Loss to Houston Leaves DC in the Basement

United faces big test against Western Conference leaders FC Dallas
by Peter Muller   |   Friday, May 10, 2013

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

DC United’s nightmare season continued with a devastating 4-0 loss to Houston Dynamo at RFK Stadium Wednesday night.

The loss extended United’s losing streak to 6 games, caused the team captain to question the character of the players and left manager Ben Olsen agreeing that his job should be on the line.

And the situation might only get worse from here. United has to regroup quickly, fly to Texas, and take on Western Conference-leading F.C. Dallas on Saturday night.

The match against Houston neatly encapsulated United’s season – an impotent offense, a defense prone to mental mistakes and poor luck with referee’s decisions leading to another embarrassing defeat. As a result, a sense of crisis seems to be settling-in at RFK.

Olsen acknowledged he is on the hot seat.

“I don’t worry about my job because I understand coaches get fired," said Olsen. “I’ve seen coaches get fired for less than 0-7 in the last 7 games. But I don’t worry about it because that’s completely out of my control.”

And captain Dwayne De Rosario, who was demonstrative toward his teammates throughout the game, questioned the mentality of the team.

“Most of all I’m disappointed in the lack of character right now,” he said.

As has become its habit this season, DC looked sluggish from the start and fell behind early. In the 16th minute, Dejan Jakovic stepped up to make a challenge on Will Bruin, but missed both the ball and the man, allowing Bruin in one-on-one against goalkeeper Bill Hamid. Bruin coolly chipped the ball over the sliding goalkeeper and into the net.

Houston doubled its lead 12 minutes later when Jakovic sent a back-pass to Hamid whose indifferent clearance rolled directly to Bruin, who slipped the ball across the 6-yard box to Giles Barnes, and he slammed it past Hamid.

“We had some breakdowns – breakdowns that Houston capitalized on pretty easily,” said Olsen. “We’re just giving teams goals.”

Given United’s season-long form, a comeback from 2-0 down seemed unlikely. DC’s performance the rest of the match erased any doubt.

Olsen substituted one defense-minded midfielder for another. He brought a striker off the bench who failed to make any positive impact on the match. And the comeback attempt, such as it was, consisted of United desperately throwing numbers forward and lobbing balls into the box hoping that one would somehow find its way into the net.

“You go down 2 goals that you gift them, and the tactics go out the window,” said Olsen. “Everything that you worked on for 10 days goes out the window.”

United also experienced refereeing decisions it felt went against them. De Rosario’s headed shot on goal in the 63rd minute, and his follow up, brought claims that they crossed the line before being cleared, to no avail. And moments later, DC thought it earned a penalty kick when Brian Ching brought down Kyle Porter, but the referee ruled the foul to have occurred just outside the box.

Will Bruin tallied his second goal of the game in the 78th minute to make the score 3-0, appropriately enough off a set piece. A Marcelo Saragosa foul set up a Brad Davis free kick that Ching flicked-on with his head and Bruin buried in the net for his 4th goal of the year.

The final nail in United’s coffin was again administered by Bruin, who made a long diagonal run into the DC penalty area before angling a pass back to Andrew Driver for the easy finish.

United, which has now scored 4 goals in 9 games this season, put just 3 shots on target – with 2 by De Rosario on the same sequence. Olsen chose to sit Lionard Pajoy, who has started every game since he joined United in the middle of the 2012 season, in favor of Rafael. But the change made little difference.

“The switching in and out of forwards is difficult to build the rhythm and the chemistry,” said De Rosario. “There’s obviously the lack of communication.”

With no clear fixes evident, United is searching for something that can turn their season around.

“Hopefully we can just get 1 win and that can turn into something,” said Perry Kitchen. “But you know at this point, tough game, tough stretch. We just have to stick together and try to get something out of the next game.”

That may prove difficult. FC Dallas was held to a 1-1 draw at home to Portland on Wednesday night, but is undefeated on its home field this year and has not lost in its last 8 games.

“We have to make some changes,” said Olsen. “We have some part time players. … I’ll look to make some moves and try to make some adjustments.”

Nick DeLeon made his return from injury as a second-half substitute against Houston and Chris Pontius is reportedly ready to return to action on Saturday, giving Olsen some additional options to work with.

As for United’s fans, they are left to hope that something can turn around this dismal season and erase the bitter memory of their team’s recent performances. But those who attended the game Wednesday night suffered one last indignity as they filed out of the stadium.

The public address announcer reminded the fans to submit their vote for DC United’s “man of the match.” That could only have been a cruel joke.

NEXT UP: May 11 - DC United vs. FC Dallas, FC Dallas Stadium, Frisco, Texas. 8:30 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.