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.