DC United Burned by Fire, Off to Worst Start Ever

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.

12 replies
  1. julius
    julius says:

    There’s nothing to say about this team that hasn’t already been said and wasn’t said in the offseason or in the last two seasons. The same problems exist.

    I can read the DC United website for the Front Office see who’s title is what. But could you guys spend the next podcast or article detailing what Kasper’s role in player selection is, or Payne’s? And discuss why Kasper should/should not be fired and Payne restricted to lot 8 clean up. You guys have more inside information than most of us or can ask Payne/Kasper directly. Could you do some inquiring as to who (Kasper or Payne) was responsible for selecting the players, not only this year but the last couple? Was Payne really responsible for Gomez coming back-does he intervene like that? I/we need to know who he really responsible and hold that person(s) accountable.

  2. Chris_B
    Chris_B says:

    If this continues into the early Summer, then we’ll pretty much have to write off the season and look toward getting the young guys minutes to prepare them for 2011. Andy Najar didn’t look out of place last night which was encouraging. Getting him on the field if not starting each game should be a priority. The staff needs to look at the guys who are keepers (Tino, Pontius, Andy, Wallace, Hamid, Simms if he gets healthy) and possible keepers (Barklage, Jakovic, James, McTavish) and figure out how to build them plus some mid summer acquisitions into a roster that resembles a professional soccer team. I say start giving Hamid significant minutes. In my opinion, the no-DP strategy that Payne has put forward is not going to work in the MLS after the post World Cup moves in July. If the front office is serious about rebuilding a team, they will do what we pay them for and find two DP-quality scoring threats. I’m not writing off this season but it is becoming clear that the current group is lacking. Building a solid core with a mid-summer talent infusion can salvage a bad situation and can possibly position the team for a playoff run (not holding my breathe) plus give the team a good base for 2011.

  3. Mike Martin
    Mike Martin says:

    Playoffs? Are you kidding? DC has no chance now to make the playoffs because that would require actually collecting points. You’ll notice the team has none now after four games. So where will these mythical points come from? What teams are capable of losing to DC? We’ve already played the least talented teams in the league and lost. The schedule gets harder very soon, next up is Red Bull. Can’t say I’m thrilled thinking about Angel going at DC’s defense after we made LeToux look like Christiano Ronaldo. Look what McBride did in 15 minutes against DC.

    Plus, even if DC improves and gets some new players in, the days of late season runs are over. Too many teams now to just get hot at the end and make it in. Ask Dallas how that worked out for them last year, and there’s one more team in the league this year. DC has 26 games left and probably needs 40 or so points to make the playoffs, so that means some variation of 10 wins and 10 ties in those last 26 games. Can you honestly see any reason the team will get that hot?

    And Julius, people do ask Payne and Kasper those questions from time to time, but all anyone ever gets is a hard stare like you are something they scraped off their shoe, and a flat out denial that anything is fundamentally wrong, just bad luck or excuses or whatever. Nor do they ever offer any information on who exactly does what. They just claim they all collaborate, sort of like the old soviet politbureau, is what I envision. Anyway, the guys at the top of United really do think their poop doesn’t stink. They know more than any foolish peasant and never make mistakes. Any evidence to the contrary simply does not exist in their view.

    I personally think Payne is the most responsible (just my opinion, no inside information), but who can hold him accountable? Only Chang and he’s shown no sign of doing any front office housecleaning.

    Going to be a really long ainful year, I’m afraid.

  4. Chris_B
    Chris_B says:

    Careful Mike. Eric may be reading and anti-Mike hate mail is a great way to take out a fan’s frustrations 🙂 . I think that we all agree that DCU needs a talent infusion in a major way and that the glass is 1/4 full and unfortunately, is upside down.

  5. julius
    julius says:

    Mike, then it’s time to stop asking the tough player acquisition questions “from time to time.” Repeatedly batter them until someone fesses up. People talk about rebuilding year or next year or next coach-guess what, this brainstaff cannot make the correct decisions. I have all the time in the world for what Payne did in the 90’s but that was then and everything just keeps getting worse. Expect the marketing that’s improving. Unfortunately, no marketing in the world could sell ‘New Coke’ and we’ll see very soon an empty decrepit stadium.

    I know it’s a bit unfair to ask UnitedMania to really press the F.O. but since there is no media pressure there’s no other option.

  6. Internet Nut
    Internet Nut says:

    “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.”

    The 2001 New England Revolution: 6 straight non-shootout losses to open the season.

  7. Mike Martin
    Mike Martin says:

    Woof! NE went 0-6 to start the season? Must have been a joy to be in the fort in 2001! I didn’t remember that obviously. Of course I wouldn’t have had to remember it if their was an actual MLS site that had an archive of the history of the league. I’m really pleased they decided to scrap that for this new mlssoccer abomination. Speaking of that how did you know that about NE? You got some secret source? Give it up, I’d pay to go to that well.

    Julius, I feel your pain, but not sure hectoring the front office is a good solution for anyone.

  8. Internet Nut
    Internet Nut says:

    No secret source, just some searching old schedules on the internet and cross-referencing with an old MLS almanac that somebody once sent me to review. Irony is, at the time I said the almanac is nice, but there’s this thing called the internet with all that information. Little did I know that MLSSoccer.com would one day prove me wrong and demonstrate the occasional need for an old and dusty book.

  9. julius
    julius says:

    “Julius, I feel your pain, but not sure hectoring the front office is a good solution for anyone.”

    I guess we’ll just take it ’till the team moves.

    I guess on a positive Morsink really puts in some effort and is winning some people over.

  10. jwgreen40
    jwgreen40 says:

    It’s pathetic that 4 games into the season we are looking forward to this two week break to heal and regroup. I’ll just be watching matches with a blank stare until we get a win. Nah, who am I kidding? I’m sure I’ll be screaming at the follies of our team all the way.

  11. Chris_B
    Chris_B says:

    Jakovic and Pontius out 4-6 weeks. I’m officially were Mike is. See you guys after the World Cup. We have literallyretired, cut or have injured 9 of last year’s starters.

  12. Brenden
    Brenden says:

    The good news is that Mike was right in the first podcast when he wrote the season off and Chris said he couldn’t write it off after one loss to KC.

    For 80 minutes I watched the game and thought “I really miss DC and RFK.” Then as the DC central defense parted like the seas before Moses, and an avalanche of profanities spewed forth, I thought the only thing worse than DC’s defense right now is the unblievably horrid production crew that the Chicago Fire fans have to deal with. Did anyone see that? I downloaded the game with the Chicago production, and they seriously make Mike look like a very intelligent, level headed and knowledgeable futbol reporter. These guys were so bad, it was difficult to decide if what they were saying was worse, or the fact that during stretches of play they were showing the Fire bench watching the game. We may have no discernible ability to score or defend, but at least we have Dave Johnson and a score of knowledgeable reporters to tell us how bad DC is.

    So who is looking forward to that AC Milan match?

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