Not exactly the way Ben Olsen wanted this one to go.
With the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League beckoning just a week away, Olsen was looking for a solid effort to take down to Costa Rica. Well, that didn’t exactly pan out as D.C. United dropped a 3-1 decision to FC Dallas at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas tonight. United made numerous defensive blunders to help the home side to the rather flattering lopsided scoreline. United actually played up a man for 65 minutes after FC Dallas midfielder Michel was sent off for a two-footed challenge on Sean Franklin in the 24th minute. Franklin would be subbed out at halftime of the match, no doubt for precautionary reasons. Olsen begged the referee and the FC Dallas staff to allow another player onto the field so it wouldn’t be 11-v-10. It hardly mattered at the end of the day.
Even so, with the man advantage it was FC Dallas that took the lead in the 27th minute thanks to some slack marking from United. Franklin applied very little pressure to left-back Moses Hernandez who was allowed to float a ball to the far post inside the area. Taylor Kemp was equally lax in the marking of Blas Perez who easily leaped to meet the cross and send it back towards the goal where Ryan Hollingshead tapped in his 3rd goal of the preseason.
United continued to seem flustered by the man-up situation but settled in towards the end of the half but did not generate any meaningful chances to close out the first stanza. After the break United continued their pressure and finally broke through in the 62nd minute. Jairo Arrieta, subbing in for the ineffective Chris Pontius just before the hour mark, hit the far post with a header just seconds into his appearance but would find the net just a few minutes later when he volleyed in a cross from Fabian Espindola from the right flank.
United seemed poised to take control of the match and should have doubled or even tripled their lead but not for two missed chances by Nick DeLeon and Perry Kitchen. DeLeon stumbled as he came into the area in the 70th minute allowing the defense and goalkeeper Dan Kennedy to snuff out his chance. Perhaps an even more glaring miss was Kitchen’s attempt in the 75th minute. After United’s most attractive buildup of one-touch passes and clever movement of the preseason, Taylor Kemp found himself alone deep in the penalty area. His cross to the far post was headed back across the face of goal, not unlike the sequence that led to FC Dallas’ first goal of the game, where Kitchen simply whiffed on an easy tap-in.
United would rue that missed opportunity as FC Dallas caught United pushing players too far upfield in the 79th minute. A seemingly harmless through ball was shielded by defender Bobby Boswell who seemed to expect goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra to clear out of danger. Dykstra hesitated and that was all it took for the league’s quickest player in Fabian Castillo to ghost in and easily round the goalkeeper for the game-winning tally.
United’s misery was compounded further when FC Dallas substitute Tesho Akindele was brought down in the area by Steve Birnbaum in the 88th minute. United again were caught with too many people moving forward and the quick FC Dallas counter caught them out of position. Akindele, last season’s Rookie of the Year winner over Birnbaum ironically, easily beat Dykstra to his right for the final goal of the game.
Olsen can not be happy with the number of critical mistakes and more so the lengthy man-advantage they had for the majority of the game. For a team that prides itself on their defending, to give up three goals with a man advantage can not bode well heading into their match on Thursday night against Alajuelense in Costa Rica.
Let’s hope this performance was just a mirage and United can learn from this harsh lesson.