Defeat to Crew Extends DC’s Winless Streak

Fifth-straight loss keeps United anchored to bottom of Eastern Conference
by Peter Muller   |   Monday, April 29, 2013

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

DC United’s season continued to spiral out of control Saturday night in a 3-0 loss at the Columbus Crew.

The defeat was United’s 5th in a row and, nearly one-quarter of the way into the season, leaves them with just 4 points through 8 games.

The start of the match was delayed nearly an hour due to a fire in the stadium scoreboard. Fire crews put out the blaze and there were no reports of injuries.

United entered Saturday’s match in Columbus hoping to turn around a season that has seen little go their way. Injuries, suspensions, bad decisions and poor play have all contributed to performances that makes last year’s run to the playoffs look like a mirage.

To make the task even more difficult, midfielder Chris Pontius did not make the trip to Columbus following a groin injury he picked up in training last week.

DC once again fell behind early and the main culprit was the usually-reliable centerback Brandon McDonald, who played perhaps his worst game in a United jersey.

The sequence began with a poor back-pass by McDonald that allowed Jairo Arrieta in toward goal. While McDonald made a nice play to clear the ball, it found its way back to Arrieta, who cut around the big central defender and slotted the ball into the 6-yard box for Dominic Oduro to put away.

The Crew doubled their lead in the 26th minute and again it was McDonald who was found lacking in defense. Federico Higuain sent a corner kick into the box and McDonald allowed Josh Williams the space he needed to get his foot on the ball and direct it by a diving Bill Hamid.

McDonald’s nightmare concluded just before halftime when he made contact with Arrieta in the penalty area and sent the Costa Rican international tumbling. Higuain blasted the penalty kick into the upper corner of the goal, giving Hamid no chance to block it.

“You can blame that whole thing on me,” said McDonald. “That’s completely my fault. … I don’t even know how to put it in words how I feel. At halftime I came in and just I lost it.”

He lost it so much that he didn’t return for the second half. Manager Ben Olsen put on Ethan White instead.

“We had a guy that had a bad night and that’s the way things have been going,” said Olsen. “We have been getting punished for what seems like any mistake we have been making.”

United was also punished by a poor call on an apparent goal by Perry Kitchen that would have tied the score at 1-1. In the 23rd minute, Chris Korb served a cross into the box that Kitchen headed into the net, only to have referee Sorin Soica blow his whistle for a foul.

“He made a pushing motion towards me like I pushed the guy (Arrieta),” said Kitchen. “I don’t think I did, but I haven’t seen the replay so I’m not sure.”

“It boggles me, but this is how it goes – things don’t start going your way and you’re not going to that call right now,” said Olsen. “We’re not going to get anything given to us, so we’ve got to figure it out.”

There were a few moments in the match where it seemed as though the DC offense was starting to figure things out. Kyle Porter was an active presence on the right side of the midfield and Dwayne De Rosario played one of his better games of the year.

Porter hit a shot toward the corner of the goal in the 31st minute that bounced off the post and later he sent a nice cross to Lionard Pajoy, whose attempt was saved by Andy Gruenebaum. Late in stoppage time, Pajoy took a free kick from just outside the penalty area that banged off the crossbar.

In all, United attempted 21 shots and maintained more than 58 percent of the possession.

“Offensively, if you look at the way we went about it, I thought we were pretty good,” said Olsen.

But the goals are not coming, the losses are piling up and the road ahead isn’t an easy one for United.

After a bye next weekend, United will host its nemesis, the Houston Dynamo, at home on Wednesday, May 8, followed by a trip to Texas to play Western Conference leading FC Dallas and a home match against Sporting Kansas City.

It is unclear how severe Pontius’ injury is, but initial reports suggest he could miss 1-3 weeks and Nick DeLeon remains sidelined indefinitely with a hamstring problem. With John Thorrington and Lewis Neal also out with long-term injuries, United will have to hope at some point soon its luck begins to turn.

And they will need team leaders like McDonald to keep their cool and prevent the mental mistakes that have led to United’s undoing.

“The guys are frustrated and the staff is frustrated, but we’ve been through this before,” said Olsen. “We’ll get out of it at some point.”

NEXT UP: May 8 – DC United vs. Houston Dynamo, RFK Stadium, Washington, DC, 7 p.m. EST, Comcast Sports Net Washington.


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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.