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Ben Olsen. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

2nd-half collapse leads to United’s 4-1 loss in Los Angeles

Carson, California, March 7, 2016 – For forty-five minutes it was all going to plan for D.C. United and head coach Ben Olsen as they opened their 2016 campaign at the Stub Hub Center.

Get an early goal from debutante Lamar Neagle. Check.

Control the tempo and create most of the dangerous opportunities. Check.

Keep the Galaxy off balance and limit their scoring opportunities. Check.

Then the second half began and it all fell apart as the Los Angeles Galaxy stormed back with four unanswered goals to mitigate what was a hopeful result for the Black-and-Red. Mike Magee, the 2013 MLS MVP, made a triumphant return to the City of Angels with a pair of goals and an assist to lead the Galaxy to a 4-1 win over D.C. United before over 25,000 at the Stub Hub Center.

United could not have gotten off to a better start when high pressure forced Steven Gerrard into a turnover that Chris Rolfe pounced on. He was met almost immediately by Galaxy defender and Bryans Road, MD native son A.J. Delagarza. The collision resulted in the loose ball hitting Neagle in stride who took off towards goal. As the defense was closing, the newly acquired Neagle, a surprise starter for Fabian Espindola, unleashed a left-footed worm burner that got under the arms of Galaxy goalkeeper Dan Kennedy for the quick 1-0 lead.

United kept the Galaxy under wraps for most of the first half and cruised into halftime with the 1-0 lead.

Then Mike Magee came on. Magee, who has torched United throughout his career no matter where he has played (Metrostars, Galaxy, Chicago and now back to LA) wasted no time in making his presence felt. The Galaxy should have tied it up as early as the 52nd minute but the crossbar and Andrew Dykstra made back-to-back saves on Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes respectively.

Just three minutes later the rout was on. Rookie defender Daniel Steres, a surprise starter for the Galaxy in his own right, barged through the penalty area and rocketed home a header from six yards off of a Magee corner kick. United were clearly stunned at this point and began to break down defensively.

However, United should have retaken the lead just minutes later when Neagle fed a beautiful defense-splitting pass to Nick DeLeon who charged towards goal. DeLeon easily beat substitute goalkeeper Brian Rowe (first half for injured Dan Kennedy) but couldn’t beat the far side post as the shot pinged away in frustration.

That missed opportunity was the key point in the match as soon after the Galaxy had the game-winning goal. Sebastian Lletget, who was giving United left-back Taylor Kemp headaches all night, cut back on Kemp and clipped a ball to the far post. United’s defensive positioning on the play was poor to say the least and Magee found himself wide open from 10 yards out. Magee simply lofted his second touch over the head of the committed Dykstra and the rout was on.

In the 83rd minute the Galaxy made it 3-1 after Robbie Keane converted a penalty kick after Dykstra inexplicably left his leg out to trip Magee who’s shot had already gone wide of the goal. The Irishman calmly put it past Dykstra and then the rout was complete when United fell asleep for a second time on a free kick and allowed Magee to dart in between two United defenders to power home a diving header and the final nail in United’s coffin.

United now must regroup and come back home before traveling up to another place that has been a house of horrors for them in recent years. Gillette Stadium in Foxborough to take on the New England Revolution. The Revs pulled off their own miracle with a last-second headed goal in stoppage time to tie the Houston Dynamo 3-3 yesterday afternoon in Houston.

 

DC United's Chris Pontius battles for possession with LA's Omar Gonzales during their team's match at RFK Stadium in Washington DC on March 28, 2015. United would go on to defeat the Galaxy 1-0 with a stoppage time from Chris Pontius. Photo: Martin Fernandez.

Pontius nets dramatic late game-winner in 1-0 victory over the Galaxy

Chris Pontius’ 93rd-minute header was the difference in D.C. United’s dramatic 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy tonight at frigid RFK Stadium. The win over the Galaxy was United’s first in ten league matches against their West coast rivals and first since a 4-1 win at RFK in June of 2008.

Both teams were playing shorthanded but for very different reasons. United (2-1-0, 6 points) was once again without their top player Fabian Espindola who is in the midst of his six-game suspension to start the season as well as Eddie Johnson, Luis Silva and Markus Halsti. Silva was deemed fit enough to play by head coach Ben Olsen after the match but felt holding him back in the brutally cold conditions was more sensible. To make matters worse for United, defender Steve Birnbaum injured his ankle just 90 seconds into the match and was forced off. Former Galaxy defender Kofi Opare replaced Birnbaum.

The Galaxy (1-1-2, 5 points) were without three of their top players in Robbie Keane, Gyasi Zardes and Jaime Penedo, all of whom were missing for international duty.

None the less a very scrappy match unfolded between the two most successful teams in MLS history as they share 9 of the 19 MLS Cup titles between them. United were closest to drawing first blood midway through the first half when Davy Arnaud’s diagonal ball over the weak side of the Galaxy defense hit Nick DeLeon in stride. DeLeon beat onrushing Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Perk to the ball but his first touch took him too far away from the open net and and the ensuing cross from DeLeon found teamate Jairo Arrieta but the Galaxy did well to scramble back into position to deny United a solid chance on goal.

As the first half wound down, the visitors started carving out some chances. The best of which was an Alan Gordon header from about eight yards out that would have beaten United goalkeeper Bill Hamid had it been either side of him. A few other half chances were easily dealt with by Hamid but it was the Galaxy who had the momentum heading into halftime.

After the break it was essentially more of what was on display in the first forty-five minutes with both sides taking turns attempting to wrestle the flow of the game from each other. United’s best chance up to this point in the match came off the head of Chris Pontius midway through the stanza as his point-blank chance was well saved by Perk to keep the game at 0-0.

As the match seemed destined for a final score of 0-0, a bit of magic happened late in stoppage time. In the last minute of stoppage time, Davy Arnaud chipped a ball deep into the Galaxy’s defensive half and DeLeon did well to out-hustle Galaxy defender Robbie Rogers and beat him to the ball. Once he got there DeLeon used a deft touch to elude Rogers and turned towards goal. DeLeon then lofted a ball to the far post where Pontius met the pass with a diving header with Galaxy defender Dan Gargan draped all over him. The ball settled into the near post and sent RFK Stadium into delirium as teammates mobbed DeLeon and Pontius and turned a draw into a win.

With the win United vaulted from 7th place into the top spot in the East (at least temporarily until all games are completed tonight) and now have six points from three matches. With the win, United now will turn their attention to the expansion Orlando City SC this Friday night in Orlando, Florida. Orlando City SC (1-1-2, 5 points) are coming off a 2-2 draw in Montreal earlier in the day.

 

United Notes

  • Midfielder Miguel Aguilar was cleared by the U.S. Government this week and received a renewal of his work permit and was available to play but did not make it off the bench
  • Steve Birnbaum suffered a left-ankle sprain in the 2nd minute and was carted off the field. The severity of the injury is unknown at the moment. Don’t expect him back in the lineup anytime soon
  • Silva is expected to be in the 18-man squad for the trip to Florida later this week
  • No timetable has been given for the extended injuries to Eddie Johnson (heart ailment) and Markus Halsti (knee). Halsti was interviewed before the match on CSN Washington’s D.C. United pregame show and said his knee was getting better and hopes to be available soon

Early mistake sets tone in heavy defeat in Los Angeles

The euphoria from D.C. United’s 3-0 win at Sporting Kansas City lasted exactly 103 hours and 9 seconds.

Bobby Boswell’s awful turnover just 69 seconds into the match fueled a 4-1 victory for the Los Angeles Galaxy last night at the Stub Hub Center in Carson, California.

With three points already banked last Saturday night, head coach Ben Olsen made numerous changes to his lineup with a view to their Eastern Conference matchup at home against New York Red Bull on Sunday afternoon.

The changes in the lineup underscored United’s depth issues as they were no match from the jump. United certainly could have played a much cleaner match but the team was plagued with bad unforced errors all night long which was no more evident than Boswell’s gaffe just over a minute from the start.

United also gave up another corner kick score when Omar Gonzales scored midway through the first half and then to add to their misery the Black-and-Red gave up a 26-pass sequence at the end of the half that resulted in a Baggio Husidic goal just before halftime.

United did manage to get on the scoreboard however in the 58th minute when Alex Caskey’s cross was sent into the box and Eddie Johnson’s run proved distracting enough that the ball ended up getting past goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. Although it appeared on replay that Johnson didn’t touch the ball, he was credited with his fifth goal of the season.

Sensing an opportunity to make a miracle comeback, Olsen brought Fabian Espindola and Nick DeLeon on but the Galaxy extended their lead in the 75th minute on what appeared to be a very soft penalty on Steve Birnbaum. Landon Donovan stepped up and put away the spot kick to reestablish their three-goal lead.

With the lopsided scoreline, the Galaxy easily saw out the remainder of the match with no issues. United now will turn their attention to a key home match on Sunday afternoon against bitter rivals New York Red Bulls.

 

United acquires defender Kofi Opari from Los Angeles

D.C. United acquired central defender Kofi Opari today in a trade with the Los Angeles Galaxy. United is in need of central defense depth in light of the news that Jeff Parke may be out for a significant amount of time due to migraine headache issues.

United obtained the 23-year old defender in exchange for a swapping of Allocation Order picks with the Galaxy. The Galaxy move up to the 3rd spot in the allocation order whilst United drops to 11th. Additionally, United also received a 2015 2nd Round SuperDraft pick to complete the exchange.

“We are pleased to have acquired a smart, young defender in Kofi who has a very big upside, as well as securing a 2015 second round Superdraft pick,” said D.C. United General Manager Dave Kasper through the teams website. “This is an important move for us to make at this time to add depth to our squad as we enter the second half of the MLS season and the CONCACAF Champion’s League group stage. We welcome Kofi to the D.C. United family.”

With the addition of Opare, United becomes that much deeper in central defense with the assumed loss of Parke for the near future. With a glut of matches in the upcoming month, including CONCACAF Champions League matches, Opari wll most likely jump to third in the depth chart behind entrenched starters Bobby Boswell and rookie Steve Birnbaum and ahead of Nana Attakora and Conor Shanosky, both of whom have not played a minute for United in league play this season.

Opare  has made a number of appearances for the Galaxy the last two seasons including starting both playoff matches last season. Opare played four years in college at the University of Michigan before being selected by the Galaxy last year.

Opare played for the U.S. U-20 National Team recently but is still eligible to represent Canada and Ghana if he so chooses.

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

United puts up another poor effort in 3-1 hammering to the Galaxy

Robbie Keane scored on either side of halftime and the supposed weary legs of the Los Angeles Galaxy ran all over D. C. United in their 3-1 victory today in Carson, California. Marcelo Sarvas scored the final goal for the home side while United’s lone goal from rookie Nick DeLeon was little consolation for the Black-and-Red.

The Galaxy came into this match with no confidence after getting bounced out of the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday night at the hands of a poor Toronto FC squad. The defense so far in LA’s first three matches of the season (including both legs against TFC) had given up 7 goals and seemed ripe for the picking for a United squad that admittedly played conservatively in their league opening loss to Sporting Kansas City. However, Bruce Arena only made one change to his lineup while Ben Olsen strangely enough made six changes heading into this match.

It was pretty evident from the opening whistle that the Galaxy were not going to feel sorry for themselves and put United under pressure from the first minute. Goalkeeper Joe Willis, subbing in for Bill Hamid who is away with the US U-23 team (as well as Perry Kitchen), made a number of stunning saves to keep United in the match during the first half and nearly got to the break with score at 0-0. But slack defending from United helped to concede the first goal. Mike Magee was under no pressure from the defender Chris Korb and was allowed to switch the ball to the opposite end of the penalty area where overlapping defender Todd Dunnivant headed the ball back across the goal to a wide open Robbie Keane to put the home side up 1-0.

After the break, United subbed in defender Emiliano Dudar for the ineffective Dejan Jakovic and should have leveled the score in the 52nd minute. A rare offensive foray into Galaxy territory resulted in a free kick that was initially cleared out. Stephen King quickly punched the clearance back into the box were Dudar chested the ball down and was only four yards away from goal. His right-footed stab however blazed over the bar and left the match at 1-0.

The Galaxy essentially clinched the match in the 69th minute thanks in part to more terrible United play. Korb sent a ball into the middle of the field that immediately put Branko Boskovic under immediate pressure and the ball poked out to Landon Donovan. The US star carried the ball across the top of the penalty area and feathered a pass to Keane on the left side of the box. The Irishmen then unleashed a left-footed corker that hit the far side upper 90 to send the Home Depot Center into rapture..

United at this point went for broke and were constantly sending players forward and in the 86th minute the Galaxy took advantage of their aggressiveness. David Beckham was again under little pressure from Korb as his whipped in cross  from the right side met the head of Brazilian Marcelo Sarvas and gave Joe Willis no chance.

United did manage to get a consolation goal from SuperDraft top pick Nick DeLeon just a minute later. Boskovic made a perfect defense splitting pass that hid DeLeon in stride as he angled in towards goal all alone. The Louisville star curled the ball in off the far post for a goal in his professional debut.

United now must find a way to pick themselves up physically and mentally as they will stay on the West Coast to train ahead of their match next Saturday night in Vancouver. The Whitecaps have started the season 2-0 with a pair of 1-0 wins and must be licking their chops at the sight of United coming to town.

10-man United score late to battle back for 1-1 draw with the Galaxy

Charlie Davies 90th minute penalty kick conversion gained D.C. United a valuable early season point at home in their 1-1 draw against the Los Angeles Galaxy tonight at raucous RFK Stadium. The controversial call from referee Abby Okulaja to award United the spot kick was the culmination of a very tense and physical match that saw the Black-and-Red reduced to 10 men when Santino Quaranta was sent off for his second yellow card offense in the 84th minute. Second half substitute Jovan Kirovski was shown a straight red after the final whistle was blown, no doubt arguing the call that got United the equalizer.

The visiting Galaxy however jumped into the lead in the 12th minute. David Beckham’s laser precise corner kick was nodded home by Mike Magee as he was moving away from the goal giving Bill Hamid no chance in goal for United. Hamid, making his MLS season debut, had little to do the rest of the match as both teams struggled to put many good opportunities together. United didn’t even register their first shot on goal until the 32nd minute of the game. Before that however the Galaxy were twice fortunate not to have players sent off. Todd Dunivant’s reckless challenge on United defender Chris Korb’s overlapping run in the 29th minute should have seen red for the severity of the collision. The Galaxy escaped even further harm when Beckham’s viscious scissor tackle from behind on Josh Wolff was inexplicably only given a yellow card in the 41st minute. Most people would agree had it been any other player besides the world-renowned Beckham, it would have been a straight red with no arguments from anyone.

United continued to battle against the stingy Galaxy defense and just when it seemed that United were heading for their third straight loss of the young season, Branko Boskovic, making his first appearance at RFK this season, sent Charlie Davies into the left side of the penalty area. Davies juked and then pushed the ball past ex-Maryland Terp defender Omar Gonzalez. As Davies appeared to turn the corner, the Galaxy defender got in his way and Davies went down and the penalty was awarded. The Galaxy immediately surrounded referee Okulaja and for once this season, United were perhaps beneficiaries of a loose call.

Davies stepped up and calmly and cheekily chipped the ball dead straight ahead as Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts dove to his right in vain to send the crowd of 26, 622 into delirium. While United did well to battle back and gain the draw, not everyone was happy with the result. “I’m glad we battled back and got the draw, but honestly, it wasn’t good enough tonight and that is my fault,” said United head coach Ben Olsen after the match. “We were fortunate to get the result.”

Charlie Davies celebrates his PK goal. Photo Martin Fernandez

United Notes

  • defender Perry Kitchen was scheduled to start tonight’s match but fell violently ill overnight and was replaced by fellow rookie Ethan White. “He was a stud,” said Olsen “he’s a gamer, a type of player that you know will rise to the occasion, he did very well tonight.”
  • Landon Donovan was not listed on the 18-man roster tonight as he was rested ahead of a 3-games in 7 day road trip for the Galaxy

Defensive blunder leads to United collapse in 2-1 loss to Galaxy

For the second consecutive year, DC United has gone into their match with the Los Angeles Galaxy into the 81st minute with a lead. For the second consecutive year, United sits and watches the Galaxy score twice to turn a sure win into a loss.

Although United did manage a 2-2 draw in the season opener last season, tonight’s 2-1 loss was especially painful considering the trials and tribulations of the team all season long. United midfielder Clyde Simms hesitated on a seemingly easy defensive clearance in the 82nd minute and watched Landon Donovan swoop in and go around Troy Perkins with ease for the first of his two goals in 6 minutes as Los Angeles defeated D.C. United 2-1 last night at the Home Depot Center.

Donovan, who scored both goals in last years season opener, got the game-winner in the 87th minute when Tristan Bowen’s cross bounded through the goal mouth and Donovan redirected his header to the far post giving Troy Perkins no chance and the Galaxy leapt past Real Salt Lake to the top of the table with the win. With the win, United is now officially eliminated from the playoff race, though everyone knew this months ago with United getting off to such a poor start to the season.

While most of the season has been about United’s inefficiency in front of goal, and trust me it did play a small part in the loss, tonight’s loss was on the defense. United had played just about their most complete match of the season until the defensive blunder in the 82nd minute by Simms. United were on their way to their first back-to-back wins of the season.

Andy Najar put United in the lead in the 60th minute on a scramble inside the Galaxy penalty area. The play started when Pablo Hernandez flicked on a ball to Danny Allsopp. Allsopp then let Najar jet in and take the ball towards goal. Najar put a diagonal pass onto the foot of Santino Quaranta who cut the ball back into the path of Branko Boskovic. Boskovic did well to slide and get a shot into the gut of the onrushing Donovan Ricketts. The ball spun out towards the top of the box where Najar calmly slotted a left-footed shot into the empty net.

Pablo Hernandez had an opportunity in the 79th minute to double the lead but his left-footed curling shot was telegraphed and easily palmed away by Ricketts. Even with the dagger equalizer by Donovan, United again had a chance to go back into the lead when Quaranta’s pass sent Boskovic in on goal. Again, the left-footed shot from the Montenegran seemed telegraphed and it ended up being a routine save for the big Jamaican goalkeeper. Seconds later though the Galaxy got the game-winner and put a final hammer blow to United and put the Black-and-Red officially out of their misery.

DC Looking for Old Magic against LA

Now granted on paper, this is a mismatch and LA should crush DC like a bug given their respective league positions, but MLS games are never played on paper and LA might well be ripe for nicking a point if DC can add to their stunning road win in Toronto, and if LA overlooks DC at all. After all, LA is clearly struggling of late despite a solid win over the Crew last time out, and DC is coming together and quite simply has nothing to lose. LA should win this match given their respective play to date, so pressure is squarely on them to produce.

Interestingly, key injuries could be crucial in this match as LA’s Edson Buddle, leading scorer in the league this year with 14, has a bit of a balky hamstring, so he could be benched in favor of Kirovski or he could play at less than 100%. That’s win-win for DC either way. LA’s left back Dunivant has had back spasm issues as well, and Najar could be a nightmare for a guy not at his absolute best. Berhalter too has been hobbled of late with a neck problem and arguably their Brazilian stiff, Leonardo has been more than a bit of a weak link in trying to live up to Berhalter’s arm out of his forehead form.

Of course, United can raise and trump anyone’s injury report now that Pontius, Hamid, and quite possibly Simms can be added to their unbelievably long list of injuries. But, then again, the starting lineup DC is bringing to LA could easily be the best on the roster, so while depth might be a problem for LA, having solid starters for DC is probably not.

Looking at the probable lineups, DC is certainly not as great an underdog to LA as their respective records would indicate. For certain Donovan and Buddle are the most feared players in the entire league this year, but Ricketts, and indeed Gonzalez has proved much less than invulnerable.

At forward, DC will trot out Allsopp and Hernandez, both of whom are scrappy and physical enough to maybe have an edge over Gonzalez and the woefully ineffective Leonardo, assuming Berhalter’s neck is still causing him trouble, and even then, it’s a push.

Then in midfield for DC, Najar Quaranta, and Boskovic have a decent edge going forward if Simms can play through his groin problems. Even if not, King quite possibly can pick up the slack if LA is a bit off, as they clearly have been over the past month outside of their convincing win over the Crew last weekend. Then DC’s defense is set with Graye, Jakovic, James, and Zayner backed up by McTavish as being their only healthy defenders.

However, it depends on Olsen’s guts in taking on the league leading Galaxy. If he goes conservative, DC probably has to hope for a 0-0 draw at best. But if he really goes for it like he has nothing to lose, which he doesn’t, he could create some serious havoc with his lineup choices in midfield. Playing his default starters, Quaranta, Boskovic, and Najar going left to right, backed up by Simms is one thing. But, Olsen could seriously cause problems for a relatively fragile LA side by calling their bluff and daring them to win the middle of the field by playing Boskovic wide left in his natural position, Quaranta in the middle and Najar on the left backed by King who has no conscious whatsoever in attacking forward every chance he gets.

Looking at the matchups then, DC has some enticing advantages. As mentioned, Hernandez and Allsopp have the work rate and toughness to cause problems for anyone, but if Najar and Grayae can outwork Dunivant and the flightly Cazumba, which isn’t out of the realm, and Boskovic and Zayner can do enough damage on the left to pin back Donovan and Franklin, which isn’t out of the realm either, then DC has got the points halfway into their bag. Granted, Beckham changes that Alchemy, but he’s just back to playing and barely fit, if he beats you, so be it.

Now, inserting the all out attacking, light defending Quaranta and King in central midfield is a risk of course in it’s own right, but Juninho and Birchall have been maybe a bit less than convincing themselves. If either of them strokes a game winner, well there you go, but if not, DC has the edge.

Even as the game wears on, DC’s advantage increases. The longer it goes 0-0, the better for DC because if the 60th minute rolls around with DC still in the game, then the newly signed Varela and the delightfully unconscious attacker, Junior will seriously wreak havoc in LA’s stodgy defense. LA has feasted on scoring early and shutting people down, but when they get stymied for long stretches, they lose more than they win.

Even in the defense going against arguably the best attack in the league, DC doesn’t look too bad. Buddle is of course the danger man as league leading scorer, but Jakovic has shown he rises to such occasions and James is much less likely to injure his own players with his reckless play, much less give up hideous free-kicks as he has been wont to do, so DC’s central defense has a decent shot at staying tight. Then as mentioned, if DC’s attack can keep Donovan and Cazumba pinned back for most of the game, then DC has the edge there (if I was the Bruce, I’d play Stephens on the left to tighten that up, but hopefully he doesn’t do that).

Even the intangibles seem to favor DC if you close one eye. LA is 6-2-2 at home, but only 0-2-1 at home recently until their win last weekend against the Crew. In fact, they are 0-2-1 overall in their last 3 until that somewhat deceptive win over the Crew. DC on the other hand has won their last road game and incredibly is not the worst road team in the league this year as they have won two away from RFK, while TFC has only one win (at SJ) at 1-8-1 and isn’t likely to get any others.

DC also has a pretty decent record at the Tool Box. Since HDC opened in 2003, DC has only lost twice there, and one of those was an overtime loss in 2003 that now would be a tie in today’s MLS. So, aside from a 5-2 blowout in 2008, DC is essentially undefeated in the Home Depot Center over the last 7 years, although they don’t have that many wins either. Still, 1-2-4 overall against LA since 2002 is nothing to sneeze at.

Bottom line, DC has to contain Buddle early and frustrate Donovan. If they do that, and soccer gods willing, get an early goal themselves, they have a good shot at all the points. Which would mean they still have, incredibly, not only a shot at the MLS playoffs, but even more unlikely a shot at not being the worst team in DC history as well.

In the grand scheme of things, this game is completely meaningless, but for the few that hold out hopes they are not witnessing the worst in DC United history this game is crucial. A win, and DC still has hope to beat out their previous low point in 2000 for the worst United team in history.

There you go. That’s all we can hope for.

United’s miserable season continues with 2-1 loss at home to Los Angeles

Frustration.

This was the key emotion at the final whistle, at the post-game press conference and in the locker room after tonight’s 2-1 victory by the Los Angeles Galaxy over D.C. United. A season long trend of inopportune defensive blunders, missed goal-scoring chances and just plain bad luck have come to summarize the 2010 season for the Black-and-Red. With the home loss, United’s sixth of the season, United now has dropped even further away from playoff contention at 3-11-3 (12 pts). The Galaxy improved to a league best 12-2-3 (39 pts) and virtually would have to lose all 13 remaining matches to lose out on another chance to go to MLS Cup.

This match started off pretty even between the teams despite the 24 point gap in the standings at kickoff. Both teams rarely threatened goal but in the 38th minute the visitors got on the board first with the help of some good fortune. United midfielder Stephen King was in the process of clearing a semi-dangerous cross out of the penalty area when it hit Edson Buddle in stride heading towards goal. Buddle’s shot was thwarted by an excellent sliding save from defender Devon McTavish. Buddle however regrouped quickly and stepped around the meek challenge of King and sent a wormburner right at United goalkeeper Troy Perkins who somehow managed to let the ball go through both his hands and his legs for a 1-0 lead.

United nearly drew the match level just two minutes later when Donovan Ricketts made a leaping save from Pablo Hernandez’ free kick. United almost equalized again in the 45th minute when Santino Quaranta sent a missle straight at Rickett’s who made the save. Just two minutes later Quaranta sent another shot at the Jamaican keeper who was positioned well to save that attempt and send the visitors into the locker room with the narrow 1-0 lead.

Andy Najar

Andy Najar continues to be DC United's shining star in an otherwise dismal season. United's youngster scored his third goal of the season, but it wasn't enough to keep the visiting Galaxy at bay. Photo: Chris Bannon

At the half United head coach Curt Onalfo was forced to make a change when Chris Pontius could not go on due to a suspected broken foot that happened inside the first 30 seconds of the match when referee Jason Ano let a rough challenge by the Galaxy on Pontius go unpunished. Pontius made it to the half despite him looking obviously injured. Jaime Moreno came on for Pontius and United then managed to draw the match level in the 54th minute. Pablo Hernandez drew a foul on the right sideline and then whipped in his free kick to the far post where Andy Najar rocketed a header past Rickett’s to tie the match a 1-1. Najar’s goal was his team leading 3rd goal of the season. Perhaps the fact that the 17-year old United Academy player is the leading scorer more than halfway through the season is a major reason why United is rooted to the bottom of the MLS standings.

That fact bore itself out just four minutes later when fellow rookie Jordan Graye pulled a deja vu and yet again coughed up the ball deep in United territory that set forth a series of events that lead to the game-winning goal from Landon Donovan. Graye was stripped of the ball by Galaxy defender Sean Franklin who proceeded to drive ahead into the penalty area. His well-struck shot was handled by a sliding Julius James and a penalty was awarded. James was rather fortunate to only see yellow on the play but it hardly mattered as the US’ all-time leading goal scorer and World Cup hero Landon Donovan easily dispatched past Troy Perkins to give the Galaxy the 2-1 lead and the win.

United attempted in vain to try and find the equalizer but a series of close offside calls and near misses on passes only added up to more frustration for the Black-and-Red as they see their season slowly circling the drain. United will now regroup and prepare for their next league match away to MLS Cup champions Real Salt Lake on Saturday, July 31st. In the interim, United will play their US Open Cup quarterfinal match this upcoming Wednesday evening at the Maryland Soccerplex in Boyds, MD against the Harrisburg City Islanders. If United wins, they will move on to host the Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium on September 1st. United will also host their third international friendly of the year when they entertain English Championship side Portsmouth on Saturday, July 24th at RFK Stadium

United Notes

  • The hits just keep on coming for United as both Chris Pontius (foot) and Dejan Jakovic (hamstring) had to leave the match with injuries. Pontius’ seems much more serious as a broken foot is suspected. Jakovic walked off under his own power and seemed less serious
  • Eddie Pope was inducted into the United Wall of Tradition at halftime of the match. The United defender was clearly moved by the gesture, belying his usual stoic nature
  • Designated Player Branko Boskovic made a second consecutive substitutes appearance as he continues to get into match shape. United’s other transfer window signing Pablo Hernandez started and played the full 90 minutes. Hernandez has been training with the team for nearly three weeks while Boskovic has made only a handful of training sessions since signing last Thursday

Match Gallery

A few choice images from before and during the game; All Photos Martin Fernandez.