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United and Chicago bore their way to a 0-0 draw

Fittingly, D.C. United and the Chicago Fire played to a 0-0 draw this afternoon at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois. Both teams are long out of the playoff picture and are arguably the two biggest disappointments in MLS this season. United of course is going to finish the season with the worst season in club history and will set numerous MLS marks for offensive futility as they suffered their 17th shutout in 29 league matches.

With both teams having little to play for, it was a nice sending off though for Chicago Fire forward and American soccer legend Brian McBride who was playing his last professional match at home. McBride actually put the ball in the net on two occasions in this truly dour affair, but both times the offside flag was correctly raised. Other than that, it was only a handful of chances late in the match that put any spark into this match. Santino Quaranta had a chance in the 86th minute to win the match only to see Chicago goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra come off his line and thwart the goal bound attempt from Quaranta.

Minutes later McBride was subbed off to a heroes welcome as the 19,056 fans in attendance all saluted the Fire captain as he walked off the Toyota Park field for the last time. Not only did his fellow players congratulate him, but the officials as well as a big hug from United coach Ben Olsen welcomed him as he left the field. Seconds later though, McBride’s substitute Calen Carr almost stole the three points. Carr broke in alone after a misplay from Dejan Jakovic and Perkins did well to dive to his right to save the shot. The rebound fell right to the feet of Freddie Ljunberg who one-timed his shot towards the empty net only to see Clyde Simms’ sliding block keep the scoreline at a deserved 0-0.

United will now finally close this dark chapter of a season next weekend when they host Toronto FC at 7:30pm at RFK Stadium. This time it will be United’s turn to salute a legend of soccer in America as Jaime Moreno will be honored in his last MLS match for the Black-and-Red. As this match will not be on local television, United is asking everyone to make an effort to get to RFK next weekend to say goodbye to United’s greatest all-time player.

United falls apart in 3-1 loss to Houston

Andy Najar’s wonderful individual goal in the 29th minute was not enough to offset yet another second-half collapse as D.C. United fall 3-1 to the Houston Dynamo last night at RFK Stadium. For the second consecutive week, United squandered a rare lead and allowed the visitors to climb back into the match with 2 goals in 4 minutes midway through the second half to lead the collapse. Before that however, United broke the deadlock in the 29th minute when Santino Quaranta’s diagonal pass met Najar in stride on the right flank just outside the penalty area. The 17-year old easily skinned Houston defender Andrew Hainault and cut across the penalty area and sent a left-fo0ted rocket into the net for a 1-0 lead. Najar’s goal was his 5th of the season to lead the team and also tie him with Santino Quaranta (2001) and Freddy Adu (2004) for the team record for most goals by a rookie.

United continued their good play into the second half and were very unfortunate to have a Danny Allsopp goal called back when he followed up a 60th minute blast from Pablo Hernandez that was well-saved from Houston goalkeeper Pat Onstad.  The ball fell to the feet of  Allsopp who scored easily past Onstad only to have the offside flag go up. However, television replays showed Dynamo defender Andrew Hainault kept the Aussie striker onside and the goal was incorrectly ruled out.

Such is the bad luck that has hovered over this team throughout the 2010 campaign. United would have had a 2-0 lead and essentially would have seen the game out as they were clearly the superior team on the night but again, as has happened all season long, United could not take advantage of their territory and allowed the Dynamo to equalize in the 66th minute via an own-goal from United defender Devon McTavish. The Dynamo sported a rare attack into United territory down the right flank and a cross from Richard Mulrooney floated through the area and over the hands of the badly mistimed jump of United goalkeeper Troy Perkins. With an open goal staring at him, Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis uncharacteristically shanked the ball away from the open goal but it then hit off the knee of McTavish and into the goal to level the match at 1-1.

Just four minutes later the visitors were into the lead when Geoff Cameron headed home from a Davis free kick and the game was essentially over at this point. After a season of ineptitude and chasing most matches despite outplaying the opposition, it seemed this mountain was just too tall to climb and the added pressure from a season long string of failures deflated the Black-and-Red and they rarely threatened after that point and Dominic Oduro’s 100th minute goal (that’s right, 100th minute) was just a cruel blow and certainly made for a flattering scoreline for Houston.

United now will travel to Colorado to face the Rapids next weekend where they have never beaten the Rapids since they opened Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in 2007.

United Notes

  • A real oddity occurred late in the match when both Dominic Kinear and Ben Olsen were both ejected from the match. The 4th official informed match referee Alex Prus of a touchline bustup between the two friends. As it turned out, Ben Olsen was merely apologizing to Kinear for a rough tackle from Julius James in the 89th minute and Kinear accepted the apology. Apparantly the 4th official thought it was more than that and told Prus to toss both of them.
  • Junior Carreiro made his United debut tonight coming in for Devon McTavish in the 83rd minute

United settles for 1-1 draw in San Jose

Andy Najar’s 54th minute volley brought D.C. United from behind and the Black-and-Red had to settle for a 1-1 draw in San Jose last night against the struggling Earthquakes. With the draw, the home side Quakes have now gone seven MLS matches without a win, losing four and drawing three. As for United, it was somewhat of a bounce back performance after their undeserved 2-0 loss in Columbus last weekend. While a road point is nothing to sneeze at, United is sinking further and further away from the playoffs with each non-win. United now has a 3-9-2 record and they are tied with the New England Revolution, 5-0 losers last night in Salt Lake City.

United offered very little offensive threat in the first 45 minutes and went to the locker room down 1-0 thanks to an Ike Opara goal in the 16th minute. Poor defending from United gifted the Quakes with the opportunity to go in front. Normally reliable midfielder Stephen King misplayed a harmless pass from defender Jordan Graye and the resulting shot from Sam Cronin was expertly palmed away by Troy Perkins in goal. On the ensuing corner, Opara gobbled up a loose ball and shot through a thicket of players and beat Perkins to the near post for the 1-0 lead. United’s only real scoring threats were half-chances at best with Dejan Jakovic’ 40th minute header swept out of trouble by former United midfielder Bobby Convey, who incidentally got the assist (his 8th of the season) on the Opara goal.

As the second half started, United head coach subbed out ineffective striker Adam Cristman for Jaime Moreno and it paid off in the 54th minute when United equalized the match. Moreno’s clever chip into open space set free Stephen King. King did well to elude token pressure from two Quakes defenders and managed to carve out some space and he hooked a ball diagonally through the penalty area to the weak side of the goal where United’s 17-year old wonderkid beat the Quakes defender to the ball and volleyed home into the far side netting to level the match at 1-1.

United continued to have the better of play through the remainder of the match but again they could hardly create many golden scoring opportunities. United will gladly take the point and now head home before facing their rival New York Red Bull next weekend at Red Bull Arena. United is hoping to avenge their early season 2-0 loss at home to Red Bull.

United settles for 0-0 home draw with Real Salt Lake

Perhaps this outcome was settled at the end of a long and grueling 120 minutes on Wednesday night between D.C. United and Real Salt Lake. United won that match 2-1 after extra time but tonight this match seemed to be an almost predictable 0-0 result between the two clubs. United could very well make a case for dropping two points instead of gaining one, but in the end the Black-and-Red accomplished two things that had yet to do this season. Produce a shutout and gain a draw. Both were accomplished in one fell swoop this warm and muggy evening at RFK Stadium.

On the negative side of the ledger for United was the fact that this team has now been shutout in 8 of their 11 league matches so far this season. With a daunting four game road trip over the next month, United’s season is essentially on the line pending those results. However tonight was another missed opportunity as they controlled the tempo and created most of the dangerous opportunities only to see Real Salt Lake and former United goalkeeper Nick Rimando shut them out. Rimando made a number of good saves, most notably his 4th minute diving save from a Clyde Simms worm burner and then following it up with a wicked save on Stephen King’s 16th minute volley from inside the box.

Perhaps it was a bit telling on United’s end that most of their dangerous chances came from the defensive midfield pairing of King and Simms. United forwards Danny Allsopp and Santino Quaranta worked hard all night but had nothing to show for it in the end and United’s attack once again prevented the side from gaining valuable points to climb out of the celler of the MLS Eastern Conference standings.

United gained their first shutout in spite of the fact that they had to make two substitutions to their back line due to injuries. Rodney Wallace was subbed out in the 24th minute after injury his left foot. He was replaced by Devon McTavish who moved to right back while starter Jordan Graye moved over to the left side. Central defender Juan Manuel Pena came out in the 62nd minute after re-injuring his hamstring early in the second half. Julius James took his spot. However it was no coincidence that United put forth their first shutout effort when they welcomed back central defender Dejan Jakovic to the squad as well as Troy Perkins in goal. Jakovic looked in mid-season form all night long in shutting down RSL’s two dangerous front men Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola. Perkins meanwhile was left with very little to and in fact didn’t even register his first save until three minutes into stoppage time to seal the shutout for the Black-and-Red.

United now begins their four game road trip with a visit to the Emerald City of Seattle this upcoming Thursday evening. That match will be live on ESPN2 HD starting at 10:30 EST.

United Notes

  • Jaime Moreno and Carey Talley both did not make the 18-man roster due to injuries. Moreno and his family spent the pregame partying in Lot 8 with various supporters groups
  • Due to being forced to use two defensive subs, intended subs Luciano Emilio and Christian Castillo never made it off the bench
  • United has now gone two MLS matches without defeat for the first time this season. All in all, United has gone four matches without a defeat heading into Seattle

United loses third straight 2-0 decision at home and remain bottom of MLS without a point through five matches

Juan Pablo Angel had a goal and an assist to lead visiting Red Bull to a 2-0 win over D.C. United this afternoon at hot and humid RFK Stadium. United continued their horrific start to the 2010 MLS season by setting numerous franchise records for futility in the loss. United have lost their fifth straight match to start the season and third consecutive home match, all by 2-0 scorelines. United has also been shutout in four of their five league matches so far as well as already falling behind by double digits in the goal differential at -11 through 5 matches.

As far as today’s match is concerned, it played out pretty much like all their home matches have so far. They dominate the possession and scoring opportunities in the first half but got to the locker room with the score tied at 0-0. Red Bull striker Salou Ibrahim changed the entire mood of the 12,089 fans in attendance just five minutes into the second half when his second chance toe-poke eluded Troy Perkins and you could feel the air go out of the stadium. United and their fans couldn’t be blamed for their “here we go again” mentality and just like the previous two home matches, Red Bull struck again just 9 minutes later in the 60th minute when United killer Angel out dueled United defender Juan Manuel Pena and sliced a header past a helpless Troy Perkins and the damage was done.

United pressed on to try and get back in the match but second half substitutes Jaime Moreno and Luciano Emilio (just re-signed on Friday) couldn’t gather any momentum and United were left with a few desperate chances at goal from distance that came to nothing and the Black and Red walked off the RFK pitch under a serenade of boos from the home fans. United will now try to pick themselves up and get their first points of the season when they welcome the Kansas City Wizards into town on Wednesday evening at 7:30 pm.

One can only hope a different script can be read other than Groundhog Day

United stumbles late; lose 2-0 to New England in home opener

Kenny Mansally scored goals in the 80th and 82nd minute to send New England to an improbable victory over D.C. United in the Black and Red’s 2010 MLS home opener. United were “shell shocked” according to head coach Curt Onalfo after the match which saw his team dominate possession throughout the match but also squander many chances to go ahead and put the visiting Revolution on the back foot. “You don’t finish your chances, you don’t win games” said Onalfo in a very quiet media room after the match.

United almost took the lead in the 14th minute when Santino Quaranta’s free kick was well saved by Revolution goalkeeper Preston Burpo. The kick was driven low and hard and only a reaction foot save seen mostly by NHL goalies kept the scoreline at 0-0. Striker Chris Pontius had two golden opportunities to put United ahead but his 36th minute redirect of a Quaranta centering pass was deflected away from danger by defender Emmanuel Osei. Just before halftime Pontius missed his best chance when he headed Brandon Barklage’s driven cross over the bar when a simple touch downward would have opened his scoring account on the season.

As it happens though in almost textbook Steve Nicol coached Revolution fashion, the longer the defensive minded Revolution stay even, the more dangerous they become and that was proven to be true to the detriment of the 20,664 fans in attendance in the 80th minute. United failed to clear a ball from danger and it ended up bounding into the left corner of the field. Revolution midfielder Chris Tierney sent a wicked cross into the box that took a slight deflection off of Kheli Dube and right into the path of Mansally who easily beat Troy Perkins and give the Revolution an undeserved 1-0 lead. With all the air taken out of the stadium from that unlikely goal (the Revolution had just registered their first shot on goal in the 74th minute), Mansally struck again just two minutes later when he curled a beautiful ball over the outstretched fingertips of Perkins and United’s misery was complete.

A thoroughly frustrating night all around for the Black and Red as they now have gone two straight games without threatening goal. Most neutral observers commented before the season that the one thing United would have trouble doing is replacing the firepower that left the team in the form of Luciano Emilio, Christian Gomez and Fred. Well, two matches into the young MLS season and the pundits have been spot on. United will now go to Philadelphia to play the expansion Union in their home opener next Saturday evening at 6pm at Lincoln Financial Field. One dreads to think where the confidence of this team will be if they fail to come back to DC without another goal, much less a point.

UnitedMania will be giving away some World Cup soccer jerseys and soccer jerseys from our good friends at SoccerPro. Simply comment on this editorial for a chance to win. We will pick one lucky visitor at random and announce the 1st winner live on our next podcast on 4/11/2010 at 7:00 PM.

DC Continues to Disrespect the Draft at Their Peril

First of all, before going too far on this rant, it’s unavoidable that landing Troy Perkins totally erases a major concern the team had going into the season. Having spent the better part of the last two years being strangely unable to find a keeper in a league that produces them seemingly at will, DC has got a guy that could legitimately solve their keeper problem for the next ten years. Plus, since all signs pointed to Perkins desperately wanting to come back to DC, Nowak was in the catbird seat to fleece DC which might be a bit of karmic backlash, but there you go.

However, reports seem to suggest Fred and the money were more valuable to Philly than that seventh pick, so it makes one wonder if something else could have been offered instead. Still, be that as it may, that golden first round pick is gone. DC also traded away their second round pick in the deal to get Christian Gomez back last year, and their third round pick somehow found its way to LA, maybe to complete considerations for the Quaranta or Kirk deals from the last few years. Whatever, it was gone too.

So, all DC has to show for this draft is Jordan Graye, a defender out of North Carolina, maybe the next Eddie Pope or maybe the next David Stokes, hopefully more the former than the latter. But, that’s only if he actually makes the roster which is never a sure thing for any draft pick much less a fourth rounder. Still, no matter how you look at it, DC simply seems to disregard the draft.

Now, perhaps that incredible uncertainty about the young players you are drafting is why United takes the draft so lightly, the fact that it is such a crapshoot. At least it is for a team who obviously scouts college players pretty poorly as evidenced by their dreadful record of draft success. Case in point, of the 13 first round picks they’ve had since 2002, only four have mounted to anything and two of them (Pontius and Wallace) came last year in the deepest draft in MLS history. Plus, Freddy fell into their laps thanks to MLS wanting to keep a 14 year old happy and he wasn’t all that important a player anyway, leaving Alecko as the other somewhat successful story (MLS Cup MVP before being brained by Reis and later moved on for part of the money that was used for either Fred or Emilio).

But, the real horror story is looking at how those other 9 premium first round picks were used. 5 of the 9 other times, DC used the pick to draft a player and were almost completely disappointed. Mapp and Kante in 2002, Stokes in 2003, Moose in 2006, and “Mookie” Arguez in 2007. None contributed anything of note, although Mapp was traded for Dema, and at least Arguez was sold for some of the money used to pay down a salary of one of those South American gunslingers of 2008, or maybe help with Vanney’s salary, either way not much to show for him or those other picks. Even worse, Stokes was part of the return for trading away Pope, Moreno and Richie in 2003, and Kante part of the return for trading away Albright.

Surely, the other four out of those nine times United had a number one pick, and instead of using it, traded it away instead for an actual experienced player, they got someone good in return? After all, an experienced player shouldn’t be a crapshoot, should he? Nope, DC wasted those picks too. DC’s natural 1st rounder in 2004 went to Dallas for Cerritos (3 goals, 2 assists in 20 games), 2005’s first rounder simply disappeared, “future considerations” of some sort from some earlier deal probably. Let’s hope it wasn’t from the Devin Barclay or Jason Thompson deals, but whatever, it was gone for nothing essentially. Then, “lightning” Rod Dyachenko was famously re-acquired for a number one pick in 2008, enough said about that, leaving only Perkins this year as the sole hope that trading away a number one pick might actually be a good idea.

And for the record, United’s use of second round picks is pretty frightening too. I’ll spare you the recitation, but suffice it to say Brian Carroll and one year of Stoitchkov’s flamboyance is about all DC has had to show for second round picks in the last 8 years. In fact, Josh Gros (fourth round) is about the only player worth a hill of beans DC has drafted outside the first round the entire Kasper tenure, and the vast numbers of slots and players traded away for nothing would make you shudder.

But, recent history is really the point isn’t it? Surely the fact that this year’s number one pick clearly went for a solid player who could solve the goalkeeper position and undoubtedly upgrade the leaky paint bucket that has been DC’s defense the last few years is by far more relevant than any of this ancient history?

I don’t think so. Leaving aside the point that teams who draft well do well, as that is generally true in my opinion, but certainly debatable. No, the real problem is that now DC simply has to go out and buy or find marginal players for depth who will not be as economical as players you can find in the draft. Granted in the past some of DC’s coaches have had a pretty sketchy record developing talent, but Onalfo does not have that stain on his character. He is deemed pretty good developing talent for the most part. As good as anyone not named Nicol or Kinnear anyway. So, why not give him a crack at it?

Anyway, point is that now DC will have to trade for depth players from around the league, which means giving up more draft picks in the future (or losing roster players who are decent enough to develop), AND the new guys they are always more expensive than a draftee. Which is bad policy in such a tightly capped league. Or even worse than that, DC will have to go out and buy players on the regional market, and the success rate of imports is already no better than the draft. Plus, it’s a bigger investment of money and cuts into the budgets for the truly crucial big money striker position and central midfield positions DC already has to fill on the transfer market.

In addition, constantly buying or trading for players does not develop a sense of team. It often develops a mercenary attitude that flat out undermines the team building process. DC already has problems in those areas because of the wicked turnover the past few years top to bottom of the roster. So, whatever new guys they bring in this year could be hesitant to really bond with the United Way since they know they could be gone as quick as they came based on DC’s roster decisions the past few years.

Finally, this bears repeating from one of my earlier articles. Leaving aside Arena as that is not a fair comparison since most of his players were drafted, the DC coach who had the most draft picks contributing regularly was Nowak, and he’s the only DC coach to have an MLS Cup this century. I do not think that is a coincidence. In fact if you look at the breakdowns at the end of the Nowak years, as well as the entire Soehn tenure of failures, it was an almost utter lack of decent depth outside the first XI that scuttled the team. DC couldn’t buy a deep enough roster, and pretty much refused to develop it, so they failed when push came to shove. So, what has changed this year?

Bottom line, Perkins coming back to DC is a very good thing, even the loss of an overpaid Fred and some of the huge stack of money DC is stockpiling isn’t really a bad thing. But, the loss of that one lone seventh round draft pick (even if it is a crapshoot), is not a good thing at all. Maybe if it was truly the only way Philly makes the deal, then there you go. But, considering the quotes and actions being uncovered recently, it seems Nowak was way more interested in Fred and the money than the pick.

If that’s the case, DC fans have reason to fear nothing has changed in the mindset of the front office. All the shiny new players that are bought and sold will not erase the fact that United appears to be stuck in an endless loop of trying to buy their way to the top by focusing on the on the icing before they even bake the cake. Long past time to put a stop to this practice. Hopefully, this is the end of an era of dissing the draft.

Bottom line, it’s easy to excuse this particular deal because Perkins is such a known quantity and the loss of one lone quality pick seems so insignificant, but the revolving door has to stop. It’s one thing to continually buy the top flight talent, the Emilio’s, the Gallardo’s and the Gomez’ of the world. That’s expected and somewhat imperative in MLS. But to continually shun the economical advantages of the draft to flesh out the worker bees of the team, to mortgage the future in order to buy your fantasy team now, and to simply refuse to be smart about developing home grown young talent who can step in when the chips are down is a recipe for disaster.

United Welcomes Perkins back, bids Fred Farewell

DC United announced today that it has re-acquired the rights to former black-and-Red goalkeeper Troy Perkins.

In exchange for Perkins DC United will send Brazilian midfielder Fred to the Philadelphia Union, give up their 1st round pick (7th overall) in tomorrow’s MLS Superdraft, and send allocation money to Philadelphia. The deal allowed United to exchange places with Philadelphia in the allocation order in order to acquire the 28 year-old 2006 MLS Goalkeeper of the year..

Perkins has spent the last two years of his career in the Norwegian first division where he helped Valerenga earn the Football Cup title in his very first season.

Before heading to Norway Perkins had four successful seasons with DC United, 2 of which he spent as the undeniable starter. In 2006 Perkins was named MLS’s goalkeeper of the year.

The move adds another keeper to United roster. UNited now has four including Perkins, Bill Hamid, Milos Kocic, Josh Wicks.

Josh Wicks, who suffered a season ending injury late in 09 and is still recovering from shoulder surgery, will likely be sidelined until mid-March and will miss the season opener, leaving the starting spot open to the more experienced Troy Perkins. Wicks, who showed inconsistencies and erratic behavior during the 2009 season could be headed for a fierce competition for the back-up spot with Milos Kocic, provided Perkins proves to be the undisputed starter.