This was the key emotion at the final whistle, at the post-game press conference and in the locker room after tonight’s 2-1 victory by the Los Angeles Galaxy over D.C. United. A season long trend of inopportune defensive blunders, missed goal-scoring chances and just plain bad luck have come to summarize the 2010 season for the Black-and-Red. With the home loss, United’s sixth of the season, United now has dropped even further away from playoff contention at 3-11-3 (12 pts). The Galaxy improved to a league best 12-2-3 (39 pts) and virtually would have to lose all 13 remaining matches to lose out on another chance to go to MLS Cup.
This match started off pretty even between the teams despite the 24 point gap in the standings at kickoff. Both teams rarely threatened goal but in the 38th minute the visitors got on the board first with the help of some good fortune. United midfielder Stephen King was in the process of clearing a semi-dangerous cross out of the penalty area when it hit Edson Buddle in stride heading towards goal. Buddle’s shot was thwarted by an excellent sliding save from defender Devon McTavish. Buddle however regrouped quickly and stepped around the meek challenge of King and sent a wormburner right at United goalkeeper Troy Perkins who somehow managed to let the ball go through both his hands and his legs for a 1-0 lead.
United nearly drew the match level just two minutes later when Donovan Ricketts made a leaping save from Pablo Hernandez’ free kick. United almost equalized again in the 45th minute when Santino Quaranta sent a missle straight at Rickett’s who made the save. Just two minutes later Quaranta sent another shot at the Jamaican keeper who was positioned well to save that attempt and send the visitors into the locker room with the narrow 1-0 lead.
At the half United head coach Curt Onalfo was forced to make a change when Chris Pontius could not go on due to a suspected broken foot that happened inside the first 30 seconds of the match when referee Jason Ano let a rough challenge by the Galaxy on Pontius go unpunished. Pontius made it to the half despite him looking obviously injured. Jaime Moreno came on for Pontius and United then managed to draw the match level in the 54th minute. Pablo Hernandez drew a foul on the right sideline and then whipped in his free kick to the far post where Andy Najar rocketed a header past Rickett’s to tie the match a 1-1. Najar’s goal was his team leading 3rd goal of the season. Perhaps the fact that the 17-year old United Academy player is the leading scorer more than halfway through the season is a major reason why United is rooted to the bottom of the MLS standings.
That fact bore itself out just four minutes later when fellow rookie Jordan Graye pulled a deja vu and yet again coughed up the ball deep in United territory that set forth a series of events that lead to the game-winning goal from Landon Donovan. Graye was stripped of the ball by Galaxy defender Sean Franklin who proceeded to drive ahead into the penalty area. His well-struck shot was handled by a sliding Julius James and a penalty was awarded. James was rather fortunate to only see yellow on the play but it hardly mattered as the US’ all-time leading goal scorer and World Cup hero Landon Donovan easily dispatched past Troy Perkins to give the Galaxy the 2-1 lead and the win.
United attempted in vain to try and find the equalizer but a series of close offside calls and near misses on passes only added up to more frustration for the Black-and-Red as they see their season slowly circling the drain. United will now regroup and prepare for their next league match away to MLS Cup champions Real Salt Lake on Saturday, July 31st. In the interim, United will play their US Open Cup quarterfinal match this upcoming Wednesday evening at the Maryland Soccerplex in Boyds, MD against the Harrisburg City Islanders. If United wins, they will move on to host the Columbus Crew at RFK Stadium on September 1st. United will also host their third international friendly of the year when they entertain English Championship side Portsmouth on Saturday, July 24th at RFK Stadium
- The hits just keep on coming for United as both Chris Pontius (foot) and Dejan Jakovic (hamstring) had to leave the match with injuries. Pontius’ seems much more serious as a broken foot is suspected. Jakovic walked off under his own power and seemed less serious
- Eddie Pope was inducted into the United Wall of Tradition at halftime of the match. The United defender was clearly moved by the gesture, belying his usual stoic nature
- Designated Player Branko Boskovic made a second consecutive substitutes appearance as he continues to get into match shape. United’s other transfer window signing Pablo Hernandez started and played the full 90 minutes. Hernandez has been training with the team for nearly three weeks while Boskovic has made only a handful of training sessions since signing last Thursday
A few choice images from before and during the game; All Photos Martin Fernandez.