Olsen Named Head Coach

Ben Olsen

DC United named Ben Olsen as its 7th Head Coach. Photo: Tony Quinn.

Despite a past public stance that Ben Olsen would not be named D.C. United’s next head coach, D.C. United General Manager Kevin Payne announced today that Olsen would become D.C.’s next Head Coach.

“We spent a great deal of time on this decision. The more we talked about what we were looking for in the next coach of D.C. United, the more we talked about Ben Olsen as a candidate for the Job.” Said Payne.

Olsen, who took the reigns from failing head coach Curt Onalfo on August 7th, 2010 becomes D.C. United’s 7th Head Coach. United, who broke several league records in futility during the 2010 Season has been going through a period of decline, while other teams in the league have seen fortune, the once might Black-and-Red has fallen hard. In 2010 United finished dead last with only 6 wins on the year.

With the move, Payne and United hope to bring the once mighty Black-and-Red back to glory. This remains to be seen.

This club means a great deal to me”, said Olsen. “From my playing days and to be asked to lead the team is an honor. “I’m extremely excited and plan to prove that I was the right choice for this position.”

United roster overhaul continues in Florida

Missing out on the playoffs on the last day of the season in consecutive years has brought about a host of changes that has more than a few fans and pundits uneasy about the teams prospects heading into the 2010 MLS campaign. Gone from United’s roster is 3/4 of their foreign attacking contingent in Luciano Emilio, Fred and Christian Gomez. Between the three of them they accounted for 18 goals and 10 assists. That breaks down to roughly 42% of the goal scoring and 28% of the assists. While those numbers don’t exactly jump off the page at you, it is a significant amount of their offense nonetheless and it will be missed at times during the upcoming season.

The question now is “Did United do enough to make up for those losses?” It’s obviously too early to say because the players they brought into the team whom they can count on scoring goals doesn’t exactly look like a murderers row of goal scoring. Australian striker Danny Allsop comes to United to add some size and scoring punch as does Salvadoran winger Christian Castillo who scored two fantastic goals against the United States in World Cup qualifying last fall. Again, is that enough? If you held a gun to my head I would say that no, it’s not enough at the moment. To be fair to the front office, it’s still only the middle of February and the transfer window for MLS doesn’t close until the end of March. United has also brought in 18-year old Honduran striker Arnolyn Guity. Your guess is as good as mine as to who this kid is and what kind of a player he is. If he has any kind of speed at all, it will be a welcomed sight for the Black and Red because their current crop of forwards (Allsop, Jaime Moreno, Chris Pontius and newly acquired Adam Cristman) don’t exactly come across as players that can get behind defenses. Not that pure speed is the magical elixir that will vault United to the MLS Cup anytime soon, but wouldn’t it be a refreshing change of pace (pun intended) to see a United player actually run past the last line of defense and bear down on goal?

Enough of that pipe dream. Arguably the most affected area of the team is in midfield where United has lost four players who contributed major minutes to the club last season and beyond. The aforementioned Fred (traded) and Gomez (not offered a contract) are gone as well as Andrew Jacobsen (selected by Philadelphia Union in the Expansion Draft) and the heart and soul of United, Ben Olsen. Olsen does remain with the team as an assistant coach, but his leadership skills on the field will be sorely missed. United brought in the electric Castillo on loan and also picked up Congolese midfielder Flo N’Galula to help make up the numbers. N’Galula was a former Manchester United youth player and actually sat the bench with the first team on the rare occasion though never actually played. Also back for United is  midfield Brandon Barklage who played very well during the U.S. Open Cup (scoring in back-to-back matches) but was lost for the season shortly thereafter with a knee injury. Danny Szetela is back and is hopeful of bigger role than his spot duty after being obtained late last season. Unfortunately for Szetela, he is currently sidelined after tearing the meniscus in his knee. He should be back right as the season starts, but with missing most or all of preseason, his impact will be minimal until mid-season at least. Stalwarts Clyde Simms, Santino Quaranta and second-year man Rodney Wallace will be back, though with the addition of Castillo on the left it just might put Wallace into the left-back position ahead of incumbent Marc Burch. Quaranta is also coming off of injury but is very close to resuming full training in the next few weeks.

Defense is a position that seems the most thin part of the roster at the moment. Dejan Jacovic, Julius James and Marc Burch are all returning as well as Lawson Vaughn. However the big story of the off-season is the rather dire situation with Bryan Namoff and concussion issues. At the moment there is no realistic time table of his return and that will hurt this team at the beginning of the season. If they can hold on initially, they just might be able to stomach the loss of arguably their best defender. United has brought in Jamaican defender Jermaine Taylor and Honduran defender Quiarol Arzu for tryouts this week in Bradenton, Florida. If these two players manage to make the squad that could improve United’s admittedly weak depth in the back.  Taylor is a central defender who just this past week put in a decent effort against Argentina in a 2-1 friendly loss. Arzu can play centrally and on the right side of defense. He seems to be cover for Namoff at the moment. Utility man Devon McTavish and rookie fourth-round selection Jordan Graye round out the defense.

The biggest move of the off-season undoubtedly was United’s acquisition of Troy Perkins. United certainly gave up quite a bit (Fred, allocation money and the #7 overall pick in the 2010 MLS Superdraft) to get him from the Philadelphia Union but in the end I think it will be worth it as Perkins is about as solid an MLS keeper as any team could ask for. Who backs up Perkins is the million dollar question at the moment. Will it be Josh Wicks (coming off injury and not available until after the season starts) or Milos Kocic? How about 19-year old manchild Bill Hamid? It’s perhaps a bit much to ask to have a 19-year old as a backup, but with roster spots limited and United only playing a bare bones schedule this season (just 30 league matches and however many Open Cup matches they play in), it would probably make sense to only keep two goalies on the roster. The big stumbling block in all of this is whether or not Perkins will be the #3 goalkeeper for the US this summer during the World Cup. At this point, Perkins has about a 50-50 chance to be that 3rd keeper.

Overall I am beginning to like the changes that new coach Curt Onalfo has brought about with United. With only two players over the age of 30 (Moreno and Allsop) who will play every game from the outset, it’s a bit of a departure from years past in the way that United is shaping their team. United has always prided itself on their flowing football and attacking style of play. To me their predictable play has gone a little stale over the past few years and I think the changes made during the off-season reflect that. Younger players and better ball movement might be the key to this team turning around their fortunes and finally getting into the playoffs after a two-year haitus. Who knows, they might even eschew their normal method of walking the ball into the goal in favor of actually using the width of the field and letting talented playmakers like Castillo and Quaranta get down the wing and hit some crosses into a team that now boast three strikers over 6 feet tall in Allsop, Pontius and Cristman.

It’s going to be an interesting preseason and even more intriguing regular season. I can’t wait for it to get started. In the meantime, can anyone volunteer to come over and help shovel my car out?

United lose 2-0 to Chivas USA and sink even further away from playoffs

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.

Mid-Season Musings

While United is not quite at the halfway mark of the season, I am taking this opportunity to look at what has gone right and what needs improving as they head towards the tough part of the season during the summer months. United is still very much a work in progress in trying to balance a team that is very old at the top of the team and very young at the bottom. How this meshes together will be the ultimate tell on how United will do this season

Good Starts

With very few exceptions through 13 MLS matches, United has taken the opening 45 minutes to their respective opponents. While the first half tally’s will read an 8-4 goals advantage for United, it really doesn’t tell the whole story. On the positive side of things it shows that United are coming out ready to play in most of these matches. With the exception of United trailing Chivas USA 2-0 at the half earlier this season, they have been nearly unscored upon surrendering only two goals. United have gone to the locker room with the lead in 7 of their 13 matches to date. However, they have only won two of them. Which leads to…  

Poor Finishes

I know what you’re saying. “But United had all those miracle comebacks. How is that poor finishing?”. Good question. It’s poor finishes in the sense that United have let their opponents off the hook too many times with poor finishing and criminal mistakes with little to no pressure around. It has not been very often that an opponent has simply taken the match to United this season. If anything, it’s a question of simply having the ability to finish off matches. Take your chances and leave no doubt. United hasn’t done this very well this season and thus the miracle finishes and close losses. United has had a two-goal lead for only 18 minutes total this season. The rest of the time they are either tied, ahead by one goal or trailing by one goal. United also needs to tidy up their mistakes in the second half. 13 of the 17 goals allowed have come in the second half and teams feel that if they can simply contain United and stay close, they will have a chance to get back into matches, which is exactly what has transpired this season.

I Believe in Miracles

What can you say about United’s unprecedented one month stretch from April 17th to May 16th when they pulled four results out of the fire? In all four of those matches, United were within a whisker of losing before getting late help via Ben Olsen (90th minute header to draw 1-1 with New England), Luciano Emilio and Chris Pontius (goals after stoppage time in a 3-2 win at New York), Jaime Moreno and Pontius(Moreno with PK in stoppage time and Pontius with 85th minute equalizer only to see TFC come down and re-take the lead a minute later) and finally Emilio and Santino Quaranta (77th and 86th minute goals in two-goal comeback at league leaders Chivas USA).  You could go back through the annals of United history and only find a handful of comebacks by United that rival that one month stretch of magic from the Black and Red.

Defensive Improvement

As compared to last season, United is miles ahead in terms of goals allowed. They’ve given up 17 goals in 13 matches and have 3 league shutouts, including two in their last three matches. The addition of central defender Dejan Jakovic has been more than advertised. His calmness on the ball, his very good passing ability and his closing speed are all great additions to a United defense that was pathetic last season. Bryan Namoff has been his usual stellar self and has taken it upon himself to marshall the back line from his right back position. Throw in the added improvement to his offensive game and he is having an all-league type of season. Marc Burch has been the real wild card here. Recent weeks has shown a great improvement on the defensive side of the ball and a discipline to stay home and defend first, which had never really been seen before. However, his early season form was spotty at best and only until United made the move to bring in veteran defender Avery John had we really seen an improvement in Burch’ play. John will add some much needed grit and leadership to the United back line should any injuries or suspensions rear it’s ugly head. Central defender Greg Janicki has been solid in limited time but the emergence of Jakovic has relegated him to late game mop up duty. Devon McTavish has been a non-factor this season will only a limited amount of appearances due to the good play from both the defensive corps and the midfield.

As for the goalkeeping position, it looks like Josh Wicks has stepped up to the #1 spot. Two shutouts in three matches (with game-saving stops in both shutouts) is exactly what the team has been looking for since Troy Perkins’ abrupt signing overseas before last season. Louis Crayton did not take advantage of his being the #1 coming into the season and his poor play finally culminated in him being dropped off the  18 man game-day roster for the past 5 matches (4 league and 1 Open Cup). Crayton’s hefty contract (reportedly $180,000 a year) is simply too much for a third string keeper. Come to think of it, it might be too much for a #1 in this league.

Milos Kocic is solidly in the #2 spot and might be the best keeper on the team but give credit where credit is due with Wicks. He has proven lately that he is capable of the job. Most people’s opinion of Wicks was formed from his play last season for the Galaxy. We have to remember that the Galaxy in 08′ was one of the worst defensive teams in MLS history and Iker Casillas would have looked bad playing between the pipes for the Galaxy. Wicks didn’t help his cause with a few blunders early on this season in terms of ball handling and positioning, but he seems to have risen in confidence as has his defenders in front of him.

Finally, A Draft That Pays Off

One of the loudest criticisms of United’s front office in recent seasons has been their lack of picks and subsequent lack of production from any young player they bring to the team. If it wasn’t trading picks away for older players or for allocation money, it was simply making bad draft picks. All that has appeared to have changed for United this season. Rodney Wallace (#6 pick in SuperDraft) and Chris Pontius (#7 pick) have been superlative through their first run through MLS. Wallace (2 goals, 3 assists) and Pontius (3 goals, 2 assists – 5 goals, 3 assists in all competitions) have given United an injection of speed, aggression andpassion that has rarely been seen around RFK for a long time. It doesn’t end with those two either. All of their draft picks have made an impact. 2ndRound pick goalkeeper Milos Kocic has stepped up to the #2 position ahead of Louis Crayton and has a win and two draws in all competitions. United’s other draftpick, 4th rounder Brandon Barklage has only managed to score in both of his U.S. Open Cup appearances and has shown a particular hunger that reminds a lot of people of a very young version of Ben Olsen in terms of tenacity and energy. This particular draft class could go down as the single best class United has ever produced rivaled only by the 2001 class that included Ryan Nelsen, Bryan Namoff and Santino Quaranta.

Rotation, Rotation, Rotation

Head coach Tom Soehn is bearing the fruits of having a deep roster. Not only has his team been relatively healthy (Olsen being the only long-term injury and it hasn’t been THAT long) but getting productive minutes from thier rookies has made United easily the deepest team in MLS to this point. How many other teams can bring players like Moreno and Gomez off the bench into the second half of matches? How about Fred, Emilio, Quaranta, Pontius and Wallace? Not too many. United has done that in recent weeks. Quite the luxury if you ask me.

While there are certainly critics of rotating too many players, it bears reminding of the horror show that was last season that saw Soehn field three reserve teams for their last 3 CONCACAF Champions League group matches last September. Nothing like trotting out Craig Thompson, Ryan Miller and James Thorpe as opposed to Moreno, Gomez and Fred.

The added benefit of rotating players (specifically the older gentlemen) is that United just might have a team that won’t fall flat on it’s face in October when the real pressure hits. It definitely will help that United isn’t playing in 47 different competitions like last season. Therefore I feel that if United can stay relatively injury-free for the remainder of 2009, there is no reason not to expect a good effort advancement in the  MLS Cup playoffs and in the CONCACAF Champions League group stage later this summer.

By the time late September rolls around, I do feel that Soehn will finally pick his best X1 and ride that team through the playoffs. I would expect to see the Moreno, Gomez, Fred, Olsen andEmilio getting the majority of minutes with Pontius, Wallace and Andrew Jacobson ready, willing and able to step in should the need arise.

Overall Assessment

Obviously with only 2 losses in 13 matches so far this season, it’s a great improvement over the 7 losses at this time last season. However, a closer look at the records would reveal that United is only 3 points ahead of last seasons pace. It’s plain to see though that this team has a chemistry that was non-existent last season and quite simply they have better players with the additions of Pontius, Wallace, Olsen, Wicks and Jacobson. United is also on the verge of taking over first place in a highly competitive Eastern Conference should they win their home match versus Chicago this weekend. I feel it’s only a matter of time before United can get past letting teams stay close to them and start to really gel as the summer heats up.

Olsen’s stoppage time goal saves United’s blushes in 1-1 draw with the Revs

The statistics are there for all to see. D.C. United out shot the visitors 20-4, including 8 shots on goal to just 2 for the Revs. However, when you play Steve Nicol and his New England Revolution, statistics go out the window. More than any other team in recent MLS history, the Revs seem to pull results like tonight’s 1-1 draw with the Black and Red out of thin air. Undermanned and under talented, they somehow pull together and frustrate the Hell out of their opposition.

Tonight was no different as a Revolution team missing many starters including goalkeeper Matt Reis and forward Taylor Twellman, nearly stole three points from United with their calculated combination of timely goalkeeping, finished chances and most importantly,  impotence from the home side as United spent most of the night shooting just narrowly wide of the target.

Shalrie Joseph’s 50th minute header nearly was enough to get the win but not for the heroic efforts of United’s energetic talisman Ben Olsen. Olsen latched onto a Jaime Moreno free kick in stoppage time and forced his header off the chest of Chris Tierney and into the goal to send 14,441 fans into rapture at RFK Stadium. United nearly won the game just a minute later when substitute Fred got hold of a loose ball in midfield and fired a 25 yard volley that just missed the far post that would have given United the more than deserved three points it should have had this evening.

United started off flying all over the pitch creating numerous chances including Olsen’s first minute 25 yard blast that second-string goalkeeper Brad Knighton did well to contain. Knighton was on hand in the 21st minute when an Olsen curling shot was saved and Knighton nearly slipped and fell into his own goal. The best chance of the half however came just a few minutes later when a well-worked passing sequence by United resulted in Rodney Wallace’s  shot/cross from the left side of the penalty area just missing the wide open Christian Gomez’ sliding attempt to poke into an empty net. Gomez wasn’t finished just yet in his most effective performance of the young season. In the 35th minute Gomez got hold of a pass deep in the box and his scuffed shot attempt forced Knighton to dive to his right to punch away the goal bound shot. That attempt by United summed up the first half frustration from the home team as they thoroughly dominated play and were unlucky to go into the locker room with a 0-0 draw.

The second half started with a rare double substitution from United. Both Clyde Simms and Marc Burch were withdrawn and Andrew Jacobsen and Santino Quaranta made their entrances. The move seemed strange and with a touch of desperation at the time but it became clear after the match why the move was made. United head coach Tom Soehn was forced into the double substitution because Simms came to him just as the second half was to start and told him he could not go due to not feeling well. Soehn was clearly not happy with the untimely decision from his stalwart defensive midfielder, “Clyde has to do a better job of communicating with me. We never would have made the first sub (Quaranta for Burch) had I known Clyde wasn’t able to go. He just needs to do better than that.”

That being said, it was the visitors who took the shock lead in the 50th minute. The goal came about innocently enough when a Louis Crayton clearance sailed out of bounds at midfield. However, the Revolution took the throw in roughly twenty yards upfield from where the ball went out of bounds. With defender Bryan Namoff and midfielder Chris Pontius questioning referee Jair Maruffo about the positioning, Revolution midfielders Wells Thompson and Steve Ralston worked a quick one-two combination that saw a swerving cross sent into the box for Shalrie Joseph to head past the stunned United defense.

United quickly regrouped and nearly got the equaliser right away. A slick passing combination resulted in Gomez’ nicely weighted layoff to Pontius who juked Chris Tierney to the inside and his rasping angled drive sailed just over the bar from 8 yards out. Pontius suffered from a case of Deja Vu as his 58th minute setup from Gomez again resulted in another piledriver that whisked just wide of the frame. As the match wore on United was clearly getting frustrated with their lack of success before United’s emotional leader saved them from an undeserved loss in stoppage time.

Fred outworked Revolution midfielder Sainey Nyassi to a loose ball in the left corner and forced the Gambian to foul the United midfielder. Moreno stepped up and sent a ball to the far post where Olsen simply outhustled all of his competition and sent a header goalbound. The ball deflected off the chest of Tierney and settled into the side netting as Olsen’s United teamates mobbed him behind the goal. The assist from Jaime Moreno made him the first player in MLS history to put up 100 goals and 100 assists in his career.

D.C. United’s next match will be a U.S. Open Cup qualifier match at home against FC Dallas this upcoming Wednesday night at RFK Stadium. United’s next league match is next Sunday afternoon against New York Red Bull. That match is only on Telefutura. The Open Cup match will not be televised.

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United holds on for 1-1 draw in home opener versus Chicago fire

Luciano Emilio scored an early first half goal and Chicago’s Patrick Nyarko equalised eight minutes into the second half for a deserved 1-1 draw between the Eastern Conference rivals.

Chicago, coming off an impressive 3-1 road win in Dallas last week, didn’t put up much of a fight in the first half as Black and Red applied heavy and high pressure all over the field for the entire first half. United were rewarded with a much deserved lead on a beautiful left footed blast from their Designated Player Luciano Emilio in the 7th minute.

Although Emilio’s goal was unassisted, the goal might not have come if not for the play of fiesty midfielder Ben Olsen.  The play started with Jaime Moreno collecting the ball just inside the Chicago half. Moreno played the ball to Olsen who’s first touch was a bit too loose forcing Olsen to slide tackle Chicago midfielder Logan Pause. The resulting loose ball caromed straight to Emilio who turned towards goal. The Brazilian easily side-stepped defender C.J. Brown and let loose a 22 yard blast that left Chicago goalkeeper Jon Busch with no chance.

United continued to pile on the pressure and were unfortunate not to double the lead on two separate occasions. In the 26th minute United defender Bryan Namoff made a great run down the right flank and got past Fire defender Daniel Woolard and centered for impressive rookie Chris Pontius who’s one time shot curled just over the bar.

Just five minutes later Ben Olsen would latch onto a whipped in cross from Christian Gomez and his header was goal bound but well saved by Busch. The teams headed to the locker room with United leading 1-0.  “We started the game very well. I thought we put a heck of a lot into it and then denied them all over the place,” said D.C. boss Tom Soehn. “I wish we would have come out with a little bit more in the first half because we put so much into it and it showed, because our legs were a little heavy coming out in the second half. The tide changed and then we were on the defensive end.”

The tide indeed did change as the Fire came out guns ablazing to start the second half. A number of defensive mistakes nearly cost United the game-tying goal but it only took eight minutes after the restart for the match to be level. Patrick Nyarko collected a fine pass from Marco Pappa and drove past defender Dejan Jakovic towards goal, but at a severe angle. United keeper Josh Wicks, filling in for injured starter Louis Crayton, mistakenly tried to come out and smother the play and the second-year striker from Virginia Tech easily passed the ball into the empty net.

“The goal that they scored, you know, he should’ve stayed in his goal,” acknowledged Soehn of his netminder.  “But he did a lot of positives for us too, especially that save at the end on Chris [Rolfe]. Chris has a quick trigger and put it where he wanted to and Josh got across the goal very well.”

Both teams had glorious chances to reclaim the lead just seconds after the tying goal. Jaime Moreno spotted Pontius making a run down the right side behind the Fire defense. The rookie chested the ball and appeared to be one-v-one with Busch only to see his rifled shot hit the goalkeeper right in the stomach and he easily swept up the rebound. Just seconds later another bad misplay by the United defense allowed speedy winger Justin Mapp in on goal all alone. However the former first round draft pick by United smashed his shot over the bar to the relief of the 15,895 fans in attendance.

The Fire were not done and nearly took the lead at the death of the match when defender Tim Ward hit a vicious shot from about 40 yards that Wicks spilled right into the path of Brian McBride. Wicks got his wits about him just in time to deflect the shot over the bar. While Wicks was having an off night to be sure, he saved his best for last when he parried a Chris Rolfe shot wide of the goal in the 89th minute. If SportsCenter were so inclined, that save should make the Top Ten plays of the day. Wicks was not done though as he had to dive to his right to deny Rolfe again in stoppage time. 

DC United Notes 

  • The attendance announced at 15,895 was the second lowest home opening attendance in team history. Only the 15,000 in 2003 was worse.
  • Louis Crayton, Devon McTavish, Greg Janicki, Fred and Santino Quaranta all missed the match due to injury. The Fire were missing their top two defenders Bukary Soumare (Mali) and Gonzalo Segares (Costa Rica) as they were with their national teams for World Cup qualifying duty. Fire defender C.J. Brown hobbled off injured in the 14th minute with a reported quad strain.
  • Chicago striker and league nemesis Cuauhtemoc Blanco only played 20 minutes but he showed his usual dosage of absolutely no class with his histrionics in a collision with Ben Olsen. The players collided just inside United’s half about ten minutes into Blanco’s induction into the match. After the collision Olsen turned towards Blanco who comically faked like he was going to viciously attack Olsen (in spite of nearly five yards between them). The two players got back into the action only to see Blanco completely fake that he got levelled by Olsen. Replays clearly showed the Olsen did his best to avoid the self-inflicted con job and Blanco’s already poor reputation for bringing the game into repute sank even further.
  • DC United will now face the Houston Dynamo at RFK next Saturday night at 7:30 pm.  The Dynamo come into the match on the heels of their 3-2 defeat at San Jose tonight. Houston has 1 point from their two matches thus far this season.

Match Gallery

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