Posts

Perry Kitchen (pictured) rises above the fray to score the first of his two goals tonight against Red Bull. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

United squanders two-goal lead in 2-2 draw with Red Bulls

Perry Kitchen (pictured) rises above the fray to score the first of his two goals tonight against Red Bull. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

No one is denying the fortune that has come D.C. United’s way through the first five weeks of the season. Back-to-back stoppage-time wins in the past two weeks have painted over some issues, particularly on the offensive side of things through the opening five weeks of the MLS campaign.

Tonight however the visiting New York Red Bulls flipped the script and grabbed a stoppage-time goal to secure a two-goal comeback in tonight’s 2-2 draw with United before 16,304 fans at RFK Stadium.

Lloyd Sam, quickly ascending to the top of the United Killers list, pounced on a Bill Hamid spill of a Sacha Kjlestan free kick from 30 yards away in the 91st minute to spoil what had been United’s best 90-minute performance of the season.

Perry Kitchen bagged both of United’s goals on the night, the first via a Taylor Kemp corner kick in the 26th minute and then a 23-yard laser to beat Luis Robles in the 67th minute to stake United to it’s first two-goal lead of the season.

That feeling lasted all of sixty seconds as United (3-1-1, 10 points) allowed Red Bull (2-0-2, 8 points) to cut the lead in half when defender Damien Perrinelle went relatively unchallenged to head home a corner kick of his own.

United seemed to have squelched the Red Bull comeback until a Luis Silva foul in the 89th minute set up the game-tying sequence. Kjlestan stepped up and hit a dipping shot over the wall that normally would be handled easily by a goalkeeper of Bill Hamid’s stature, however Hamid spilled the shot in front of goal and Sam beat Taylor Kemp to the ball and slammed it home for his second goal against United this season. Sam has scored three goals in four league games against United going back to late last season.

Even with the disappointing finish, United remains alone atop the Eastern Conference and welcome former conference foes the Houston Dynamo to town next Saturday night. Additionally, it will be the last game for Fabian Espindola to serve his six-game suspension imposed by the league for his physical confrontation with an official as United were eliminated by Red Bull last November.

Espindola will be a welcomed face to the lineup when they travel to Vancouver in two weeks time.

Hamid early, Silva late in United’s stoppage-time 1-0 win over Orlando City SC

Luis Silva’s 92nd minute free kick was the difference maker in D.C. United’s smash-and-grab 1-0 victory over Orlando City SC this evening at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.

Six days after Chris Pontius’ 93rd minute game-winner over the Galaxy, Silva stepped up and curled a clinical shot over the wall and off the mitts of Orlando City goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to give United (3-1-0  9 points) their first road win of the season and back-to-back stoppage-time wins, a first in team history. Conversely, the expansion Florida side (1-2-2,  5 points) dropped their second match at home in a row via a stoppage time free kick. The win for United vaults them to the top of the Eastern Conference for at least a week until their rematch with Red Bull next weekend.

While the headlines deservedly go to Silva, it must be noted that goalkeeper Bill Hamid kept United in this game with a number of spectacular saves to frustrate the Lions. Hamid made a pair of point-blank stops inside the six yard box in the first half, first on defender Rafael Ramos’ bid and then thwarting midfielder Kevin Molino’s one-v-one effort off of a nice pass from Brazilian Designated Player and resident superstar Kaka.

United were on the back foot for most of the first half and finally settled into the game after the second of Hamid’s stunning saves. The Black-and-Red nearly grabbed the lead against the run of play when Chris Rolfe’s volley went inches wide of the far post, a shot that Ricketts would have had no chance to save.

After the break United started to gain more control of the match and severely limited the Lion’s chances to take the lead. In fact, it was United who should have taken the lead in the 68th minute  when a trio of shots somehow managed not to go into the goal. The play started with a beautiful diagonal ball over the top of Orlando City’s defense from defender Taylor Kemp. The ball met Sean Franklin in stride and his cut back on Aurelien Collin opened up a pass to the onrushing Conor Doyle. The substitute striker’s shot was well saved by Ricketts but right into the path of Chris Pontius who’s goal-bound bid was miraculously stabbed out of the way by retreating defender Brek Shea. The ensuing pop-up of Shea’s play was headed by Doyle but his bid was frustratingly palmed away by Ricketts for a corner kick.

United must have thought that was their golden opportunity to snatch all three points given that the team has been sporadic offensively through their first four league matches, undoubtedly due to the numerous injuries of key players and the suspension of leading scorer from last season Fabian Espindola. Fortunately for United a slight remedy was at hand as Silva was making his season debut with United when he came on for Rolfe in the 76th minute.

Silva managed to draw a foul at the edge of the area offset to the left when he was bowled over by Collin in the 91st minute. There was no question who was going to take the ensuing free kick and Silva made Orlando City pay dearly for their missed opportunities and silenced the crowd of 32, 822 with a curling effort just over the wall and out of the reach of the rangy Jamaican goalkeeper.

While United has been far from aesthetically pleasing through the first month of the season, the fact that they have banked 9 out of 12 possible points is encouraging as their injured players (and suspended ones) slowly start to make it back to the playing field. Things hopefully will get better from a soccer standpoint, but I really don’t think Ben Olsen cares at this point about the lack of flow offensively.

With that in mind, United has an opportunity to exact revenge on their bitter rivals New York Red Bull when they welcome them to RFK Stadium next Saturday night at 7pm. Red Bull easily defeated United 2-0 two weeks ago at Red Bull Arena.  This match will be televised live on CSNWashington.

 

United Notes

  • Eddie Johnson, out all season with an illness not yet officially disclosed by the team, was in attendance tonight and in the locker room after the match. According to eye witnesses, Johnson proclaimed, “I’ll be back soon”.. More good news perhaps???
DC United's Chris Pontius battles for possession with LA's Omar Gonzales during their team's match at RFK Stadium in Washington DC on March 28, 2015. United would go on to defeat the Galaxy 1-0 with a stoppage time from Chris Pontius. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

Pontius nets dramatic late game-winner in 1-0 victory over the Galaxy

Chris Pontius’ 93rd-minute header was the difference in D.C. United’s dramatic 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy tonight at frigid RFK Stadium. The win over the Galaxy was United’s first in ten league matches against their West coast rivals and first since a 4-1 win at RFK in June of 2008.

Both teams were playing shorthanded but for very different reasons. United (2-1-0, 6 points) was once again without their top player Fabian Espindola who is in the midst of his six-game suspension to start the season as well as Eddie Johnson, Luis Silva and Markus Halsti. Silva was deemed fit enough to play by head coach Ben Olsen after the match but felt holding him back in the brutally cold conditions was more sensible. To make matters worse for United, defender Steve Birnbaum injured his ankle just 90 seconds into the match and was forced off. Former Galaxy defender Kofi Opare replaced Birnbaum.

The Galaxy (1-1-2, 5 points) were without three of their top players in Robbie Keane, Gyasi Zardes and Jaime Penedo, all of whom were missing for international duty.

None the less a very scrappy match unfolded between the two most successful teams in MLS history as they share 9 of the 19 MLS Cup titles between them. United were closest to drawing first blood midway through the first half when Davy Arnaud’s diagonal ball over the weak side of the Galaxy defense hit Nick DeLeon in stride. DeLeon beat onrushing Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Perk to the ball but his first touch took him too far away from the open net and and the ensuing cross from DeLeon found teamate Jairo Arrieta but the Galaxy did well to scramble back into position to deny United a solid chance on goal.

As the first half wound down, the visitors started carving out some chances. The best of which was an Alan Gordon header from about eight yards out that would have beaten United goalkeeper Bill Hamid had it been either side of him. A few other half chances were easily dealt with by Hamid but it was the Galaxy who had the momentum heading into halftime.

After the break it was essentially more of what was on display in the first forty-five minutes with both sides taking turns attempting to wrestle the flow of the game from each other. United’s best chance up to this point in the match came off the head of Chris Pontius midway through the stanza as his point-blank chance was well saved by Perk to keep the game at 0-0.

As the match seemed destined for a final score of 0-0, a bit of magic happened late in stoppage time. In the last minute of stoppage time, Davy Arnaud chipped a ball deep into the Galaxy’s defensive half and DeLeon did well to out-hustle Galaxy defender Robbie Rogers and beat him to the ball. Once he got there DeLeon used a deft touch to elude Rogers and turned towards goal. DeLeon then lofted a ball to the far post where Pontius met the pass with a diving header with Galaxy defender Dan Gargan draped all over him. The ball settled into the near post and sent RFK Stadium into delirium as teammates mobbed DeLeon and Pontius and turned a draw into a win.

With the win United vaulted from 7th place into the top spot in the East (at least temporarily until all games are completed tonight) and now have six points from three matches. With the win, United now will turn their attention to the expansion Orlando City SC this Friday night in Orlando, Florida. Orlando City SC (1-1-2, 5 points) are coming off a 2-2 draw in Montreal earlier in the day.

 

United Notes

  • Midfielder Miguel Aguilar was cleared by the U.S. Government this week and received a renewal of his work permit and was available to play but did not make it off the bench
  • Steve Birnbaum suffered a left-ankle sprain in the 2nd minute and was carted off the field. The severity of the injury is unknown at the moment. Don’t expect him back in the lineup anytime soon
  • Silva is expected to be in the 18-man squad for the trip to Florida later this week
  • No timetable has been given for the extended injuries to Eddie Johnson (heart ailment) and Markus Halsti (knee). Halsti was interviewed before the match on CSN Washington’s D.C. United pregame show and said his knee was getting better and hopes to be available soon
Arrieta Celebrates

United takes opener with 1-0 win over Montreal

Jairo Arrieta’s lone goal helped to propel D.C. United to a season-opening 1-0 win over the Montreal Impact this afternoon at snowy and cold RFK Stadium. Just two days removed from a storm that dumped eight inches of snow on the Nation’s Capital, United and the Impact met on a field strewn with pock marks and soggy patches of grass. The elements not withstanding, both teams were coming off of their respective CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matches with the visitors in the better mood via their advancement over Mexican giants Pachuca while United were left licking their wounds after their dismissal at the hands of Alajuelense of Costa Rica.

Undeterred, the Black-and-Red took it to their Canadian counterparts and controlled large portions of the run of play. United had the first opportunity of the match 19 minutes in thanks in part to the determination of Arrieta. A poor first touch from Belgian defender Laurent Ciman allowed the speedy Costa Rican to steal the ball away 30 yards from goal. While being tackled Arrieta managed to nudge the ball to fellow striker Chris Pontius and his angled left-footed bid rolled agonizingly past the far post.

DSC_0172United continued to boss the play but it was Montreal that would strike at the next golden opportunity in the 35th minute and to no one’s surprise United goalkeeper Bill Hamid easily parried away Montreal left back Donny Toia’s rasping 25-yard drive. After the break both teams took turns wrestling the tempo away from each other but it was United who would finally break through in the 58th minute. After a routine save by Hamid, Nick DeLeon played a ball to Davy Arnaud who immediately one-timed it upfield to Chris Rolfe, Rolfe, easily the best player on the day, sent a ball over the defense to a streaking Arrieta. Arrieta, playing in place of suspended striker Fabian Espindola, easily outpaced the Impact defense and beat goalkeeper Evan Bush to the ball just inside the top right corner of the penalty area. The slippery Arrieta then pushed the ball with the outside of his right foot (left) just beneath Bush and it rolled easily into the vacated net to give United the 1-0 lead.

United should have doubled the score just two minutes later when Pontius and Arrieta combined for a beautiful chance at goal. Pontius was a bit quicker to a bouncing ball and beat Ciman and headed the ball over the Belgian to Arrieta. Arrieta, sensing the run to goal from Pontius, put the ball over his head and into Pontius’ stride where he chested the ball down and toe-poked a shot past Bush but off the crossbar and down just a few inches from going over the goal line.

After that point it was all Montreal as the visitors pushed numbers into the attack. Montreal felt hard done by when in the 76th minute Hassoun Camara’s shot from five yards out was goal bound only to see it hit off the upper arm of Conor Doyle who was positioned on the goal line. The Impact were screaming for a penalty as the ball was finally cleared out of danger. Minutes later the game would take a sullen turn as Impact midfielder Justin Mapp suffered what seemed to be a serious injury. The speedy winger had gotten in behind the United defense and was just about to pull the trigger on a shot when defender Chris Korb managed to poke the ball away. At the same time Hamid had come out to narrow the angle and as all three players converged (below), it was Mapp who came out injured when he apparently dislocated an appendage when cushioning his blow to the ground. Hamid and Korb both called immediately to the training staff as they both realized the severity of the collision.

DSC_0273

After Mapp was carted off United continued to defend in numbers and held the Impact without any real game-tying chances. In addition to their defensive effort, substitute Miguel Aguilar did a fantastic job of killing of time with a number of great challenges to win balls including one 30-second sequence in which he skinned every Impact defender in sight as they struggled to take the ball off the precocious rookie who was making his MLS debut.

United easily saw out the extended injury time, due to Mapp’s gruesome injury, and got themselves their first opening day win since beating Columbus in 2011.

United captures The Dillo with 1-0 win over FC Dallas

D.C. United captured the vaunted Dillo trophy with their 1-0 win this afternoon over FC Dallas in the final of the ATX Pro Challenge in Austin, Texas.

Chris Rolfe’s sensational goal in the 54th minute was the game-winner for the Black-and-Red as they have taken back-to-back preseason tournaments coupled with last years Charleston Challenge Cup in Charleston, South Carolina.

Ben Olsen put out a lineup that most likely will take the field in their first-leg match against Alejuelense in 11 days time in Costa Rica. Bill Hamid enjoyed another fine match with making a pair of nice saves on either side of halftime to help United’s cause. With Steve Birnbaum most likely not available to start in Costa Rica, Olsen pulled Markus Halsti into central defense with Bobby Boswell and the Finnish star played flawlessly against FC Dallas’ brutal combination of physical play and equally devastating team speed. Halsti’s positioning and composure on the ball were second-to-none in the match and so far has been as good as advertised since coming over on his transfer from FC Malmo in Sweden in January.

Coming out of the gate United may have regretted some missed opportunities as Nick DeLeon missed a seemingly easy chip over onrushing FC Dallas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy just two minutes into the match.  A few minutes later DeLeon muscled off a challenge from the FC Dallas defense and appeared to have Chris Pontius alone at the penalty spot but for some reason he hesitated and the move was lost.

Fabian Espindola was next up on the regret list in the 26th minute when he picked up a loose ball just inside FC Dallas’ half of the field. With FC Dallas scrambling to get back defensively due to their error, Espindola took off towards goal with Pontius on his left and DeLeon on his right. Both players were achingly wide open but Espindola unwisely decided to shoot with this off-right foot at the top of the penalty area and the promising move fizzled out.

After the break it was more of United controlling the tempo of the match. FC Dallas’ physical nature caught up to them in the 54th minute when a free kick was awarded to United along the right flank. After an initial soft clearance from FC Dallas, the ball found it’s way to the foot of Rolfe about 30 yards out from goal. Two severe cut back moves later, Rolfe was bending a wicked 23-yard upper 90 shot into the far side netting with Kennedy having no chance to save it.

United then decided to remove their starters, albeit Hamid, from the match around the 70th minute and FC Dallas finally started gaining some traction in the match. However, there were few and far between. Hamid made a sensational save with about six minutes to go in the match to keep United in front and then FC Dallas’ last chance was a questionable free kick given just outside the penalty area in stoppage time. The resulting free kick was blasted straight into the United wall and the match was easily seen out from there.

After the match, United will now fly to Dallas to train through the remainder of next week culminating in an already scheduled rematch with FC Dallas in Frisco, TX on Friday, February 20th. This will be United’s last match of preparation before heading down to Costa Rica to take on Alejuelense on Thursday, February 26th in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal knockout round. The return leg of this match will be back at RFK Stadium on Wednesday, March 4th, just three days ahead of the open of the MLS season on March 7th.

United capture Eastern Conference title with 2-1 win over Chicago

Needing only one point to take home an improbable worst-to-first Eastern Conference title run, D.C. United did what they have been doing all season long – producing wins – this one of course being the most important as the Black-and-Red defeated the Chicago Fire 2-1 tonight at chilly RFK Stadium.

One season after producing the single-worst record in MLS history, United turned the tables completely around and now will be the top seed in the Eastern Conference when the playoffs begin the weekend of November 1st. In a season that will not be forgotten anytime soon, this time for all the right reasons, perhaps United’s most impressive feat was to set the league-record with a turnaround of 42 points from last season to this year (United had 16 points all of 2013 and currently stand at 58 points with one match remaining). In addition to the amazing turnaround, United also has qualified for the 2015-2016 CONCACAF Champions League group stages which begin late next summer. United has already advanced to the knockout stage of the 2014-2015 competition which will begin in February of next year.

Chris Pontius’ first goal of the season and Eddie Johnson’s game-winner in the second half powered United to a frantic victory over the Fire. Chicago, long out of the playoff chase, fell behind by two goals but had the intestinal fortitude to not give up and gave United quite a battle and when Harrison Shipp scored between Bill Hamid’s legs in the 67th minute to make things interesting.

Hamid was called on to make another couple of saves and even got some good fortune when a redirected shot from Shipp bounced off the goalpost and into the grateful arms of Hamid just a few minutes after the visitors had cut the deficit in half.

United, as they have done most of the season, withstood the challenge and now have won the Eastern Conference title for the first time since the 2007 season.

From the jump both teams played a bit cautious and the match began to beg for a singular moment to jump start the action. That moment came in the 28th minute when Quincy Amerikwa beat United’s defense to the end line and rolled a pass to the penalty spot where former Liverpool striker Florent Sinama-Pongolle was waiting at the penalty spot. His one-time shot was somehow saved by a Hamid leg kick, a type of save that is now becoming routine in Hamid’s play.

That save sparked the match to life and United took the lead just three minutes later. Nick DeLeon took down a ball in midfield and played Eddie Johnson on his overlapping run down the right sideline. The much-maligned striker didn’t hesitate and hit a one-time curling cross that found Pontius on the back post in stride and the UCSB product placed his header perfectly between goalkeeper Kyle Reynish and the near post for his first league goal since September of last year.

After the break United would double their lead thanks to lapse in concentration from the Fire defense. Patrick Ianni’s attempted back pass in the 57th minuted caught the back heel of fellow midfielder Chris Ritter and the deflected ball fell right into the path of Johnson. Johnson, starting for United’s injured leading scorer Luis Silva, pounced on the mistake and only had defender Jeff Larentowicz between him and the goal. Johnson’s pace was no match for Larentowicz as he pushed the ball to his right and slipped a shot easily past Reynish for the 2-0 lead.

United now turn their attention towards their final CONCACAF Champions League Group 4 match when they travel to Panama to take on Tauro FC on Tuesday night. With qualification already assured, head coach Ben Olsen already has stated that he plans to take his reserves on the road to give a rest to his starters ahead of their final league match next Saturday in Montreal.

United still has an outside chance of taking over MLS #2 seed overall heading into the playoffs. United will need both a victory in Montreal coupled with either Los Angeles or Seattle sweeping their two-game head-to-head series that begins tomorrow night in Los Angeles. Additionally, if the Galaxy and Seattle draw tomorrow and Seattle wins their return leg, United will tie the Galaxy on 61 points (provided they win in Montreal) but win the first MLS tie-breaker in total wins. Los Angeles and United are currently tied with 17 wins apiece.

Gaining the #2 overall seed is important because whichever of the two teams in the West loses in the playoffs and United makes it to MLS Cup, then MLS Cup will be right here at RFK Stadium on November 7th.

 

0-0 draw with Sporting Kansas City enough to clinch playoff berth for United

D.C. United’s Davy Arnaud and Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi played to a scoreless draw in their team’s match last night at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C in front of 19,308 soggy but boisterous fans. Photo: Tony Quinn.

The draw was enough to send United to the playoffs and still maintain at least a six-point lead atop the Eastern Conference with just three matches to play. United garnered their 12th shutout of the season (their third against Sporting this season) and the 10th for Bill Hamid who was called upon to make three saves.

United completed a comeback from the single worst MLS season in history last year when they only won three matches all season long. United still has work to do to complete their “worst to first” effort but that doesn’t diminish the accomplishment any further.

The visitors came out on the front foot and bossed the early portions of the game before United started to grab a hold of proceedings about twenty minutes in. United however had the best opportunities to score and should have taken an early lead but not for a nice save by Sporting goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum in the 28th minute on a rasping drive from Fabian Espindola after some nice set up play by Taylor Kemp and Luis Silva. Kemp stripped Sporting midfielder Antonio Dovale at midfield and raced past Igor Juliao before slipping a pass to Silva in the penalty area. With defenders quickly closing on Silva, he spotted Espindola free at the top of the box and the Argentine’s one-time blast through a thicket of defenders cannoned off Gruenebaum and out of play for a corner kick.

After the break the intensity and the tackling ramped up a few notches and United probably should have been awarded a penalty when Sporting defender Igor Juliao chopped down Chris Pontius in the 53rd minute. Pontius, making his first league start since September of 2013, had the inside edge on Juliao and was trying to bring down an Espindola cross when he caught Pontius in the thigh in midair. Referee Hilario Grajeda chose to make no call to the dismay of United’s lively crowd.

Both teams traded barbs back and forth but it seemed more and more likely heading to a goalless draw as the game drew to a close. United though had to tough it out after ceding a few semi-dangerous free kicks to Sporting only to see United’s defense come through as it has for most of the season, particularly at RFK.

Taking away the season-opening 3-0 loss to Columbus, United has allowed only 6 goals in the subsequent 14 league matches since then. United will close out their home portion of the season when they host the Chicago Fire on October 18th. Before that however is another trip to their House of Horrors – Houston next weekend. Houston is five points from the last playoff spot currently occupied by New York Red Bull. The two teams meet later today and a Red Bull win will push Houston to the brink of elimination. Houston also has a midweek trip to Toronto before facing the Black-and-Red next Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium.

Espindola double puts United at brink of advancement in CONCACAF Champions League

Fabian Espindola scored twice for D.C. United in their 2-1 win over Waterhouse FC tonight in Kingston, Jamaica in their CONCACAF Champions Group 4 match up.

With the victory United will only need a draw in it’s final two group matches against the already eliminated Tauro FC  who first come to town next week on Wednesday, September 24th at 8pm EST. United and Waterhouse are tied with six points apiece at the top of Group 4 but the Jamaican side has completed all of their group matches.

Espindola, playing the full 90 minutes due mainly to his red card last weekend against New York Red Bull and injuries to several regulars left back in D.C., scored the opening goal in the 38th minute in spectacular fashion.

A poor giveaway from the Waterhouse midfield right to Espindola started the Argentine striker on an unlikely 1-v-3 scenario. Somehow he managed to squeeze out space moving to his right just outside the penalty area and lofted a right-footed chip over the outstretched hands of the Waterhouse goalkeeper and into the far side netting to give United a 1-0 lead.

United fought off a few half chances from the home side before getting to the break with the lead. Just six minutes after the restart United doubled their lead.

Samuel Inkoom, making his debut with United at right back, moved to right midfield when Sean Franklin came on at halftime. The Ghanaian World Cup veteran turned provider for Espindola when his cross from the right side met the forehead of Espindola who easily dispatched to the far post for the 2-0 lead.

With United seemingly in control, the game turned in the 70th minute when Taylor Kemp was forced to foul a Waterhouse FC attacker just outside the penalty area. The foul drew a second yellow for Kemp and he was sent off.

Midfielder Ewan Gray stepped up and sent his free kick over the wall and off the underside of the crossbar past Bill Hamid to halve the deficit at 2-1. With United sitting back and down a man, it was a frantic final 20 minutes as the Black-and-Red managed to hold on and take a stranglehold on Group 4.

United will travel home from Jamaica tomorrow and will prepare for their away match in Chicago on Saturday night. After that United will look to push their way to the knockout stages of the CONCACAF Champions League beginning in February of 2015 when Tauro FC comes to town.