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Pajoy burns Union as D.C. United regains hold of East playoff spot

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CHESTER, Pa. — The fans at PPL Park were used to seeing Lionard Pajoy play on their field. After all, he had started his MLS career with the Philadelphia Union. But they weren't so used to him scoring goals at PPL, and that's exactly what he did on Thursday. It just wasn't for the Union.

After a lackluster first half that saw neither team create any quality chances, Chris Pontius found Pajoy wide open in the penalty area in the 67th minute. The Colombian striker, who had plenty of time, calmly and powerfully beat Union goalie Zac MacMath to put United up 1-0. D.C. then shut the Union down on defense and held on to leave Chester with a quality road win.

"There were no excuses, having lost our last six games on the road," said D.C. midfielder Lewis Neal. "To come to our local rivals, which they are now, and get a 1-0 victory, is a massive result."

Pajoy's goal stood up despite a late barrage of chances from the Union, and D.C. earned three huge points in the East playoff race. The win moved United up to fourth in the standings, passing Columbus and Houston.

In a game that featured three former DC players in Union uniforms and former Union striker Pajoy playing for D.C., the second half was where all the action took place. A Chris Pontius free kick was the only shot on goal in the entire first 45 minutes.

After Philadelphia came out firing in the second half, D.C. managed to weather the storm and keep them off the scoreboard. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who experienced a shaky first half, responded with a quality second half and ended up recording five saves.

The Union actually controlled more than 68% of the possession in the second half, but they weren't able to find an equalizer after Pajoy put United up in the 67th minute. A flurry of late chances came from Philadelphia, but not a single one of them, including Chandler Hoffman's deflection in the 89th minute, got past Hamid.

In the end, it was former Union striker Pajoy that decided the match, earning three vital points for D.C. that they desperately needed to keep pace in the East.

"I'm happy because we won the game," Pajoy said. "Regardless of the goal, what has us happy is that we won. It's really important, because this team is trying to get into the playoffs. We're close, but now we have a difficult game on Sunday and we want to win to keep pace in this race."

Philadelphia, on the other hand, were left wondering how to solve the seemingly endless problem of finishing. They took 12 attempts on goal in the second half, including five shots on goal, but none of them translated into something on the scoreboard.

"This is a tough one," said Union coach John Hackworth. "I didn't feel like that one was going to end with that result. Our team is struggling. We're doing everything possible to try and put ourselves in a position to score, and get attempts on goal, but for whatever reason, even though we had some really good looks, we just didn't get the chances we needed."

D.C. United's win moves them up to fourth place in the Eastern Conference, and the club is only three points away from second-place Chicago. United will host Chivas USA this Sunday.

The Union, meanwhile, is all but eliminated from playoff contention. After failing to play spoiler to a contender in the East against D.C., they will get another chance on Sunday when they host the Houston Dynamo at PPL Park.

Here are the match highlights:

What did you think of the match? Do you see D.C. United eventually sealing a place in this year's postseason? Should the Union start thinking about who will score goals for the club in 2013?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. JoeW, I probably wasn’t clear in my comment. The quotes were meant to show that’s what some Freddy’s apologists say (that coaches haven’t given him a chance). I don’t share that view.

  2. The issue is that if Adu was as big a star as he thought he was, he’d have more than 3 goals and 1 assist for the season.

    He’d have a record of goalscoring that merited the hype he receives. He doesn’t, and I was underwhelmed by his performance against DC. He slowed a number of counterattacks and he put the only real scoring chance he found for himself into orbit.

    He’s still young, but the assertion that he’s ready for the keys to anything is absurd. And in professional soccer you aren’t GIVEN the keys to the car anyway. You EARN them.

  3. To be fair to Klinsmann, Pontius was recovering from a broken leg when he took over. I’d say CP’s form is only now back to what it was before the injury.

    I do agree he merits consideration now, and I think he’ll get a look in the Dec. friendlies.

  4. Now that’s just nonsense. Nowak gave him plenty of chances and they tried to design a system that would allow Adu to shine. I remember one game where Nowak actually played Christian Gomez as a quasi-holding midfield so that Adu would be in a position that fit him. And then he was traded to RSL where he was with Ellinger who gave him plenty of opportunities and thought the world of him.

    1. Most youth starts don’t develop. Variety of reasons why but most don’t. I remember seeing a study of U-17 WC team players and something like 80% of them never played more than 3 years of division 1 professional soccer.

    2. Adu has always had some great gifts in some areas and gaping holes in other parts of his game. And other than a lack of speed, most of those holes were fixable by effort or study or focus. Things like: movement off the ball, showing for the ball, positioning on the field, judgment (when to run at people, when to hold up, when to pass).

  5. As a Crew fan, I was pulling for Philadelphia. Boy was that the wrong decision. They were hard to watch last night. Only a couple of Union players looked interested in playing.

  6. I agree that we should not read too much into one game. Plus, while Hamid may not have had his best game, he did not allow any goals in a big game with playoff implications.

  7. Let’s be honest, Kljestan’s team is a minnow in European soccer. He plays in a Belgian league, which is ranked just two spots ahead of the Cyprus league. He is a nice player, but not the top quality. Kljestan has not been called up because Klinsmann believes there are better options ahead of him. He and Jonny Bornstein are the two players that Bob Bradley developed at Chivas and later brought to the national team. None of the two has really impressed when given opportunities.

  8. Hamid abosolutley needs to improve his reading of the game and distribution. But at his young age, there’s plenty of time to develop that IQ with more experience.

    There is no doubt in my mind that he will be a dominate keeper so long as he develops a better positional awareness a learns how to organize his back four.

    Also, I think people who don’t watch him all that often tend to read to much into one game (as stated above). This guy has been brillant for us at times, giving us three points when one could argue we don’t even deserve one.

    I really believe by the time he’s 25-27 he’ll be in Europe, starting, his physical tool’s and upside are undeniable. Also, I read a cool stat on

    “Bill Hamid has the best big chance prevention percentage of any player younger than 24 in MLS this year (47.4 percent).”

    Not sure how you quantify big chances, seem’s a little subjective. Still, on what has been an up and down year for Hamid he has still produced:

    Sv%: 78
    GAA: 1.10
    Sv: 73 (Note he has only played 19 games, part due to injury, part due to the great form of Joe Willis during that time)

    If you extrapolate the saves to be consistent with the top two keepers in the league, my opinion (Sean Johnson – 25 games and Andy Gruenebuam – 28 games). Bill COULD (not would) have as many as:

    25 – 96 Saves
    28 – 107 Saves

    As a last note, for comparison. Hamids 2010 stats:

    Sv. % – 68
    GAA – 1.32
    Sv. – 78

    He’s gotta a better D this year, also, definatley show some growth when it comes to shot stopping.

    If anyone can find stats on crosses succesful dealt with, rebounds conceded … I would be very interested. This would help give a better picture of his growth, or lack there of in these regions.

  9. The good news is he’s only 21 and probably genuinely cares about getting better. Most wasted NBA talents are just professional knuckleheads that think they are the best.

  10. This was THE WORST game I have seen Hamid play for DCU period. Unless this starts a trend of bad performances I wouldn’t read too much into it.

  11. The issue is the the manager has no tachtical vision for the Union. He also has personal issues with ADU but who know what they are. As long as he wants to start 3 holding MFs ADU will be stuck on the bench.

  12. During the broadcast, the announcers mentioned that Adu made some comments about being promised ‘the keys to the car’ and telling the media that this has yet to happen. Perhaps Hackworth was punishing him in a way by not starting him, though that definitely would be a ‘cut off your nose to spite your face’ situation. Twellman certainly went after Adu during the broadcast, but after reading the Ives piece yesterday, it seems that he is putting players in good positions with few tangible results.

    Is Adu being scapegoated? Is he completely overrated? I suppose people who support the Ives article would say yes to the first question, while detractors would want Adu to be more of a goal scorer. It is ultimately something Hackworth needs to figure out, because there is no way two players should come off the bench before Adu in a game where your team is struggling offensively, unless there are some underlying issues.

  13. I like Freddy, too, and as a DCU supporter have pulled for him since he came to United at 14. I still do, even though he plays for a rival.

    His entire career, though, has been filled with coaches who won’t give him a “chance.” At some point it’s not about his coaches; it’s about him. He is clearly skilled but has always been inconsistent in his ability (or desire) to apply his talents.

  14. He did get a run out, like 15 minutes worth at the end. And he created several great opportunities–as Ives tweeted last night–that were just squandered once again by the trainwreck that is Philly’s attacking third.

  15. I think the explanation is a little bit simpler. Klinsmann has favorites. He has players that he really likes or really thinks have immense potential so he’s going to give them lots of opportunities to play even if they’re not starting for their club or are in bad form. The two best examples are Shea and Orozco-Fiscal. That doesn’t mean he hates Pontius. But effectively Shea’s opportunities (even when he’s in bad form) come at the expense of Pontius.

  16. Those are all good points–actually, basically what I had been thinking during the first nine months or so of Klinsmann’s tenure. But in the May-June camp, when he still had not called in some fresh attack options for a look, I started to wonder. But after the shock in Kingston I started think that maybe something else was at play. Or, worse, maybe incompetence. In my mind Klinsmann’s massive midfield changes made in Columbus after the Kingston debacle was a tacit acknowledgement that he had screwed up big time–for whatever reason–in not testing attacking midfielders to integrate into the team. I will be shocked if we don’t see at least one new attacking midfielder (and maybe a new defender-I think Goodson might not be back) called in for October’s WCQ’s and at least two attackers called in for a November friendly (assuming one is scheduled) to began preparing for the Hex, which we now know poses a huge challenge with still a long way to go until we qualify for WC 2014.

  17. Maybe you were looking for Kljestan when he played in MLS, but so many are now that dismissed him when he was MLS it is laughable.
    Like they can’t think for themselves, if he gets playing time in Europe he must be good.

    ps, not saying I am for him or against him, just saying…

  18. I’m sorry for the Adu timer. But, why did he not get a chance tonight? Union midfield is uncreative at best. As a DCU fan, I still root for Freddy, and think that he should have been given a chance. Daniel has no worth at all, and cannot see how he and Carroll are suppose to be a creative force in the midfield.

  19. I think there may be a few reasons for it:

    Build from the back: in spite of his long-term vision to play free-flowing attacking soccer, the mindset change begins with re-camping how you play out of the backline. It’s clear from his callups and tactical choices that JK’s biggest priority was finding a defensive configuration that will not simply boot the ball downfield.

    Addressing depth positions: there are some positions that not only need players who can come off the bench, but positions that needed to be filled in the starting lineup. I can only assume that with the likes of Donovan and Dempsey and Bradley JK felt like answering the question of who creates could wait.

    This is conjecture of course, but I’m sure it’s something that will be addressed soon.

    Not to sound like a Eurosnob, but the bigger question to me is why Kljestan hasn’t been called up. He’s a starter on a Champions League level team. Fits the criteria that JK himself has articulated.

  20. +1 Do not understand why Klinsmann during his first 14 months has been so reluctant to try new faces who are bona fide attacking midfielders for their clubs. Mind-boggling. A call-up for Pontius for the WCQ’s against Antigua and Guatemala would be a great first step in the right direction to began fixing that deficit for next year’s Hex (assuming we make it).

  21. Chris Pontius a key figure again. He should have put a second goal in the back of the net late on though. Took to much time on the ball in the box which allowed Valdez to slide in to tackle the ball away. But I think Pontius has stepped up big in the past two games for United. Klinsmann surely can’t keep on looking past him for a call-up!


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