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Pontius penalty salvages 1-1 draw for D.C.


 Photo by Jose L. Argueta/


WASHINGTON — Threatening for an equalizer early in the second half against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, D.C. United seemed poised to draw even one way or another, despite the loss of forwards Charlie Davies and Josh Wolff to first-half injuries.

Sure enough United got one — and it had wildly inconsistent referee Terry Vaughn to thank for it.

Midfielder Chris Pontius drew and converted a questionable 62nd minute penalty kick to negate Drew Moor's first-half tally for Colorado as the two sides played to a 1-1 draw at RFK Stadium.

"We didn't start the second half very well," Colorado coach Gary Smith said. "D.C., with a little bit of help from the officials, took advantage of it."

United thought it had earned a prime opportunity to tie the match in the 56th minute when Joseph Ngwenya was taken down in the penalty area by a clumsy tackle from Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz. But Vaughn waved play on.

Five minutes later, he found an excuse to get United a penalty kick after all. As Pontius attacked down the left flank, he initiated a collision with Colorado right back Kosuke Kimura and fell to the turf on the edge of the penalty area. Vaughn pointed to the spot, and Pontius promptly converted.

"I think out of all the calls, mine was the one where it could go either way," Pontius said.

Although those two decisions seemingly canceled out, United players felt they should have been playing up a man for most of the match after Moor fouled D.C. midfielder Dax McCarty on what could have been a breakaway in the first half. Vaughn showed Moor a yellow card.

"I think he had a very bad night," United coach Ben Olsen said of Vaughn. "I've had bad nights as a player. That's about it."

Colorado went ahead in the 23rd minute when Moor poked a shot home amid a scramble for Jamie Smith's long-range free kick. The Rapids enjoyed the better of the play in the first half despite missing strikers Omar Cummings and Caleb Folan as United struggled to jell in midfield.

"To a man, we weren't sharp enough from the get-go," Olsen said. "We started off in an unacceptable manner."

United found a rhythm coming out of the locker room, using quick touches and improved off-the-ball movement to quality create scoring opportunities until Pontius' penalty knotted the score.

"At the start of the second half, I think D.C. came out with a little bit more energy," Rapids captain Pablo Mastroeni said. "We were on our heels a little bit. We couldn't get near the ball and couldn't get any pressure, and I think [United's] goal was just a matter of time."

Davies had a less-than-stellar audition as U.S. coach Bob Bradley watched the striker play in person a week before the Gold Cup roster deadline. Davies drifted offside on one dangerous scoring opportunity and lost his touch on another before exiting in the 34th minute with a hamstring injury.

Wolff, Davies' partner up top, was swapped out in the first half as well when he picked up a groin injury. Colorado's Conor Casey, on the other hand, returned to the field as a 67th minute substitute after missing several weeks with a hamstring strain.

With the tie, United ended its three-game homestand with a 1-0-2 mark. Colorado, meanwhile, wrapped up three consecutive road matches with the same five points.

"Three away games on the spin are not easy, and they're made even more difficult when you're traveling to the East Coast," Smith said. "The players have shown spirit and determination and adapted extremely well to wherever they've gone."


  1. How many soft PK calls is DCU going to get this season? Davies against LA, Pontius against Colorado – these guys are watching too many Barcelona games with all of their flops.

  2. Actually, that was the non-call for when Moor took out McCarty on a clear breakaway in what should have been a red card.

  3. I detect a sense in your post that you somehow feel like DCU is the subject of favoritism. Actually, they have 4 for the year which is the exact same number as the Columbus Crew.

    Yes, I thought the PK call for Pontius was weak (though not a dive). But the non-call on Ngwenya 5 minutes earlier in the game was an obviously penalty that Vaughan didn’t call–no dive there. And Moor took down McCarty as the last defender with nothing but space for McCarty between the ball and Pickens–no ejection, only a paltry yellow. So it’s kind of hard to argue a lot of favoritism towards DCU in this match.

  4. Body of work is mostly irrelevant. This isn’t an all-star team where one “deserves” a spot. It’s about if you fit in the coach’s plans. Tonight, Davies had one of his worst performances of the season (and I think he’s been mostly solid or even good). He had a bad first touch on the breakaway, he didn’t get a chance to show any finishing touch (which as been pretty good this year), didn’t link well with other players and was flagged for at least one offside (I thought two) in 30+ minutes.

    He might get called up just b/c a lot of other guys (like Agudelo) haven’t been getting minutes. But ultimately, it’s probably all irrelevant if the hamstring injury is bad, why put someone on the roster who might be doubtful healthwise/conditioningwise?

  5. i started watching the game the moment CD9 was subbed out so i can’t speak about his performance tonight. As you pointed out CD9 (2.0), is still a work in progress. I was at RFK for their home opener against the Crew, and Ngwenya was awful in that game, and in my opinion the matches since. i know his shot on goal from the Pontius deflection was a half-chance, but he has got to at least get it on frame. the one compliment i will give to him is his ability to hold the ball. but the caveat is, everytime he held the ball he was so close to the touchline it was easy for the defense to contain him and effectively neutralize him. he did not link up well with other players, and as rongen pointed out should have let the thru ball go by to the onrushing attacker who was onsides. in my opinion, not a high soccer IQ, and not much ability. rant over. i feel better.

  6. Let’s see…
    –Ngwenya didn’t start
    –Both starting forwards went out with in juries
    I think that kind of explains how Ngwenya got on the field.

  7. I could not believe the PK call. Pontius comes in and does a flying body ram at the defender and get the penalty! Horrific refereeing…

  8. Ngwenya has not looked great this season, but he was much better than Charlie Davies against Colorado. Better movement, better touch, better defending, more dangerous, and actually fought to hold the ball. Davies was a complete black whole every time he got the ball and his touch has been very poor. Davies doesn’t work hard enough to fend off defenders to receive passes and can’t trap them when he does get position. Ngwenya at least hold the ball for a few seconds, even though it is rarely pretty.

    None of this makes Ngwenya not awful, but it does explain why he plays when DC is down two forwards. The better question is how desperately bad are the US forwards that people are excited about Davies 2.0?

  9. I wonder if Davies body of work up to now will be enough to get him a call to camp (injury permitting) even though he had an off game with Bradley in the crowd.

    Also, why no MLS running commentary? There are at least two nationally televised games tonight and more for some people

  10. Ngwenya is just flat out awful. he needs to sit the bench, why olsen plays him is beyond me.

    pontius had a great game. after the goal was conceded the united defense tightened up and hamid didn’t really have much to do after that. dissappointing result should have got a win, but at least it’s not a loss


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