October 19, 2019

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 GAME 1 RECAP: Dynamo continue home dominance vs. D.C. United

A new Major League Soccer season began Saturday night in Houston, Texas, but for D.C. United, the song remained the same. United fell, 2-0, to the Houston Dynamo before 20,019 at BBVA Compass Stadium, thanks to an own goal scored by United defender James Riley, and a late insurance goal by Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark.

United (0-1, 0 points) has played at Houston nine times and have just one draw and eight losses to show for it. On Saturday night, United survived a dodgy penalty call in the first half, then two Houston shots from point blank range in the half’s final minutes, to emerge scoreless at halftime.

But after carrying a bit more possession and generating a couple chances in the second half, United fell behind when, on a Dynamo corner kick, Clark got goal-side position on Riley and went up to head the ball toward goal from close range. Clark missed, but Riley made contact, sending a hard header past United goalkeeper Bill Hamid to give Houston the 1-0 advantage in the 80th minute.

United never really threatened a comeback from there, but any thought of drawing level late to steal a point vanished nine minutes later. From a throw-in, Houston substitute Warren Creavalle managed to keep the ball in play near the end line to Hamid’s left, then passed to a wide-open Clark in the penalty area. Clark blasted a well-taken shot to the upper corner at Hamid’s far post, giving Houston its final 2-0 margin of victory.

At halftime, it appeared as if United were on their way toward capturing at least a point. Hamid dove right to save a Brad Davis penalty kick after D.C. defender Chris Korb was cautioned for a foul on Clark in the 40th minute. Replays showed the foul actually occurred outside the penalty area, despite head referee Baldomero Toledo’s insistence to the contrary. No matter, however, as Davis’ penalty kick was not well struck and Hamid saved easily. He then doubled his effort by collecting a rebound shot, ending the threat.

Moments later, United nearly took the lead themselves, but Chris Pontius’ free kick banged off the crossbar above Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall. United then again avoided going down a goal when, on a corner kick, a shot by Houston defender Bobby Boswell was cleared off the line by Korb at Hamid’s left post. Giles Barnes followed up from only a few feet away, but Hamid saved that effort, allowing for the scoreless deadlock at halftime.

United’s defense couldn’t hold out past 80 minutes, however, and D.C. will entertain Real Salt Lake on Saturday, March 9, at RFK Stadium in the home opener looking for its first standings points of the 2013 season.

Coming Monday:  A preview of D.C. United’s 18th season in Major League Soccer. On Tuesday, a more detailed analysis of how United dropped its season opener in Houston.

Notes:  D.C. United defender Daniel Woolard received the only other caution, for a foul in the 15th minute. Woolard was replaced by Riley to start the second half. … There was no debut for new United forward Carlos Ruiz, who started the game on the subs’ bench but was not inserted into the game by D.C. head coach Ben Olsen. … Elsewhere on Opening Day Saturday, Sporting Kansas City rallied from a goal down to beat the Philadelphia Union, 3-1; the Vancouver Whitecaps defeated Toronto FC, 1-0; FC Dallas blanked the Colorado Rapids, 1-0; the Montreal Impact scored an upset win at the Seattle Sounders, 1-0; and the Columbus Crew crushed Chivas USA, 3-0. … There are three matches Sunday, including Portland Timbers vs. New York Red Bulls, televised by ESPN2 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. The other two matches feature Los Angeles Galaxy-Chicago Fire and San Jose Earthquakes-Real Salt Lake.

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