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Crew snap D.C. United’s home unbeaten streak

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WASHINGTON — Something clearly has been amiss for D.C. United early this season. The goals that came with such abundance last year have gone missing. The defensive discipline that earned the club so many results down the stretch has largely escaped as well. And that midfield rhythm is just lacking.

“We haven’t been good on the ball at all,” midfielder Chris Pontius said. “We still need more dangerous possession, more threatening attacks. It’s too easy right now.”

That much was clear Saturday, as a haphazard United side saw their 19-game unbeaten streak at RFK Stadium end with a 2-1 loss to the Columbus Crew.

“It feels terrible, for one,” captain Dwayne De Rosario said. “Second of all, it was embarrassing.”

Pouncing on set pieces, the Crew (2-1-1) grabbed their second road win of 2013 thanks to goals from Josh Williams and Ben Speas. While pricey Brazilian striker Rafael marked his debut for United (1-2-1) with an impressive long-distance strike, it wasn’t enough on an afternoon that saw Columbus goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum outduel United counterpart Bill Hamid.

Gruenebaum reeled off stunning saves in quick succession on Lionard Pajoy, Brandon McDonald and De Rosario to preserve the Columbus lead, but he wasn’t as busy as Hamid, who was forced into seven stops as the visitors controlled the match.

“We’ve played some good football at times,” Hamid said. “But the dominating play is something that we haven’t done that we did last year. Getting the ball, possessing, moving side to side and opening teams up. But we’ll find it.”

Although United knew set pieces were key to Columbus’ attack, they struggled on them nonetheless.

The Crew jumped in front when Hamid was caught in no-man’s land on Tyson Wahl’s 15th-minute free kick, allowing Williams to nod home his shot with ease. Then early in the second half, a Crew corner kick forced Hamid into back-to-back saves on Chad Marshall and Wahl.

“He’s a monster. I wish I didn’t have to see him make so many great saves,” coach Ben Olsen said. “The game could have been 8-0.”

But those stops ultimately went for naught, as Speas in the 58th minute blasted a shot past Hamid after the goalkeeper bobbled a free kick and McDonald’s half-clearance only reached the top of the box.

“We just had too many careless giveaways and gave them chances on set pieces,” midfielder Perry Kitchen said. “And they punished us for it.”

There were, in fact, some moments of inspiration from United. Eight minutes after Williams opened the scoring, Rafael shrugged off a challenge from Columbus centerback Glauber before unleashing a 35-yard volley that sneaked under the napping Gruenebaum.

While United appeared to take the lead just before halftime when substitute Kyle Porter slotted a shot in, the goal after a lengthy delay was waved off. Even though Porter was onside, Pajoy — the player who initially went after James Riley’s pass down the right flank — was not.

“I thought it was the right call,” Olsen said. “But you don’t make the right call after you let the play go. You just don’t do it. So he screws up the first one, then he screws up again.”

The silver lining for United is they have plenty of time to work out their issues, with the club’s next match coming April 5 at Sporting Kansas City.

As Pontius noted, “Most of it is getting into a rhythm and getting that confidence to be able to play. You underestimate how much confidence can weigh on a player’s mind.”

“We’ve got two weeks now for me to whip this team into shape and make sure we get back to basics,” Olsen said. “Right now, the team doesn’t have a lot of the good things that we had at the end of the last year. I’ve got to get that in them very quickly.”


  1. The Crew came in with a different lineup than the previous 3 matches. Arrieta was snowed in in Denver, so oduro started up top. His speed opened up our offense. The crew hasn’t had speed up top since 2004 with the first coming of Jeff Cunningham. Either way what a difference. The crew played with confidence away from home and took it to DC. I was most impressed with the service from Wahl. I had no idea he had that to offer. Good away win for the Crew. Good start to the season.

  2. Offensively off? Yes? Possession a problem? Yes.

    Defense? No.

    We were missing Jakovic, and unfortunately relied upon Woolard, who was stellar in that position last year, but has clearly lost his mojo after suffering a bad concussion. Ethan White probably gets the call next time Degan’s away.

    It should be noted that this team has two impressive clean sheets under its belt.

    Against RSL, NY, even Houston, our defense was phenomenal. (It looked like a miraculous 0-0 tie in Houston before an unfortunate own goal broke the spell). Our attacking rhythm has been shocking, but that only makes the efforts of McDonald, Jakovic, Korb, Hamid, and Kitchen that much more impressive. Normally, I wouldn’t defend the team’s poor record this strongly, but the implication that the defense has let us down is unfair to the players and incorrect.

    • In view of the fact that I did not see the game, my reference came from the statements of Chris, midfielder; theoretically, in this position, both offensive and defensive plays must be exhibited. As you may know, defending in midfield is different from defending by the attacking line.

      • Fffffuuuuuuuuuu! Give it a rest dude. I’m officially campaigning for your own personal moderation. It’s hella annoying.

    • the only part of our defense that was phenomenal against nyrb was hamid. everybody else (on the whole team) was awful that game.

    • Hey Ives, this guy’s spamming is getting redundant and annoying (every post is basically the same and with a link to whatever that is). Can we do something about it?

  3. “But you don’t make the right call after you let the play go. You just don’t do it. So he screws up the first one, then he screws up again.”

    While it didn’t look good, it wasn’t against the Laws. It was perfectly within the Laws to bring the play back and make sure the right call was made.

    • Agreed, but the ref sucked all day. The Crew’s 1st set piece goal was on a bogus foul where the Crew player flopped and the ref missed a clear foul in the box when Marshall took down Pontius in the box. I really despise MLS officiating. They are the worst refs in all professional sports played in the US.


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