December 16, 2019

D.C. United Game 18 Recap: Martins leaves United defenseless in Seattle

Ten Major League Soccer teams played last night, one didn’t score a goal. If you have been following D.C. United during this 2013 MLS season, you can guess which team it was.

United fell to 2-13-3 (9 points) on the season with a 2-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, before a spirited crowd of 39,180. The Sounders are 7-2-2 after starting the season 0-3-2, and improved to 7-5-4 (25 points) overall.

D.C. was shutout for the 11th time this season in 18 games, and the trademark defensive errors that have plagued the club all season showed once again on both Obafemi Martins goals – one in the first half, and one just before the final whistle that sealed the win.

There were also other trademark United errors that have been seen all season. Forward Lionard Pajoy was whistled for offside not once, twice, or thrice … but five times. Open chances were spurned, twice by midfielder Sainey Nyassi in the second half, missing high with the first and left with the second. United had no success drawing midfielder Chris Pontius into the action until about a half-hour was gone. And as usual, D.C. wasn’t healthy in the midfield. Dwayne De Rosario and Nick DeLeon didn’t travel due to injury, and John Thorrington was with the club but not available for selection. That caused Alain Rochat to move into defensive midfield with Perry Kitchen, weakening the defense.

United was also without goalkeeper Bill Hamid – who was called up to the U.S. National Team for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup. Joe Willis did a good enough job in his place, but was hung out to dry on both Sounders’ goals.

Seattle took the lead in the 19th minute when the entire United defense was beaten by a keen pass from Sounders midfielder Brad Evans that found Martins, who had stayed onside, then outran the D.C. back line to charge in alone on Willis. Just as Ethan White caught up to Martins, the former Newcastle striker fired low and beat the oncoming Willis to his right to make it 1-0. White could only look skyward in frustration, as Martins performed his celebratory back-flip.

United could have been down 2-0 at that point had Willis not made a big save 2 minutes earlier, getting a hand on an Evans header. D.C., meanwhile, didn’t do much to threaten an equalizer, though the ball did land in the back of the Seattle net once on a Pajoy chip. Pajoy, however, was offside – he received a hat trick of those calls in just the first half alone.

Early in the second half, United sparked to a bit of life, but Nyassi failed on both of his shooting chances, and a Pontius drive was saved, spilled, then collected by Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning. The teams traded chances just after the hour mark, with Willis rushing off his line to knock the ball away from Seattle’s Eddie Johnson, who was in alone after a nice passing sequence. A minute later, Pontius tried his luck again, but Gspurning got a hand to it to knock it out for a corner.

Still, United were one Seattle mistake or one lucky bounce from drawing level for most of the second half. D.C. head coach Ben Olsen made his only sub in the 77th minute, with forward Casey Townsend replacing Nyassi.

Nine minutes later, a Perry Kitchen shot was saved by Gspurning, then Pajoy found himself open in the penalty area with a ball crossed to him. But instead of shooting or passing, Pajoy almost seemed to defend himself from the oncoming ball, and it was lost for a goal kick. Such was the night and such has been the season for United.

If the match were in doubt, that doubt was erased in the first minute of stoppage time, when Martins doubled the lead, scoring his second of the night and sixth of the season. A ball forward by Seattle midfielder Sharlie Joseph was misplayed by White, allowing Martins to get behind him in possession. Martins then dribbled between Daniel Woolard and James Riley. Riley got a kick on the ball as Martins ran toward goal, but not enough to clear it. Martins collected the errant clear and scored to Willis’ left, capping another poor night for United.

Martins, 28, spent most of the 2000s at Inter Milan in Italy’s Serie A, and Newcastle in the English Premier League. His quality was on display in two key moments last night, and United’s defense were unable to match that level when it counted. Such is the difference in matches. Once again, United didn’t give up a ton of shots – Seattle only had three on goal – but the mistakes made on two of them were crucial.

United has little time to stew over this loss, which also means there isn’t much time to get healthy, either. D.C. is in action again at 9:30 p.m. Eastern Sunday, at the Colorado Rapids (6-7-5, 23 points, 7th West).

NOTES:  Earlier Wednesday, the club announced it had acquired Jared Jeffrey, a 23-year-old midfielder from Texas. Jeffrey had been playing for the reserves of German Bundesliga club Mainz and is a former captain of the U.S. U-17 National Team. … United are 14 points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot, four points behind Toronto FC for next-to-last in the 19-team league. … There were no shortage of goals elsewhere in MLS last night. Toronto and Montreal played to a 3-3 draw; Chicago rallied late to beat San Jose, 3-2; Real Salt Lake scored a very late penalty to tie Philadelphia, 2-2, and Vancouver earned a solid draw at Sporting Kansas City, 1-1. … There are three games today: FC Dallas vs. Chivas USA; Colorado vs. New York; and Los Angeles vs. Columbus.

SEATTLE 2-0 UNITED
Martins 19′, 91′

Shots: SEA 8-9 DC
Shots on Goal: SEA 3-4 DC
Corners: SEA 3-3 DC
Fouls: SEA 15-5 DC
Offside: SEA 4-7 DC
Possession: SEA 53.8%-46.2% DC

UNITED (2-13-3): Willis; Riley, Woolard, White, Korb; Rochat (caution 47′), Kitchen, Porter, Pontius, Nyassi (Townsend 77′); Pajoy.

SEATTLE (7-5-4): Gspurning; Scott (caution 67′), Traore, Hurtado (caution 73′), Gonzalez; Carrasco, Evans, Rosales (Neagle 79′), Rose (Joseph 77′); Johnson, Martins (goal 19′, 91′).

Ed Morgans is a Contributor to District Sports Page, covering D.C. United. For in-game analysis and story notifications, follow him on Twitter @writered21.

About Ed Morgans

Ed Morgans is DC United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Ed worked for The Journal Newspapers (now The Examiner) and covered DC United from 1997-2002. He spent the 2003 season writing for the club’s website. Ed has covered All-Star Games, MLS Cups, CONCACAF Champions Cup, World Cup qualifiers, and international friendlies. He also worked as a blogger at www.bigsoccer.com, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.

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