For the second consecutive season Chivas USA has come into RFK Stadium to face a United team desperate for a win to stay in the playoff chase. For the second season in a row Chivas USA administered a lesson in soccer and poise and came out with a rather embarrassingly easy 2-0 win over D.C. United in front of 24,175 angry fans. Those fans let their feelings known at halftime and after the final whistle with very loud boos and also a chant of “Fire Soehn” at games end.
It’s safe to say that United’s season is unraveling before their eyes. The Black and Red lost their third consecutive league match (a season high) at home and severely damaged not only their chances at a playoff spot, but their psyche as well. That was borne out in the 65th minute when Ben Olsen was red carded for drilling the ball into the back of Chivas USA defender Yamith Cuesta. Cuesta had just fouled Olsen and received a yellow card for the infringement. Olsen, who was already having a nightmare evening to begin with, compounded his teams misery with the petulant display of frustration by drilling the ball into the back of the retreating defender. At that point United actually came to life and put a lot of pressure on the visitors but nothing came of their efforts and now United has only two matches remaining in the season and they have to depend on results to fall their way as well as win their two remaining matches.
United once again came out in this match with very little urgency or intensity in their play. With their playoff lives at stake, Tom Soehn decided to go with youth and energy over experience as Jaime Moreno, Luciano Emilio and Fred all began the game on the bench. This made sense as the lineup that took the field looked lively and energetic just three nights earlier in their CONCACAF Champions League 5-1 pasting of San Juan Jabloteh. It was clear from the jump that both United was not ready to play against the Chivas USA well organized defense and the visitors were a much better challenge than San Juan was on Wednesday night.
United survived a couple of near misses in the first half as Justin Braun hit the woodwork twice before Chivas USA finally scored in the 32nd minute. Chivas forward Maicon Santos turned United defender Julius James the wrong way in the box and the Brazilian let loose a shot that beat United goalkeeper Milos Kocic to the near post. The ball bounced off the post and off the back of the diving Kocic and into the net for an own-goal and a deserved 1-0 lead. United could only muster a long range blast from Boyzzz Khumalo in the 31st minute and soft header from Chris Pontius in the 33rd that Chivas USA goalkeeper Zach Thornton stopped with ease. Those two shots ended up being the only shots on target all night long for United.
The second half saw Chivas USA continue their mastery of the game and scored a second goal in the 53rd minute as United’s defense fell asleep. Jonathan Bornstein sent a seemingly harmless ball into the box on a quick free kick near midfield that caught the United defense napping. Only defender Marc Burch saw what was happening and tried to hold off Chivas USA midfielder Jesus Padilla. Padilla’s header hit the back of Burch’s head and the deflection fell right onto the left foot of Padilla who ripped a volley past Kocic for the final goal and the final nail in United’s coffin on this evening.
Even though United lost for the third consecutive match, they are still mathematically alive thanks in part to New England’s 1-1 draw in Colorado tonight. With that point shared, New England is two points ahead of United for the 8th and last playoff spot. Colorado moves four points ahead of United. Both teams have a game in hand on United which does not favor United in any way. Also, United will lose the tie-breaker to both teams should they end up tied on points for the last spot. Also of worry for United is the fact that teams below United can either catch or surpass the Black and Red while United is off next weekend. Wins by FC Dallas and Toronto FC next weekend will see them jump past United.
D.C. United has a home match against Columbus on October 17th and the final match of the season away to Kansas City on October 24th. United’s fate could already be decided for them should they not win against Columbus on the 17th.