the opening goal of the game. Even more mind blowing than that is that United has only led at halftime of 3 of 22 games this season.

While United will ultimately take a deep breath and enjoy the win, things started out in horrific fashion as defensive lapses led directly to both of the Union’s opening goals. In just the first ten seconds of the match, right back Chris Korb sent a lazy pass that was easily intercepted and eventually channeled to C.J. Sapong just inside the penalty area. Sapong easily brushed off Steve Birnbaum and surprisingly found himself at the penalty spot all alone and beat Andrew Dykstra to his right for a 1-0 lead.

With RFK still reeling from the early deficit, the Union doubled their lead to the disbelief of everyone on and off the field. Chaco Maidana sent a harmless ball to Sebastien Le Toux on United’s right flank. Korb gave the Frenchman a bit too much room as he centered a ball into the heart of the goalmouth. Somehow the ball managed to elude both Sapong and Birnbaum and sleepily tucked into the far post netting for an unthinkable 2-0 lead just four minutes into the game.

Although United were understandably rocked, they soon regained their composure enough to start threatening the Union goal. United got their best opportunity midway through the half when Saborio’s give-and-go with Davy Arnaud ended up with Arnaud being chopped down in the penalty area. Fabian Espindola stepped up to take the PK despite the fact that Chris Rolfe had converted his last two spot kicks. Almost predictably, Espindola sent his shot well over the crossbar to further deflate the crowd.

All was not lost however as Saborio cut the deficit in half in the 37th minute when his volleyed shot from a Korb cross beat Union goalkeeper Brian Slyvestre just inside the near post. Buoyed by that goal United took over the match after the break and it seemed like only a matter of time until they nabbed the equalizer. With the Union pinned down in their own end, United created a number of chances to equalize but were coming just a bit short.

That all changed in the 66th minute when a mountain-sized gorilla was finally lifted off the back of Nick DeLeon. It had been over a year since NDL scored on July 4th of last year and today’s goal couldn’t have come at a better time. Espindola, who had been wreaking havoc on the left flank all half long, made a rare foray into the center of the field and found himself on the ball outside the top of the penalty area. Espindola juked and jived his way into some space to unleash his patented left-footed blast. Slyvestre could only parry the ball away a few feet and that is all DeLeon needed as he slipped the rebound under Sylvestre to level the match at 2-2.

And as has been the case five times at RFK alone this season, United completed the comeback in the 79th minute when Espindola headed down a beautiful cross from Korb for the game-winner. Just seconds earlier, the Union were inches away from taking the lead when Sapong beat Dykstra to a loose ball in the box and his chipped attempt crashed down off the crossbar to set up the sequence that saw United to another head-scratching win.

After that emotional and physical roller coaster ride, United will welcome in Saborio’s old team Real Salt Lake into town next Saturday night at RFK Stadium.

 

United fall in stoppage-time 2-1 in Dallas

Frisco, Texas, July 18, 2015 – Fabian Castillo’s goal in the 93rd minute was the game-winner as FC Dallas defeated D.C. United 2-1 tonight at Toyota Stadium in steamy Frisco, Texas.

Playing in hazy and humid conditions, United struggled all night long in dealing with FC Dallas’ seemingly endless attacking and were fortunate not to suffer a heavier scoreline loss if not for some wayward shooting and good goalkeeping from Andrew Dykstra. The home side were on the front foot from the very beginning and dominated nearly every aspect of the game. This was rather disappointing for United as they were just coming off a well-needed 15 day break, but in many ways this may have been the worse team to come back to league play against as the home side were riding a three-game winning streak while United had gone scoreless in their previous two league matches before their break.

Once again head coach Ben Olsen was forced to shuffle his lineup with the suspension of Fabian Espindola and the surgery to Bill Hamid’s knee and wrist. Starting his 21st different lineup in 22 games, United had a tall task ahead of them and those who were expecting a struggle from the Black-and-Red tonight certainly got it. FC Dallas with rapid fire attack led by Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz had United on their heels all night long.

However, it was seldom marked defensive midfielder Kellyn Acosta who proved the biggest thorn in United’s side. Three times the midfielder unleashed shots from outside the area that nearly gave FC Dallas the lead. As the game wore on and the missed chances continued to mount for the home side, the more likely it would seem United could walk out of Dallas with a point. All that seemed to end in the 73rd minute when Acosta got on the end of a scrambling play in the penalty area and converted from two yards out right in front of Dykstra.

It was certainly deserved from FC Dallas as they had unleashed an attacking onslaught rarely seen against United this season. However, in almost typical never-say-die fashion for United this season, they equalized just four minutes later with an own-goal. Left back Taylor Kemp sent a wicked bending cross into the heart of the goalmouth in the direction of Jairo Arrieta. The Costa Rican forward lunged for the ball and missed it but it did ricochet off the knee of FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges and flew past goalkeeper Dan Kennedy to level the match at 1-1.

United thought they had escaped with a brutally hard-fought point. They were mistaken as Fabian Castillo broke their spirit with a goal in the 93rd minute. Facundo Coria, a very late substitute, unwisely tried to attach through the FC Dallas defense late in the stoppage time when a more prudent approach would have been to maintain possession. The resulting turnover sparked a counter attack for FC Dallas and put United on their heels. The ball got to the right side of the penalty area when it was centered to the awaiting Victor Ulloa. The homegrown product appeared to scuff his shot and in the process United defender Taylor Kemp, in an attempt to block the shot, redirected the ball right into the path of Castillo who blasted the shot past the helpless Dykstra for the game-winner.

On the balance of things, it was a deserved three points for Dallas, just as the previous league match (and game-winning goal in the 89th minute) in Seattle went down. The back-to-back losses for United ended their longest road trip of the season and garnered them 4 out of a possible 12 points. United still remain firmly in first place in the Eastern Conference but they’ve also played more matches than most of the teams chasing them from behind. As of now, only Toronto FC and New York Red Bull have an opportunity to catch United on points based on games played.

United now will turn their attention to next Sunday’s home game at RFK Stadium against the Philadelphia Union. The Union were 2-1 losers in Toronto earlier in the day.

 

Jairo Arrieta celebrates his first goal of the night against the visiting fire.

Missed opportunities sink United in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 loss to Philadelphia Union

Chester, Pennsylvania, June 30th, 2015 – D.C. United crashed out of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament this evening after a 2-1 defeat to the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park. The win for the Union pushes them into a quarterfinal matchup against the winner of the New York Red Bull and New York Cosmos match tomorrow night at Red Bull Arena.

United had to once again shuffle their lineup due to so many matches in so little time and this time it did not pay off as it did last week in Chicago. Philadelphia on the other hand, with no league match this weekend, sent out their best available starting X1 to go against a mainly reserve side for United. However, it was the Black-and-Red who missed on two golden opportunities to take the lead.

In the 18th minute, Miguel Aguilar worked a perfect give-and-go with Jairo Arrieta that saw Aguilar one-on-one with Union goalkeeper John McCarthy. The rookie midfielder sent his shot high and just slightly over the crossbar from an angle when a side-footed shot to the far post would have sufficed. Three minutes later McCarthy would deny United a second bite of the apple when he reached back to tip a goal-bound header from Steve Birnbaum off the post and back into his grateful arms. Facundo Coria’s free kick service met Birnbaum perfectly but United was even on the scoreboard at 0-0.

The match changed in the 25th minute when Union forward C.J. Sapong was given  a straight red for his elbow-leading foul on Kofi Opare. Replays showed while he lead with the elbow, a straight red was a bit of a harsh decision by referee Fatis Bazakos. United took advantage of the shortage and scored just three minutes later thanks to some very nice build up play. Jared Jeffrey touched a ball out to the wing to Aguilar who returned the favor to Jeffrey who streaked into the penalty area. Jeffrey deftly back heeled the ball right into the path of Arrieta who made no mistake in blasting it past McCarthy for a 1-0 lead.

However, even with the man advantage for over 60 more minutes, United failed to take advantage and allowed the Union back into the match. Philadelphia tied it up when United, again with a man advantage, somehow allowed the Union’s left back Sheanon Williams to fly past United right back Jalen Robinson who easily centered the ball to a wide-open left sided midfielder Erik Ayuk who had the entire open goal to score and leveled the match at 1-1.

Not to be outdone, the Union set Robinson up once again and worked a perfect triangle around the second-year player that allowed Fabinho to ghost in on goal and unleash an angled left-footed blast over Andrew Dysktra for the game-winning goal.

While head coach Ben Olsen is no doubt upset about losing a game being up a man for over an hour, it was United’s second team against the Union’s top choices, but that doesn’t take any anything away from the admittedly poor performance from United.

United now will hop on a plane and head to Seattle to face an extremely short-handed Sounders squad on Friday night. The Sounders will be missing both of their top players in Clint Dempsey (with the US Gold Cup squad in their match on Friday against Guatemala in Nashville, TN) and Obefemi Martins (abductor strain) as well as Guatemalan midfielder and noted United-killer Marco Pappa as well as possibly their third DP in midfielder Oswaldo Alonso who is still nursing an injury. No better time to take a result from one of the league’s most difficult places to play.

The only good news coming out of tonight’s result is that Olsen got to rest a lot of his normal starters and the schedule after United’s match in Seattle starts to settle down, thanks mostly to being eliminated from the Open Cup tonight, and Olsen can start planning for week-long practices and shaping his best X1 heading into the last third of the MLS season.