An exceedingly tense and sloppy, but relatively uneventful, match was decided in the final 10 minutes when Chicago’s Patrick Nyarko beat Carey Talley to the endline and pulled back a perfect pass to Brian McBride in the area. But, with McTavish all over him, McBride deftly heel flicks it to Pappa alone at the top of the area to thump in the back for net for the winner in the 80th minute.
McBride then completed DC United’s misery in the 89th minute as Chicago goalkeeper Dykstra took a 60 yard FK right to Brian McBride, who beat Talley easily to nod in an incredible header just inside the near post with Perkins miles late to cover. With the second goal and DC without any real offensive pressure the game was essentially over despite the incredibly generous four minutes of stoppage time.
United midfielder Curt Morsink summed up the match, and the season so far, pretty succinctly to afterward to MLSsoccer’s Charlie Boehm. “You can’t ever win an MLS soccer game giving up stupid goals like that. It’s not just one person, it’s the whole team. It’s not just one game, it’s not just one goal, it’s been six or seven goals that absolutely should’ve been avoided at the professional level. And we don’t avoid them, and there’s your result: zero points.”
In a very scattered and sketchy match, DC United simply did not manage to threaten Chicago’s goal with any real venom at all. Outside of freekicks and pedestrian shots, DC barely ruffled the Fire’s defense until the 65th minute when a Quaranta freekick was blocked by Dystra and DC’s Aussie forward Danny Allsopp lashed a wicked volley that was barely blocked.
The Fire, however, did manage to make things interesting, mostly through United miscues. Barely 10 minutes into the match, Fire forward Collins John caught United keeper Troy Perkins off his line and deftly chipped it over him. Only a desperation lounge allowed Perkins to slap away a sure goal. Perkis didn’t redeem himself on the ensuing corner kick either as he missed the centering kick by a mile and it was only stout defending that kept Chicago off the scoresheet early in the match.
Perkins would be involved in another sketchy play later in the half that nearly allowed a Fire goal as he came off his line wildly to flail a wild kick at a bouncing ball, but Nyarko beat him to it and nearly directed it to John for an easy finish if not for some timely defending by Rodney Wallace. Which is appropriate since Wallace misplayed the ball originally forcing Perkins to come out and make that ill-advised chop at the ball. Then United’s teen attacker Andy Najar sent a lovely centering ball perfectly into the path of a Chicago attacker, but the ensuing shot was wide thankfully. Talley and James carried on the theme of poor clearances right to Chicago attackers, but the Fire apparently felt it would be rude to take advantage of such hospitality, preferring to create their own attacks.
For a team that is used to RFK being a fortress and has now lost its opening two home games by the exact same scoreline, that is simply not good enough. A thought that was echoed very clearly by head coach Curt Onalfo after the match.
“We just have to man up.” An obviously frustrated Onalfo said after the match. “We have to be better individually and we have to be better collectively and we have to come to fight. It’s a very tough league both physically, mentally and everything else. Right now it’s not good enough, it’s crystal clear it’s not good enough.”
The loss drops DC united to 0-4 and they remain on the absolute bottom of the table in MLS as the only team without a point. It is also arguably the worst start in team and league history as only the ’96 United team ever started off 0-4, but one of those losses was a shootout loss, so one early “loss” could be considered a tie. In fact, I can’t think of any team in MLS history to ever start 0-4 without at least one of the losses being from a shootout. Certainly grim news for an already forlorn DC United squad.
Unfortunately, there seems to be no easy answers as to how to fix United’s epic struggles. Certainly no one in United’s very discouraged locker-room had any ideas as to a way out of the deep hole they now find themselves in.
“To be honest I don’t have an answer.” DC’s legendary striker Jaime Moreno said dejectedly after the match. “I have never been in this situation, I don’t think anybody has. It’s very hard to describe how bad we feel for the fans and all the people that support us. We are going through a really tough time, and it’s not easy for them [the fans], and it’s not easy for us right now.”
United midfielder Santino Quaranta was equally as dumbfounded by the situation United now finds themselves in. “If I had the answer I’d tell you.” Santino said after the match. “We need to try and figure it out, but whatever it is, it isn’t good. We’re men in here, we’re professionals, and we have to stay positive and hold each other accountable. In the end we work all week, we work for 75 minutes of the game, and there it [a loss] is again – it’s getting old.”
I’m not sure [what needs to happen]. Quaranta continued. “We have a lot of guys out, but that’s not an excuse. We all get paid, and when someone is out that’s another chance for a guy to step in, and obviously we’re not doing the job here.”
DC now has two weeks to figure out how to get themselves out of the league cellar as they do not play another league match May 1 when the surging Red Bulls come to RFK. At that time quite possibly United will welcome back injured starters Juan Manuel Pena and Clyde Simms as well as see the return of suspended center back, Dejan Jakovic.
Obviously some time to regroup and reload will be welcome for a United team that is simply out of whack right now. “Hopefully with this break here we can use the time to get healthy and come back refreshed.” Defender Carey Talley said after the match. “This is tough; this is a tough streak, and not many people have experienced a situation like this in the league. We need to look to the older guys to lead. Things are not going to get easier if we just start pointing fingers at each other, so we have to be able to pick each other up and give constructive feedback. We are going to help each other, and we can wash this bad taste out of our mouths.”
United’s players weren’t the only people left with a bad taste after that match as was evidenced by the multitudes of dejected fans who began filing out ten minutes before the final whistle. “That wasn’t attractive for anybody,” said a dejected Santino Quaranta afterward to MLSsoccer.net. “People are paying good money to see that – we’ve got to get better.”
No argument there.
United Notes: Forward/midfielder Chris Pontius strained a hamstring in the first half and was replaced by Christian Castillo (thereby immediately increasing DC’s cheering section by at least ten thousand fans judging by the enthusiasm manifest in the stadium by his entrance). He said after the game “I need to have an MRI, and I will see a specialist next Tuesday. I didn’t hear a pop, and right now it just feels really tight, so we will see.” Which usually means more a short term problem than a long term one thankfully.