September 20, 2020

Espindola injury a major setback for D.C. United

D.C. United announced on its website Tuesday morning that forward Fabian Espindola, the offensive revelation that has allowed the club to go from worst to first early this Major League Soccer season, will miss approximately six weeks with a knee injury suffered against Montreal on June 11.

The club stated that Espindola suffered a strained MCL from a tackle. Espindola, who had three assists in the 4-2 win at Montreal, led the club with seven goals and eight assists. The eight assists were already a career high, and Espindola was on pace to smash his career high in goals (10), as well.

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D.C. United Analysis: First-quarter evaluation, part 3 – Midfielders

Of all the pieces of this week-long series evaluating D.C. United through about the first quarter of the 2014 Major League Soccer season, considering the value and effectiveness of the midfield might be the most difficult. Unlike defense and forward, the midfield wasn’t completely plowed over in the offseason, as the intention was to have relative veterans Nick DeLeon, Chris Pontius, and Perry Kitchen anchoring the middle of the field, supplemented by new acquisition and MLS veteran Davy Arnaud.

Nine matches into the season, that plan has already undergone a significant adjustment due to Pontius being unavailable due to injury. With the Washington Post reporting in late April that recovery from a hamstring injury will likely keep Pontius out for most of the regular season, midfield is one area where United’s best plan has already been rubbished. [Read more…]

D.C. United Analysis: Eight thoughts on the 2013 season

As much as many fans, and maybe even the organization itself, wants to forget large parts of the 2013 Major League Soccer season, the time is upon us to review it and try and figure out just what happened.

It was a weird year that saw United finish as one of the worst clubs in MLS history, going 3-24-7, for just 16 points, dead last in the league by a good bit. But in 2013, United also won the U.S. Open Cup for the third time in its history, earning a bid into the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League in the process. [Read more…]

D.C. United Game 28 Recap: Porter’s late goal salvages 2-2 draw for D.C.

On a day where D.C. United legend Jaime Moreno was inducted into the club’s Hall of Tradition, the current D.C. United team twice fought back from a goal down to take a well-earned point in a 2-2 draw with the two-time defending MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy.

Chris Pontius scored in the 34th minute to dispose of an early LA 1-0 lead, then Kyle Porter scored in the 84th minute on a header, just three minutes after the Galaxy had retaken the lead, as United scored multiple goals in a Major League Soccer match for the first time since August 3, in a 3-1 win over the Montreal Impact. United are now 3-19-6 (15 points) on the season. LA now stands 13-10-5 (44 points). [Read more…]

D.C. United Open Cup Game Recap: United ease past Revs into semifinals

D.C. United’s Major League Soccer season has mostly been a nightmare, what with just 2 wins so far in 16 matches. The U.S. Open Cup, however, has been a different story, with United now having advanced to the competition’s semifinals after Wednesday night’s 3-1 win over the New England Revolution at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Md.

United got goals from Chris Pontius, Dwayne De Rosario, and Lionard Pajoy in the victory, which books the club a road trip to face the Chicago Fire in the semifinals on August 7. Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers will meet in the other semifinal, as only MLS clubs remain in the 100th edition of this annual tournament. [Read more…]

D.C. United Game 16 Recap: Finally, United earns a league win

D.C. United ended its 13-match winless streak in Major League Soccer play Saturday night with a 1-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes before 13,149 at RFK Stadium in Washington. United’s record improved to 2-11-3 (9 points). San Jose dropped to 4-7-6 (18 points).

The win marked United’s first league triumph since March 9 – a 1-0 win at home over Real Salt Lake in just the second match of the season. That win left D.C. 1-1-0 on the campaign, but the next three-and-a-half months of defensive breakdowns, toothless offense, and bad luck left United entering late June still seeking that elusive second win. [Read more…]

D.C. United Game 11 Analysis: United find starting point to end losing skid

It wasn’t a win, so let’s get that out of the way first. But, D.C. United did manage a 1-1 home draw with Sporting Kansas City at RFK Stadium Sunday evening, ending the club’s losing streak at seven matches. United still hasn’t won since the second game of the season, a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake at RFK. However, given the long losing skid, any point is a good one.

United improved to 1-8-2 on the season, good enough for 5 points. But also bad enough to continue the club’s residence in the cellar of Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference. United are two points behind Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire, who are tied for 7th in the conference on 7 points. United play both Toronto and Chicago (as well as 6th-place New England) as part of their next four games (the other being the next one at home to the Portland Timbers this Saturday at 7 p.m.). [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.

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D.C. United GAME 1 ANALYSIS: With perfection required, United fell short in opener

A tie in the season opener isn’t exactly what D.C. United would dreamed of from its Major League Soccer season opener Saturday night at the Houston Dynamo. In retrospect, however, a tie would have been a good result given the starting lineup and how the match played out. The Dynamo won the game, 2-0, on two goals in the final 10 minutes.

Saturday’s lineup featured Lionard Pajoy starring as the lone forward. Not that he was the only player with attacking capabilities, certainly, as midfielders Chris Pontius and Nick DeLeon are capable of scoring goals and setting them up. United outnumbered Houston in the midfield, 5-4, but with star midfielder Dwayne De Rosario out (suspension), D.C. didn’t control the midfield, despite the numbers, leading to a 60%-40% discrepancy in ball possession in Houston’s favor.

With Pajoy alone up top, what often happened is either he wasn’t available for the midfielders to outlet to, or when he was on the ball, he was quickly surrounded by orange-clad Dynamo defenders, unable to distribute the ball because no one had joined the attack to support Pajoy. Pontius tried to help, but missed a header high in the second half after crashing a free kick off the crossbar late in the first half. When it was over, United hadn’t forced Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall to make a save; no shots on goal from seven attempts. United had but two corner kicks to Houston’s six.

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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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