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United earns hard fought 1-0 win over Toronto FC

Admit it.

 For a few moments in today’s 1-0 victory for D.C. United at Toronto FC, the season-long script of misery was playing itself out once again. United dominated possession, dominated the scoring chances and had a mind-numbing miss in the second half that seemed to be a hallmark of their dismal 2010 campaign.

Julius’s James’ 81st minute goal changed all that and the Black-and-Red got themselves a well deserved victory. While the win will do little for United’s miniscule playoff chances, the mere fact that they finally rewarded themselves for good play could give this team what it has had very little of this season – some confidence.

The game-winning goal came about when Danny Allsopp won a free kick near the right side corner flag. Second half substitute Branko Boskovic sent a whipped in ball that Allsopp got the slightest touch to. The ball fell to the feet of James who showed remarkable composure in waiting for the defender to commit before blasting a left-footed shot to the far post.

That composure was needed earlier in the match when United had a number of opportunities to take the lead. Allsopp and Pablo Hernandez worked a very nice give-and-go that left Allsopp all alone in the box but Toronto FC goalkeeper Stephen Frei did well to come out and smother the shot to keep the game at 0-0.

Just minutes into the second half United should have taken the lead. Andy Najar got loose at the top of the penalty area and managed to work his way through two defenders with only Frei to beat. Najar made the correct choice in slotting the ball to his left to a wide open Santino Quaranta but he over hit his pass forcing Quaranta to try and slide to meet the ball. Quaranta’s effort went agonizingly wide of the open goal and you could sense a seasons worth of frustration starting to build for United with that miss.

United did manage to overcome that miss unlike in previous matches this season and put the pressure on the home side that still has a decent chance to make the playoffs. The loss however will be a dagger blow to Toronto FC as they were facing the last place team in the league who was having trouble scoring goals. Toronto did not seem to show any urgency until they fell behind late in the match and while there were a few troubling chances for the home side, goalkeeper Troy Perkins and his defense were rock solid in keeping the clean sheet.

United Notes

  • Clyde Simms was a late scratch when he pulled up with an injury in pregame warmups
  • Boskovic made a substitute appearance after helping Montenegro to two wins in European Qualification during the past week.
  • D.C. United will be facing Western Conference leader, La Galaxy, on Saturday September 18 at the Home Depot Center. Fans of sports betting sites should take into account United’s win over Toronto FC when placing bets.
  • D.C. United announced that Bill Hamid, United’s 19-year-old goalkeeper, will travel to Birmingham, Alabama, to undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum on his right shoulder effectively ending his season. Hamid has started eight games for the Black-and-Red but has been struggling with shoulder pain all season.

United thrash Portsmouth FC 4-0 behind Allsopp hat trick

In many respects tonight’s match between MLS cellar dwellers D.C. United and financially strapped Portsmouth FC shouldn’t have been played. Portsmouth, relegated to the English Championship in part because their team went into financial administration at the end of their Premier League season this past Spring, has endured a nightmarish week of games and travel across the United States and Canada. Bringing only a handful of players, it wasn’t expected to be a match to miss on the tail end of their journey. Flight delays, long travel and logistical nightmares have marred the trip for the 2008 FA Cup winners. How long ago that must seem as their team were soundly thrashed 4-0 by D.C. United,  MLS’ worst team.

Honestly it really wasn’t a surprise to anyone that Pompey had nothing to offer a United team looking to regain any kind of spark to reignite their MLS campaign. Danny Allsopp may have made a case for more playing time as he scored three goals to lead United to a comfortable win. Heading into the match the temperature outside was a huge factor as it hit over 100 degrees during the day. What we didn’t know was that the temperature on the field at times was even hotter and the match boiled over in the second half. Three red cards were handed out in the match with Santino Quaranta and Julius James getting their marching orders in the second half. Haydon Mullins was ejected along with Quaranta as the players traded spits at each other in full view of game official Jorge Gonzalez. Julius James saw his red card late in the match for shoving a Pompey player down to the ground.

The fireworks on the field started midway through the first half with a number of hard tackles that mostly found the skilled left-foot of United newbie Pablo Hernandez. At halftime United head coach Curt Onalfo and some of his staff  had to be separated by the fourth official and MLS officials as they openly questioning the Pompey coaching staff about their cynical tactics. This was a friendly after all.

Meanwhile to the actual match itself it was the home side who despite a slow and methodical start, got on the board first in the 21st minute. United won a free kick on the right side of midfield and Hernandez swung in a beautiful ball right to the temple of Allsopp who scored easily past Pompey goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown for a 1-0 lead. United doubled their lead with a bit good fortune in the 31st minute. United worked the ball down the left flank and Santino Quaranta’s pass met the foot of Allsopp at the top of the box. The Australian strikers first touch was poor and he won the ball off the sliding tackle of a Portsmouth defender and then deftly flicked the ball with the outside of his right foot into the side netting for a 2-0 lead that held until halftime.

DC United's Boyzz Kuhmalo controls the ball during his team's friendly match vs Portsmouth. Phto Tony QUinn.

DC United's Boyzz Kuhmalo controls the ball during his team's friendly match vs Portsmouth. Phto Tony QUinn.

After the break United made a few changes to the lineup, one of which was to bring on Junior Carreiro, the 18-year old brother of former United midfielder Fred. Junior immediately gave life to United’s attack with a number of slick moves to break free of defenders and his quick moves easily unbalanced the Pompey defense. His skill was a big part of United’s most fluent and best goal sequence of the season in the 56th minute. Pablo Hernandez dropped deep into midfield to win a ball and made a fantastic spin move in between two Pompey defenders and broke free. He sent a pass down the left flank where Jordan Graye whisked past his defender. Graye’s cutback move into the box saw Junior open at the top of the penalty area. Graye’s pass was one-touched by Junior between two Pompey defenders to a wide open Branko Boskovic on the right heading towards goal. With goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown coming out to challenge Boskovic, the Montenegran calmly squared his pass across the goalmouth to Hernandez who simply tapped into the empty net for a 3-0 United lead. With United’s scoring woes so far this season in MLS, it was nice to see an exchange between three players who weren’t even on this team three weeks ago.

United finalized the route in the 65th minute with another sublime goal from Allsopp. Junior again was a key component as his perfectly weighted pass between the last two Pompey defenders sent Allsopp through alone on goal. Allsopp waited for Ashdown to commit and he calmly slotted the ball into the goal to give United it’s most decisive win of the season. United kept the beleaguered visitors from England off the score sheet with having to make only two saves all night long. Troy Perkins started the first half for United and Bill Hamid finished the match and made probably his best save of his young career to keep the game a shutout. Pompey were awarded a free kick after the ejection of United defender Julius James in the 90th minute. Pompey defender Matthew Richie saw his goal bound kick swerve around the United wall only to see the acrobatic 19-year old keeper at full stretch parry the ball to safety.

That was the last play as the Black-and-Red now turn their attention back to league play when they go visit MLS Cup Champion Real Salt Lake next Saturday evening. Let’s hope United’s new found confidence can start to translate to much needed MLS wins.

Heartbreak for United as stoppage time penalty draws match with Kansas City at 2-2; United now needs major help for playoffs

D.C. United was four stoppage time minutes away from going back to the MLS playoffs. By virtue of Toronto’s awful gag job (5-0 loss to Red Bull) and Real Salt Lake’s comprehensive 3-0 win over Colorado, United was in position to advance to the postseason with a win. Julius James, hobbled with an injured hamstring, leaped over a Kansas City defender in the 82nd minute and headed home a weak clearance from Kevin Hartman and gave United brief hope that they pulled off the improbable come from behind win.

However, a stoppage time red card issued to Fred for intentionally keeping a goal bound ball out of the net with his right elbow set the stage for Claudio Lopez’ penalty conversion in the 2-2 draw tonight at Comerica Ballpark in Kansas City, Kansas this evening. Rodney Wallace had a right-footed effort sting the inside of the post after the equalizer from Lopez that would have certainly seen the Black-and-Red through to the playoffs. As it stands now, United will need one scenario and one scenario only to advance to the playoffs. A Dallas draw in Seattle and a New England loss in Columbus. While both results are not out of the realm of possibility, as of this publishing, FC Dallas had a 1-0 lead in Seattle late in the first half of their match.

United came out of the game playing the obviously more attentive soccer as the Wizards had been eliminated last weekend. Julius James had a header go off the far post and Christian Gomez, later subbed out in the first half after suffering a clash of heads, missed narrowly wide. The Wizards then stepped up and got the games first goal in the 30th minute. Graham Zuisi (from Maryland) sent in a free kick that Kei Kamara got a diving header to and glanced it past United goalkeeper Steve Cronin for a 1-0 lead that held up through halftime.

After the restart, United obviously were in dire straights and got the game leveled on a rather dodgy penalty call mid-way through the second half. Fred was patrolling the right sideline and cut into the box and seemed to go down without much contact. The referee bought the move and MLS’ all-time leader in both penalty conversions and goal scoring, Jaime Moreno,  stepped up and was fortunate to beat Hartman as he got a glove on the shot but it still trickled past and the match was level at 1-1.

Later in the match, United defender Julius James suffered a hamstring injury when tracking back to defend a Wizards counter attack. The Trinidadian defender was out of the match for a few minutes and with United having used all their subs was forced to move James up top as not to have an injured player on their 3-man back line. United was awarded a free kick in the 82nd minute and when Hartman mishit his clearance, the injured but clearly athletic James rose way above the ground and easily nodded the ball into the empty net to set off a raucous celebration as it seemed United just might have pulled the rabbit out of the hat.

It was not to be however as the Wizards clawed their way back. In the 90th minute the Wizards had a corner kick and United struggled to clear the ball out and with a shot heading for the empty net, Fred stuck out his elbow and left referee Jair Marrufo no choice in showing the red card and pointing to the spot. United’s season started out on a dodgy penalty call against them and most likely also ended on a penalty called against them. Quite a turnaround considering United didn’t give up a penalty all of last season.

Now it’s a waiting game for United.