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United serve up late game-winner in 2-1 loss to Dutch Champions Ajax

Defensive mistakes leading to goals have been a constant so far this season for D.C. United and this afternoon’s 2-1 loss to Dutch power Ajax of Amsterdam was no different. Ajax scored early and late to overcome their pesky MLS opponent in an International Friendly at RFK Stadium before a partisan crowd of 10, 728.

Miralem Sulejmani scored in the 10th minute and outside fullback Vurnon Anita scored in the 87th minute to lead the visitors to the win over the Black-and-Red. Rookie Blake Brettschneider tallied off Ajax’s own defensive blunder to tie the match in the 58th minute until Anita’s late game-winner thanks to Fred’s giveaway late in the match.

Brandon Barklage, playing at right back, was torched early and often inside the first 15 minutes and his poor attempt at a tackle led directly to the opening goal in the 10th minute. Nicolas Lodeiro easily stripped Barklage and led a quick run into the box. His soft pass to the left was met by team mate Sulejmani who passed it under Bill Hamid for the early 1-0 lead. It took United nearly 15 minutes just to adjust to Ajax’ world-famous 4-3-3 formation but once they got the hang of it, United were right back into the match and thanks to Barklage nearly tied it in the 18th minute.  The converted midfielder got hold of a loose clearance and seared a shot from 40 yards out that was ticketed for the upper 90 only to see Ajax’s goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer dive to his right to parry away the goal bound shot.

Both teams took turns running at each other for the remainder of the half but no other serious chances came for either side and it was 1-0 to Ajax at the half. After the half, United made a number of changes to the lineup with Brettschneider being the most effective. Barklage once again was key in helping United carve out a dangerous opportunity in the 53rd minute when he tracked down a pass from Andy Najar down to the end line. Barklage’s left-footed chip was met on the full volley by Brettschneider only to see Vermeer once again deny United to keep the score at 1-0.

United finally did tie the match thanks in part to Ajax’s own defensive blunder. Ajax had been very loose and casual on the ball all game long in the defensive third of the field and it finally bit them when Joseph Ngwenya easily stripped Vurnon Anita in the 58th minute in the penalty area. His subsequent cross hit Brettschneider in stride and the rookie deftly chipped the ball over Vermeer to level the match at 1-1. United continued to grow in confidence as the mach progressed towards stoppage time but this time Fred was the culprit in helping the visitors get the game-winner in the 87th minute. The Brazilian midfielder got caught unnecessarily in possession and triggered an instant counter attack as Anita picked up the loose ball and outpaced United’s scrambling defense and placed his left-footed shot perfectly to the far post just outside the outstretched fingers of substitute goalkeeper Steve Cronin.

United should have tied the match just a minute later when a set piece nearly came to fruition. Fred’s free kick was sent to the far post where United defender Ethan White rose high above the Ajax defense and headed back across goal. The ball bounced off Ajax defender Daley Blind and right to Barklage who immediately spotted Brettschneider wide open just past the penalty spot. The rookie smashed his volley high over the bar where a more composed attempt most likely would have sufficed.

United will now turn their attention to a very difficult two-game road stretch which starts next Sunday evening at Jen Weld Field in Portland, Oregon to face the Expansion Timbers. Portland is undefeated at home this season so far (5-0-0) and will prove to be a difficult challenge for the Black-and-Red. United will most likely stay on the West Coast and then face the Los Angeles Galaxy on Friday night June 3rd. A bit of good news heading into that match is that United killer Landon Donovan will be with the U.S. National Team and will not face United for the second time this season.

 

United Notes

– It was nice to see 2002 World Cup star John O’ Brien roaming the hallways of RFK after the match. O’ Brien scored 4 minutes into their match against Portugal in the US’ 3-2 upset victory to help kick start them to a quarterfinal round and eventual loss to Germany. O’ Brien was a product of the world-famous Ajax youth system and made 98 appearances for the Dutch legends

– Charlie Davies, Josh Wolff and Marc Burch were all held off the roster for today’s friendly. Ben Olsen said after the match that is unlikely that either Wolff or Davies will make the trip West to rest their injured hamstrings ahead of a busy month in June

Kevin Hartman

United miss opportunities in 0-0 draw with FC Dallas

FC Dallas Keeper Kevin Hartman put his body on the line to deny DC United the valuable 3 points. Photo: Martin Fernandez.


D.C. United and FC Dallas played to a scoreless draw tonight at RFK Stadium in front of 11, 504 fans. Although the scoring chances were few and far between the teams, United easily had a case to say they were robbed of three crucial points in the middle of their 4 games in 17 day stretch.  A goal line clearance and a pair of saves from FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman kept this match scoreless and denied United a chance to win back-to-back games for the first time since June 2009.

United should have opened the scoring in the 8th minute thanks mostly to a horrible clearance from FC Dallas converted forward Brek Shea. Playing at left back, Shea inexplicably headed a ball back towards his own goal right to a stunned Charlie Davies. Davies rough first touch allowed Hartman to spring off his goal line and smother Davies shot attempt. The rebound came to Andy Najar who touched it past the scrambling Hartman and fired towards the empty net only to have defender Ugo Ihemelu sweep the ball out of danger.

From that point forward until essentially the end of the match, it was a tight defensive affair with both teams limiting scoring opportunities. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid was called upon to only make two routine saves and the normally frantic defense in front of him played a much more composed match and were left to “defend throw-ins pretty much all night” as United head coach Ben Olsen commented after the match.

United nearly took all three points in the 89th minute but Hartman donned his Superman cape to save the day. Substitute Josh Wolff got deep down the right flank and sent a ball screaming across the penalty area to the far post where Fred was waiting. The Brazilian didn’t hesitate and sent a bullet towards the goal only to have Hartman somehow make the miraculous save keep the match at 0-0.

Next up for United is a rematch with the Colorado Rapids next Saturday evening at 7:30 pm at RFK Stadium. In week 3 of the season Colorado handed United a severe 4-1 beating in the cold and altitude of Dicks Sporting Goods Park.

 

United Notes

– Joseph Ngwenya and Steven King replaced Josh Wolff and Clyde Simms in the lineup this evening. “Wolffy is no spring chicken anymore. We need to find time to rest him” said Olsen after the match

Photo: Matt Mathai

United cruise to 3-0 win in Toronto

Chris Pontius scored on either side of halftime and Charlie Davies scored his MLS leading 5th goal of the season in D.C. United’s surprisingly comfortable 3-0 win tonight against Toronto FC at BMO Field. United jumped out to a 2-0 lead inside the first 10 minutes of the match and never looked back. The win was United’s first road win of the 2011 season and their second straight shutout against TFC at BMO Field going back to last September’s 1-0 win.

United, which hadn’t scored in the first half all season long, got things going in the 5th minute when Pontius picked up a loose defensive clearance in the middle of the field about 40 yards from goal. He easily glided past two TFC defenders and sent his left-footed shot to the far post and past helpless goalkeeper Stephan Frei to give United the 1-0 lead.

In the 10th minute United doubled their lead from a woeful mistake from the TFC defense. Toronto FC left-back Danleigh Borman sent an inexplicable pass square across midfield to a grateful Charlie Davies. Davies plowed towards goal and when TFC’s central defenders converged on him he deftly slipped a ball to his left to a wide open Josh Wolff, who took one touch and went to the same far post that resulted in the first goal. But Frei was up to the task this time and his outstretched foot got to the ball. However, Davies pounced on the rebound and rifled the ball into the empty net for a 2-0 lead for the Black-and-Red.

With the luxury of a two-goal lead, United sat back and absorbed TFC’s pressure and was happy throwing in the occasional counter attack to keep the Red Patch Boys off balance. United got to the halftime whistle with relative ease and their 2-0 lead.

Right out of the gate in the second half TFC did themselves no favors when Ty Harden was rightfully sent off when he hacked down Pontius who would have been in on goal all alone. The resulting red card was the right call as the thousands on hand at BMO vociferously disagreed. With the state of refereeing in MLS being the #1 topic amongst fans and players so far this season, it seems this call was spot on.

However, United didn’t immediately take advantage of the situation and allowed TFC their most dangerous moments of the night. Although Toronto’s offensive chances came basically from free kicks and long throw-ins, United’s defense certainly was a bit creaky and for the second week in a row, rookie central defender Ethan White cleared a ball off the goal line to help preserve United’s 2-0 lead.

Pontius put the final nail in the coffin in the 73rd thanks to a wonderful goal that was set up by the hustle of United midfielder Fred. The Brazilian snuck in on his defender and poked the ball away instantly setting off a United counter. Fred dribbled to the top of the penalty area and laid off a ball to Pontius on the left wing. Pontius took one touch then cut back on defender Dan Gargan and curled a beautiful right-footed blast past Frei for the final goal in United’s emphatic 3-0 win.

With the win, United vaults off the bottom of the Eastern Conference table and temporarily into second place in the East (other matches were still to be concluded as of press time). United now turns their attention to their most bitter of rivals when the star-studded New York Red Bull come to town on Thursday evening at 8 pm EST. The match will be televised live on ESPN2.

United Notes

– Andy Najar was left off the 18-man roster due to flu-like symptoms. His status for the Red Bull match is unknown at this time.

– Perry Kitchen was subbed in for Dejan Jakovic in the second half and United were playing with 3 out of the 4 defenders being rookie players for the last 25 minutes of the match. No reason was given for Jakovic’ substitution

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 rolls past San Juan Jabloteh 5-1

Christian Gomez and Boyzzz Khumalo both scored twice to lead D.C. United to an emphatic 5-1 win over San Juan Jabloteh FC last night at RFK Stadium. The win for United is their third consecutive in the competition and puts the Black and Red at the cusp of qualifying to the knockout stages next winter. A Toluca win tonight over Marathon in Honduras would assure the feat for United. If Marathon manages a tie or a win, United would have to either get an unlikely result in Toluca or hope that winless Jabloteh can somehow manage to upset Marathon in Trinidad. United holds the all-important tie-breaker over Marathon should the teams remain tied after the sixth and final group match.

Christian Gomez scored in the 13th and 68th minutes to get United rolling. Khumalo added his first goal in the 41st minute and his second in stoppage time at the end of the match. Fred also scored for United in the 30th minute in United’s comfortable win. Head coach Tom Soehn once again used a mostly reserve squad last night as United had three players suspended for cards and a number of veterans on the bench. United didn’t need any of them as the youthful legs won the day out. Rodney Wallace and David Habarugira paced up and down the flanks all night long giving Jabloteh all kinds of problems that never got solved. And when that was not enough, substitutes Ty Shipalane and Danny Szetela continued to create havoc all over the field.

United now faces their toughest match of the season when they face Chivas USA at RFK Stadium on Saturday evening. A win by United gets them right back into the thick of the playoff chase and could go a long way towards securing a playoff position. Fellow playoff hopefuls New England Revolution did United a big favor by dropping their league match in Dallas last night 1-0 behind red-hot Jeff Cunningham’s league leading 16th goal of the season. United remains one point behind the Revolution who travel to Colorado to play the Rapids at altitude.

United Notes

  • Jaime Moreno (red), Dejan Jakovic and Avery John (both yellows) were all suspended last night.
  • Bryan Namoff is still out with concussion symptoms. His return is still unknown
  • Josh Wicks looked like a car wreck survivor last night with knee and shoulder braces and crutches

Controversy ends United’s seven game unbeaten streak as they fall 2-1 to the Revolution

It’s not been a good week to be a referee in MLS. The Chicago Fire defeated Chivas USA on Thursday evening on the back of a terrible penalty decision in stoppage time and tonight in Foxborough, Massachussetts the home side New England Revolution were benefactors of a similar game deciding call.  Steve Ralston converted the spot kick to give the Revs a 2-1 victory over United and halt the Black and Red’s seven match unbeaten streak.

The game changing decision was made after the ball was already on it’s way back out of the United penalty area. Taylor Twellman, making his first appearance of the season, showed he didn’t have to do his normal duty of pounding goals past United to affect the match. Twellman was backing into United defender Bryan Namoff and seemed to simply lose his balance and fall easily to the turf. The assistant referee whistled for the penalty that subsequent replays showed to be a rather terrible call. Ralston sent the ball to the left of goalkeeper Josh Wicks for the game-winner.

The game did start out however in United’s favor as their almost season long pattern of dominating play early came to fruition. United twice struck the post through Luciano Emilio and Fred only for Fred to finally convert his first goal of the season in the 36th minute to give United a deserved 1-0 lead. The play began when midfielder Clyde Simms’ shot was poorly cleared by the Revolution defense and found it’s way to Emilio. Emilio controlled the ball and layed a soft pass into the path of the onrushing Fred who curled his 18 yard shot past Matt Reis.

As has been the case for most of the season however, United allowed their opponents to stay in the match. While a second goal for United most probably would have been enough for the win, that second goal never came and the home side equalized after a very bright start to the second half. Shalrie Joseph’s header tied the match when Wicks came out of the box and whiffed on his punch clearance and Joseph simply headed into the vacated net. The Revolution continued their push forward and while they didn’t create any really dangerous chances until the late game controversy, United didn’t exactly threaten much either.

D.C. United will now look to take their frustrations out on their most hated rival New York Red Bull on Thursday night at RFK Stadium. The match will be televised nationally on ESPN2 starting at 7:30 pm. Red Bull dropped a 3-2 home match to Colorado on Saturday night and very well may have a new coach by game time as embattled Carlos Osorio is facing immense pressure.

 

United Notes

– Christian Gomez remained behing in DC with a toe injury that most likely wouldn’t have responded well to the Gillete Stadium Field Turf

– Until the Joseph second half goal, United had actually put together a nearly 190 minute scoreless stretch defensively covering their last three matches (@ Chivas USA, RSL and tonight)

United toothless in 0-0 draw against Real Salt Lake

D.C. United and Real Salt Lake battled to a 0-0 draw last night at RFK in front of 16,089 disappointed spectators last night. United didn’t seem to have the sharpness and bite to their attack as in recent weeks and but still managed to hold on to the result to extend their MLS unbeaten streak to seven matches.

Real Salt Lake, winless and goalless coming into the match, seemed the more willing team to take away the full three points throughout the evening. RSL still remains scoreless on the road but was probably hard done by some great goalkeeping from Josh Wicks. With this performance it seems Wicks has now become the number one choice of United coach Tom Soehn. Wicks made a number of saves to keep United in the match including a 40th minute one-v-one save on Robbie Findley and another save in the 74th minute when he dove to his left to palm away a Findley goal bound header. However, his best save of the night came against Arundel, Maryland native Kyle Beckerman when Wicks tipped his 22 yard left-footed screamer over the bar just a minute earlier.

On the other end of the field, MLS’ top scoring team barely provided any credible chances all game long and only forced one save from the recently returned from injury Nick Rimando, an easy save on a Christian Gomez 50th minute shot. That didn’t mean that United didn’t have chances though. United midfielder Fred spurned both of his glorious chances to put United on top in the match. In the 24th minute United worked their best sequence of the evening which had Bryan Namoff running onto a flicked on header from Andrew Jacobson and the defender chipped a lovely ball over the defense for the onrushing Brazilian only to see his effort chip off the post and out for a goal kick.

Early in the second half United worked another nice sequence which saw Santino Quaranta pass to a wide open Fred who hesitated instead of shooting first time and the once promising attack turned into nothing just seconds later. Substitute Chris Pontius had a headed effort just miss the inside post in the 82nd minute which have given the home side the three points, if not undeservedly.

D.C. United will now go on the road to play in Foxbourough next Saturday against the New England Revolution, 3-1 losers to Toronto FC on Saturday afternoon. United and New England played to a 1-1 draw earlier this season and saw the beginning of United’s stretch of games in which they pulled out results late in the match.

 

United Notes

– G Louis Crayton was left off the 18-man roster for the second consecutive match. Is he done in Washington?

– F Jaime Moreno was subbed out at halftime and Tom Soehn said he wasn’t feeling well during the day and he wanted to give it a go.

– The Washington Freedom defeated the Sky Blue 2-1 proceeding United’s match tonight

Pontius scores twice to lead United to 5-3 U.S. Open Cup rout of New York

It has to be really tough to be a New York Red Bull supporter when it comes to their rivalry with D.C. United. Red Bull might win the occasional match but no team in the 14 years of their existence inflicts as much damage and pain to Red Bull as United does. Just in the past four weeks alone has seen United cruelly inflict a two-goal comeback in stoppage time to win the final regular season matchup at Giants Stadium between the two clubs. Fast-forward to tonight and United puts four goals behind Danny Cepero before the sun has even had a chance to set.

Such is life in the one-sided rivalry that has become United vs. Red Bull. Chris Pontius continued his extraordinary start to his professional career by scoring twice and also adding an assist in the 5-3 romp before 5,056 spectators at RFK Stadium tonight. Brazilian midfielder Fred chipped in with a goal and an assist and rookie Brandon Barklage scored his second goal in consecutive Open Cup matches for the Black and Red.

United jumped on the visitors from the start and were unfortunate not to be in the lead in the 5th minute when Pontius set up Fred for a seemingly easy tap-in in front of goal. However, a late defensive challenge from University of Maryland product Jeremy Hall pressured Fred into rushing his shot over the goal. United didn’t sulk over the missed opportunity and scored on a corner kick of all things in the 8th minute to take a 1-0 lead. Christian Gomez’ well driven ball found the noggin of Pontius who easily headed to the far post past Cepero.

United continued their assault on the Red Bull goal and took a 2-0 lead from a great through ball from Gomez to Boyzzz Khumalo who easily rounded Cepero and got the ball just over the goal line before Hall slammed it into his own net. Khumalo was one of many United players who routinely got behind the high line of New York’s defense in the first half. United was whistled for offside six times in the first half but Khumalo was the first to beat the trap.

Just as the fans were starting to settle back into their seats the Black and Red struck again in the 21st minute. Congolese forward Ange N’Silu worked hard to pressure and eventually steal the ball from Hall along the endline and fed a cross into the box that Cepero mishandled. The ball fumbled right into the path of Barklage who stung his volley through two Red Bull defenders and into the net for a 3-0 lead. United still wasn’t finished and capped off their most productive first 45 minutes of the season with a goal from Fred in the 26th minute. Pontius played a diagonal ball over the Red Bull defense and the left-sided midfielder trapped the ball in stride and sped towards goal unimpeded. His initial shot was well-saved from Cepero but the rebound bounced off the chest of Fred and he had the easiest of finishes into the open goal for a stunning 4-0 lead.

United looked to be heading into halftime with a very comfortable 4-0 lead but Red Bull started to show signs of life. Midfielder Khano Smith forced goalkeeper Josh Wicks into a fantastic save in the 43rd minute when the Bermudan wrong footed United defender Bryan Namoff and he sent a right-footed curler that was tipped just wide of the goal. Red Bull’s new found confidence did produce a goal just a minute later when United defender Greg Janicki misplayed a bouncing ball and allowed the 5’7″ 140lb Dane Richards to muscle him off the ball and break free alone on Wicks. Richards easily passed the ball into goal despite giving up 7 inches and 70 pounds to Janicki.

[slidepress gallery=’dcvnyrb5-20-09′]

Photos: Martin Fernandez

The second half started like the first half ended and it only took three minutes to make everyone at RFK very nervous. Substitute Jorge Rojas pounced on a failed clearance and his 18 yard left-footed shot through a thicket of players in the penalty area found it’s way past Wicks and United’s once dominating lead had been cut to 4-2. However, Rookie of the Year candidate Chris Pontius settled everyones nerves in the 51st minute with his second goal to settle the match for all intent and purposes. Fred once again skinned Jeremy Hall down the left flank and his pinpoint cross met the noggin of Pontius who easily beat Red Bull defender Kevin Goldthwaite. Danny Cepero inexplicably came off his line way too late to challenge and was left in no-mans land and the ball easily bounded across the goal line to give United a comfortable 5-2 lead.

Things got a bit uncomfortable for the home side in the 61st minute when Greg Janicki was whistled for a hand ball in the penalty area. Janicki, who didn’t do himself any favors tonight in trying to wrestle the starting central dender job from Dejan Jakovic, had his left arm extended from his side and the cross from Danleigh Borman hit off the left arm of the United defender. Referee Mark Kadlecik immediately pointed to the spot and Jorge Rojas easily beat Josh Wicks for the final goal in United’s 5-3 win.

United will now enter the U.S. Open Cup tournament proper in spite of being the defending champions. United does not know whom they will play in the next round. They most likely will be playing away from RFK as United has hosted their last 5 Open Cup matches at home venues. Next up for United is a rematch with Real Salt Lake this Saturday evening at RFK Stadium. Real Salt Lake has handed United their only loss of the season through 10 MLS games so far. Game time is at 7:30 and the match is being televised on Comcast SportsNet HD.

United Notes

  • United is on an eight-game unbeaten streak through all competitions. 6 games unbeaten in MLS and two straight U.S. Open Cup victories make up the impressive run.
  • Clyde Simms, Luciano Emilio, Louis Crayton and Dejan Jakovic were United starters that didn’t even make the 18-man roster for the match. Santino Quaranta and Jaime Moreno were unused subs. I’d say United has some pretty good depth

Solace in soccer

It’s difficult to read Fred’s story about his father’s death and how he reacted to it.

It’s similar to my own story the past four months.

Last year, I did not watch one complete match – of any team, much less DC United.

Most of that was taken up with work obligations, and, on the one day off I had – and still have – two weeks out of every three, a desire to spend time with my wife and give her some much-needed help around the house.

In October, however, I lost any desire to try and reconnect to soccer.

It was going to be a normal weekend with my wife and her visiting parents, until Sunday afternoon, Oct. 12, turned horribly wrong.

While hiking with my father-in-law, he collapsed and died from a heart attack. I have yet to recover from the shock of that – not only his death but watching it happen right in front of me.

It’s taken me almost this long to watch soccer again, though I watch almost as if it’s an out-of-body experience.

Soccer, since 2001, had been my solace and release from the everyday work and other responsibilities. And even when, due to work responsibilities, I couldn’t watch the games or read much about them, I still had fond memories of the matches watched, the great plays – and players – seen and the great friends and acquaintances met.

Since Oct. 12, there has been no solace. It’s only now starting to return in bits and pieces. I hope for Fred that he finds solace in his faith, his family and whatever brings him comfort. If that’s on the soccer field, then I hope the grass stays green on his side of the field.

The little solace I get comes not from soccer, but from the fact that my father-in-law enjoyed the sight of waterfalls. And, about a half-hour before he died, he saw a beautiful one.