Penalty Call Undoes United

D.C. scoreless again in 1-0 defeat to Whitecaps
by Peter Muller   |   Monday, July 01, 2013

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

After a recent uptick in performance, D.C. United entered Saturday night’s match against the Vancouver Whitecaps hoping that their slow, steady progress would continue.

Coming off a mid-week victory against New England in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup and hosting a Vancouver team that has been dismal on the road this year, United had reason for optimism.

But a highly questionable penalty call on goalkeeper Bill Hamid and a continued failure to score resulted in the latest disappointment in this season gone awry, as United lost 1-0 to Vancouver.

United manager Ben Olsen was furious with the referee’s decision.

“They gave me everything they had,” Olsen said about his team. “And the joker in the middle did not do a good job. He failed those guys. He failed the guys in the locker room.”

The decisive moment in the match came just after the start of the 2nd half when Kenny Miller sent a ball forward into the box for Matt Watson. Hamid charged off his line and slid headfirst to clear the ball away from the Whitecaps midfielder.

Replays showed that Hamid knocked the ball away with his hands before his momentum carried him into the on-running Watson. But referee Matthew Foerster, who was trailing the play, pointed to the spot. Moments later Camilo Sanvezzo scored his 9th goal of the season, giving him one more goal than D.C. United this year.

“I actually beat the guy there, to the ball,” said Hamid. “I honestly didn’t even know he fell. I don’t know. I’ll leave that to the replays and I’ll leave that to the critics.”

Vancouver manager Martin Rennie was certain that the penalty call was justified.

“I think it was a stonewall penalty,” he said. “I didn’t have any doubt in my mind that that was a penalty kick.”

United had looked good in the first half, with a rejuvenated Chris Pontius active up top and a composed John Thorrington controlling the tempo in midfield. Early pressure led to a 2nd minute corner kick that Dwayne De Rosario nearly redirected into the net.

In the 7th minute, a lofted cross from Thorrington found Kyle Porter who’s right-footed shot was blocked by Vancouver goalkeeper Brad Knighton.

“The key was to go hard into the game in the first minute and that is what we did,” said Alain Rochat, whose leadership and distribution skills were on display against his former club. “Like I said, we were unlucky to not score at this point of the game.”

Whitecaps attacker Russel Teibert put a scare into United when his left-footed smash beat Hamid but deflected off the near post in the 11th minute.

Throughout the game United maintained a 60-40 edge in possession and put a season-high 23 shots on target. But, as has been the problem all year, they were unable to put the ball in the net.

“[There were] plenty of opportunities,” said Pontius. “These are things that some nights they are clicking and you are going to put every chance away, and the other nights it seems like nothing is bouncing or falling your way. Definitely tonight was one of those nights.”

The road gets tougher from here. D.C. heads West for a road trip that will be a stern test, starting Wednesday night when they face the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field. The Sounders have been a difficult opponent for United, particularly in Seattle, where United was thumped 3-0 the last time they visited.

The trip wraps up on Sunday July 7 in Colorado.

NEXT UP: July 3 – D.C. United at Seattle Sounders, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash. 10 p.m. EST, 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.