Defensive mistakes leading to goals have been a constant so far this season for D.C. United and this afternoon’s 2-1 loss to Dutch power Ajax of Amsterdam was no different. Ajax scored early and late to overcome their pesky MLS opponent in an International Friendly at RFK Stadium before a partisan crowd of 10, 728.
Miralem Sulejmani scored in the 10th minute and outside fullback Vurnon Anita scored in the 87th minute to lead the visitors to the win over the Black-and-Red. Rookie Blake Brettschneider tallied off Ajax’s own defensive blunder to tie the match in the 58th minute until Anita’s late game-winner thanks to Fred’s giveaway late in the match.
Brandon Barklage, playing at right back, was torched early and often inside the first 15 minutes and his poor attempt at a tackle led directly to the opening goal in the 10th minute. Nicolas Lodeiro easily stripped Barklage and led a quick run into the box. His soft pass to the left was met by team mate Sulejmani who passed it under Bill Hamid for the early 1-0 lead. It took United nearly 15 minutes just to adjust to Ajax’ world-famous 4-3-3 formation but once they got the hang of it, United were right back into the match and thanks to Barklage nearly tied it in the 18th minute. The converted midfielder got hold of a loose clearance and seared a shot from 40 yards out that was ticketed for the upper 90 only to see Ajax’s goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer dive to his right to parry away the goal bound shot.
Both teams took turns running at each other for the remainder of the half but no other serious chances came for either side and it was 1-0 to Ajax at the half. After the half, United made a number of changes to the lineup with Brettschneider being the most effective. Barklage once again was key in helping United carve out a dangerous opportunity in the 53rd minute when he tracked down a pass from Andy Najar down to the end line. Barklage’s left-footed chip was met on the full volley by Brettschneider only to see Vermeer once again deny United to keep the score at 1-0.
United finally did tie the match thanks in part to Ajax’s own defensive blunder. Ajax had been very loose and casual on the ball all game long in the defensive third of the field and it finally bit them when Joseph Ngwenya easily stripped Vurnon Anita in the 58th minute in the penalty area. His subsequent cross hit Brettschneider in stride and the rookie deftly chipped the ball over Vermeer to level the match at 1-1. United continued to grow in confidence as the mach progressed towards stoppage time but this time Fred was the culprit in helping the visitors get the game-winner in the 87th minute. The Brazilian midfielder got caught unnecessarily in possession and triggered an instant counter attack as Anita picked up the loose ball and outpaced United’s scrambling defense and placed his left-footed shot perfectly to the far post just outside the outstretched fingers of substitute goalkeeper Steve Cronin.
United should have tied the match just a minute later when a set piece nearly came to fruition. Fred’s free kick was sent to the far post where United defender Ethan White rose high above the Ajax defense and headed back across goal. The ball bounced off Ajax defender Daley Blind and right to Barklage who immediately spotted Brettschneider wide open just past the penalty spot. The rookie smashed his volley high over the bar where a more composed attempt most likely would have sufficed.
United will now turn their attention to a very difficult two-game road stretch which starts next Sunday evening at Jen Weld Field in Portland, Oregon to face the Expansion Timbers. Portland is undefeated at home this season so far (5-0-0) and will prove to be a difficult challenge for the Black-and-Red. United will most likely stay on the West Coast and then face the Los Angeles Galaxy on Friday night June 3rd. A bit of good news heading into that match is that United killer Landon Donovan will be with the U.S. National Team and will not face United for the second time this season.
– It was nice to see 2002 World Cup star John O’ Brien roaming the hallways of RFK after the match. O’ Brien scored 4 minutes into their match against Portugal in the US’ 3-2 upset victory to help kick start them to a quarterfinal round and eventual loss to Germany. O’ Brien was a product of the world-famous Ajax youth system and made 98 appearances for the Dutch legends
– Charlie Davies, Josh Wolff and Marc Burch were all held off the roster for today’s friendly. Ben Olsen said after the match that is unlikely that either Wolff or Davies will make the trip West to rest their injured hamstrings ahead of a busy month in June