United roster overhaul continues in Florida

Missing out on the playoffs on the last day of the season in consecutive years has brought about a host of changes that has more than a few fans and pundits uneasy about the teams prospects heading into the 2010 MLS campaign. Gone from United’s roster is 3/4 of their foreign attacking contingent in Luciano Emilio, Fred and Christian Gomez. Between the three of them they accounted for 18 goals and 10 assists. That breaks down to roughly 42% of the goal scoring and 28% of the assists. While those numbers don’t exactly jump off the page at you, it is a significant amount of their offense nonetheless and it will be missed at times during the upcoming season.

The question now is “Did United do enough to make up for those losses?” It’s obviously too early to say because the players they brought into the team whom they can count on scoring goals doesn’t exactly look like a murderers row of goal scoring. Australian striker Danny Allsop comes to United to add some size and scoring punch as does Salvadoran winger Christian Castillo who scored two fantastic goals against the United States in World Cup qualifying last fall. Again, is that enough? If you held a gun to my head I would say that no, it’s not enough at the moment. To be fair to the front office, it’s still only the middle of February and the transfer window for MLS doesn’t close until the end of March. United has also brought in 18-year old Honduran striker Arnolyn Guity. Your guess is as good as mine as to who this kid is and what kind of a player he is. If he has any kind of speed at all, it will be a welcomed sight for the Black and Red because their current crop of forwards (Allsop, Jaime Moreno, Chris Pontius and newly acquired Adam Cristman) don’t exactly come across as players that can get behind defenses. Not that pure speed is the magical elixir that will vault United to the MLS Cup anytime soon, but wouldn’t it be a refreshing change of pace (pun intended) to see a United player actually run past the last line of defense and bear down on goal?

Enough of that pipe dream. Arguably the most affected area of the team is in midfield where United has lost four players who contributed major minutes to the club last season and beyond. The aforementioned Fred (traded) and Gomez (not offered a contract) are gone as well as Andrew Jacobsen (selected by Philadelphia Union in the Expansion Draft) and the heart and soul of United, Ben Olsen. Olsen does remain with the team as an assistant coach, but his leadership skills on the field will be sorely missed. United brought in the electric Castillo on loan and also picked up Congolese midfielder Flo N’Galula to help make up the numbers. N’Galula was a former Manchester United youth player and actually sat the bench with the first team on the rare occasion though never actually played. Also back for United is  midfield Brandon Barklage who played very well during the U.S. Open Cup (scoring in back-to-back matches) but was lost for the season shortly thereafter with a knee injury. Danny Szetela is back and is hopeful of bigger role than his spot duty after being obtained late last season. Unfortunately for Szetela, he is currently sidelined after tearing the meniscus in his knee. He should be back right as the season starts, but with missing most or all of preseason, his impact will be minimal until mid-season at least. Stalwarts Clyde Simms, Santino Quaranta and second-year man Rodney Wallace will be back, though with the addition of Castillo on the left it just might put Wallace into the left-back position ahead of incumbent Marc Burch. Quaranta is also coming off of injury but is very close to resuming full training in the next few weeks.

Defense is a position that seems the most thin part of the roster at the moment. Dejan Jacovic, Julius James and Marc Burch are all returning as well as Lawson Vaughn. However the big story of the off-season is the rather dire situation with Bryan Namoff and concussion issues. At the moment there is no realistic time table of his return and that will hurt this team at the beginning of the season. If they can hold on initially, they just might be able to stomach the loss of arguably their best defender. United has brought in Jamaican defender Jermaine Taylor and Honduran defender Quiarol Arzu for tryouts this week in Bradenton, Florida. If these two players manage to make the squad that could improve United’s admittedly weak depth in the back.  Taylor is a central defender who just this past week put in a decent effort against Argentina in a 2-1 friendly loss. Arzu can play centrally and on the right side of defense. He seems to be cover for Namoff at the moment. Utility man Devon McTavish and rookie fourth-round selection Jordan Graye round out the defense.

The biggest move of the off-season undoubtedly was United’s acquisition of Troy Perkins. United certainly gave up quite a bit (Fred, allocation money and the #7 overall pick in the 2010 MLS Superdraft) to get him from the Philadelphia Union but in the end I think it will be worth it as Perkins is about as solid an MLS keeper as any team could ask for. Who backs up Perkins is the million dollar question at the moment. Will it be Josh Wicks (coming off injury and not available until after the season starts) or Milos Kocic? How about 19-year old manchild Bill Hamid? It’s perhaps a bit much to ask to have a 19-year old as a backup, but with roster spots limited and United only playing a bare bones schedule this season (just 30 league matches and however many Open Cup matches they play in), it would probably make sense to only keep two goalies on the roster. The big stumbling block in all of this is whether or not Perkins will be the #3 goalkeeper for the US this summer during the World Cup. At this point, Perkins has about a 50-50 chance to be that 3rd keeper.

Overall I am beginning to like the changes that new coach Curt Onalfo has brought about with United. With only two players over the age of 30 (Moreno and Allsop) who will play every game from the outset, it’s a bit of a departure from years past in the way that United is shaping their team. United has always prided itself on their flowing football and attacking style of play. To me their predictable play has gone a little stale over the past few years and I think the changes made during the off-season reflect that. Younger players and better ball movement might be the key to this team turning around their fortunes and finally getting into the playoffs after a two-year haitus. Who knows, they might even eschew their normal method of walking the ball into the goal in favor of actually using the width of the field and letting talented playmakers like Castillo and Quaranta get down the wing and hit some crosses into a team that now boast three strikers over 6 feet tall in Allsop, Pontius and Cristman.

It’s going to be an interesting preseason and even more intriguing regular season. I can’t wait for it to get started. In the meantime, can anyone volunteer to come over and help shovel my car out?

United remains alive in playoff chase with 1-0 win over Columbus

On a night when a loss would have eliminated D.C. United from the postseason playoff race, the Black and Red scratched and clawed their way to a 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew last night before an announced crowd of 16,274 fans at cold and rainy RFK Stadium. In the 17th minute Luciano Emilio took Boyzzz Khumalo’s through pass and touched the ball over the onrushing Columbus goalkeeper Will Hesmer and watched it trickle over the goal line before Danny O’Rourke cleared it out to no avail. United held on as the visitors had most of the play for the remainder of the evening and defended in numbers and often times looked very much disinterested in going for a second goal to finish off the match. United had a total of 3 shots for the entire 90 minutes with no shots at all coming in the second half.

Steve Cronin made his debut in goal for United and looked the part throughout the 90 minutes. He made a number of saves, his best of which was stopping a 25th minute screamer from Robbie Rogers. Cronin was called on to make a few more saves in the first half but rarely had anything to do in the second half aside from snagging a few wayward crosses or aggressively coming off his line and punching out potentially dangerous crosses. For all the possession the visitors had in the second half, they could only manage one shot themselves in conditions that started off poorly and got progressively worse as the game wore on. By games end the hardest rain of the day was falling but United somehow escaped and now in combination with other results across MLS, United is in a 4-way tie for the last playoff spot on 39 points. As it stands at the moment, United would be out of the playoffs due to the tie-breaking procedures of MLS. However, oddly enough, even though they are closer to elimination than making the playoffs, they can still actually gain the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference. United would need first of all for Chicago to lose their last match at home to Chivas USA on Thursday night. Not exactly an impossible request seeing as Chicago has already lost four times at Toyota Park this season. United would then have to win their match in Kansas City and then would hope for a Toronto FC loss in New York (not likely) and a New England loss in Columbus (pretty likely). If that combination of games comes to fruition, United will incredibly be the #2 seed in the East and would play away to Chicago in the first round of the playoffs.

Needless to say, it will be an unbelievable weekend next week and United still has very much to play for. United however still has a midweek trip to Toluca in Mexico for their final CONCACAF Champions League match. An unlikely win at Toluca would advance United into the knockout round of the tournament beginning next February. If United loses or draws, they have to hope that they match at best Marathon’s result at winless San Juan Jabloteh.

United falls to San Jose 2-1 at RFK; In danger of not making playoffs for second year in a row

There used to be a time when D.C. United scored first, they most likely won that match. This is no longer the case as the San Jose Earthquakes scored twice in the second half to come from behind to beat United 2-1 at RFK Stadium this afternoon in front of 14, 375 disappointed fans. The loss, United’s second consecutive home loss in MLS, keeps United two points out of the playoff race. A win today would have seen the Black and Red leapfrog three teams into a comfortable position with three matches remaining in the season.

After going the first 11 MLS home matches without a loss this season, United has now coughed up two poor losses at the most important time of the season. Jaime Moreno scored a fantastic goal in the 26th minute to give the home side a deserved lead. However, as has been the case numerous times this season, United could not add to their lead and got to halftime holding the 1-0 margin. The goal came about from some nice and not often seen flank play. Ben Olsen received a ball on the left flank in the 26th minute and held possession and waited for the overlapping run from Chris Pontius. The rookie sent in a left-footed one-timer that Moreno expertly controlled with his right foot and then unleashed a left-footed blast underneath former United goalkeeper Andrew Webber. The goal was the Bolivian’s 129 goal, the all-time leader in MLS.

The second half saw the visitors come flying out of the gate and they should have tied the match in the 5oth minute when Ryan Johnson headed home a goal in a challenge with United goalkeeper Josh Wicks. Referee Baldomero Toledo inexplicably blew the play dead immediately when he saw Wicks crumple to the ground. Wicks left the match with an injury to his left shoulder and was replaced by Milos Kocic. It didn’t take long for the energized Quakes to finally equalize. In the 58th minute, United defender Julius James fouled Ryan Johnson 20 yards in front of goal with a bear hug. El Salvador’s National Team captain Ramon Sanchez stepped up and curled a beautiful free-kick into the near post upper 90 that gave Kocic no chance. San Jose increased their lead in the 73rd minute on a very dodgy piece of defending by Marc Burch. Burch, returning to the lineup after being out for three weeks, decided to try and body the ball off of onrushing San Jose attacker Arturo Alvarez. The speedy Salvadoran-American easily stripped the ball from Burch and his shot was deflected by Clyde Simms off the crossbar. The rebound found the head of the diving Ryan Johnson who easily dispatched the ball into the empty net to give the Quakes the game-winning goal.

United finally awoke from their second half slumber and should have equalized and gone ahead on numerous occasions. However, as has been the case too often this season, United couldn’t find the target when it mattered. Chris Pontius had two golden chances to equalize. In the 81st minute he latched onto a Santino Quaranta cross and headed straight into the ground and over the bar. Had he simply directed it to the far post, Webber would have had no chance at it. Just one minute later Pontius again was denied when his bicycle kick was cleared off the line by Ramiro Corrales. Finally in the 89th minute substitute Boyzzz Khumalo had his shot carom off the top of the crossbar and United was done with their chances at getting any points in this match.

The loss is a crippling blow for the Black and Red as they lost a glorious opportunity to jump into prime playoff positioning. United, who was off from league play last weekend, saw a number of other results in the league over the past two weeks go in favor of United and set them up with this great opportunity. It wasn’t to be and now United finds themselves in a position to almost have to win their last three matches to even have a chance at making the playoffs. Next up for United is their 5th match in group play for the CONCACAF Champions League this Wednesday against San Juan Jebloteh. A win in that match combined with a loss by Marathon against group leaders Toluca will guarantee United passage into the knockout phase next Spring.

United’s next league match is against fellow playoff hopefuls Chivas USA at RFK Stadium next Saturday evening.

United gains rare shutout in 0-0 draw with Galaxy

D.C. United set a club record with it’s 11th draw of the season in last nights 0-0 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy in front of a season high 22,000 plus at soggy and humid RFK Stadium. While the defensive effort was a massive improvement over performances from the last two months, the offensive now all of a sudden is missing in action. That’s not entirely the truth however as United did actually score and yet again was wrongly denied a goal by an incorrect offside decision. United has already had three apologies from league officials on separate occasions this season when decisions made by officials have gone against the Black and Red and there is no reason to believe a fourth apology is forthcoming later this week.

In the eight minute Luciano Emilio timed a run beautifully and snapped a shot past Los Angeles goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts for an apparent 1-0 lead. However the far side assistant referee had his flag raised for offside. Subsequent replays showed that Emilio had at least two Galaxy defenders keeping him onside when Fred clipped the ball over the defense for his fellow Brazilian to latch onto. To United’s credit however they didn’t let it affect their play and remained resolute in their defending and allowed the Galaxy only a few dangerous chances throughout the entire match to gain the valuable shutout. United did have another bone of contention in the 67th minute when it appeared that Galaxy defender shoved Emilio to the ground in the penalty area. Referee Mark Geiger waved the play away but again replays showed no effort from the Galaxy defender to play the ball while Emilio had made a nice chest trap move to avoid the Galaxy player and he was shoved to the ground for his efforts.

At the end of the day this was a match that United sorely needed three points from and only garnering one point is hurting the squad right now. United remains just a single point out of the eighth and final playoff spot, thanks to Toronto’s 2-0 loss in Los Angeles to Chivas USA. However, a New England home victory tonight over Real Salt Lake could push United to 10th place overall. Conversely, should RSL take the points, they too would move a point above United in the playoff chase.

United will now direct their attention to their Wednesday evening CONCACAF Champions League match with Toluca of Mexico at RFK. After that United has to go on the road yet again and face the Chicago Fire. The good news there is that United actually won both of their road matches at Toyota Park last season.

United Notes

– Head coach Tom Soehn was not on the sidelines tonight and was tested for the H1N1 virus after coming to work on Friday very ill. Chad Ashton and Mark Simpson took over the coaching duties with Ashton meeting the media afterwards.

– Danny Szetela has managed to find himself in the doghouse in record time. No details were given of his indiscretion.

– David Habarugira didn’t make the final 18 last night and not suprisingly defender Greg Janicki was left off as well.

– Boyzzz Khumalo has had complications from his wrist surgery and is apparently out for another four weeks of recovery.

United takes on Galaxy in hopes of changing recent fortunes

D.C. United will take on David Beckham, Landon Donovan and the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday night at RFK Stadium. It will be only the second league home match in over two months for the Black and Red and they absolutely need to capitalize on their good fortune at RFK. United is unbeaten in 9 home matches with 5 wins and 4 draws. However, their recent slide down the Eastern Conference table can be laid directly at the feet of their admittedly poor road success this season. United has only one win in 12 road matches (along with 5 losses and 6 draws) this season and only three road wins over their last 24 MLS road matches, easily the worst streak in all of MLS.

The comfy confines of RFK can hopefully jump start a team that is slowly falling apart due to lack of confidence, poor play and of course a schedule that is simply adding more pressure on the team. The Galaxy come into the match on the heels of their 2-0 win in Chicago on Wednesday evening, without the services of the suspended Beckham and fellow midfielder Eddie Lewis. Both players are expected to start for the Galaxy who will also be seeing a homecoming of sorts with ex-Maryland defenders AJ Delagarza and Omar Gonzalez returning to the DC area for the first time as professional players.

United will have to figure out how to stop the Galaxy’s potent offense driven by Beckham and Donovan. Donovan is coming off swine flu symptoms and seemed none the worse as he flew past three Chicago Fire players to tally the second goal on Wednesday. A confident and fit Donovan is a worst-case scenario for United in that he has been a personal killer against the Black and Red throughout his career. Donovan scored both goals in the Galaxy’s comeback 2-2 draw in the season opener at the Home Depot Center in which United gave up a two-goal lead (sound familiar?) with 13 minutes to play. Donovan also notched a hat trick last season in Los Angeles’ 5-2 drubbing of United eleven months ago.  In order for United to keep the Galaxy at bay, they have to sort out their defense which has gone all pear shaped the past two months. United gave up 15 goals on their recent six-game road jaunt and on Tuesday evening it all came to a head when reserve defender Greg Janicki had a hand in all three goals given up in their undeserved 3-1 loss to Marathon in the opening match of group play in the CONCACAF Champions League. Head coach Tom Soehn didn’t mince words during training yesterday when talking about the clearly underperforming Janicki, “I actually thought the team did a pretty good job. We just had an individual who didn’t play well and it really hurt us.  Some of the mistakes he is making are mistakes you shouldn’t see at the professional level. He has had a rough stretch, that’s all I can say.”

With that being said, it’s obvious that it would take an act of Congress to get Janicki to play again this season for United, especially with the recent acquisitions of David Habarugira and Julius James in defense. I’m willing to say that Soehn will go against type and actually go with a 4-4-2 against the Galaxy tomorrow evening. I think both Habarugira and James will start (James in central defense) and Marc Burch will see some pine time. In the midfield I see Clyde Simms and Christian Gomez in the middle with Santino Quaranta and Fred out wide, though I would prefer to see Rodney Wallace start ahead of the inconsitent at best Fred. Up front it will be Luciano Emilio and Jaime Moreno.

While it’s easy to say that the season hangs in the balance with this match should United not get the  vital three points, it really isn’t over just yet. After their match against the Galaxy, United will play Toluca of Mexico on Wednesday night at RFK before heading off to play the Fire in Chicago on Saturday night. At that point, United will only have two road matches left to play in league play with 5 consecutive home matches sandwiched in between. Right there is where your season lies.

As for the Galaxy match, I expect United to come flying out of the gate. Their recent performances have been pedestrian at best and I think the relative comfort of RFK will serve them well. United has won two straight matches against the Galaxy at RFK, a 4-1 pasting last season and a 1-0 win in Beckham’s MLS debut in 2007. I say recent history is on United’s side and they will scratch and claw for the three points. However, they simply have to contain both Beckham and Donovan. If other Galaxy players beat them, so be it, they just can’t let the big guns go blasting away. Also, the defense simply has to find a way to keep goals out of the net. I know the offense was a complete no-show north of the border in Toronto last week, but it’s been individual breakdowns that have haunted this team for the better part of two seasons. Last season even United fans could make fun of the Galaxy’s defense as it was one of the worst in league history. However Bruce Arena has gotten them to buy into a total team concept and the three ring Circus hasn’t really taken off this season. In fact the Galaxy have given up twenty fewer goals than at the same point last season. Over that period of time only one team in MLS has given up more goals. I’ll give you three guesses who that team is.

Late goals sink United in Champions League group play opener

Two late goals from Jerry Palacios and Mario Berrios set Marathon of Honduras on to a 3-1 victory over D.C. United last night in the opening match of the CONCACAF Champions League in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Defensive blunders were once again the undoing of the Black and Red and they left Honduras with an undeserved loss to open their group play account.

Defender Greg Janicki had a big part in all three goals allowed and it was too much to overcome for the visitors who had played very well for most of the evening. Janicki’s misplay of an otherwise routine clearance in the penalty area gifted Marathon a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute. Janicki whiffed on his left-footed clearance and the ball landed on the foot of former United target Walter Martinez who easily tapped it into goal for the lead.

Both teams got to halftime and United were the aggressors from the restart. In the 48th minute United scored on a corner kick when halftime substitute Santino Quaranta sent in the cross that met the forehead of Julius James. His shot was well saved by the Marathon goalkeeper but the rebound was nodded in by Luciano Emilio to level the score. Emilio had a clash of heads with a Marathon defender on the play and had to leave the match temporarily to attend to a gaping head wound that left him very bloody on the field.

From that point United were the much crisper and aggressive team as their midfield dominated the Honduran side who resorted to long-ball tactics to relieve the pressure. United should have taken the lead in the 64th minute when Quaranta sent in a laser presice diagonal cross to the onrushing Devon McTavish who’s diving header was once again well saved.

United would rue that missed opportunity for in the 83rd minute Jerry Palacios got inside and behind Janicki and slotted the ball past Josh Wicks for the game-winner. A late penalty was dubiously awarded to the home side a few minutes later when Janicki took down Palacios with a hard tackle in the box. Mario Berrios’ first PK attempt was saved by Wicks but the referee awarded a retake when Clyde Simms encroached into the box. Berrios made the subsequent shot and the final was 3-1 to Marathon, a flattering scoreline for sure considering how well United had played on the evening.


United Notes

– Not a banner day for the FSC announcing team of Christian Miles and Christopher Sullivan. Both men made numerous mistakes through the evening, the most aggregious of which was Sullivan’s constant pointing out of United’s “return match at RFK”. It wasn’t until the 92nd minute when Sullivan had realized that this was a group phase and not a two-leg aggregate series. Miles, a person I have slagged on more than one occasion both on the air and in print, was a complete nightmare. In talking about debutant David Habarugira – “it’s his MLS debut tonight”. I love the commitment to soccer that FSC provides, but the sometimes cable access feel of the network is a bit too comical. Last night was no exception

– Danny Szetela and Bryan Namoff remained in DC to train ahead of the Galaxy match on Saturday night. Dejan Jakovic, Christian Gomez and Marc Burch did not make it off the bench. Jakovic was not on the 18-man roster

United’s comeback comes up short; Lose 4-3 in Houston

If D.C. United has been known for one thing this season, it’s that no matter how far back they fall in any particular match, they have the ability to comeback. After giving up three goals in three minutes early in the first half and also falling behind 4-1 midway through the second half, United put forth a furious rally that fell just short as they lost to Houston 4-3.

While Tom Soehn can feel good in the fight that United put up when they were down big, getting down big has to be the overriding factor in this match. While United has been rock solid at the comfortable confines of RFK Stadium, the results and the play falls off dramatically away from East Capitol Street. United now has a 1-4-6 road record while giving up an astonishing 24 goals in those 11 road matches, easily the worst road defense in the league.

Brad Davis’ goal got the ball rolling in the first half. United goalkeeper Josh Wicks evidently never saw the shot as it whistled just past him into the far side netting. Just a minute later a United turnover in midfield saw Brian Ching running towards the net. United defender Bryan Namoff was there but inexplicably laid off the slow-footed Ching and decided to take away his far post angle rather than tackle him off the ball. The Hawaiian rifled his shot past Wicks and it was 2-0. While United was licking their wounds, Houston struck again a minute later. Good work on the flank between Davis and left-back Mike Chabala set Ching up in the middle of the box. His one-timer easily beat Wicks and this matched seemed to be over, especially considering United’s futile history in Houston (at the time, never even scoring at Robertson Stadium).

At the half, Soehn made two tactical changes by bring Christian Gomez and Ben Olsen off in favor of Luciano Emilio and Avery John. United ditched their traditional 3-5-2 formation to stop the bleeding in the back and went with a 4-4-2 with Marc Burch moving centrally. It seemed to work as Emilio scored within three minutes of the restart. Namoff sent a free kick into the path of the Brazilian and he sent a shot that fortunately deflected off Houston defender Julius James and past Pat Onstad to make it 3-1. United were really starting to apply the pressure on the home side but a controversial penalty call went against the Black and Red and Stuart Holden converted for a 4-1 lead. Most people would have given up at that point but this season’s United almost pulled off their greatest heist of the season. Fred scored on a beautiful curling shot to start the comeback and Emilio got on the end of a goalmouth scramble to head home his second goal of the game in the 83rd minute and thoughts of another miracle were starting to grab hold.

However it was not to be as the Dynamo killed off the rest of the match and came out winners. Although United lost this match (only their 4th loss in 20 league games), the didn’t lose ground on teams who are trying to catch them in the Eastern Conference standing. New England and Toronto played to a 1-1 draw at Foxborough leaving TFC one point behind United with the Revs now trailing United by 4 points. The other team in the East with a reasonable chance to make a run at United was Kansas City. They got absolutely hammered 6-0 at Dallas.

Next up for United is their away leg Tuesday evening  to L.A. Firpo in a CONCACAF Champions League qualifier. United and Firpo tied 1-1 last Tuesday at RFK Stadium. With away goals counting, United needs an outright win, or a multiple goal draw to go through to the group phase. If the match ends up tied at 1-1, overtime and possibly penalties will decide the winner. United is off next weekend from MLS play but will have their hands full when Real Madrid comes to FedEx field on Sunday afternoon. Their next league match will be at Toronto FC on Saturday, August 10th.


United Notes

– Ben Olsen’s first half yellow card will see him suspended from their match at Toronto FC. Just as well as playing on that carpet wouldn’t have been the best thing for him

– Emilio’s two-goal performance in a losing cause may be a blessing in disguise. He had been struggling most of the season and scoring a brace could be the jumpstart United needs

– Danny Szetela got the assist on Emilio’s second goal for his first point with United

– United is still mum on the potential signing of Burundi defender David Habarugira. It seems they need all the defensive help they can get as they keep on leaking goals on the road.

Moreno, Gomez ignite second half rally in United’s 3-1 win over Colorado

There will be a day in the very near future when D.C. United will have to survive without Jaime Moreno. Until that day comes, United can always rely on their wily veteran striker to give the team a boost when they need it most. Last night at RFK, United was indeed in need of that boost as a lackluster first half gave way to some old United magic as MLS’ all-time leading goal scorer scored a penalty just two minutes after coming on and United was on their way to an easy 3-1 victory over the visiting Colorado Rapids before 18,248 at RFK Stadium.

United, coming off of a 35 day break between league home matches, came out strong and should have been up early when Boyzzz Khumalo missed a breakaway in the 6th minute. Just eight minutes later the visitors had a shock lead when Bryan Namoff misplayed a long goal kick and inexplicably sent the ball over Josh Wicks and into the net for an own-goal and 1-0 lead for Colorado. The rest of the half saw United growing increasingly frustrated at their poor play and went into the locker room down by a goal.

That lasted all of about two minutes. Jaime Moreno subbed in for Khumalo at the break and made an immediate impact when his through-ball to Christian Gomez resulted in a clumsy Pablo Mastroeni tackle in the penalty area and a resulting PK. Moreno thundered his shot just under the crossbar to tie the match at 1-1. A bit of luck came United’s way in the 51st minute when United midfielder Fred was fortunate not to be sent off for a tackle that ended the evening for Colorado defender Cory Gibbs. The Brazilians late tackle saw the bottom of his cleat make contact just below the kneecap of Gibbs. Neither referee Ricardo Salazar or any of his assistants saw the rash challenge as it was after Gibbs had cleared the ball away.

United’s luck continued in the 56th minute when they scored a rare goal off of a corner kick. Christian Gomez whipped in a low line-drive that was met at the near post by a parallel to the ground Bryan Namoff who’s rocket header gave Mastroeni no chance on the post. The game-winner was sweet justice for Namoff as his own-goal had soured his first half performance. United was not done there and pure hustle and skill supplied the third and final goal of the evening for the Black and Red. In the 61st minute, Christian Gomez battled Rapids defender Scott Palguta to the end line and somehow managed to poke the ball towards the penalty spot just before the ball went out of bounds. Fred pounced on the loose ball and with his back to the goal, held onto the ball  long enough for Luciano Emilio to run into the box and easily slot the ball into the empty net for one of the prettiest and skillful sequences of the season for United.

United, now with a rare two-goal lead this season, played out the remaining thirty minutes without conceding any real threatening chances save for an 87th minute shot that deflected off Marc Burch and off of the crossbar and over the goal.


D.C. United’s next league match is the start of another three game road trip beginning with a match in San Jose next weekend. Before that however, United will play their U.S. Open Cup semi-final match against the Rochester Raging Rhinos (USL-1) at the Maryland SoccerPlex this Tuesday evening at 7:30 pm. If United advances against the Rhinos, they will host the final at RFK Stadium on September 2nd against either the Houston Dynamo or Seattle Sounders FC

United does it again, this time storming back for 2-2 draw with Chivas USA

At some point this season the Law of Averages will catch up to D.C. United. Tonight was not that night as United pulled off another improbable comeback, this time from two goals down with 13 minutes left to play to gain a 2-2 draw away to league leaders Chivas USA.

Luciano Emilio’s 77th minute redirection of a Santino Quaranta shot pulled United to within a goal at 2-1. Quaranta than leveled the match with a Goal of the Year candidate in the form of a 30 yard daisycutter that gave the previously inpenetrable Zach Thornton no chance. This is United’s fourth comeback in their past six MLS matches to gain points when they were trailing late in the match.

All did not start well however for the Black and Red as they were thoroughly outplayed in the first 45 minutes by the home side and they took the lead in the 25th minute through a very controversial non-call by the assistant referee. Mykel Galindo, making his first MLS start in over a calender year, beat United’s offside trap and easily dispatched past the fallen Louis Crayton. Replays clearly showed that Galindo was at least a step offside on the play and the non-call enraged the United sidelines. United started to settle into the match and were just about to head to the locker room down only by the disputed goal. However a frantic sequence in United’s penalty area resulted in Chivas USA’s second goal.

Louis Crayton did well initially to punch away a cross but his second bite at the apple was fruitless as he waved at air on the ensuing cross and Attiba Harris pounced on the loose ball and sent a cross towards the open net for Mexican striker Eduardo Lillingston to head past the slow reacting United defense and send Chivas USA to halftime with a 2-0 lead.

United subbed in midfielder Fred to start the second half and right away the team started to press the issue.  United was unable to take advantage of their new found confidence as Chivas USA’s defense held firm. Christian Gomez was the next sub to come in and he too injected a bit of life into United only to see Jaime Moreno’s semi-breakaway fall away easily when he decided to try and lay off to Emilio instead of taking the better option of going straight in on Thornton. The cracks were starting to show however when Emilio pounced on a Quaranta shot from distance and found himself alone on top of Thornton. The Brazilian tried to beat the beefy American to the short side but Thornton was up to the task making his best save of the night.

Just a few minutes later though the game would change and United’s recent discovery of their ability to pull results out of losses kicked in. Quaranta got hold of a ball in the right channel and made a beautiful hesitation move on Paolo Nagamura which froze the midfielder and gave Quaranta enough time to unleash a shot.  The opportunistic Emilio stuck out his foot and redirected it off the far post to halve the deficit.

United then got the equalizer in stunning fashion through the reborn Quaranta. Rodney Wallace played a whipped ball into the six-yard box that Thornton punched away when a simple catch would have sufficed. The clearance ricocheted towards the Highlandtown native and he unleashed a 30 yard shot that never got two inches off the ground and swerved into the far side netting to tie the match at 2-2. Questions of offside were raised on the replay as it seemed that Christian Gomez might have touched the ball on it’s way into the goal. However replays clearly showed Gomez onside when the shot was taken and United walked out of the Home Depot Center with two draws on the season after two very bad losses last season to both Chivas USA and the Los Angeles Galaxy.

United will now return home to play New York Red Bull in a U.S. Open Cup qualifier match on Wednesday evening with the winner advancing to the third round of the tournament proper. United also has a league match at RFK on Saturday night against Real Salt Lake.


United Notes

Ben Olsen was substituted after only 6 minutes played. Olsen was carrying a hamstring injury into the match and the decison to allow him to play with only minimal training seemed a strange decision.

– United gains their sixth tie of the season. United only had four all of last season.

– United is unbeaten in six MLS matches and seven matches overall, matching their high from last season.

– With the two late goals United still has yet to be shut out this season in MLS play. At this stage last season United had been shut out a staggering five times in 10 matches.

Late goal hands United 2-1 loss at Real Salt Lake

It doesn’t matter if the match was played on the parking lot formerly known as Rice-Eccles Stadium or the beautifully manicured pitch at Rio Tinto Stadium, the result was the same.  A loss for D.C. United. While United didn’t have the comical implosion of the 4-0 loss last season or the two penalty kicks in stoppage time fiasco of three seasons ago, they still couldn’t get the job done tonight in Sandy, Utah.

Javier Morales’ 82nd minute goal was the game-winner tonight as United gave up the lead for the third time in four matches this season. Luciano Emilio scored for the third consecutive game to give United the lead in the 38th minute off of more good work from rookie Chris Pontius. Fred, making his first start of the season, made an overlapping run and pulled a ball back into the box for Pontius. While the rookie had every right to launch a first time shot on goal, Pontius chipped a beautiful ball onto the head of Emilio who easily beat both the defender and Nick Rimando for the 1-0 lead. The lead didn’t last long however as another defensive blunder gave Real Salt Lake the equalizer just minutes before halftime.

Fred was slow in closing down winger Will Johnson and he was allowed to whip in a cross into the middle of the penalty area that RSL defender Jamison Olave beat the United defense to. The ball ricocheted towards goalkeeper Louis Crayton who seemed suprised and reacted badly to the header and it slipped through his hands and off his upper body and into the net sending the teams to the locker tied at 1-1.

The second half started better for the visiting Black and Red with nice moments of possession that did little however to create any credible scoring chances. In fact, United only registered two shots on goal for the entire match, the second of which was a harmless shot that substitute Santino Quaranta  got off in the 85th minute. While the possession game for United was working, that final pass in the last third of the field was missing most of the night.  Meanwhile at the other end of the field RSL were fortunate not to take the lead earlier when Crofton native and famous United killer Kyle Beckerman rocked a shot off the crossbar that left Crayton with no chance only to see United rookie Rodney Wallace sweep the ball out of trouble.

However the game changed late on when RSL put together a beautiful sequence of passes to result in the game winning goal from Javier Morales. Will Johnson again was the chief architect and worked his way off the left flank into the middle of the park and sent a through ball to Robbie Findley who’s one-time backheel hit Morales perfectly in stride. The Argentine took one touch and slipped a ball to the right of Crayton just inside the goal to send Rio Tinto into a frenzy.

United didn’t mount much of an attack after that energy draining goal and their game long tactic of playing for the draw fizzled out and resulted in United’s fourth loss in a row in the state of Utah (three of which ended in 2-1 losses).

United Notes

– Ben Olsen didn’t make the trip to Sandy. He stayed in Washingto to rest up for their next match against the New England Revolution. Jaime Moreno was already suspended with his red card from last weekends match against Houston. Greg Janicki didn’t make the game squad due to complications from his clash of heads with Devon McTavish in their opening match at the Galaxy. McTavish made his first appearance tonight since that incident.

– United will play the Revolution on a rare Friday night clash this week at RFK Stadium at 7pm. The match will be televised nationally on ESPN2