November 20, 2019

D.C. United Game 14 Recap: United grabs away point in scoreless draw

D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid made four saves to blank the New England Revolution tonight, good enough to earn United a 0-0 draw at Foxboro, Mass., before 14,163 at Gillette Stadium. United’s record now stands at 1-10-3, the 6 standings points still worst in Major League Soccer. New England moved to 5-4-5 (20 points) and remain unbeaten in its last five matches (3-0-2).

While United’s winless streak reached 12 matches with tonight’s draw (0-9-3), there were positives for United head coach Ben Olsen and the players to take from the effort. First, holding the Revolution without a goal is quite noteworthy, given United had conceded 24 goals in 13 matches entering tonight, and second, since the Revs had scored 10 goals in their last two matches, including a 5-0 demolition of the Los Angeles Galaxy last week, and a 5-1 win in U.S. Open Cup play. [Read more…]

D.C. United Open Cup Game Recap: United survive Richmond’s upset bid in penalties

For 120 minutes in Richmond Tuesday night, D.C. United did what D.C. United mostly does – fail to score. But this time, United found a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of penalty kicks. United outscored the Richmond Kickers, 4-2, in the penalty shootout to defeat the Kickers after a 0-0 draw through regulation and extra time in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup at City Stadium.

United advances to host Major League Soccer rival Philadelphia Union in the fourth round on June 12, according to thecup.us. The Union defeated the Ocean City Nor’easters (PDL), 2-1, on a stoppage time goal by former United midfielder Brian Carroll. [Read more…]

D.C. United Game 12 Recap: United blanked at home by Portland Timbers

Another new lineup, another match, another shutout, another loss. It seems no matter what D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen tries, and no matter who plays, there is nothing that will lead to United to a victory – something that’s happened just once this season and not at all since March 9.

United slipped to 1-9-2 on the Major League Soccer season with a 2-0 loss to the Portland Timbers before 14,131 at RFK Stadium Saturday night.

United are now on a 10-match winless streak, earning only two draws in that time to go with eight losses. United remain last in the Eastern Conference (and MLS overall) with five points. United are 13 points out of a playoff spot in the East. Portland improved to 5-1-7 on the season (22 points), and stand second in the Western Conference behind FC Dallas. [Read more…]

D.C. United GAME 6 ANALYSIS: United scoring woes resemble those of club’s worst seasons

“It could be worse,” is often the tag line of the defeated, the thing someone says at the end of a bad day at work, a rough commute home, or upon finding out that someone stole your last cookie.

It might have been stated by one or two folks leaving RFK Stadium Saturday night, after D.C. United lost to the New York Red Bulls, 2-0. There aren’t many things worse than losing to your arch-rival, and United is winless against New York in two tries now this season (0-1-1, no goals scored).

But, United does have 4 points this season, though; they are 1-4-1, so in literal terms – yes, it could be worse. Heck, United went without a win at all in the first six matches of the 2003 season – though it should be noted that with four draws and two losses, that 2003 team had as many points after six matches as the current version does.

In fact, 2003 was the only season United failed to win a game in the first six. Of late, the early season hasn’t treated DC very well. The club hasn’t won as many as three of its first six matches in any season since 2006 (3-1-2). An anomaly there is 2009, when United went 2-1-3 in the first six, good for 9 points. Nine points would have United tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference this season. United are 6-14-4 over the last four years in the first six league matches of the season.

What is unprecedented, however, is the lack of goal production from United to start 2013. The two goals scored in six matches are the lowest number United has ever had at this point in any season – this is United’s 18th campaign as one of Major League Soccer’s charter clubs. The closest marks of futility to this year’s team were in 2010, when United, like this season, were shutout four times in the first six matches. However that year, United also scored twice in a pair of games to bank four goals after 540 minutes. United also only scored four goals in the first six matches of 2003, being shutout three times, scoring a single goal twice, and netting 2 in the season opener.

To put the numbers in perspective, consider in 1997 (which admittedly, is a completely different generation of MLS), United scored 16 goals in the first six matches, including five in a game twice. From 1997-2001, United scored at least 10 goals in the first six matches every year. United hasn’t scored five in a league match since 2006, a 5-1 home win over the Columbus Crew. The club record for goals in a game is six, done twice – most recently in 2004, also the last time United won MLS Cup.

Thinking about that stat of 16 goals in six games from 1997 (not including an added goal in the standings for a shootout win over Los Angeles), this United club is on pace to score 11 goals for the whole 2013 season.

It’s not been often that United have dealt with such a scoring drought. Early in MLS, goals seemed easy to find for DC, and tallying three or four per game was far from rare. Not surprisingly, United were also the league’s best club, winning MLS Cup in 1996, 1997, and 1999, while losing the 1998 final.

When the club’s fortunes took a turn for the worse in 2002 and United finished dead last in the league with 32 points (it was 10 teams then), United suffered its worst barren run. In a seven-game stretch from July 6 to August 10, United scored one goal – that coming in a 3-1 loss at home to Columbus on July 13. United were shutout in the other six games, earning points from three scoreless draws (at Chicago twice; home to Kansas City). United went scoreless in five consecutive matches from July 20 to August 10. The drought ended on August 17, when United managed a 2-2 tie at San Jose.

United finished that 2002 season 9-14-5, barely averaging more than a goal per game (31 goals in 28 matches, 1.11 per game). Bobby Convey and Ali Curtis tied for the club lead with five goals each. With a 34-game schedule now, this year’s club would need to score 36 goals in the final 28 games to match that 1.11 clip. Lionard Pajoy and Rafael’s one goal each lead the club now. Carlos Ruiz, now with United, led MLS in goals in 2002 with 24 while playing for the Los Angeles Galaxy.

The 2010 season offers the only other examples of United scoring as few as two goals in a six-match period. The first came from April 17 to May 22, when United were shutout five times, and scored twice in a 2-1 win vs. Kansas City on May 5 (the only time in the run where the club earned any points). Later in 2010, United managed just two goals over seven matches – from June 26 to August 7. The club went 0-5-2 during that span.

That 2010 team also finished dead last in MLS, with 22 points from 30 matches (6-20-4), and only 21 goals scored. Like 2002, it only took five goals to win top honors on the team in 2010 – with Andy Najar and Danny Allsopp sharing the lead. United were shutout 17 times in 2010, as opposed to 12 times in 2002. San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski led the league with 18 goals, while Dwayne De Rosario, the currently United midfielder then with Toronto FC, was third with 15.

Even though it’s early, there’s only one team in the league right now with fewer points than United, the Seattle Sounders, who have yet to win (0-3-2), and like United, have only scored twice. The Chicago Fire are also 1-4-1 and have four points.

Is it time to panic? With 28 matches left, maybe not. Is it time for changes? It has to be, but what can United do? Lionard Pajoy has started all six matches, played 514 minutes (meaning he’s only missed 26) and has one goal and just two shots on goal. Ruiz, acquired during the offseason, hasn’t played more than 26 minutes in any match this year and has yet to start. Ruiz does have four shots on goal in 79 minutes. Rafael scored on his debut vs. Columbus, but his long-range strike in that match is still his only shot on goal in 180 minutes over three appearances (all starts). Reserve Casey Townsend, 23, played for the Richmond Kickers (where he is on loan) over the weekend, and scored twice in a 4-1 win over Charleston.

While that is putting everything on the forwards, and there are more factors to the scoring issues than that, any team must have someone dangerous up front to contend. United has shown so far not to have such a danger. It may be that the answer lies outside the organization via trade, etc. But whatever happens, history has shown that United can’t continue down this path of meager offense. The moral of the story is, both years United have had such historic scoring droughts, they’ve finished as the worst team in the league. Which is no surprise really, bad teams often can’t score and teams that can’t score often are bad teams.

But it would have been difficult prior to the season to envision United finishing dead last in the league in 2013, especially off a successful season and playoff run last year. Something has to be done soon in order to change United’s path before it is too late.

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

D.C. United GAME 4 ANALYSIS: Home loss ends streak, raises questions

“It’s OK, it was a road game. They’ll be fine.”

This thought probably went through some people’s heads after D.C. United lost to the Houston Dynamo, 2-0, in the season opener. After all, it’s tough for most teams to win away form home in Major League Soccer (MLS), the Dynamo don’t lose at home, and no one is right to panic after one blemish on a 34-game slate. [Read more…]

D.C. United GAME 4 RECAP: Crew halt United’s home unbeaten streak at 19

D.C. United’s 19-match home unbeaten streak in Major League Soccer (MLS) play came to an end Saturday afternoon as the Columbus Crew won, 2-1, in an entertaining affair that saw a little bit of everything. Great goals, fantastic saves, curious officiating, this one had it all. But in the end, the majority of it didn’t go United’s way.

United slipped to 1-2-1 on the season (4 points), while the Crew improved to 2-1-1 (7 points). United hadn’t lost a league match at home since the 2012 season opener, when Sporting Kansas City scored a goal in second-half stoppage time to gain a 1-0 victory.

It was Ben Speas’ strike in the 58th minute that proved to be the game-winner. On a Columbus corner, United goalkeeper Bill Hamid knocked away the kick, taken by Crew forward Federico Higuain. The rebound was met by Speas right at the 18, and his low shot eluded Hamid to the goalkeeper’s left, making it 2-1. [Read more…]

D.C. United GAME RECAP: All joy for Pajoy, United in 1-0 win vs. RSL

Lionard Pajoy’s diving header past Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando gave D.C. United a 1-0 win over RSL at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., Saturday night. The win levels United’s Major League Soccer season record at 1-1, 3 points. RSL, winners last week at San Jose, slipped to 1-1, 3 points.

Pajoy, who had struggled prior to the goal and didn’t do much after it, made the most of his one shining moment. On a United corner kick in the 60th minute, the ball left the penalty area and was met by United midfielder J0hn Thorrington. Thorrington patiently waited a second before chipping the ball over the onrushing Real Salt Lake defenders. Thorrington’s touch forced Rimando to dive all out to his right, and he saved the shot with his hand. But that left the rebound available in the penalty area with only Pajoy to play it. He dove forward and headed the ball home for United’s first goal of the season.

Rimando and some RSL teammates looked for an offside call on Pajoy, but it rightly wasn’t given. Pajoy was clearly onside when Thorrington shot the ball, thus it was perfectly legal for him, unmarked, to follow up and score.

[Read more…]

D.C. UNITED 2013 SEASON PREVIEW: DCU hopes to build on 2012 playoff run

Injuries, a snowstorm, schedule changes, suspensions – D.C. United faced it all in the 2012 Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup playoffs. In the end, United eliminated the arch-rival New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals, but fell to the Houston Dynamo, 4-2 on aggregate, one step short of hosting the MLS Cup final.

For a club that has won four MLS Cups, but none since 2004, that taste of glory is the starting point for a 2013 season in which much may be expected, but many questions remain. United got an early shot against its playoff nemesis from last year, Houston, in Saturday night’s season opener. But D.C. fell, 2-0. United failed to put a shot on goal (statistically anyway, Chris Pontius hit the crossbar with a free kick).

Part of the offensive struggle can be attributed to the suspension of star midfielder Dwayne De Rosario. The Canadian international (who missed time due to a knee injury last season suffered while playing for Canada) was suspended two games by MLS just before the season opener for an incident in a preseason match against the Philadelphia Union. De Rosario, the 2011 MLS Most Valuable Player, is eligible to return to action March 16 when United visits the Red Bulls – the team that traded De Rosario to United in 2011.

De Rosario’s creativity and offense was certainly missed Saturday night, but the loss also served as a lesson that United must be potent throughout the lineup rather than relying on one player. Gone from last year’s attacking corps are Branko Boskovic and Hamdi Salihi, as well as Andy Najar, who had developed as a promising outside defender to complement his offensive skills. Najar was sold to Belgian club Anderlecht prior to the 2013 season.

But with a focus on who is still here, let’s take a quick position-by-position look at D.C. United in 2013.

FORWARD: Lionard Pajoy, acquired from Philadelphia during the 2012 season (for Danny Cruz, the victim of De Rosario’s alleged preseason headbutt), started alone at forward Saturday, but United didn’t get enough ball possession to get Pajoy into the game. If Pajoy was on the ball in the attacking zone, he usually didn’t get enough support from teammates to make a play. New United midfielder John Thorrington joined Pontius and DeLeon in the attacking midfield, but as is typical in early-season game, the links between midfielders and the lone forward either weren’t there, or decisions weren’t made fast enough to take advantage of numerical edges in the attack. Having De Rosario back will certainly help that.

Newly-acquired Carlos Ruiz, long a thorn in the side of United and its fans, didn’t get off the subs’ bench Saturday after not playing in MLS in 2012. Ruiz, a Guatemalan international, has played for four other MLS clubs previously, scoring 88 goals and winning the MVP award in 2002. Now 33, Ruiz will need to score goals for United to succeed, and for the fans to potentially soften their opinion of the acquisition.

Casey Townsend, 23, is the only other forward listed on United’s roster over the age of 20. He was acquired in an offseason trade with Chivas USA.

MIDFIELD: The engine room will be run by De Rosario upon his return, but he should have plenty of help. A healthy Pontius, who can play up front as needed, is vital for United. Pontius is dangerous taking free kicks, can work on the ball in traffic to find space for shots/passes, and has an excellent shot. Perry Kitchen’s performance as a defensive midfielder will be critical, and development should be expected after starting 62 league matches the past two seasons. Veteran Marcelo Saragosa, 31, will be counted on for depth and played 83 minutes as a starter in the loss at Houston, as head coach Ben Olsen employed a 4-5-1 formation.

Out wide, Nick DeLeon will try to improve on a tremendous rookie season. DeLeon scored 6 goals in the regular season, then netted a memorable late goal (one of two playoff strikes) at Red Bull Arena to give United a 1-0 win at New York that allowed D.C. to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Englishman Lewis Neal, 31, provided valuable minutes last season as a reserve, though he was not available for selection Saturday night.

DEFENSE: The quartet of Dejan Jakovic, Brandon McDonald, Chris Korb, and Daniel Woolard started in the back Saturday night, though Woolard lasted only 45 minutes before being replaced by James Riley. All four starters are aged 25-28, and could be regarded as in their prime. Jakovic has received call-ups (with De Rosario) to the Canadian National Team. Robbie Russell, 33, is the veteran of United’s backline.

Perhaps the biggest issue facing the defense is consistency. If United can keep a regular starting lineup such that communication and positioning improves through players being used to working off each other, the defense can improve. United conceded 43 goals last season, tied with San Jose for third-most among 2012 playoff clubs. With forward depth being less than last year, United must reduce the goals conceded to remain a playoff contender in 2013.

GOALKEEPER: Speaking of stopping goals, United will rely on 22-year-old starter Bill Hamid. Hamid, who started Saturday’s loss at Houston, is a talented shot-stopper, who now must perfect the arts of distribution, organizing defenders, and controlling his area to continue improving. Hamid won 13 games last season with eight shutouts. He also picked up his first bit of international experience with the United States National Team in the MLS offseason.

Backup goalkeeper Joe Willis earned notoriety last year for his performance in the second game of the Eastern Conference semifinal at New York. Called in cold after Hamid was sent off, Willis stopped Kenny Cooper’s penalty kick to leave the match scoreless until DeLeon scored the goal that allowed United to advance to the Eastern Conference final. Willis, 24, was 4-4-3 last season in goal for United.

LOOKING AHEAD: At first glance, repeating last year’s 53-goal haul is a longshot for United. De Rosario and Pontius must stay healthy all season. That said the team defense must improve for United to again contend and be around late in the playoffs.

Replicating last season’s 58 points (17-10-7) is a tough ask, and it took 53 to make the playoffs out of the East last season. Saturday’s loss aside, the East isn’t so deep that United shouldn’t expect to compete.  Remember, United haven’t lost a league match (including playoffs) at RFK Stadium since last season’s home opener vs. Sporting Kansas City. United is 12-0-6 in 18 matches since that defeat on March 10, 2012. Similar home dominance this season would keep D.C. in the race.

We’ll know more about this group’s ability away from home once De Rosario returns and Ruiz is fit for selection, when the team has its creativity back and Olsen has the freedom to craft a more threatening attacking lineup.

Follow Ed Morgans on Twitter:  @edmorgans

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