Offensive Woes Continue for DC vs. RBNY

Changes possibly on the way for United after loss to rival
by Peter Muller   |   Monday, April 15, 2013

United Capitol – column on DC United (DCU) & the Washington DC/DMV area soccer scene.

DC United’s winless streak continued Saturday night in a disappointing 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls at RFK Stadium that saw United fail to score for the 4th time in 6 games this season.

The loss keeps United rooted to the bottom of the 10-team Eastern Conference table and increases pressure on manager Ben Olsen to find the scoring punch that has been glaringly absent in 2013.

Olsen chose to stick with the same starting lineup he used a week ago at Sporting KC, despite the return to fitness of captain Dwayne De Rosario. While DC came away empty-handed from its trip to Kansas City, the team showed the grit and determination that was reminiscent of last season’s late playoff push.

Olsen was hoping to see the same commitment from his players at home to rival Red Bulls and to finally break out of the offensive doldrums that have plagued United this year.

It was an encouraging start for the home team, playing in front of a college night crowd of 18,019. DC maintained good possession during the fast-paced early minutes of the match.

But sloppy defending in the 29th minute led to a New York goal that changed the complexion of the game. The prolific Thierry Henry received the ball just outside the United penalty area and, with Chris Korb granting him all the time and space he needed, sent a shot that bounced through the 6-yard box and somehow eluded goalkeeper Bill Hamid.

“I expect Bill to make that save,” Olsen said after the game. “Bill’s bailed us out a lot this year, but I think Bill will be the first to raise his hand and say ‘I should have dealt with that one.’”

Hamid came to United’s rescue moments later when he made a point-blank save from a Tim Cahill header that left the Australian shaking his head.

But the Red Bulls scored again and seemingly put the game out of reach in the 36th minute. Juninho sent a cross into the area that Brandon Barklage got his head to, directing it into the 6-yard box. The ball found Jamison Olave and, whether he knew much about it or not, it deflected off him into the DC goal for a 2-0 lead.

It was hard to imagine United getting back into the game given its season-long inability to put the ball in the net. Olsen replaced Rafael with De Rosario to start the second half and later brought on Carlos Ruiz and Kyle Porter as DC attacked for much of the final 45 minutes.

But United still failed to create goal scoring chances.

“We’re not getting a lot of opportunities,” Olsen said. “The ones we’re getting we have to do better with just because we’re not getting 6-7 good opportunities - we’re getting 2.”

Brandon McDonald sent a low shot from 35 yards out just wide of the New York goal. De Rosario had perhaps the best opportunity when he directed a free kick toward goal that Red Bull keeper Luis Robles just kept from crossing the line. And Chris Pontius sent a late free kick screaming over the crossbar. But there was never a sense that the Red Bulls' victory was at risk.

DC has scored just 2 goals in 6 games this season and Olsen suggested changes may be coming.

“At this point we have to fix something,” he said. “I don’t know if we have to look within the league; I don’t know if we have to make a trade. That’s just stuff we have to figure out. It’s a little early, 10 minutes after the game, for me to put my finger on it.”

A likely target for change seems to be Lionard Pajoy, who has started every game but has taken just 6 shots, only 2 of which were on goal. Olsen has expressed his appreciation for Pajoy’s hard work on the field but his failure to score goals can’t be overlooked much longer.

The problem for Olsen is his roster doesn’t provide promising alternatives. The 20-year old Brazilian Rafael scored an impressive goal against Columbus, but hasn’t shown much in a pair of games since. Ruiz has been used off the bench, but is not a 90-minute player at this point in his career.

United wasn’t completely shut out Saturday night. Forward Casey Townsend, who was acquired from Chivas USA in the preseason, put 2 goals in the net – unfortunately for DC, the goals were for the Richmond Kickers, the USL Pro team he has been assigned to.

NEXT UP: April 21 – DC United vs. Philadelphia Union, RFK Stadium, Washington, DC, 5 p.m. EST, ESPN2.


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Peter is a government relations professional in Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, CA. He has been a DC United season ticket holder since 1997 and has attended every MLS Cup except one – in 1998 when he was busy helping his boss get re-elected to Congress.