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United vs. Fire: United douse the Fire in critical Eastern Conference win

Dwayne De Rosario had a goal and an assist to help D.C. United to an important 4-2 win over the Chicago Fire tonight at RFK Stadium. The win for United (12-8-4  40pts) moves them within a point of Chicago (12-8-5) and idle Houston in the fight for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference.

United’s captain gave the home side the lead in the 19th minute when his far post run met the wayward shot from Chris Pontius for the 1-0 lead. United continued the pressure and was well in control heading into the break when Chicago leveled the match seemingly out of nowhwere.

Dan Paladini was on the end of an impressive bout of interplay in United’s defense third and slotted the ball past United goalkeeper Bill Hamid to tie the match in the 44th minute. However, the Black-and-Red did not sulk over their perceived dominance in the match and immediatly responded.

Andy Najar’s mazy run down the right flank and hard work once near the penalty area bought him enough room to whip in a cross that sailed over everyone in the box and fell right onto the head of new United striker Lionard Pajoy. The Colombian powered his header near post giving Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson no chance and United headed to the break with a deserved 2-1 lead.

After the break United continued their dominance of the match and went up 3-1 in the 51st minute on a beautiful headed goal from defender Brandon McDonald. Chicago had cleared a United corner kick but only to Chris Korb who immediately lofted the ball into the far side of the penalty area. McDonald’s cushion header was looped perfectly over the right shoulder of Johnson and settled into the far side netting.

United continued to apply pressure and if not for some fantasic saves from Johnson, United would have blown this match wide open. As it happened though, the Fire got back into the match in the 75th minute when a United defensive breakdown on a free kick allowed the visitors to make it a tense final 15 minutes. Defender Gonzalo Segares was completely unmarked on the back side of a long angled free kick and his diving header beat Bill Hamid to the far post.

United had numerous opportunities to extend their lead but yet again Johnson came up huge on efforts from De Rosario, Pontius (twice) and Najar. However, United’s pressure finally did payoff in the 89th minute when Long Tan was the benefactor of hard work by De Rosario down the left flank. De Rosario forced his way deep into the penalty area and centered a ball for Tan and his admittedly tame shot should have been easily saved by Johnson but the spin on the ball eluded the goalkeeper and ended up in the side netting for the first goal for Tan with United.

United easily saw out the remainder of stoppage time and did very well to help soothe the bad feelings from this past Sunday’s 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union.

Up next for a very busy United is a trip to Canada to face the red-hot Montreal Impact. Montreal is currently on a four match winning streak including impressive home wins versus Red Bull New York and league leading San Jose just this past weekend.

United vs. Columbus: United return the favor in 1-0 win over the Crew

Whomever made the MLS schedule before the season started really didn’t have D.C. United high on their list of concerns in regards to scheduling their home matches. A top and bottom-heavy home schedule has left United without any consistency through the dog days of Summer as they have only played two home matches since the end of May.

In spite of that damaging fact, United continued their winning ways with a 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew tonight at RFK Stadium in a deja vu’ type role reversal of Columbus’ 1-0 win at Crew Stadium just two weekends ago. Both matches had the home side scoring early in the second half and both teams had to withstand a furious rally from the visitors before taking the three points. The win for United is their seventh consecutive win at RFK this season and has improved their home record to 8-1-2 overall at RFK. That win total surpasses the win total of both the 2010 and 2011 seasons combined for United.

Chris Pontius’ goal in the 49th minute was all the Black-and-Red needed to help solidify their 4th place position in the Eastern Conference. United is on 36 points and is well within reach of Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City, ironically United’s next opponent.

The game-winning goal scoring sequence was started by Nick DeLeon as he torched Crew left back Josh Williams down the right sideline. The rookie from Louisville got to the endline and around Williams and headed towards goal. A move here and juke there set DeLeon up to center a pass across the goal mouth where United forward Long Tan took a back heel flick towards goal only to see it saved by Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum. However, the ball dribbled right into the path of Pontius who roofed the ball into the net for his team-leading 10th goal of the season.

Pontius nearly doubled United’s lead just a few minutes later when he split the Crew back line but his shot was well parried away by Gruenebaum . The rebound fell right back at the feet of Pontius but he rushed his second attempt and sent it well wide of goal. As the match wore on United began to take a more defensive posture as the visitors were bearing down on goal. Disaster nearly struck in the 61st minute when United defenders Emiliano Dudar and Daniel Woolard knocked heads during a goal mouth defensive scramble. Woolard clearly was dazed and out of sorts and left head coach Ben Olsen with no choice but to substitute him out of the match. No word yet on the condition or severity of Woolard’s injury.

As the Crew continued to press forward, the United defense met every challenge as second half subs Lewis Neal, Maicon Santos and Dejan Jakovic helped stem the tide and send United home with a much needed three points.

United Notes

  • Interesting the Designated Player Hamdi Salihi did not make the game day roster for the first time all season long
  • Branko Boskovic played a full 90 minutes tonight, the first time he’s done that since his arrival midway through the 2009 season
  • Emiliano Dudar got his first start since April and while he looked rusty with his passing, he was rock solid in his defending. Ben Olsen made mention after the match that the newly laid turf at RFK probably had a lot to do with some errant passes from Dudar and subpar free kicks from the normally dangerous Boskovic

United vs Columbus: Poor play continues as United fall in Columbus

Clearly D.C. United is struggling.

Another lackluster performance from D.C. United leads to back-to-back losses on the road as they fell 1-0  to the Columbus Crew tonight in Columbus, OH. The loss is the second straight for United on the road and the second consecutive poor effort from the Black-and-Red coming off a two-week break.

Chris Burchall scored thirty seconds into second half to help lead the home side to a victory as United continues to slide down the standings in the Eastern Conference. United has fallen from 1st place two weekends ago to 4th place in the suddenly congested Eastern Conference. While the two-game skid has hampered United, they are still comfortably in a playoff position.

United’s only credible threat on goal was Chris Pontius’ header late in the first half that was comfortably saved by Andy Greenenbaum. United did threaten mildly in the second half but Dwayne De Rosario and United debut player Long Tan went wide with decent efforts towards goal and Chris Korb’s 88th minute shot off the post was all the United could muster.

United’s sporadic schedule over the past 8 weeks hasn’t helped the team to gain any kind of consistency and their form away from RFK Stadium has been reflective of that. United has been on the end of two different two-week breaks in the schedule and they haven’t adjusted very well coming out of the layoffs. United has loss 3 of 5 matches since a three-game home winning stand in late May. You could make the argument that they should have lost 4 out of 5 since then as their win in Philadelphia was against the run of play and basically the start of their poor run of form excluding their 3-0 win at home against Montreal on June 30th.

Head coach Ben Olsen made five changes to the lineup coming off their 4-0 loss in Houston last weekend. The changes however had little effect on the team and they let a poor Columbus side take the three points at home with minimul effort.

United now will play their requisite International friendly next weekend at RFK against Paris Saint-Germain. Some would say that it couldn’t come at a worse time considering their poor form since mid-June.

United’s next league match will be against this same Columbus Crew squad on Saturday, August 4th.