DC Dropped to Bottom of the Conference

United breaks scoreless streak, but suffers 4th straight loss of the season
by Peter Muller   |   Monday, April 22, 2013

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

DC United’s disastrous start to its 2013 campaign continued Sunday evening with a 3-2 defeat to I-95 rivals Philadelphia Union at RFK Stadium.

The loss left United with just 4 points, from 1 victory and 1 draw, in its 7 games to start the season and raised serious questions about the quality and resilience in the DC squad.

The home team dug itself a hole that proved too difficult to overcome when Jack McInerney and Conor Casey each scored for the Union in the first 11 minutes of the game. Perry Kitchen’s goal in the 17th minute gave United hope, but McInerney’s second of the game 9 minutes later proved to be the difference maker.

On a cool spring evening in front of 12,349, DC got off to a sluggish start. In the 7th minute, Dejan Jakovic sent a pass across the midfield line that was intercepted and deflected to Casey, who re-directed it to a front-running McInerney. After splitting a pair of United defenders, the 20-year-old sent a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Bill Hamid and into the right side of the DC goal to give the Union an early advantage.

Philadelphia doubled its lead moments later when Danny Cruz made a run down the right side, cut back and laid the ball off to Casey, who sent a low shot that Hamid got this hand to, but couldn’t keep out of the right corner of the net. By this point, the Union led 2-0.

“The way we started the game, that’s just unacceptable,” said United manager Ben Olsen. “It’s very alarming that we started the game the way we started.”

United narrowed the margin in the 17th minute when Dwayne De Rosario took a cross from Brandon McDonald and angled a ball into the center of the Philadelphia’s penalty area. Perry Kitchen met the ball and slammed it past Zac McMath to provide some hope that the Red and Black could get back in the game.

But in the 26th minute, Sheanon Williams sent a throw-in from deep in United territory that deflected to McInerney, who coolly slotted home his 6th goal of the season.

“The third one was a long throw-in, which is one of their best weapons,” said Olsen.

United came out determined in the 2nd half and were rewarded early when Daniel Woolard sent a long cross into the box that found Lionard Pajoy. Pajoy, who has found ways to miss golden opportunities all year long, this time got his head to the ball and sent it past McMath to bring DC back within a goal with a 3-2 scoreline.

The rest of the 2nd half consisted of DC throwing numbers forward while Philadelphia effectively defended its 1-goal advantage.

“We’re tactically playing better,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “We understand what we need to do when we come on the road, in these really tough environments, and everything is (going to) go against us and how we’re (going to) have to try and manage it.”

DC United brought on Carlos Ruiz with about 20 minutes to play, but he had little impact on the game. Winger Chris Pontius was once again unable to put his stamp on the match, and United captain De Rosario lamented his team’s late-game approach.

“We start lumping the ball, and there is no need for that,” said De Rosario. “We’re playing into our weaknesses instead of our strengths.”

Late in the game Casey Townsend, who scored 2 goals on loan to the Richmond Kickers last weekend, was off the bench and seemed set to make his DC debut before Olsen changed his mind and chose to bring on Robbie Russell for Rafael Augusto.

“We hesitated because we saw (Chris) Korb cramping so we changed it up there at the last minute,” said Olsen. “I know he (Townsend) was very disappointed – I felt bad for him.”

In the end, United doubled its scoring output for the season, but dropped its 3rd straight game at home and now sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table.

“I don’t even know what to say right now,” said De Rosario. “I truly am just very frustrated right now. It’s tough, but I just don’t know what else to say.”

“We need to keep our heads up,” said Hamid. “We need to keep being a team. If we continue to support each other, we are going to be fine.”

That is the attitude Olsen hopes to see out of his team. The MLS schedule is very forgiving and early season failures can be easily forgotten by mid-summer if a team gets on a solid roll.

But it is fair to question at this point whether the team that found its way to the playoffs in 2012 is suited to repeat that success this year. A spark seems to be missing from the squad that not only has difficulty scoring, but rarely seems threatening.

“We’ll go back to the film,” Olsen said, “continue to hammer home some of the simple, basic things we’re not doing right now.”

NEXT UP: April 27 - DC United at Columbus Crew, Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, 7:30 PM ET, MLS Live.


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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.