Despite Dwayne DeRosario's go ahead goal from the spot, United lost once again. Photo: Martin Fernandez

United vs Toronto FC: United officially hit rock bottom in 2-1 loss to TFC

D.C. United’s horrific season continues to spiral downhill as they lost this evening to visiting Toronto FC 2-1 at RFK Stadium. The loss extends United’s club-record winless streak to 13 games. Even worse, the loss came to a TFC team that itself was on a double-digit winless streak of their own.

In a matchup of non-titans, United came out on the front foot and actually took the lead in the 19th minute on Dwayne De Rosario’s converted penalty kick to give the Black-and-Red their first lead in a league match in over three months of play. The penalty was set up by an amazing 50-yard run by Nick DeLeon through the TFC defense that ended up with him being tripped just as he entered the penalty area.

United nearly doubled the lead when a give-and-go from De Rosario and Lionard Pajoy resulted in a half-chance by Pajoy but he ran out or room along the endline with an open goal at his mercy.

This is where it started to fall apart. TFC had done precious little offensively and United were on cruise control. Then the dreaded set piece rears it’s ugly head. United has given up over a dozen goals this season on set pieces and tonight was no exception.

In the 30th minute, 5-foot-7 inch Robert Earnshaw managed to beat 6-foot-1 United defender Brandon McDonald to a seemingly harmless floated 60-yard ball and headed the ball off the post and past Bill Hamid to level the match.

Just ten minutes later the frustration of a season-long epidemic of shooting themselves in the foot came to fruition when Daniel Woolard headed a ball into his own goal. It was the fourth own-goal given up by United this season.

United could not regain any momentum and things may have just gotten worse for United when De Rosario was forced off with an injury that seemed to drain whatever life was left in United. Chris Pontius, Kyle Porter (injured) and Carlos Ruiz (away on international duty) already were not availabe tonight adding to head coach Ben Olsen’s woes.

United now must turn their attention to next Saturday’s matchup at RFK against the San Jose Earthquakes.

United vs Portland: “Soft” goals contribute to 2-0 loss to Timbers

To say that D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen was agitated after tonight’s 2-0 loss to the Portland Timbers is a bit of an understatement.

Any confidence from United stopping their club-record seven-game losing streak with a draw last Sunday against Sporting Kansas City quickly evaporated after falling behind early once again and failing to have the fortitude to fight back into the match.

Calling his team “soft” after the match was just the tip of the iceberg as Olsen first remained tight-lipped with one word answers before finally opening up and speaking his mind in assessing where his 1-9-2 team stands after the first third of the season had completed. ”

Rodney Wallace and Darlington Nagbe scored on either side of the break as Portland extended their team record unbeaten run to 11 matches while extending United’s run of futility to a team-record 10 matches without a win. Defensive errors were once again the death of United and Brandon McDonald was at the center of both goals. In the 22nd minute, McDonald took a poor angle on a seemingly innocent throw-in and Timbers forward Frederic Piqiuonne took advantage of the misplay and moved towards the top of the penalty area. With defenders Ethan White and Chris Korb closing on the Frenchman, he easily slipped the ball to a wide-open Wallace on the left side and his left-footed blast beat goalkeeper Bill Hamid to the near post for a 1-0 lead.

Unfortunately for United being behind has become a dangerous habit as the club has not held a lead in a league match since their 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake in the second week of the season. United has led for only 30 minutes out of 1080 minutes this season, a streak that has come to typify United’s season to date.

United managed to create a number of scoring opportunities during this match thanks in part to the efforts of Carlos Ruiz, making his first ever start for the Black-and-Red. Ruiz had a shot saved early on before the Wallace goal and was in the middle of nearly every dangerous attack on the evening.

After the break United started to push players forward in an effort to gain the equalizing goal but another costly misplay in defense stretched the lead to 2-0 in the 57th minute. Timber midfielder Darlington Nagbe beat Brandon McDonald to a loose ball at the top of the area and sent his shot through the legs of Hamid for the dagger goal. Nagbe, at least five inches and fifty pounds slighter than the muscular McDonald, simply outhustled the defender and left United in another desperate situation.

“It’s embarrassing how soft we were everywhere on the field. The lack of anger a few of our guys play with, it’s mind-boggling,” said Olsen after the match. While Olsen said he did not want to single any players out, it was clear that he had McDonald and the continually ineffective Marcos Sanchez in mind (Sanchez was subbed out at halftime). “DeLeon, Kitchen, Ruiz, any day of the week. The rest of the guys – we have a long way to go,” Olsen lamented. It did not stop there.

“We have to get new guys in here. We’re not good enough,” said Olsen. “We only had a couple of individuals show up and show that it (expletive) matters. I’ve had it with that part.”

United did have an opportunity to cut the lead in half but a non-call from referee Jose Carlos Rivero put an end to any comeback for United. A clear handball on Timber defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste somehow managed to go unseen by Rivero or either of the assistant referes’s. Perhaps a bit of kharma was dealt to United for the goal that was called back for offside this past Sunday against Sporting Kansas City.

United now turns their attention to the Open Cup on Tuesday evening when they travel to Richmond to face the Kickers. United’s next league match will be next Sunday in Chicago.

United vs. Fire: United douse the Fire in critical Eastern Conference win

Dwayne De Rosario had a goal and an assist to help D.C. United to an important 4-2 win over the Chicago Fire tonight at RFK Stadium. The win for United (12-8-4  40pts) moves them within a point of Chicago (12-8-5) and idle Houston in the fight for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference.

United’s captain gave the home side the lead in the 19th minute when his far post run met the wayward shot from Chris Pontius for the 1-0 lead. United continued the pressure and was well in control heading into the break when Chicago leveled the match seemingly out of nowhwere.

Dan Paladini was on the end of an impressive bout of interplay in United’s defense third and slotted the ball past United goalkeeper Bill Hamid to tie the match in the 44th minute. However, the Black-and-Red did not sulk over their perceived dominance in the match and immediatly responded.

Andy Najar’s mazy run down the right flank and hard work once near the penalty area bought him enough room to whip in a cross that sailed over everyone in the box and fell right onto the head of new United striker Lionard Pajoy. The Colombian powered his header near post giving Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson no chance and United headed to the break with a deserved 2-1 lead.

After the break United continued their dominance of the match and went up 3-1 in the 51st minute on a beautiful headed goal from defender Brandon McDonald. Chicago had cleared a United corner kick but only to Chris Korb who immediately lofted the ball into the far side of the penalty area. McDonald’s cushion header was looped perfectly over the right shoulder of Johnson and settled into the far side netting.

United continued to apply pressure and if not for some fantasic saves from Johnson, United would have blown this match wide open. As it happened though, the Fire got back into the match in the 75th minute when a United defensive breakdown on a free kick allowed the visitors to make it a tense final 15 minutes. Defender Gonzalo Segares was completely unmarked on the back side of a long angled free kick and his diving header beat Bill Hamid to the far post.

United had numerous opportunities to extend their lead but yet again Johnson came up huge on efforts from De Rosario, Pontius (twice) and Najar. However, United’s pressure finally did payoff in the 89th minute when Long Tan was the benefactor of hard work by De Rosario down the left flank. De Rosario forced his way deep into the penalty area and centered a ball for Tan and his admittedly tame shot should have been easily saved by Johnson but the spin on the ball eluded the goalkeeper and ended up in the side netting for the first goal for Tan with United.

United easily saw out the remainder of stoppage time and did very well to help soothe the bad feelings from this past Sunday’s 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union.

Up next for a very busy United is a trip to Canada to face the red-hot Montreal Impact. Montreal is currently on a four match winning streak including impressive home wins versus Red Bull New York and league leading San Jose just this past weekend.

United vs Columbus: Poor play continues as United fall in Columbus

Clearly D.C. United is struggling.

Another lackluster performance from D.C. United leads to back-to-back losses on the road as they fell 1-0  to the Columbus Crew tonight in Columbus, OH. The loss is the second straight for United on the road and the second consecutive poor effort from the Black-and-Red coming off a two-week break.

Chris Burchall scored thirty seconds into second half to help lead the home side to a victory as United continues to slide down the standings in the Eastern Conference. United has fallen from 1st place two weekends ago to 4th place in the suddenly congested Eastern Conference. While the two-game skid has hampered United, they are still comfortably in a playoff position.

United’s only credible threat on goal was Chris Pontius’ header late in the first half that was comfortably saved by Andy Greenenbaum. United did threaten mildly in the second half but Dwayne De Rosario and United debut player Long Tan went wide with decent efforts towards goal and Chris Korb’s 88th minute shot off the post was all the United could muster.

United’s sporadic schedule over the past 8 weeks hasn’t helped the team to gain any kind of consistency and their form away from RFK Stadium has been reflective of that. United has been on the end of two different two-week breaks in the schedule and they haven’t adjusted very well coming out of the layoffs. United has loss 3 of 5 matches since a three-game home winning stand in late May. You could make the argument that they should have lost 4 out of 5 since then as their win in Philadelphia was against the run of play and basically the start of their poor run of form excluding their 3-0 win at home against Montreal on June 30th.

Head coach Ben Olsen made five changes to the lineup coming off their 4-0 loss in Houston last weekend. The changes however had little effect on the team and they let a poor Columbus side take the three points at home with minimul effort.

United now will play their requisite International friendly next weekend at RFK against Paris Saint-Germain. Some would say that it couldn’t come at a worse time considering their poor form since mid-June.

United’s next league match will be against this same Columbus Crew squad on Saturday, August 4th.

United vs Revolution: United survive furious Revolution rally; climb to 1st Place in the East with 3-2 victory

Maicon Santos’ go-ahead goal in the 61st minute helped D.C. United to a 3-2 win tonight over the visiting New England Revolution at RFK Stadium. With the win United (8-4-3  27 pts) vaulted over idle New York Red Bull and into first place in the Eastern Conference ahead of their two-week break from league play. The Revolution (4-7-1  13 pts) almost pulled off a stunning result, rallying from a 2-0 first half deficit by scoring twice inside the first five minutes of the second half before Santos fired United ahead.

United took the lead in the 15th minute when Brandon McDonald flicked a header from a Branko Boskovic free kick over the head of Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis. United doubled their lead in first half stoppage time when United’s Dejan Jakovic scored on a goal mouth scramble from a corner kick. It was the first goal of the season for each of United’s central defenders and the first of Jakovic’ MLS career.

After the break the Revolution stormed back to level the match at 2-2 before many of the 14, 627 fans at RFK could find their seats. Saer Sene followed up a wicked long-range blast from Benny Feilhaber in the 48th minute for his team leading sixth goal of the season. Just two minutes later the match was tied when defender A.J. Soares beat a United defender to a corner kick and his header flicked into the far side netting and the a new match was born.

The Revolution continued to send numbers forward and paid for their aggressiveness in the 61st minute with a well-crafted sequence from the Black-and-Red to retake the lead. Substitute Maicon Santos, only on the field for five minutes, made a dazzling spin move between two Revs defenders in midfield and headed towards goal. His pass to Dwayne De Rosario freed the Canadian into the penalty area and with  Hamdi Salihi open in front of goal, De Rosario chose to pass back towards the penalty spot to Santos who’s first-time strike was too precise for Reis.  The goal for Santos was his team leading 7th of the season.

United then were forced into their own end of the field for the remainder of the match and had to fight off a number of dangerous chances from the Revolution. Once chance in particular saved the three points for United when goalkeeper Bill Hamid acrobatically leaped to his left to fingertip a goal-bound header from rookie midfielder Kelyn Rowe over the bar in stoppage time to help preserve United’s third win in a row.

United is now on a two-week break from league play and will remain in first place due to the fact that only two games are scheduled league-wide in that span because of World Cup qualifying beginning in early June. United’s next league match will be away to the suddenly reeling Philadelphia Union on June 16th.

United Notes

  • United is four games above .500 for the first time since June of 2008. Three wins in a row are their most since that same time period in 2008
  • Nick DeLeon made his first start since injuring his hamstring in training in early May. Jakovic made his first start since facing New England in Foxboro in April
  • Emiliano Dudar made the bench for the first time since injuring his hamstring in United’s 3-2 win over Houston in mid-May

United vs Toronto FC: United bounce back with 2-0 win in Toronto

Chris Pontius and Hamdi Salihi scored second-half goals twenty minutes apart to push D.C. United to a much needed 2-0 win this afternoon in Toronto. United (5-3-3) was coming off a terrible defensive performance just three days earlier in a 5-3 loss in San Jose and posted the shutout with yet another retooled defensive backline.  Toronto (0-8-0) set a new league record for starting the season with eight consecutive losses and only a handful of times threatened United’s weakened lineup. In addition to missing central defenders Dejan Jakovic and Emiliano Dudar, right back Robbie Russell and midfielder Nick DeLeon both missed the match as well, forcing head coach Ben Olsen to alter the lineup.

Bill Hamid, making his return to the lineup for the first since the season opener against Sporting Kansas City, made a number of key saves and was buoyed by an unexpected gritty performance from a back four of Andy Najar, Brandon McDonald, Daniel Woolard and Chris Korb from right to left respectively.

The changes to the lineup, 3 matches in 8 days and the continued terrible play of TFC made for a first forty-five minutes of very few chances for either side. After halftime Branko Boskovic came on for the ineffective Lewis Neal (making his first career MLS start) and Pontius dropped into midfield and the game finally started to open up. After an initial 10-minute period in which TFC was mildly threatening, United should have gone in the lead in the 54th minute.

A clear handball on the line by TFC defender Ashtone Morgan was somehow missed by the entire officiating crew but United kept the pressure on and took the lead in the 55th minute. Brandon McDonald threaded a perfect pass to the foot of Pontius who dribbled to his left and unleashed a 22-yard rocket from the top of the penalty area and into the far side upper 90 giving former United goalkeeper Milos Kocic no chance. The goal, Pontius’ fifth of the season, lifted United and conversely sunk the downtrodden Toronto side even further. Their misery would be complete in the 75th minute when substitute Hamdi Salihi pulled out a moment of individual skill and brilliance.

Toronto initially cleared a United corner but Daniel Woolard headed the ball back towards the penalty area. McDonald deftly flicked the ball towards goal and Salihi pivoted and unfurled a bicycle sidewinder volley that flashed past Kocic to give United the 2-0 lead. Salihi has now scored in back-t0-back games and gives Ben Olsen a very nice problem to have with all three forwards now contributing on a regular basis.

More importantly however was the defensive effort in light of their shockingly poor performance in San Jose on Wednesday night. Granted, TFC isn’t in the best place right now mentally but you take shutouts when you can and Hamid and his patchwork defense did the job. United will now turn their attention towards their next match a week from today in Houston. The Dynamo will be opening their brand new stadium (BBVA Compass Stadium) and will be looking for revenge from last week’s 3-2 win for the Black-and-Red at RFK over the Dynamo.

United acquires Brandon McDonald from San Jose

D.C. United acquired rugged defender/midfielder Brandon McDonald from the San Jose Earthquakes today in exchange for allocation money. The 25-year old was originally drafted in 2008 by the Los Angeles Galaxy and played 16 games for them before getting picked up by the Quakes in 2009. McDonald spent his career with the Quakes alternating between defensive midfield and central defense before finally settling into the center half role.

McDonald had only started 8 of the Quakes 15 matches this season before falling out of favor behind center halves Bobby Burling and Jason Hernandez. With big things still expected of former Wake Forest central defender Ike Opara, McDonald’s future seemed limited in the Bay Area. McDonald can be classified as a tough physical defender very much in the mold of former United central defender Julius James who was given his release in the preseason.

With the hamstring injury to starter Dejan Jakovic, United has been reliant on the rookie tandem of Ethan White and Perry Kitchen to help hold the fort until Jakovic’ return in a few weeks. While White and Kitchen have performed well for the most part, sporadic lapses of concentration from both players have cost United goals, wins and points in the standings. Having a more physical presence is also something United is looking for as they have been victimized twice this season by big physical strikers in Will Bruin of Houston and Steven Lenhart of San Jose, both of whom registered hat tricks against United this season. McDonald easily fits the bill in combating some of MLS’ more physical players.

With the addition of McDonald and the return of Jakovic in the near future, United will once again have to reshuffle their lineup to avail themselves of the talents of White and Kitchen. While White seems to be a central defender for the future, Kitchen has shown his versatility in playing right back as well as his preferred and most effective role as a defensive midfielder. With the continual poor play of Clyde Simms, is it time to see the young Akron phenom in the middle of the park?

I believe the time is now for that move.

United makes history, the bad kind, in 2-0 loss to San Jose

Chris Wondolowski scored on either side of halftime for the visiting San Jose Earthquakes in their 2-0 win over D.C. United tonight at RFK Stadium in front of 14, 822 fans. United has now established the Major League Soccer record for most times shutout in a season with their 16th clean sheet of the season. The expansion Toronto FC in 2007 were tied with United at 15 shutouts heading into the match. United is also well on it’s way to another league record for fewest goals scored in a season. Right now the Black-and-Red sit on 18 goals through 28 matches. The very same Toronto FC team from 2007 holds the current record for season long futility at 25 goals scored. That record seems to be set to be destroyed by the 2010 United squad.

The match got off to a raucous start when both Jaime Moreno and Brandon McDonald were ejected in the 8th minute by referee Alex Prus. Television replays showed a slight elbow thrown to the midsection by Moreno followed by an elbow to the head from McDonald. While Prus didn’t see the infraction, apparently he got help from his assistant referee and the 4th official to send both players off. Moreno was making his first start in over two months for United and his sending off seemed almost typical for the way United’s season had gone.

If that didn’t send a message then San Jose taking the leading in the 45th minute definitely typified United’s season-long struggles. United had dominated the first 45 minutes barely letting the Quakes string two passes together much less cross midfield, but as happened pretty much all season long, United failed on their opportunities in front of goal and yet again allowed the opposition to strike first before Troy Perkins had even made a save in the match.

Tim Ward sent a ball diagonally through the penalty area that Clyde Simms failed to jump for to head away. The result was a bouncing ball between Simms and fellow defender Jordan Graye and it ended up on the right foot of Wondolowski who smashed the ball past Perkins on the volley for a rather undeserved 1-0 lead.

Ten minutes into the second half the visitors put the game away and this time it was Perkins who had a hand in the play, or more accurately, did NOT have a hand in the play. A cross from the left wing was sent into United’s penalty area and Perkins came out to punch the ball away. Admittedly there was token pressure applied to Perkins but he basically whiffed on his punch and the ball ended up on the left foot of Wondolowski who one-timed the ball past a sliding Simms and the result was no longer in doubt.

United came into the match with not only a number of players on the injured list, but they also were missing four starters due to suspension (Andy Najar) and International call-ups (Julius James, Dejan Jakovic and Branko Boskovic) with severely hampered interim head coach Ben Olsen’s choices to play. United were forced to sign emergency defender J.P. Rodrigues from Division 2 Miami this week and he made his debut in the second half after the game was no longer in doubt.

United will now turn their attention to their last road game of the season in Chicago next Saturday afternoon at 4pm. Moreno obviously won’t be available but the four aforementioned players will return to the field as United looks to win their 4th game at Toyota Park in a row.