January 21, 2019

D.C. United GAME 8 ANALYSIS: After scoreboard fire was extinguished, United doused by Crew

After the glow of fire light,
United lost again, right?
Yet another scoreless night,
In this season filled with fright.
 

That’s where D.C. United’s journey through the 2013 Major League Soccer season has taken us – through eight matches, it’s time to start writing (very amateur) poetry.

With Saturday night’s 3-0 loss at the Columbus Crew, United fell to 1-6-1 (4 points) on the season, worst in the 19-team league that is MLS. United hasn’t won since the second game of the season, a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake that now seems decades ago. D.C. has gone 0-5-1 since, scoring just three times. Perhaps more alarming were the three goals given up in the first half on Saturday (one came from the penalty spot), an indication of just how bad things can be if the offense, already struggling, is joined by a defense that isn’t getting the job done, either.

To be fair, of course, the disclaimer must be entered that United played without injured midfielders Chris Pontius (the first match he’s missed this season), as well as Nick DeLeon and John Thorrington, who have both been out for several games now. Would it have made a difference? Sure. Would the goal that Perry Kitchen scored in the first half that leveled the match at 1-1 not being disallowed for offside(?) or a foul(?) made a difference? Much more likely.

But the scoreboard is the final arbiter of such things and there, United were heavily defeated, their biggest loss of the season. Saturday marked the second straight match in which United allowed three goals – Philadelphia beat United, 3-2, at RFK Stadium on April 21. The six goals conceded in the last two matches almost equal the seven allowed in the season’s first six games (in which United went 1-4-1).

The offense did some good things Saturday night, especially in the second half. But it wasn’t like the Crew needed to pressure, sitting on a three-goal lead at home in front of a charred scoreboard thanks to a pregame fire. But no fire could spark United to a goal, as the two-goal performance vs. Philadelphia the week before (the only game this season where United scored multiple times) proved to be more a blip on the radar than a fancy new trend.

Against the Union, United were down two goals within 11 minutes. The damage didn’t come quite so quick in Columbus, but the result was the same. Here’s a look at the three Crew goals, and the one for United that wasn’t.

Crew goal – Dominic Oduro (4), from Jairo Arrieta and Eddie Gaven, 15th minute: Of all things, this goal started via a Crew goal kick. Andy Gruenebaum’s goal kick was allowed to bounce just past midfield, sending it another 10 yards where United defender Brandon McDonald met it with a header. McDonald, however, headed it backward, into the path of Arrieta, who’s shot was blocked (by a hustling McDonald) and the ball spun away toward the touch line to United goalkeeper Bill Hamid’s right.

Eddie Gaven collected the rebound, and crossed the ball back into the penalty area. Arrieta had stayed in the area after his shot was blocked, wandering away from multiple United players. Gaven’s left-footed cross was met by Arrieta, who worked the ball around McDonald, near the end line, still on Hamid’s right. Dominic Oduro made a quick run toward the center of the goal, beating United defender Daniel Woolard, and met Arrieta’s cross to slam home the game’s opening goal. To be fair to McDonald, after Arrieta’s brought down Gaven’s cross, the ball got away from the Crew player a bit. Chris Korb was on scene, but made no move toward the ball (and he might not have gotten there anyway, risking a late tackle that could have resulted in a penalty), which left McDonald to fend for himself once Arrieta caught up to the ball.

United disallowed goal – Perry Kitchen, 23rd minute: This play started on a United corner kick that was sent deep past the far post, and several yards away from goal. The Crew cleared the danger at first, but not very far. This allowed Raphael Augusto to gain possession about 25 yards out from goal. Augusto sent a ball back diagonally to Korb, who lofted it into the penalty area. Two United attackers were in offside position when Korb played the ball in. Kitchen, however, wasn’t one of them.

Kitchen had worked around the back of Crew defender Tyson Wahl to free himself for the header that beat Gruenebaum and appeared to tie the match. Gruenebaum immediately signaled to referee Sorin Stoica for a call and got it. Wahl made no claim whatsoever, either for offside or a foul. Stoica stood to signal the spot for the free kick, but made no visible signal over what was called. He also didn’t blow his whistle until after the ball went in and United were celebrating. No Crew player near the play made any appeal for a whistle.

The only thing seen on replays is some back-and-forth hand-fighting between Kitchen and Wahl, though, if that was deemed a foul on Kitchen, and it was called that way all the time, soccer would be an atrocious game to watch because there would be a stoppage every 9 seconds.

But, such is life for United this season, which already had one goal vs. Columbus erroneously called back for offside in a 2-1 loss to the Crew at RFK Stadium earlier this year. When a team is 1-6-1, the breaks aren’t usually going their way.

Crew goal – Josh Williams (3), from Federico Higuain, 26th minute: The way the season has gone, once Kitchen’s goal was disallowed, it was probably expected that the Crew would capitalize on United’s misfortune. Columbus did just that only 3 minutes later, when off Higuain’s corner, Williams got away from his marker, McDonald, to knock a one-hopper past Hamid and make it 2-0. Worth noting, of course, if Kitchen were in fact called for a foul 3 minutes earlier, Williams did much the same to McDonald at the outset of this play (pushing off to make space, before McDonald grabbed him) – with no call – making the Kitchen play all the more confusing. Hamid dove right to try to save the Williams shot, and he got a hand on it, but not enough to keep it out.

Crew goal – Federico Higuain (2), PK, 45th(+1) minute: Higuain scored from the spot after McDonald was ruled to have fouled Arrieta in the penalty area. Tough play here for McDonald, as Arrieta runs on to a back-heel pass from Gaven and then stopped with McDonald on his back, leaving the defender nowhere to go. Once Arrieta went down, Stoica whistled for the penalty, though it wasn’t really a matter of McDonald taking down Arrieta in a classic tackle, or even impeding him (since McDonald was behind Arrieta). McDonald did briefly appear to put his right hand on Arrieta’s waist, though even if he made contact, that wouldn’t have been enough to send Arrieta over. An argument can be made that Arrieta tripped himself.

No matter to Higuain, however, as he put the penalty kick in the upper corner to Hamid’s left, as Hamid dove the other way. It was a very well hit strike, such that Hamid may not have gotten it even had he guessed right.

United pressured in the second half, forcing Gruenebaum to make several saves, most of which weren’t too complicated. Lionard Pajoy hit the crossbar with a free kick late in second-half stoppage time, but that would have only made the final score a bit more respectable. Dwayne De Rosario had three of United’s six shots on goal.

McDonald was replaced at halftime by Ethan White, the latter getting his first playing time of the season. In post-game quotes released by the team on the D.C. United website, McDonald took responsibility for the performance.

“I don’t know what else to say. I let my guys down and that’s something they did not deserve. You take away those three goals and you come away from here with a point,” McDonald said. “It’s frustrating and very disappointing because I consider myself to be one of the leaders on this team, and to do something like that, it’s not acceptable.”

United is next in action on Wednesday, May 8, at 7 p.m., vs. the Houston Dynamo at RFK Stadium.

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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