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United vs Houston: Mercifully, United’s season ends with 2-1 loss to Houston

When the final whistle blew in D.C. United’s season-ending 2-1 loss to the visiting Houston Dynamo this afternoon at RFK Stadium, you could sense the weight of the world lifting off the shoulders of head coach Ben Olsen.

“Absolutely.” was the answer Olsen gave to that particular question after the match. Olsen went on to bemoan the fact this his team yet again came up short after giving their opposition everything they had. “It’s been the story of the season,” Olsen blurted out matter of fact.

United’s loss set a number of league records for futility. United now owns the MLS record for the fewest wins (3), largest goal differential (-37) and lowest goals per game average (0.65 per game). Aside from that fact, United also ended the 2013 campaign with a 12-game winless streak.

United were under the gun from the first whistle and the Dynamo deservedly went ahead in the just 12th minute. James Riley, deputizing in central defense for the first time in his pro career, was simply overpowered by Giles Barnes and took the burly striker down for a penalty kick. Oscar Boniek Garcia powered his penalty kick just past the outsretched arms of Bill Hamid to give the visitor a 1-0 lead. A strong argument for the denying of a goal scoring opportunity presented itself to referee Armando Villareal but in only one of the few calls he got right all day, he let Riley off the hook. Interestingly enough, United was the only tema in MLS this season that did not draw a single red card throughout the season. In fact, Perry Kitchen’s accumulation of yellow cards last week was the only suspension of the year for United.

After the opening salvo, United fought their way back into the match in the 27th minute with arguably their most impressive offensive sequence of the season. United controlled the ball down the left flank through good combination work. Luis Silva received the ball at the top of the penalty area and hit Chris Pontius on an overlap. Pontius deeked his way to the end line and sent a beautiful left-footed cross to the far post where Kyle Porter easily outjumped Dynamo defender Cory Ashe and headed the ball down past goalkeeper Tally Hall to level the match at 1-1.

United should have taken the lead a few minutes later but the lack of finishing golden opportunities haunted them once again. Porter picked off a pass right at midfield and sped towards the Dynamo goal. His inch-perfect pass hit Conor Doyle in stride as he ghosted in all alone on goal. Instead of taking the guilt-edged chance, Doyle instead passed square to Dwayne De Rosario and United’s captain inexplicably tried to settle the pass instead of one-timing it into the open goal just five yards away. Perhaps kharma played a part in the play as De Ro was clearly offside on the play. But the lack of finishing the play seemed to sum up United’s season-long frustration from a goal-scoring standpoint, to wit their abysmal goal scoring rate of less than a goal a game.

As almost expected, the Dynamo got the game-winner three minutes later on yet another of United’s season-long bugaboos. The set piece. After Bill Hamid pulled off a stunning double-save on Will Bruin and Brad Davis. the subsequent corner kick was flicked into the far side netting by Giles Barnes for the last goal of the game.

United pushed forward and should have been awarded a penalty late in the half when Dynamo defender Cory Ashe batted a ball away over the end line for a corner. How Villareal and his assistant referee missed the clear touch sent Olsen and his staff into hysteria.

After the break United had another cause for a penalty shout when Chris Pontius was taken down by defender Eric Brunner in the penalty area. However Villareal waved the play off and United’s frustration continued to mount. United tried in vain to get the equalizer but a season’s worth of coming up short played it’s predictable hand and United is left wondering what went wrong during league play in 2013.

United now will turn their attention to what hopefully will be a very active offseason and an attempt to turn around what is arguably the worst single-season by a team in MLS history.

LA's Robbie Keanne beats United defender Dejan Jakovic to the ball; Photo: Tony Quinn.

United vs Galaxy: Late equalizer salvages energetic 2-2 draw with the Galaxy

Kyle Porter’s 84th minute headed goal earned D.C. United a well deserved but still unsatisfying 2-2 draw against the Los Angeles Galaxy this afternoon at sunny RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

Twice United fell behind the star studded Galaxy lineup but unlike any other time this season, United found the equalizing goal. Robbie Keane (above right; Photo Tony Quinn.) put the Galaxy up in just the 7th minute finishing off a nice sequence after Landon Donovan’s back heel. Keane faked out the United defense and slipped a shot towards goal that United goalkeeper Bill Hamid somehow managed to get a hand on but only slowed it down before settling into the net.

The usual response for United this season after allowing an early goal would be a game-long search that usually comes to nothing. Today was different however and United managed to take the play to the visitors and were rewarded for their efforts in the 39th minute due to a combination of good hustle from Chris Pontius and lazy defending from Omar Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, fresh off his 90-minute stint in defense for the United States during their 2014 World Cup clinching win against Mexico on Wednesday, seemed to make the wrong choice defensively by chesting a ball too casually and Pontius ghosted in and took the ball right off his foot. Pontius glided in all alone on Penedo and rounded the keeper and tucked his second goal of the season away to draw the match level at 1-1. Pontius was making his first start in nearly two months and scored his first goal from the run of play in nearly a whole calendar year.

After the break, Landon Donovan was subbed out with a minor ankle injury that could have been seen as an eye towards a crucial Tuesday night CONCACAF Champions league match for the Galaxy. In fact, considering how poorly United has played this season in combination with four of the Galaxy’s top players just coming off International World Cup qualifying duty, it was a bit of a surprise that head coach Bruce Arena decided to play essentially his top X1.

With United dictating the tempo since the opening Galaxy goal, seemingly their night was ruined when the Galaxy scored against the run of play in 81st minute. Rookie midfielder Gyasi Zardes’ quick switch of field pass over the United defense set Keane and midfielder Michael Stephens into a 2-v-1 advantage at the far side of the penalty area. With United scrambling back to try to defend, Keane slipped a pass to Stephens who calmly placed a shot to the left of Hamid and into the corner of the far side of goal for a 2-1 lead.

Under normal circumstances, this would have been the end of the game based on United’s terrible form this season. However, the Black-and-Red managed to pull out the equalizer through some nice work of their own deep in Galaxy territory. With United pushing players into attack, Perry Kitchen found himself at the corner of the penalty area and his deft chip over the defense found a wide-open Kyle Porter who’s one-time header easily beat Penedo to give United a much deserved share of the spoils.

United managed to put a scare into the Galaxy in stoppage time when team captain Dwayne De Rosario’s turn and chip to the far post nearly connected with Porter that would have given United a surprise come-from-behind win. But in a season that was over long ago, that would have been asking too much of a team that has been on the wrong end of the scoreline too many times.

United will now hit the road for two of their final three road matches of the season when they take on New England and Toronto FC starting next weekend in Foxborough, MA

Disney Pro Soccer Classic: United and Montreal play to 1-1 draw

D.C. United and the Montreal Impact played to a 1-1 draw this afternoon in the final match of group play in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic. Trialist Kyle Porter improved his chances of making United’s squad with a well taken goal in the 85th minute to level the match after a wonder bicycle kick goal from Montreal’s Andrea Pisanu in the 16th minute.

With the draw, Montreal moves on to the Championship match next weekend of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic to face most likely the Columbus Crew who have been runaway leaders of their group so far this week.

The draw for United will put them in either the 3rd Place or 5th Place match next weekend depending on the result of the Sporting Kansas City/Tampa Bay Rowdies match later this evening. A draw or a loss by Sporting will put United in the 3rd place match.

Montreal took the lead in the 16th minute on a breathtaking finish from Italian import Andrea Pisanu. Pisanu, on loan to Montreal from Serie A squad Bologna, took advantage of a deflected cross off the back of United defender Daniel Woolard and biked his shot over Bill Hamid for the lead.

United, starting the same squad from Wednesday night’s 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City, pressed on and created a few half-chances but the teams went to the locker room with Montreal leading 1-0.

After the break United started piling on the pressure yet very few chances came of their good possession play. Chris Pontius had a shot blister over the bar from 18-yards out just past the hour mark right before Ben Olsen made a complete changeover with his squad in the 76th minute.

Even with a mostly entire new team on the field, it didn’t take long for the Black-and-Red to equalize. In the 85th minute, the Impact were lax in an easy defensive clearance and United too full advantage. Porter beat the unsuspecting Montreal Impact to the bouncing ball from the failed clearance and it found it’s way to fellow trialist Marcos Sanchez. The Panamanian scuffed a pass into the path of United young Designated Player Rafael and his toe-poke fell into the path of Porter. The Canadian unleashed a rocket just inside the penalty area with his weaker right foot and the ball flew past former United goalkeeper Troy Perkins to level the match at 1-1.

The remainder of the match was played out without any real chances from both sides.

United will have to wait and see whom their opponent will be next Saturday afternoon. In the meantime, United will play a match against the Philadelphia Union midweek before wrapping up their preseason journey in Orlando next Saturday.

United will then return to the DC area for a few days before heading off to Houston to play their MLS regular season opener on March 2nd.