United a no-show in 5-0 drubbing in Columbus

Columbus, Ohio, October 26, 2015 – MLS had dubbed the final day of the 2015 regular season as “Decision Day” as all conference games would be played simultaneously.

Destruction Day

Demolition Day

Decapitation Day

Any of the above would have been a better description for D.C. United as they went paws up in a 5-0 loss in Columbus with the #2 seed in the East to play for. As it happened as all games came to a close in the East just after 7pm EST last night, only a draw would have given United that coveted #2 seed.

However, the shorthanded Crew had other ideas. Saddled with their two best players on the sideline due to yellow card accumulation (Kei Kamara and Federico Higuan) the home side Crew dominated from the opening kickoff by spreading United out and killing them on the flanks en route to their historic win. The loss was the worst for United since losing 5-0 in Kansas City in 1997.

Ethan Finley led the way with two goals and Jack McInerney, filling in for Kamara, chipped in a goal and an assist.

As a result of the loss, United dropped from second to fourth in the East and now will play a one-and-done match up this Wednesday night at RFK against the New England Revolution. If United manages to shake off one of the poorest efforts in recent memory and push past the Revs, Red Bull or Columbus will be waiting for them on the weekend. If Montreal beats Toronto FC on Wednesday (they beat TFC 2-1 last night to push ahead of United into 3rd place) then United would face Red Bull. United will face Columbus should TFC manage to beat Montreal in Montreal.

Either way, United has to show up on Wednesday against the Revs or their season is over much sooner than anyone anticipated.

Episode 158 – Not letting the moron off the hook

Join the guys as they look back at United’s recent run, including the 2-0 win at RFK stadium against the Columbus Crew. The boys talk other DC United news and give “the talent” grief about his “reasoning” for United’s current good fortune. The podcast also introduces Stone Giant’s new single, Evil Son, available now at the iTunes store

DC takes on the Crew in RFK

DC United riding a five game unbeaten streak hosts the red hot Columbus Crew in RFK tomorrow night looking to hold the surging Crew at bay in the East.

DC had been grinding out results a little unconvincingly, but got a signature win last week in Vancouver toppling the Western Conference leaders 2-1. Granted, the brain cramp by Matias Laba gifted them a long stretch of eleven on ten, but DC did put together a total team effort to come back after going down 1 zip in first two minutes. The Crew on the other hand, also started the season slowly, but have been thumping the bottom of the division at home lately, outscoring Philly and Orlando 7-1 in the last two weeks.

One of the oldest rivalries in MLS, DC and the Crew have mostly traded success since the early days when they dominated the East. Since the epic playoff series in ’99 and Marco’s dominating performance clinching that series, the Crew and DC fortunes have rarely crossed past in a meaningful way. When DC was up, the Crew were down and vice versa, but this year is shaping up as a throwback to the old days if these two teams keep going as they have been going so far. And it will be a classic matchup too as DC is tighter defensively, but less likely to score while the Crew are explosive offensively, but prone to giving up some goals too.

DC has some good news too as they look to be welcoming back defending goalkeeper of the year Bill Hamid who hasn’t played in two weeks due to a thigh bruise. He has practiced all week and should be back in the lineup against the Crew. No disrespect to Travis Worra who got a credible first win when Dykstra rolled an ankle in Vancouver, but Hamid being back between the pipes is huge, especially going against a Crew team that loves to shoot the ball. It looks like Davy Arnaud and Taylor Kemp are back as well from a slight groin injury and the flu respectively which caused them to miss the Vancouver match.

DC also matches up very well against the Crew too. Columbus plays that dreaded 4-5-1 hybrid as well all the teams that have given DC trouble this year, but the Crew’s forwards and playmaker Federico Higuain are much less likely to put much pressure on the ball defensively which should allow DC to play out of the back rather than punt the ball upfield aimlessly which they tend to do when flustered. The more possession DC has, the less the Crew’s dynamic attack can roll at them in waves. Conversely, the Crew ravages weak teams obviously, but aside from Kei Kamara they don’t have a scorer that really puts fear into a defender. These guys punish mistakes and can counter like Wellington at Waterloo, but if you play solid defense then they can struggle to really break you down which has happened when they have played the tougher teams this year like Houston and Vancouver. DC generally plays solid defensively, so there’s every reason to think they can contain the Crew, especially as Columbus has only scored twice on the road so far this year.

Looking at the lineups, it’s tough to say what Olsen does. He could go with Chris Rolfe next to Fabian Espindola to reward him for the game-winner against Vancouver, or he could go with Luis Silva and re-unite the 1-2 scoring threat that combined for 22 goals last year. That would almost certainly push Rolfe back to midfield, but that’s been his best position since he’s arrived in DC. In midfield, if Rolfe starts at forward, then it will almost certainly be Chris Pontius, Perry Kitchen and Nick DeLeon, but should Olsen reward Michael Farfan for his assist and overall good play alongside Kitchen? Or go back to Arnaud, who has been a key player but isn’t getting any younger? Even left back is a decision as Kemp is back, but Chris Korb played very well against the ‘Caps. For sure, it will be Bobby Boswell, Sean Franklin, and Kofi Opare for the still injured Steve Birnbaum across the backline in front of Hamid, but Kemp or Korb is a tougher call.

What I think Olsen will do is go back to his “starters” so Kemp and Arnaud return to the lineup with Rolfe back in midfield sending Pontius to the bench and replacing Korb and Farfan. Offensively, that’s the more potent lineup for sure, but defensively it might well give up too much especially Kemp. The Crew rely on slashers like Justin Meram and Ethan Findlay coming off the shoulder of defenders to collect balls knocked down by Kamara or sent through by Higuain or played back and forth between them all. Higuain orchestrated all the attacks against Philly, but got no goals or assists as it was Findlay and Kamara playing to each other that cracked the Union like Stonewall Jackson at Bull Run. Kemp could easily be a liability being on the wrong side of Meram or Findlay at the wrong time. Korb could too for sure, but he is the better pure defender if the lesser attacker.

For the Crew, they seem set in their lineup. Meram, Kamara, and Findlay as forwards, Higuain, Tony Tchani, and Mohammed Saeid for injured Will Trapp in midfield and Waylon Francis, Michael Parkhurst and Hernan Grana in the defense. Parkhurst’s partner Emanuel Pogatetz strained a hammy against Philly and might play, but if not veteran Tyson Wahl filled in well enough in central defense in front of Steve Clark in goal.

Defensively, if Kitchen and Arnaud contain, and soccer gods willing, even outplay Higuain and Tchani, then I think Boswell and Opare negate Kamara and the rest of the defense keeps wraps on Meram and Findlay and Columbus will struggle to score, especially if Rolfe and more importantly DeLeon continue to show up defensively against Francis and Grana marauding upfield. Also Hamid, who just signed a contract extension meaning DC will at least get something when he’s sold hopefully after MLS Cup this year at the earliest, has simply been a wall in the nets. Aside from NY’s kryptonite, he’s been superman for over a year and he alone could keep the Crew’s road woes going. The Crew haven’t really shown any dead ball prowess to fear either as all of their goals but one corner kick score have come from the run of play and DC has defended set pieces pretty well so far anyway.

Offensively, DC really has to pull apart Parkhurst and Pogatetz (or Wahl) to give Espy and Silva room to operate. Grana and Francis are attack minded wing backs and can be exposed, but Parkhurst and Co. have covered for them nicely and snuffed out trouble before it happens usually. However, if DC gets Rolfe and DeLeon deep allowing Kemp and Franklin to push up and keep the ball moving from side to side, their centerbacks might get pulled apart and Espy can pounce. Similarly, if Arnaud (or Farfan) can get the ball up quickly into that pocket behind Saeid and in front of their backline, then Espy and Silva can work their magic to each other and get around those two center backs before the Crew can recover.

All in all, this game is definitely winnable for DC barring interference from the soccer gods, and given Baldomero the Blind Toldedo being the center ref, fingers crossed on that. Still, DC has only lost once at home since the opener against the Crew last year (Seattle last June) and on paper there’s nothing here to say DC can’t keep fortress RFK pure for another week. The Crew have been stomping the weak lately, but haven’t shown much against good teams or on the road yet this season. DC has been both good and lucky at home for over a year now which is always a tough combination to beat.

Which is good since the intangibles don’t really scream for a DC victory for the most part. DC’s all time record against the Crew is 25-24-10 but they haven’t actually beaten the Crew at all since 2012, Columbus going 3-0-2 against DC since and last two were draws. Of course at RFK DC is a very healthy 18-8-4 against the Crew overall, scoring 57 goals for, against 41 for the Crew, but then again DC hasn’t beaten Columbus here since in three years either, the Crew winning two of last three with a draw as well at RFK since DC swept the Crew in 2012. However, Columbus still haven’t yet won on the road so far this year coming off two draws in NE and Vancouver after losing in Houston opening week. DC on the other hand is undefeated at home, coming off two straight draws, NY and Houston, but did beat LA and Montreal albeit a bit unconvincingly.

So there you have it. I’ve been pounding the team and Olsen for weeks and they’ve proved me wrong grinding out improbable points weekly, so I’ve simply got to drink the cool-aid. However, that cool-aid is a lot easier to take after DC’s performance in Vancouver. They went down early in a place they had never scored much less won and could have folded up their tent, but didn’t. They got right back into it with Boswell’s first goal in almost exactly a year, earned the extra man honestly, had to play their third keeper in his first ever MLS match, and didn’t let a still dangerous 10 man Vancouver team get much of a sniff after that, putting away the game nicely on a lovely play to free Rolfe for the winner. DC punched above their weight last year mainly due to limiting mistakes and timely goals, it seems that formula is still working.

Episode 140 – Willy Pap

Join the guys as they look back at United’s past couple of games, including the win against I-95 Rival New York and the draw against Columbus on the road. The boys also talk some United news and look ahead to the team’s home match against league leader FC Dallas.

Late goal costs United a win in 1-1 draw in Columbus

D.C. United was five minutes of stoppage time away from a rare three-game winning streak and tying the Columbus Crew atop the Eastern Conference standings. Hector Jimenez had other ideas when his bending shot in the 90th minute tied the match and left United crestfallen after their best 90-minute performance to date in the young season. United, seeking a bit of payback after suffering a tough 3-0 defeat to the Crew to open the season, were determined to keep their winning streak alive. They will have to settle for a now modes four-game unbeaten run.

Fabian Espindola scored his second goal of the season to put United on top in the 31st minute and despite allowing the home side Crew plenty of possession, it was United who were generating most of the dangerous chances.

Nick DeLeon’s high pressure forced a tough touch from the normally reliable Federico Higuain and DeLeon was off to the races. DeLeon allowed Eddie Johnson to run underneath him on his right which opened up room for Espindola who took one touch and rifled the ball over the shoulder of Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark.

Espindola could have and should have doubled United’s lead just two minutes into the second half. Chris Rolfe blew through an attempted tackle by Michael Parkhurst at midfield and United had a two-on-one break. Rolfe’s pass easily beat Giancarlo Gonzalez and hit Espindola in stride but the Argentine striker failed to control the ball on his less preferred right foot. United continued to allow the Crew most of the possession, but unlike last weeks match against Red Bull, United counter punched effectively. It was in the 71st minute that controversy reared it’s ugly head.

Eddie Johnson did well to poke a ball loose and was off towards the Crew goal with Parkhurst and Gonzalez frantically chasing him down. Gonzalez caught up to Johnson at the edge of the penalty area and wrestled him to the ground. Amazingly however, Gonzalez was only shown a yellow card when a red card for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity should have been the call. However just ten minutes later some sort of justice was served when Bernardo Anor was shown a straight red card for a violent studs-up tackle on Perry Kitchen.

None the less United continued to forge ahead and should have doubled the lead once again when their three-on-two break was poorly played by Espindola in the 89th minute. The resulting turnover led a fast and desperate counter from the Crew. Midfielder Will Trapp hit Hector Jimenez in stride and his bending effort from 18-yards out tucked just inside the far post for an unlikely equalizer.

United, clearly frustrated with their lack of killer instinct throughout the match, pushed forward for the game-winner but to no avail and walked away from Columbus with a valuable but hardly inspiring road point.

United now will turn their attention to the other league leader when they host FC Dallas next Saturday night at RFK Stadium. Game time is at 7pm EST


Jairo Arrieta

United hammered 3-0 by Columbus in season opener

Jairo Arrieta (19) started the scoring for Columbus in the 18th. minute. The Crew never looked back on their way to a 3-0 win over DC United. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

With an off-season roster overhaul of twelve new players, seven of which started the match tonight, no one saw this coming.

The Columbus Crew strolled into town and laid a 3-0 beat down on the “new look” D.C. United tonight at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. With mayor Vincent Gray and his support staff in attendance, United rolled over and very much resembled the squad from 2013, the team this new group vowed not to emulate. Clueless in defense and impotent in the final third, not much seemingly has changed from the disaster that was the 2013 season for United.

Granted, this is just the first match of the season and head coach Ben Olsen did say beforehand that it will take some time to get this right. But this? You’ve got to be kidding me.

Federico Higuan scored twice for the visitors after Jairo Arrieta gave them the lead after just 18 minutes. Arrieta received an inch-perfect centering pass from defender Josh Williams who easily split the left-sided tandem of Cristian Fernandez and Nick DeLeon and poked the ball past Bill Hamid for the opening goal. Just 9 minutes later it was 2-0 after Perry Kitchen hauled down Michael Parkhurst in the penalty area. Replays showed that Parkhurst was nowhere in contention to receive the ball, but the off-season emphasis  for the referee’s on shirt grabbing in the area bit United in the butt and Higuain’s penalty easily sailed into the top corner.

After the break, Olsen’s men applied heavy pressure but could not come up with even a decent half chance for all the possession they had in the second half. As the time was winding down, Columbus made it 3-0 when Higuan got on the end of a Justin Meram cross and easily beat Hamid to finish off United.

Easily one of the most disappointing season-opening efforts in recent memory for United came and went without a fight. Now United has to stew on harsh feelings for the next two weeks when they head up north of the border to take on the new look Toronto FC.

Episode 122 – 2010 All Over Again…

Join the guys on this latest edition of the podcast. While they don’t call for Olsen’s head (yet) they do talk about making some changes to the team. The guys discuss United’s recent two losses, including the loss vs. Philadelphia and the “going up in flames” debacle in Columbus…

United vs. Columbus: Mysery continues as United is hammered 3-0 in Columbus

The Columbus Crew took advantage of more defensive mistakes from D.C. United and rolled to a 3-0 win tonight at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Dominic Oduro, Josh Williams and Federico Higuain all scored for the Crew in the first half to put United out of the match early.

Despite a 50-minute delay to the start of the match because the main scoreboard at the South end of the stadium caught fire during pregame warmups, the Crew were supremely efficient as they scored on all three of their shots on goal in the half and took a 3-0 lead into halftime. United, losers of five straight games, were hard done by the assistant referee for the second time this season against Columbus as a goal was waived off when it should have counted. Perry Kitchen had scored on a header from a Chris Korb cross just minutes after Columbus had taken a 1-0 lead but it was called back incorrectly for offside.  The replay clearly showed that while United had two players in a passive offside position, the ball came directly to Kitchen who was clearly onside.

But as United’s luck so far in 2013 would have it, the Crew came down the field and doubled their lead just two minutes after the disputed non-goal. Needless to say whatever confidence United had at that point was clearly gone as you could visibly see the frustration of this early season meltdown on their collective faces. Kyle Porter forced a good near post save from Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum late in the first half that would have cut the lead in half and temporarily had given United some life. The Black-and-Red kept the Crew on their heels but could not get the all important goal. All that was left was the final nail in the coffin for the match provided by Brandon McDonald.

McDonald, easily his worst performance in a United shirt, was subbed out at halftime for Ethan White who made his season debut with United. Earlier this week head coach Ben Olsen promised that he would hold players responsible for their actions and clearly McDonald was the first player to pay that price with his awful 45 minutes. McDonald was mostly responsible for all three Columbus goals but his blunder for the opener stuck out the most. McDonald’s attempted back-header to Bill  Hamid was poorly played and left the team scrambling. Jairo Arrieta’s cross after a missed tackle by McDonald found the onrushing Oduro to easily pop into goal for the 1-0 lead.

Two minutes after United were denied their equalizer, the Crew scored on a corner kick when Josh Williams beat – guess who – to the ball and his volley eluded a diving Hamid to make it 2-0. In stoppage time in the first half, McDonald was turned inside out by a one-two combination from Arrieta and Gaven and he clumsily rolled over Gaven for the penalty.

United did not give up entirely as they pushed the attack in the second half but were denied by the woodwork and simply poor finishing. It’s no wonder United is where they are right now when you go four straight matches on the road without scoring a goal. United’s best opportunities came late when Lionard Pajoy set up Marcos Sanchez in the area but his shot was well wide of the open goal. Pajoy would later hit the crossbar on a very nice free kick in the 93rd minute pretty much summing up United’s effort on the night and the season so far.

United will now have the next 10 day off before they welcome the Houston Dynamo to RFK Stadium on Wednesday, May 8th.


United Notes

– United was without Chris Pontius due to a groin injury suffered in training on Thursday morning. The injury is expected to keep Pontius out for a minimum of a few weeks

– Bill Hamid simply hasn’t had much help the past two weeks. Philadelphia and Columbus have put 6 goals past Hamid on only 7 shots on goal. That has to be some kind of record