April 21, 2021

D.C. United Game 21 Recap: One mistake costs United big in loss at Houston

One split-second of indecision, one small moment where a player didn’t do the right thing, one little bit of miscommunication – that was all it took Sunday night for D.C. United to give away a point in Houston, as the club lost, 1-0, to the Dynamo. Will Bruin scored the winner after a back header by stand-in D.C. defender Taylor Kemp was mishandled by rookie center back Steve Birnbaum, causing goalkeeper Bill Hamid to leave his line. When neither of them collected the ball, Omar Cumming centered to Bruin, he had an open net to drop United to 11-6-4 (37 points) on the season. Houston won for the first time in nine matches and improved to 6-11-4 (22 points).

United, as so often happens in Houston, where the club has never won, didn’t get much of the ball and was chasing the game all evening. Houston put up 20 shot attempts to United’s seven, played 21 crosses to D.C.’s 10, and had eight corners to just two for United. Statistically, the game was a blowout.

But for all that, the 2014 team that United has fielded, one that has been resilient and able to collect points, seemed well on its way to doing just that. Even if it hadn’t broken the losing skid in Houston, an away point is quite valuable as the second half of the season picks up steam. It also would have lifted United to just a point behind first-place Sporting Kansas City in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference.

Instead, in second-half stoppage time, Kemp found a ball lobbed toward him at the edge of United’s defensive third. He turned toward the D.C. goal and headed it that way, a violation of most basic skill teachings. Birnbaum did well to fight off Bruin for the ball, but he didn’t get much of a touch on it, heading it away to Hamid’s left and then tripping over him.

Hamid, who probably would have rather just taken care of Kemp’s pop-up himself, was then well of his line as Cummings found Bruin for the easiest MLS goal the latter will ever score. It was Bruin’s team-leading eighth of the season. The goal dropped United to 0-9-1 all-time in MLS at Houston.

The loss was one of few reminders D.C. has provided this season of the terrible 3-24-6 campaign in 2013. United will try to erase that taste next Saturday at Real Salt Lake (9-4-9, 36 points). The game kicks off just after 10 p.m. Eastern.

THE GOOD: Despite the loss, United are still eight points clear of third-place Toronto and 11 points ahead of sixth-place New England for a playoff spot.

THE BAD: Perry Kitchen was cautioned in the 72nd minute, meaning he will be suspended for the game at RSL. No United player who would be cautioned after two more yellow cards was cautioned Sunday night.

THE UGLY: It wasn’t clear why Kemp, playing for injured regular starter Chris Korb, played an angle such that he needed to head the ball backward. That, combined with Hamid perhaps taking more control to keep Birnbaum away from the ball, might have changed the result of the game-deciding play.

NOTES: United were again without leading scorer and assist-man Fabian Espindola. It’s not clear if he will make the trip and be available to play at RSL. … United has scored just four goals in the 10 league matches at Houston. … United is 5-4-1 vs. Houston in Washington. … New signings DaMarcus Beasley and Luis Garrido made their debuts for Houston. … Along with Korb, midfielder Nick DeLeon also missed the game for United due to injury.

Ed Morgans is the D.C. United Page Editor for District Sports Page. He covered D.C. United for The Journal Newspapers from 2007-2012. 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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