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United defense stifles Red Bull; Offense still MIA in 0-0 draw at Red Bull Arena

While normally a four-game road trip that ends with one win, a loss and two draws is looked upon as above average in MLS these days, it’s of little consolation to D.C. United after their 0-0 draw tonight at Red Bull Arena. With United losing eight of it’s first nine matches this season, their recent modest run of two wins, a loss and three draws still has them hovering near the bottom of MLS and time is starting to run out on the Black-and-Red. While playoff elimination is still technically a long ways off, what is apparent with United is their lack of offense this season. With tonight’s shutout, United has incredibly not scored in 10 of their 14 MLS matches this season. That’s not exactly a recipe for success but what is also apparent right now with United is that they are indeed playing more cohesive and better defensively as evident by tonight’s excellent defensive performance.

Juan Pablo Angel, long Red Bull’s most dangerous player for four seasons now and usually a United killer, was smothered by the central defensive pairing of Dejan Jakovic and Julius James. James in particular seemed to frustrate the entire Red Bull attack as his lunging tackles and physical play dominated the match. Angel had scored in four consecutive matches but hardly had a look at goal this evening as the Black-and-Red garnered their second defensive clean sheet of the season.

Truth be told, both teams struggled to put together any quality chances to score. United’s best chance was a tough-angled bid by Santino Quaranta in the 6th minute that was parried away by Red Bull goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul. United had a handful of promising efforts that either were hopeful long-range efforts or passing sequences that fizzled out in the last third of the field, a season long problem which mostly explains the teams lack of goalscoring this season. Red Bulls chances weren’t much better either as Troy Perkins only had to make two routine saves all evening long.

As it happens though, United did finish their longest road trip of the season with 5 points in 4 matches and with the team struggling to score goals, that seems quite a feat at this point of the season. Up next for United is a long awaited return to RFK Stadium on Thursday night when they entertain Seattle Sounders FC. This match will be live on ESPN2 starting at 8pm EST

DC United's Jaime Moreno notched a bizarre goal agains i-95 rival Philadelphia Union, but it wasn't enough to give United the vicotory

United nightmarish start continues with 3-2 loss to expansion Philadelphia Union

DC United's Jaime Moreno notched a bizarre goal agains i-95 rival Philadelphia Union, but it wasn't enough to give United the vicotory

DC United’s Jaime Moreno notched a bizarre goal in the second half of his team’s match against i-95 rival Philadelphia Union to tie the score at 2, but it wasn’t enough to give United a point or the victory. (Photo: Rafael Crisostomo)

Sebastion Le Toux scored a hat trick and powered the  Philadelphia Union to their first ever MLS victory in their home debut over D.C. United by a 3-2 scoreline. Don’t let the close score fool you, United were outmatched for 80 of the 90 minutes as the home side took only four minutes to take the lead. Le Toux got on the end of a cross from Roger Torres to power an unmarked header past Troy Perkins for the early deficit. Lax marking from United allowed the lanky Frenchman to simply walk through the penalty area.

Things didn’t improve for the visiting Black and Red as the first half saw a no rhythm or sense of composure on either end of the field as the expansion side passed triangles around the befuddled visitors. Philadelphia extended their lead in the 40th minute on a devastating counterattack. United were pushed up field playing their first corner of the game and Torres got hold of a clearance and sent the ball up field to Alejandro Moreno. Moreno did well to shield off Kurt Morsink and then fired a laser precise pass across the field to Le Toux who sprinted all alone into the box. As desperate United defenders converged, Le Toux fired low and hard to Perkins right and it was 2-0 for the Union.

After halftime head coach Curt Onalfo made the obvious choice to insert Jaime Moreno into the match. The Bolivian sparked United immediately creating a few dangerous opportunities but it was the Union that almost increased their lead to 3-0 when Le Toux was sent in alone when Dejan Jakovic fell pray to a dummy move from Alejandro Moreno. Perkins did well to come off his line and thwart the challenge and keep the score at 2-0. In the 63rd minute United finally broke their seasons duck when Santino Quaranta picked up a bad pass from Michael Orozco and let loose a left-footed blast from 22 yards that took a slight deflection and got past the diving Chris Seitz to halve the lead.

In the 70th minute Jaime Moreno tied the match on one of the most bizarre goals in MLS history. Union goalkeeper Chris Seitz was just about to punt the ball out of the box when Moreno faked a move towards Seitz just as he dropped the ball to volley it. Since Moreno never actually made contact, the move froze Seitz in his tracks and the ball fell to the ground. The Bolivian swept it up, put a fake on Seitz and easily slotted the ball into the empty net to give the visitors a highly improbable tie match at 2-2.

That all changed in the 81st minute when Alejandro Moreno was adjudged to be taken down in an obvious goal scoring opportunity. A red card was show to United’s Dejan Jakovic and the resulting free kick was placed easily inside the far post giving the Union their first ever MLS win by a 3-2 margin. United must now find a way to pick themselves up and get back on track as they start a 3-match home stand starting next weekend against the Chicago Fire on Saturday, April 17th.

United Notes

– defender Juan Manuel Pena was subbed out of the match early in the first half with a hamstring strain

– Dejan Jakovic will miss the Chicago Fire match with his red card

United battles back twice to gain 2-2 draw in Dallas

Marc Burch and Jaime Moreno tallied on either side of halftime to help United come from behind twice in their 2-2 draw at Pizza Hut Park on Saturday evening against FC Dallas. Both goals offset poor positional efforts that allowed both goals for FC Dallas. The draw for the Black and Red brought them even with the New England Revolution, 4-2 losers at home to Kansas City, in the standings with 33 points apiece. However, the Revolution have both the head to head tiebreaker with United (with a win and a draw in two matches this season against United) and more importantly, two games in hand to make up the difference.

The scoring started in the 10th minute when defender Julius James took a poor angle on a ball sent over the defense and Jeff Cunningham outmuscled the Jamaican and only had to poke it over Josh Wicks to give the home side a 1-0 lead. Wicks, a suprise starter considering his recent blowups in back to back matches, really didn’t need to come out as Cunningham was angling away from goal with James ready to recover. The goal seemed to snap United out of their early game malaise and they were able to draw level just before halftime. In the 44th minute United drew a foul about 30 yards from goal and Marc Burch unleashed his trademark left-footed blast and a redirection from FC Dallas midfielder helped it past Dario Sala to send the teams to the locker room tied at 1-1.

It didn’t take long for FC Dallas to regain the lead when in the 50th minute a Dave van Den Berg cross was badly misjudged by James again and David Ferreira took it calmly off his chest and volleyed past Wicks for a 2-1 lead. United didn’t give up and the game changed for good in the 56th minute when Santino Quaranta did a rare thing for United this season, he got behind the defense and was taken down from behind by defender Daniel Torres just as he was about to shoot on goal. Torres clipped the heels of Quaranta and a penalty was called for the Black and Red. Torres was also shown a red card for denying a goal scoring opportunity. MLS’ all-time leading goal scorer Jaime Moreno stepped up and easily sent Sala the wrong way and United had the match leveled at 2-2.

Both teams had opportunities to take the lead in the remaining 30 minutes with the best of the chances falling to Quaranta in the 87 minute when his shot was rifled into the side netting at a bad angle.

With the draw, United now has an opportunity with 5 straight home matches to make a serious run at a solid playoff position. However their task is now made much more difficult with the news that their top defender Dejan Jakovic is in Germany getting hernia surgery that would put him out of both upcoming matches this week at RFK. United doesn’t play another MLS match after next week until September 27th against the San Jose Earthquakes, which should be plenty of time for Jakovic to recover.

United’s road misery continues; lose 2-0 in Toronto

During United’s six-game out of seven on the road stretch, it’s been the defense that has let the side down and seen the Black and Red go from the top of the Eastern Conference to fourth place and possibly out of a playoff position depending on later results. Today however it was a slow, lethargic and ultimately predictable attack that gave little trouble to the homestanding Toronto FC as they rode a pair of goals on either side of halftime to a comfortable 2-0 win over the Black and Red.

United ended their road away from RFK without winning a single match, losing three and drawing three and giving up a mind-numbing 15 goals in the process. One would think the pressure is off but now United has a whole set of other problems including injured players and involvement in three seperate competitions that will leave United shorthanded and tired for the next month.

Dwayne De Rosario’s 30th minute header and O’Brian White’s first ever MLS goal in the 66th minute  was all Toronto needed on a day where United offered very little in attack. Toronto was on a six-game winless streak going into the match but you never would have known it as United did well to possess the ball, but rarely did anything ever come from it. Toronto keeper Stephan Frei made a sharp angle free kick save on Marc Burch midway through the second half and was beated by a Santino Quaranta left-footed blast in stoppage time only to see Amado Guevara of all people heading off the goal line.

United will now fly down to Honduras to take on Marathon in the first match of the group phase of the CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday evening. Seeing as United’s league play is taking a turn for the worse, this competition couldn’t come at a worse time for United. United’s next league match is next Saturday at RFK against the red-hot Los Angeles Galaxy.

 

United Notes

– Ben Olsen was serving a yellow card suspension today. Danny Szetela was left back in Washington to rest ahead of the match in Honduras.

– Julius James made his debut late in the second half for United. David Haburagira was also signed on Friday but was not available today. Ange N’Silu was placed on the disabled list to make room for both of United’s signings. A roster move will have to be made when N’Silu comes off the six-game wait. Another roster move will also have to be made when Harrisburg midfielder Ty Shipalane joins United after the USL-2 playoffs are completed later this month.

– Bryan Namoff will not make the trip to Honduras in an effort to rest and rotate players ahead of a greuling stretch of games

United gets pounded 3-0 in Colorado

D.C. United easily had their worst performance in the season as they got steamrolled 3-0 tonight by the Colorado Rapids in Commerce City, Colorado in front of 11,416 fans at Dicks Sporting Goods Park. United is now 0-3 at Dicks since it opened in 2007 and is winless in Colorado since the turn of the century. It seemed pretty obvious that though United played with energy, it just didn’t seem to have their legs tonight. “I think I underestimated how much of a toll that last game took on us. If I were to do it again, I’d probably make wholesale changes and get some of the other guys out,” said Head coach Tom Soehn after the match.

Omar Cummings was the man of the match with two goals and an assist as he was the thorn in the side of a United defense that now all of a sudden is showing signs of their 2008 form when they were the second worst defense in MLS. United has given up six goals in their past two road matches and must find a way to stop the goals from leaking.  Tom Soehn didn’t hold back on his feelings towards his defense tonight, “They were just straight giveaways. That part was disappointing because those guys who made those mistakes were fresh.”

Cummings got the goalfest started in the 11th minute when he beat Greg Janicki for pace down the left flank and when Janicki slid to try and tackle the ball away, the Jamaican easily hopped over the defender and curled a beautiful shot past the helpless Josh Wicks in goal. Janicki got his first start for United since the opening match of the season at Los Angeles. Another playing making his first start since joining D.C. United was left back Avery John. He was the goat on the second goal that came right at the stroke of halftime. John played a backpass into United’s half of the field. The problem was there were no United defenders in sight and Cummings ghosted in and rounded Wicks and sent it just past the retreating Dejan Jakovic to give the Rapids a 2-0 lead at the break.

Coming out of the locker room Tom Soehn made a change and brought in Boyzzz Khumalo  for Janicki and United went back to their preferred 3-5-2 formation after starting the match in a 4-4-2. However, it was yet another mistake from United’s defense that put the final nail in the coffin for the Black and Red on this night. Jordan Harvey’s seemingly harmless ball over the top of the defense fell right to the foot of the normally reliable Jakovic. His mis-trap allowed that sliver of space for Cummings to get to the ball. Cummings held off Jakovic long enough to get to the endline and center the ball to the penalty spot for a wide open Colin Clarke to score past Wicks who did well enough to get his hand on the shot before it went into the side netting.

At this point it was clear that United was a beaten team but that didn’t stop them from pressing forward and trying to make the scoreline respectable. Chris Ponitus’ 54th minute header was excellently saved by Matt Pickens. In the 67th minute Christian Gomez’ redirected shot was somehow palmed out by Pickens and that essentially ended things for United on the night.

United will now have two weeks off of MLS play and will return at Columbus on July 4th. United will also play the Ocean City Barons in the U.S. Open Cup on June 30th at the Germantown SoccerPlex.

United does it again, pulling off 3-3 comeback in Seattle

A late own-goal courtesy of Seattle defender Tyrone Marshall gave United an improbable 3-3 draw Wednesday night in Seattle, Washington. United battled back from 3-1 second half defecit to send home a demoralized crowd of 29,104 at Qwest Field. Second half substitute Christian Gomez scored in the 63rd minute to draw United back to within a goal at 3-2 and United pressed forward in the open match and got the equalizer in the 87th minute thanks to Marshall.

 

Chris Pontius, who scored the games opening goal in the 34th minute, whipped in a cross from the left flank that Santino Quaranta just managed to get a slight touch to. That touch put Marshall in a no-win situation as the ball caromed off his head and past Kasey Keller to stun the sell-out crowd. United has now completed it’s fifth comeback late in the match to salvage a result that seemed very much in doubt considering the overall poor defensive effort from the Black and Red.

United’s defense was torn apart on numerous occasions and if not for the heroic efforts of Josh Wicks in goal, United very well may have lost this game by a large margin. Wicks made point blank saves in the second half on Fredy Montero, Freddie Ljunberg and Sebastian Le Toux to keep United in the match after they were trailing 2-1 at the intermission.

 

United took the lead against the run of play in the 36th minute when Quaranta sent in a diagonal ball over the defense to the back post where Pontius’ one-time volley shot past Kasey Keller. The lead didn’t last very long though when in the 38th minute Seattle midfielder Osvaldo Alonso uncorked a 30-yard Goal of the Year candidate that Wicks did very well to get a hand to before it blew past him into the upper 90. Seattle fed off the energized crowed and doubled their lead after United were guilty of sloppy defending. Dejan Jakovic won the ball on the left flank and then cheaply gave the ball away to set off the counter that gave Seattle the 2-1 lead in the 45 minute. Jakovic’ casual giveaway led to Nate Jaqua slipping behind United’s defense and his seemingly weak shot was redirected by Marc Burch past the helpless Wicks and Seattle had all the momentum heading into the locker room.

 

The beginning of second half saw the defensive miscues continue as Jakovic badly mis-played a bouncing ball that allowed Montero in alone on Wicks but the big man came up with the save. It was yet another mind-numbingly bad play by United that got Seattle a 3-1 lead in the 57th minute. Luciano Emilio, showing all the rust of his one-week suspension for a red card, made a horrific backpass right to Fredy Montero who took off towards goal and managed to juke and jive his way into the box and curled a left-footed beauty through a screen of March Burch and into the far side netting.

 

In spite of their worst defensive effort of the season, United drew on their ability to know that even facing a two-goal deficit, they still had a chance. Gomez got it started when he got onto a loose ball and pushed towards the penalty area and hit a laser that beat Keller low and to his right to pull United back. Seattle coach Sigi Schmid felt relatively comfortable in pulling his three most dangerous attacking players in Montero, Ljunberg and Jaqua and it came back to bite him as United got that late equalizer that no doubt sent the calls of second-guessing towards the coach.

 

Although United felt very fortunate to get a result from this match, it has to give the team some confidence in going forward on Saturday night against the Colorado Rapids in Commerce, Colorado. United has lost both of their matches at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and has had a terrible record overall in the Mile High City through their history. The match will be live on ComcastSportsnet at 9:30 pm EST

 

 

United Notes

 

– As has been mentioned numerous times already by various people, the Seattle Sounders FC experience simply has to be witnessed in person. Television does not do the atmosphere justice and that is only half the story. 1st Avenue in downtown Seattle is about as perfect a soccer experience that one can witness. Driving to the stadium you see countless bars absolutely packed with Seattle supporters in their green X-Box shirts and scarves and the streets flooded with passion and pride. It was an amazing thing to witness.

 

– Ben Olsen was on the 18- man roster and he’ll probably figure prominently in the match in Colorado on Saturday.

 

 

 

 

United defeats Red Bull 2-0; Capture yet Another Atlantic Cup

Santino Quaranta and Jaime Moreno scored on either side of halftime to give D.C. United a much needed 2-0 victory last night over New York Red Bull in front of 11, 226 drenched fans at rainy RFK Stadium. Josh Wicks sealed his second shutout in three matches with a flawless performance capped off by a stunning one-handed diving save of a goal bound Juan Pablo Angel shot in the 86th minute to help preserve the victory. Moreno scored his MLS all-time leading 126th goal in stoppage time just a few minutes later after United caught Red Bull pressing forward  in a desperate attempt to draw the match.

Karma served notice on the play in particular as it appeared that Christian Gomez did his best to drag his legs across the prone body of Red Bull goalkeeper Jon Conway. Considering United were seemingly robbed last week in stoppage time with a Taylor Twellman off-balance flop to the ground to give the Revs a game-winning penalty, United were finally repaid with the same sort of justice.

United dominated the lions share of possession for most of the match and even though the game produced much fewer goal scoring opportunities than in past United home performances, this seemed to be the most complete 90 minutes the team had played all season long. Head coach Tom Soehn disagreed with that notion in the post-game news conference saying “We didn’t get as many chances as we normally do, but that might have had something to do with the conditions.” None the less, United did get the upper hand in the 36th minute on one of the best goal sequences of the season for the Black and Red. It started with a throw-in in front of United’s bench that was headed on by Ange N’Silu to Luciano Emilio who duly headed it into the path of the overlapping Fred. Fred deked Red Bull defender Carlos Mendez to the ground and expertly rounded him and got to the endline and sent a pass back towards the penalty spot where Quaranta beat Jeremy Hall to the ball and he side-footed the ball into the net before sliding into the end boards on the wet turf.

United continued their dominant play and second half substitute Christian Gomez made an immediate impact and almost scored twice within about 20 seconds in the 48th minute. Gomez latched onto a nice backheel pass from Emilio just inside the Red Bull half and Gomez launched himself towards goal. United’s #10 unleashed a low rasping shot from 25 yards that Conway did well to parry away to his right. Emilio picked up the loose ball and then crossed back into the box only to see Gomez’ headed effort skim the top of the crossbar past a clearly beaten Conway.

More controversy developed in the 63rd minute with the substitution of Emilio out of the match for Jaime Moreno. Emilio, appearing very upset at the move, launched a rack of water bottles onto the field. The referee’s assistant got the attention of both the 4th official and lead official Terry Vaughn about the incident. Seconds later Emilio was shown a straight red card. Asked about the incident on two different occasions after the match a clearly agitated Tom Soehn said “we’ll talk about it at training tomorrow”.

As the match wore on, Red Bull got more of a foothold in United territory and nearly equalized in the 86th minute. Juan Pablo Angel got on the end of a flicked on pass from Dane Richards and the Colombian one-timed a shot headed for the right side of Josh Wicks’ goal. United’s keeper dove quickly to his right and palmed the ball out for a corner kick. Just four minutes later and with most of Red Bull in the penalty area trying to take advantage of another corner kick, United got the ball out of danger and Jaime Moreno lead a jail break to the other end of the field. Moreno sprinted with the ball for a good 50 yards before timing Christian Gomez’ overlapping run to perfection by laying the ball off in stride with the Argentine midfielder. Gomez’ first touch took him in alone on Conway and Gomez pulled off the veteran move of dragging his legs across the goalkeeper as he was rounding him. Terry Vaughn, no stranger to stoppage-time penalty decisions, pointed right to the spot.

Replays showed that Gomez was on his way down before contact was made and the bad karma from last weeks decision was wiped away as Moreno deposited his penalty kick easily past Conway for the final goal in United’s 2-0 win.

Up next for the Black and Red is a 9 day layoff before facing Conference leaders Chicago Fire on Saturday, June 13th at RFK Stadium at 7:30 pm. This game will be televised on Comcast SportsNet.

United Notes

  • Once again Louis Crayton was left off the 18-man roster. While no one is saying so in the front office, it appears that Crayton will no longer be a member of DC United come July 1st when his contract runs out
  • Emilio’s red card will have him miss the next match against Chicago. Emilio will eligible to return against Seattle on June 17th
  • Ben Olsen is still a few weeks away from returning to the lineup. Olsen was in good spirits as usual sitting up in the Directors Box
  • Had a chance to have a nice chat with former United coach Peter Nowak after the match. Interesting insight on his plan to build the expansion Philadelphia Union and equally good insight on his thoughts of the US’ performance in Costa Rica on Wednesday. Nowak’s main beef about the performance was the lack of preperation time the team had together prior to the match.

United does it again, this time storming back for 2-2 draw with Chivas USA

At some point this season the Law of Averages will catch up to D.C. United. Tonight was not that night as United pulled off another improbable comeback, this time from two goals down with 13 minutes left to play to gain a 2-2 draw away to league leaders Chivas USA.

Luciano Emilio’s 77th minute redirection of a Santino Quaranta shot pulled United to within a goal at 2-1. Quaranta than leveled the match with a Goal of the Year candidate in the form of a 30 yard daisycutter that gave the previously inpenetrable Zach Thornton no chance. This is United’s fourth comeback in their past six MLS matches to gain points when they were trailing late in the match.

All did not start well however for the Black and Red as they were thoroughly outplayed in the first 45 minutes by the home side and they took the lead in the 25th minute through a very controversial non-call by the assistant referee. Mykel Galindo, making his first MLS start in over a calender year, beat United’s offside trap and easily dispatched past the fallen Louis Crayton. Replays clearly showed that Galindo was at least a step offside on the play and the non-call enraged the United sidelines. United started to settle into the match and were just about to head to the locker room down only by the disputed goal. However a frantic sequence in United’s penalty area resulted in Chivas USA’s second goal.

Louis Crayton did well initially to punch away a cross but his second bite at the apple was fruitless as he waved at air on the ensuing cross and Attiba Harris pounced on the loose ball and sent a cross towards the open net for Mexican striker Eduardo Lillingston to head past the slow reacting United defense and send Chivas USA to halftime with a 2-0 lead.

United subbed in midfielder Fred to start the second half and right away the team started to press the issue.  United was unable to take advantage of their new found confidence as Chivas USA’s defense held firm. Christian Gomez was the next sub to come in and he too injected a bit of life into United only to see Jaime Moreno’s semi-breakaway fall away easily when he decided to try and lay off to Emilio instead of taking the better option of going straight in on Thornton. The cracks were starting to show however when Emilio pounced on a Quaranta shot from distance and found himself alone on top of Thornton. The Brazilian tried to beat the beefy American to the short side but Thornton was up to the task making his best save of the night.

Just a few minutes later though the game would change and United’s recent discovery of their ability to pull results out of losses kicked in. Quaranta got hold of a ball in the right channel and made a beautiful hesitation move on Paolo Nagamura which froze the midfielder and gave Quaranta enough time to unleash a shot.  The opportunistic Emilio stuck out his foot and redirected it off the far post to halve the deficit.

United then got the equalizer in stunning fashion through the reborn Quaranta. Rodney Wallace played a whipped ball into the six-yard box that Thornton punched away when a simple catch would have sufficed. The clearance ricocheted towards the Highlandtown native and he unleashed a 30 yard shot that never got two inches off the ground and swerved into the far side netting to tie the match at 2-2. Questions of offside were raised on the replay as it seemed that Christian Gomez might have touched the ball on it’s way into the goal. However replays clearly showed Gomez onside when the shot was taken and United walked out of the Home Depot Center with two draws on the season after two very bad losses last season to both Chivas USA and the Los Angeles Galaxy.

United will now return home to play New York Red Bull in a U.S. Open Cup qualifier match on Wednesday evening with the winner advancing to the third round of the tournament proper. United also has a league match at RFK on Saturday night against Real Salt Lake.

 

United Notes

Ben Olsen was substituted after only 6 minutes played. Olsen was carrying a hamstring injury into the match and the decison to allow him to play with only minimal training seemed a strange decision.

– United gains their sixth tie of the season. United only had four all of last season.

– United is unbeaten in six MLS matches and seven matches overall, matching their high from last season.

– With the two late goals United still has yet to be shut out this season in MLS play. At this stage last season United had been shut out a staggering five times in 10 matches.