Fabian Espindola was;t happy during DC United's 3-0 loss to depleted FC Dallas.

United struggles continue after 3-0 loss to FC Dallas

Washington, D.C. – Frustration continues to mount for D.C. United as Michael Barrios scored twice in the first half to lead the visiting FC Dallas to a comfortable 3-0 win at RFK Stadium last night.

United continued their struggle on both ends of the pitch by giving up two goals through defensive mistakes and also failing to hit the net for the second time in four league matches so far during this early part of the season. United (0-2-2, 2 points) have now dropped to ninth place in the Eastern Conference after their ineffective start to 2016. If you include United’s two CONCACAF matches, the team is winless through six matches and have managed to only score three times in that span.

United were missing their stalwart central defender Steve Birnbaum (away with the US National Team) and it showed today as Kofi Opare took his place in the lineup. While Opare was far from blame on most defensive issues on the day, he was a chief conspirator in the games opening goal just 14 minutes into the game. A seemingly routine clearance from either Opari or Taylor Kemp would have done the trick as they both were retreating towards United’s goal tracking down a wayward header from midfield. However, at the critical time to make a decision, both players hesitated in clearing the ball and it bungled into the path of FC Dallas midfielder Michael Barrios. The diminutive Barrios gladly picked up the loose ball and expertly curled a left-footed shot around Travis Worra who had no chance to save the shot.

United up until that point had established the tempo to their liking and had threatened the FC Dallas goal numerous times but as would be the case for the entire day the final moment of magic never came for the Black-and-Red and were left angry and frustrated after giving up the opening goal so comically.

FC Dallas doubled their lead in the 28th minute when Barrios exploited a huge patch of field right through the heart of United’s defense and toe-poked a shot over the onrushing Worra to continue United’s misery.

After the break things didn’t get any easier as Maxi Urruti put the visitors up 3-0 in the 52nd minute. FC Dallas were missing seven of their players due to international duty, but none of them were their regular starters in the offensive half of the field. That trademark speed that FC Dallas is known for carved United up as just two passes unlocked United and sent Fabian Castillo out alone on the left flank. His first time cross hit Max Urruti perfectly in stride in the penalty area and despite pressure from Taylor Kemp he settled the cross and pushed it past Worra for the games final goal.

The drama would not stop there and United’s frustration would continue to grow. United were given a penalty in the 66th minute which appeared to be a classic make up call from referee Jose Carlos Rivero who had waived off a penalty claim from Patrick Nyarko just two minutes prior. The foul on Nyarko was as plain as the nose on your face but Rivero made a motion that the FC Dallas defender got the ball, which he clearly didn’t.

Two minutes later Sean Franklin was hardly touched in the area and actually kept on running towards the loose ball when the whistle inexplicably went against FC Dallas. Up stepped Fabian Espindola to take the penalty shot and his shot was weak and right into the diving arms of former Maryland Terrapin goalkeeper Chris Seitz. United now has missed it’s last four penalty kicks going back to Chris Rolfe’s miss against the New England Revolution during last seasons MLS playoff win at RFK.  As Seitz outletted the save, Marcelo Sarvas caught up with Barrios and then all of sudden Barrios went down like he was shot. Rivero followed closely behind with a straight red card that sent Sarvas into a rage. Replays showed no contact through the player except for a wayward hand that barely brushed Barrios’ face.

With United a man down, the outcome was all but certain and now United will have to gather themselves and get ready for a cross-country flight and their first ever match at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California next Saturday night at 10:30 pm EST.

Espindola rescues a point for United in 1-1 draw with Colorado

Washington, D.C., March 20, 2016 – D.C. United is still without a victory in 2016 but Fabian Espindola’s 80th minute strike salvaged a point in the home opening 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids tonight at RFK Stadium.

In a match that has come to define both teams in recent seasons, it wasn’t exactly Barca vs Real Madrid but the final twenty minutes had plenty of action that saw both teams earn a point. United (0-1-2, 2 points) fell behind on a Dillon Powers header in the 69th minute against the run of play. Although United had managed the tempo of the match to their liking through the first hour, it was once again set piece marking, or lack there of, that put United behind. Just a minute before the Rapids got the opener, United should have taken the lead when Lamar Neagle set up Steve Birnbaum beautifully in front of goal only to see his volley rocket over the goal.

On the ensuing run down the other end of the field Marco Pappa swung in a corner and Powers simply out hustled United and got to the ball first as Travis Worra was helpless to react in goal. It is the first goal Worra has given up in MLS, his second consecutive start and third game overall. Perhaps more ominous, it was the third set piece goal given up by United so far in three matches.

United responded well to the deficit and equalized in the 80th minute through substitute Fabian Espindola. Espindola, who has had a rather busy week after welcoming the birth of a daughter on Tuesday, got United level by finishing off a harried sequence in the penalty area after great initial service from left back Taylor Kemp.

The Maryland graduate whipped in his trademark left-footed cross that was misplayed by fellow Maryland alum goalkeeper Zac MacMath in the area where Patrick Nyarko pounced and sent a shot goal bound. Unfortunately former United defender Marc Burch nicely saved the ball off the line only to see it bounce straight to Espindola who took one touch before rifling a right-footed shot into the goal for his first goal of the season.

United very nearly took the lead just two minutes later when Espindola ripped a shot just over the crossbar from a tight angle and then set up Alvaro Saborio with a header attempt in front of goal only to see the shot weakly hit into the arms of MacMath.

Up next for United is a match on Saturday afternoon when FC Dallas comes to town. Both squads will be missing players for World Cup qualifiers being played over the next ten days.

United Notes

  • US goalkeeper Tim Howard was in the house today as he announced his signing with the Colorado Rapids, effective after the Premier League season ends in May. Howard will be eligible to play for the Rapids once the summer transfer window opens in June
  • United will be missing defender Steve Birnbaum (USA) and most likely forward Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) for their match on Saturday against FC Dallas. FC Dallas will be missing up to seven players for World Cup qualifiers as well as the USA U-23 teams two-leg knockout round with Colombia starting early next week
Ben Olsen

Early goal seals United’s fate in CONCACAF Champions League

Washington, D.C., March 1, 2016 – D.C. United knew they had an uphill climb to advance to the semi-final round of the 2016 CONCACAF Champions League after falling behind 2-0 in Mexico last week.

What they didn’t expect was to be virtually eliminated from the competition just four minutes into the return leg at RFK Stadium. Querataro scored on their first attempt at goal in the 4th minute and by virtue of that all-important away goal, United would have needed to score four times without conceding over the remaining portion of the match.

“It changes everything, it changes the entire game,” United coach Ben Olsen said in his postgame news conference. “When you dig yourself in these holes, it’s tough to get out.

“Three minutes in, all of a sudden game’s over. Just like that.”

Tried as they might, United didn’t have the mental or physical ability to overcome such a deficit. Unfortunately for United they’ve made it a habit in recent two-leg affairs to go down big in the first leg and come up short in the second. Four of the last five two-legged series United has come home to RFK trailing by at least two goals. That makes for a difficult but not impossible task.

However, Angel Sepulveda put any chance of a comeback on ice with his cool finish in just the fourth minute. United defender Taylor Kemp should have done much better at clearing a loose ball along the left sideline by crafty Mexican international Sinha schooled the Maryland grad and whipped in a cross into the heart of the penalty area. United defenders Steve Birnbaum and Sean Franklin poorly tracked the ball and allowed Edgar Benitez to knock down a header to Sepulveda who gave goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra no chance.

Despite the huge mental letdown, United pushed forward and should have equalized early in the second half after Patrick Nyarko was awarded a penalty after a nifty move in the area before being hauled down. The normally reliable Chris Rolfe had his penalty well saved by Brazilian net minder Tiago Volpi, who was ultimately the difference maker in the two-leg series.

United did have one shining moment of brilliance in the match and it was the debut goal of United’s top draft pick Julian Buscher in the 84th minute to at least salvage a draw in the match. Buscher received a touch pass from fellow substitute Luciano Acosta and proceeded to head towards goal when he unleashed a 28-yard swerving rocket that clipped off the right post and past Volpi. It seemed fitting that a world-class strike was the only thing that got past Volpi in this series.

United now will have lick their wounds and turn their attention to their season-opening match against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday evening in Carson, California. The Galaxy were also eliminated from the Champions League when they lost 4-0 in Mexico against Santos Laguna last night.

 

D.C. United has work to do after falling 2-0 in Mexico

Washington, D.C., February 25, 2015 – There was plenty to be encouraged about during most of D.C. United’s match on the road in Querataro, Mexico on Tuesday evening in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matchup. Despite it being the first game in anger in 2015 for the Black-and-Red and also playing at 6,000 feet altitude, United acquitted themselves much better than anyone was expecting through the first 70 minutes of the match.

Unfortunately soccer matches are 90 minutes long and a pair of goals from Yerson Candelo and Edgar Benitez thirteen minutes apart late in the match put the Mexican side up 2-0 and in the drivers seat before the return leg at RFK Stadium on Tuesday evening.

United were not without their chances to spoil the party however. After a very suspect preseason in Florida in which the results weren’t exactly eye opening, United put the sword to the home side only to see their goalkeeper Tiago Volpi pull off his best Bill Hamid impersonation. Volpi came up with a number of saves at point-blank range, three alone on United defender Steve Birnbaum, to keep his side in the game.

United were predictably cautious in the games first twenty minutes but then went on to garner most of the games most dangerous chances over the next 50 minutes. Volpi easily claimed a number of long-range efforts from United (9 shots on goal total) during that span but it was his pair of double-saves and a kindly crossbar that kept United from taking a surprise lead.

Luciano Acosta’s 20-yard effort late in the first half was well saved by Volpi only to see the rebound come to Fabian Espindola who’s low shot was also smothered by Volpi. Fast forward to the second half and Taylor Kemp nearly scored the goal of his life in the 60th minute. Kemp, who is more left-footed than even the legendary Marco Etcheverry at times, cut inside from his left back position and unleashed a 24-yard curling right-footed rocket that had Volpi beat by a mile only to see the crossbar keep the ball out of the net.

A few minutes later Volpi once again pulled off his double-magic when he thwarted a Birnbaum header from 6 yards out from a Nick DeLeon throw in. Birnbaum reacted quicker than his defending counterpart and lashed a left-footed blast that Volpi barely got a paw on to send out for a corner kick.

This was the height of United’s frustration on the evening. First game of the season, high altitude and quickly tiring players meant that United had effectively wasted any opportunity of getting a solid result to take back to DC.

Sure enough, less than two minutes later the home side were ahead when Yerson Candelo unleashed an unstoppable shot from 20 yards out that gave goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra no chance. Substitute Rob Vincent seemed hesitant to close out Candelo and by the time Dykstra saw the shot, it was too late.

That goal effectively took whatever wind was left in United’s sails and they gave up a bad goal in the 83rd minute with some tired defending. Rookie midfielder Julian Bueschler was inexplicably inattentive when Mexican maestro Sinha had the ball near midfield. The Brazilian born Mexican international turned towards United’s goal but Bueschler turned the other direction and allowed Querataro’s playmaker to loft a pass over a surprisingly high defensive line from United. Sean Franklin made an attempt to head the ball clear but was not anywhere near close enough to stop the run from midfielder Edgar Benitez who ghosted in on goal and beat Dykstra to his near post for the 2-0 lead.

While a 2-0 lead is not the end of the world, a 1-0 deficit would have been slightly easier to overturn in Washington. As it stands, if United can put forth a similar effort, there is no reason to believe they can’t overturn the lead with some better finishing.

Perhaps the most impressive thing that one could take from Tuesday’s nights effort was that United had 9 shots on goal in a road match in Mexico. You could have totaled up United’s last five road games in MLS last season and they wouldn’t have totaled 9 shots on goal. Hell, you can even throw in the home leg against Red Bull at RFK last November too (they had zero shots on goal in that game).

You can attribute this to the addition of Acosta to United’s lineup. He’s a game-changer folks. He won’t put up Giovinco-type numbers but he will most definitely affect games in MLS this season. That in itself is a reason to be a little optimistic. Let’s be honest here, how many of us were expecting a similar result to what we witnessed last winter in Saprissa?

Granted a 2-goal deficit is not going to be easy considering that Querataro will most likely put numbers behind the ball and force United to break them down. Not exactly a strength of recent D.C. United squads. However, perhaps the performance in Mexico on Tuesday night has changed the mentality of this group of players.

It remains to be seen..

 

DC United Eyes MLS Free Agents and Re-Entry Players

No team in MLS goes into the hot stove season with more desire than DC United as they pick over the cold leftovers around the league looking for veterans with a chip on their shoulder.

MLS released the first ever list of Free Agents as well as the Re-Entry players that will be made available. Created with the CBA agreed upon just before this season, MLS players 28 years or older with 8 years in MLS are available for free agency and can negotiate starting tomorrow and sign with any team without any qualifications. Other players released around the league are made available through the re-entry draft held in two phases Dec 11th and December 17th.

United has made a name for itself in mining the league’s castoffs for reliable starters itching to show the league they still got game as Captains Bobby Boswell and Davy Arnaud can attest. The MLS list has some very intriguing names on it that would seem to suit Olsen’s gritty style to perfection. With Perry Kitchen all but out the door and Arnaud staring the end of his career in the face, a hard man like Jeff Larentowicz or some under-rated central players like Ned Grabavoy, Paulo Nagamura, Nick Labrocca, or Nathan Sturgis all fit the bill of players who would be itching to shore up United’s midfield and show up their former teams.

DC also needs to be in the market for upgrades in outside midfield as well with Pontius seemingly gone to Philly and only Lamar Neagle rumored to be on the way to join the underwhelming Nick DeLeon and the aging Chris Rolfe. The best wing players out there are guys like Justin Mapp or Oscar Boniek Garcia but wide guys who stay wide and get deep don’t really fit the way Benny wants the position to be played. However, guys like Mauro Rosales, Marco Pappa, and Eric Avila fit into Bennyball’s more narrow midfield roles quite nicely.

While those midfield holes absolutely have to be addressed, some other intriguing players available could bring some much needed speed and athleticism as well as fitting into Olsen’s somewhat lackluster opportunistic attacking style.

At forward, Danny Mwanga or Edson Buddle could help stretch the field and complement Fabian Espindola as well as provide a different look than Alvaro Saborio. Or Alan Gordon could bring in some serious bang off the bench, and Maxi Urruti is another very intriguing option but might be too expensive for DC’s taste. In midfield, some speedy guys worth a look are Jackson and Robbie Finley.

And while the defense is a strength for DC, the injury to Chris Korb and the dramatic drop-off in Sean Franklin’s play as well as the age of iron man Bobby Boswell would indicate that shoring up the back is a good idea. Jermaine Taylor, Chris Schuler Seth Sinovic, and especially Steven Beitashour are all good players that the league tends to underestimate all the time. With Andrew Dykstra apparently on the outs, picking up a solid backup like GK Jon Busch or Tally Hall for Hamid is a no brainer if those guys aren’t too pricey.

DC has some money to spend and they’ve shown they will absolutely over pay to replenish the team with solid MLS veterans as opposed to overseas signings or bringing in precocious young players so I’d expect the next two weeks to go a long way toward defining United’s roster for the upcoming season.

United fall 1-0 to Red Bull; Face uphill climb in 2nd leg at Red Bull Arena

Washington D.C., November 1, 2015 – The semi-final round of the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs began with two of the leagues most fierce rivals clashing at RFK Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

D.C. United and New York Red Bull have met three of the past four years in the semi-final round only adding fuel to the fire between the clubs.

That bitterness played itself out on the pitch tonight as the visitors from the North scored a deserved 1-0 win before 19, 525 disappointed fans at East Capitol Street.

Dax McCarty’s diving header behind United’s defense in the 72nd minute was the difference maker as Red Bull take the 1-0 aggregate lead back up I-95 to Red Bull Arena next Sunday night. Additionally, the road goal scored by Red Bull means that United must score next weekend or their season will be over.

That goal was special for Red Bull but it came just three minutes after the games most vital talking point. United midfielder Markus Halsti was savagely taken down by substitute Red Bull defender Ronald Zubar in the 69th minute. Everyone watching was thinking straight red card except for the one man that mattered – referee Fotis Bazakos. He only produced a yellow card after a circle of Red Bull players begged and pleaded for mercy. That mercy was granted to the bemusement of United head coach Ben Olsen and the entire bench of the Black-and-Red.

Nevertheless, it was  less than efficient performance for United who looked tired after their Sunday-Wednesday-Sunday journey. Olsen noted after the match that players like Chris Rolfe and Nick DeLeon just didn’t have the required energy to take on a full week rested Red Bull squad.

It definitely showed as United were fractured and inconsistent all game long and logged a paltry 55% passing completion percentage (normal MLS games range in the 70% percentile) in addition to producing 0 shots on goal through the entire match.

Obviously you can’t win MLS playoff matches with those numbers much less advance past a top team like Red Bull.

Both teams came out with energy to begin the match abut United started to dictate tempo as the first half wandered on. However, that final ball was lacking all afternoon long and Red Bull goalkeeper Luis Robles had precious little to do.

Bill Hamid came up big in the 33rd minute to deny Mike Grella from a close-in sharp angle, blocking the shot with his face to keep the game scoreless. United’s best opportunity came via a free kick when Steve Birnbaum’s redirected header across the face of goal just missed the onrushing Perry Kitchen right in front of Robles.

After the break the visitors started to gain their foothold as United started to tire. Bill Hamid stopped Grella again in the 58th minute with a diving save of Grella’s header. Seconds later Red Bull left back Kemar Lawrence lined a shot off the near post and out.

The game turned in Red Bull’s favor in the 72nd minute when Sacha Kjlestan’s curling free kick sailed over a thicket of players in United’s penalty area to Dax McCarty who was all alone inside the goal box. His diving header gave Hamid no chance and the all-important road goal for Red Bull.

Seconds after the restart from the goal, United had arguably their best chance to score when Fabian Espindola launched a left-footed rocket from 22 yards that narrowly missed the near post.

That was the best United could produce on the evening as they struggled all night long to deal with Red Bull’s three-man central midfield. United, due to an injury to Chris Pontius, were forced to shuffle the lineup and pushed Rolfe from a forward position to wide midfield with Alvaro Saborio manning his striker spot. United also had to deal with the suspension of their captain Bobby Boswell after their win midweek over the New England Revolution.

Rolfe and DeLeon spent the majority of the match in central midfield in an attempt to negate the effectiveness of the Red Bull trio of McCarty-Kjlestan and Felipe. That in turn made United way too narrow and were unable to use outside backs Taylor Kemp and Sean Franklin as outlets.

The solution is simple for United now. Because of the away goals rule, United can win the series if they win the game at Red Bull Arena by a 2-1 score or better. A 1-0 win for United is the only scoreline that would force the 30-minute extra time and ensuing penalty kick shootout, if necessary. A draw or a loss (obviously) would eliminate United from the playoffs.

United advance to Semi-finals after frenzied 2-1 win over the Revolution

Washington, D.C., October 29, 2015 – With the already rich playoff history between D.C. United and the New England Revolution at hand, was there any surprise that last night’s classic tilt would be any different?

D.C. United once again came from behind to snatch a 2-1 win over the Revs and advance to the semi-final round of the 2015 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. United will find out later this evening whether top seed Red Bull or #2 seed Columbus will come to town on Sunday afternoon to begin their home-and-home total goals series.

Chris Pontius’ header at the death in the first half and Chris Rolfe’s redemption strike in the 83rd minute cancelled out Juan Agudelo’s stunning world-class bicycle kick goal in the 15th minute at soggy RFK Stadium. This game had it all. Shots off the crossbar, the post, brilliant saves from both Bill Hamid and Bobby Shuttleworth and of course, controversy from official Mark Geiger.

Geiger awarded a penalty kick to United in the 74th minute when an Alvaro Saborio cross into the area deflected off the arm of Revs midfielder Kelyn Rowe. Unfortunately the normally reliable Rolfe (4 for 4 this season up to this point) hit his PK attempt off the inside of the post and out. Geiger again would be the center of attention in stoppage time when he waved off a hand ball claim in United’s area when Jermaine Jones attempted to cross and the ball clearly hit the arm of United defender Sean Franklin. Jones went ballistic at the no-call and chased Geiger down and made considerable contact with Geiger who immediately ejected the U.S. International. The sequence brought to mind a similar incident at the end of United’s playoffs last season when Fabian Espindola made contact with an assistant referee and was red carded. Espindola was then given a 6-game ban from MLS for those actions. One would believe that Jones’ punishment should be similar.

The game itself started out fast and furious and never let up through the final whistle. Chris Rolfe had the games first opportunity in the 4th minute when he ghosted in alone on Shuttleworth only to see his shot expertly kick-saved. Then came the moment that MLS fans will talk about for years. In the 15th minute a well worked passing sequence ended on the right foot of Kevin Alston on the wing. His one-time cross curled away from the line of players in the box. Agudelo tracked it and cracked a bicycle-kick from 16 yards out that left Hamid with no chance. Arguably the best goal ever scored in an MLS playoff game and incidentally the second bicycle kick goal scored by Agudelo at RFK. His first came when he was with Red Bull in 2011.

United can thank Bill Hamid for keeping them in the match because he was forced into back-to-back saves on Rowe within a minute of each other to keep United’s hopes alive. United responded in kind and should have equalized in the 21st minute when Espindola missed an open goal after latching onto a rebound save from a Chris Rolfe shot. Rolfe also had a near miss in the 26th minute when he skinned Revs defender Andrew Farrell only to see his left-foot shot hit the crossbar from close range.

As the half closed United were starting to take over the tempo of the match and the Black-and-Red got the precious equalizer just seconds before the halftime whistle. Espindola drew a foul along side the left side of the penalty area and his ensuing free kick found Pontius at the penalty spot. Pontius had to lean back and his header was perfectly placed into the far side netting to level the match at 1-1.

After the break the visitors regained control of the match and while Hamid didn’t have to make any critical saves, the Revs were buzzing around United’s goal. The pace had slowed considerably from the frenetic first 45 minutes as now both teams existence in the playoffs were at stake. After the ruckus in the 84th minute and the missed PK by Rolfe, it was Rolfe who would step up to nab the game-winner in the 83rd minute thanks to some enterprising play from Nick DeLeon and Espindola. DeLeon, who had struggled throughout the match, got hold of a ball outside the area and managed to hold on long enough for Espindola to overlap him. DeLeon’s clever back-heel set Espindola free and his pin-point pass between three Revs defenders found Rolfe all alone at the top of the goal box for an easy tap-in that sent the 11, 554 rain-soaked fans into delirium.

Just seconds after the Geiger/Jones confrontation, Geiger blew the final whistle and D.C. United had advanced in another playoff tilt with the Revolution.

United will now await the winner of tonight’s Montreal vs TFC match in Montreal. If the Impact win, United will face Red Bulls on Sunday. If TFC wins, the Crew, fresh off their 5-0 beatdown of United this past Sunday, will come to town.

Alvaro Saborio

Stoppage-time winner ends losing streak and sends D.C. United back to the playoffs

Washington, D.C., October 2, 2015 – Alvaro Saborio scored a 92nd minute game-winner to push D.C. United past visiting NYCFC 2-1 and into the playoffs for the second consecutive season in front of a gobsmacked season-high of over 21,ooo drenched fans at RFK Stadium.

Saborio had just missed an opportunity to put United ahead a few minutes earlier but more than made up for it with the game-winner, his third goal for the Black-and-Red since being acquired in July at the trade deadline. The win for United (14-12-6, 48 points) clinched their playoff spot and pushed the squad back into a tie with New York Red Bulls at the top of the Eastern Conference.  The much needed win also stopped a horrid six-game unbeaten run which saw United plummet down the Eastern Conference standings. Incredibly, it was the 8th win this season for United after giving up the opening goal.

As this was the first game of the weekend, United could fall back to fourth place if both New England (at Chicago) and Columbus (at Red Bull) manage to win their games. A tie or a loss from either side will see them stay below United with only two league games to play.

As has been the case over the past two months at RFK, things once again got off to a horrible start. Frank Lampard slotted home a rebound from a Bill Hamid save just 48 seconds into the game to stun the soaked crowd at RFK. In United’s last five league home matches, they have given up goals in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 27th and 1st minute in each of those games. Even more amazing is that United has come back to win three of those games, including tonight’s match.

With the conditions getting steadily worse through the match, both teams managed to slog through the impediments of Mother Nature and it remained 1-0 heading into the break with neither team really taking the upper hand.

After the break however it was a different story and a different D.C. United. The Black-and-Red pushed the tempo from the jump and pushed NYCFC back into their own half for most of the second stanza. United thought it had scored the game-tying goal midway through the half when Fabian Espindola’s looping header met Chris Pontius at the back post. The UCSB product finished beautifully only to see the offside flag rule the goal out.

A few minutes later that same combination worked its magic again and this time the equalizer stood. Chris Pontius received a ball among a throng of NYCFC players but managed to weave his way around them for a blistering left-footed shot from 23 yards away. NYCFC goalkeeper Josh Saunders dove to his left and could only parry the ball right in front of goal. Espindola was quicker than the NYCFC defense and pushed the rebound into the goal for his fourth goal of the year.

Pontius very nearly gave United the lead just a few minutes later when his right-footed blast from 40 yards was well saved by Saunders and cleared out of danger before Saborio could pounce on the rebound.

Saborio should have given United the lead in the 90th minute when he was beautifully led to the penalty spot by Espindola only to see his weak left-footed shot saved by Saunders. However, just over a minute later Saborio would not miss his second opportunity. After a dazzling run through the rain-soaked pitch and most of NYCFC’s defense by Pontius, he was hauled down by defender Chris Wingert forty yards from goal. Wingert received a yellow card for his efforts and then up stepped Espindola to deliver the dagger blow.

The Argentine’s free kick floated over the wall and was miscleared by former United midfielder Andrew Jacobsen at the back post and fell gratefully to the foot of Saborio who poked the ball underneath Saunders for yet another come-from-behind win for United.

Up next for United is their last home match of the season against the Chicago Fire on Sunday October 18th at 2pm.

Conor Doyle celebrates his goal against the visiting fire with DC United mid fielder Fabian Espindola

Washington, D.C., September 15, 2015 – D.C. United only needed a draw last night to clinch their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League Group H advancement and did it one better with a comfortable 2-0 win over Arabe Unido of Panama last night at RFK Stadium.

Conor Doyle and Jared Jeffrey notched first-half goals to ease United into the knockout stages of the tournament next February. United has won their group for the second consecutive year and did it in the same fashion with head coach Ben Olsen using almost exclusively reserves through all of their group matches.

United flipped the script of recent matches at RFK by scoring first through Conor Doyle just 36 seconds into the match. The sequence began when central defender Steve Birnbaum (the only First X1 player to start) waltzed through the middle of Arabe Unido’s central midfield and found Chris Pontius on the left wing. Pontius then whipped in a left-footed cross intended for Jairo Arrieta but found it’s way to Doyle on the far post where he one-timed his shot back against the grain for the early lead.

United continued their comfortable tempo and doubled the lead in the 22nd minute when Jared Jeffrey got on the end of a Facundo Coria corner kick and headed home under no pressure from six yards away.

United continued to keep the visitors at bay and rightfully should have had at least one penalty shout early in the second half. Defender Luke Mishu was hauled down in the box rather clearly but the claim was ignored by ref from Guyana and then just two minutes later Coria was taken down as well but no call came forth.

Arabe Unido did have two very good chances of their own in the second half only to see the shots clang off the crossbar. First up was a mammoth free kick from 35 yards by Renan Addles in the 52nd minute that rocketed off the crossbar and five minutes later Abdiel Macia’s close-range effort hit the crossbar before going over after a poor defensive clearance from United.

United had two more good chances to improve their goal differential (and in turn improve their potential top-seeding for the quarterfinals) but Coria’s fine solo bid was well saved by the Arabe Unido goalkeeper as well as Doyle’s stoppage time bid as well.

United now only have their last Group H match left to play next Tuesday night in Jamaica against Montego Bay. As Olsen has done through this competition, he will most likely send a skeleton crew of reserves for the match.

Meanwhile, United will now turn their attention to a critical match at RFK on Saturday when they take on Columbus Crew SC. Columbus trails United by a single point as both teams have just five league matches to go.

United lost the lead in the Eastern Conference to New York Red Bull as a result of last weeks matches after having the lead for nearly four months of the season. A scenario does exist that if United loses to Columbus on Saturday, the Black-and-Red could potentially drop to fourth place in the East, if results go against them this week. Chief among those matches is a Red Bull/NE Revolution match up tonight at Foxborough. A draw between these teams would be the best result for United heading into their match up with the Crew.

Davy Arnaud struggles to maintain posetion

United’s struggles continue as they drop 2-0 decision at home to San Jose

Washington, D.C., August 22, 2015 – D.C. United continued their trend of giving up early goals at home and this time there was no miracle comeback to save them in their 2-0 loss tonight to the San Jose Earthquakes before a season-high 20,043 fans at RFK Stadium.

The loss for United (13-9-5, 44 points) is their second straight in league play but they will remain at least five points clear of New York Red Bull who are idle this weekend. Red Bull are United’s next league match a week from this Sunday and the Black-and-Red are in danger of letting their lead in the East and the Supporters Shield race slip away Even with a five point cushion, Red Bull have four matches in hand and are currently on a 7-1-1 run through MLS over the past two months.

For the fourth consecutive match at RFK, United gave up a goal within the first four minutes of the match. This time it was Chris Wondolowski who nabbed the early tally after United failed to clear out the area and somehow managed to lose MLS’ most potent goal-scorer over the past six seasons. Wondolowski was initially denied by Bobby Boswell at the top of the six-yard box but the failed clearance bounced back to Wondo who’s angled shot when through two United defenders and past Andrew Dykstra for the 1-0 lead.

United put forth plenty of energy and effort on the evening but lacked the final finishing touch and forward Alvaro Saborio had a night to forget in the finishing category. Saborio had a golden chance to level the match midway through the first half when his redirection of a Boswell flick in the penalty area somehow got deflected over the crossbar from just four yards away.

The frustration continued to mount for United as they had plenty of free kick and corner kick opportunities to grab the equalizer. However, as the night lingered on, you could just sense that United could not pull off the miracles they had been performing over the past month to turn deficit’s into victories.

After the break the visitors struck again within minutes of the restart. This time it was bona fide United killer Quincy Amarikwa who did the bulk of the damage in putting San Jose up 2-0. A very lax layoff pass from Sean Franklin (his first league start at right back in over two months) to Conor Doyle deep in San Jose territory was the genesis of the second goal. Wondo pounced on the errant pass and took off in the opposite direction. He spotted Amarikwa who torched Kofi Opare (starting for Steve Birnbaum who was carrying a knock from their CCL match in Panama on Wednesday) before laying a pass of to Shea Salinas streaking down the left flank. Salinas cut back deep in the box and sent a shot towards the far post that Dykstra simply did not get a good read on and it was 2-0 for San Jose.

That goal pretty much sealed the deal but United thought they had a goal in the 81st minute only to see Saborio’s wide-open header at the far post somehow miss the goal completely. The miss en-capsulized United’s evening and that was confirmed after the match when a clearly agitated Ben Olsen was in no mood to discuss his team’s shortcomings on the evening with the media.

Up next for United will be their second match in Group H play in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday night at RFK Stadium when Montego Bay from Jamaica come to visit. Olsen will most likely roll out a lineup very similar to the group of players who defeated Arabe Unido 1-0 this past Wedensday in Panama City, Panama.

United’s next league match will be at Red Bull Stadium on Sunday, August 30th and will most likely be the match that will determine who will win the Eastern Conference. Red Bull has won (2-0) and drawn (2-2 at RFK) it’s two matches this season with United.