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Timbers keep rolling as D.C. United nightmare season continues

NagbeDCU (USATodaySports)


WASHINGTON – Saturday evening’s matchup between D.C. United and the Portland Timbers was a tale of two teams headed in very, very different directions. United entered the game with only four points to their name. Portland, on the other hand, entered the match riding a 10-match unbeaten streak.

The script played out as expected. The Timbers looked organized and efficient, creating chances and finishing them. D.C. United looked disjointed and never really threatened on their way to a 2-0 loss to the Timbers at RFK Stadium.

Goals from Rodney Wallace and Darlington Nagbe provided the difference to help the Timbers push their unbeaten streak to 11 matches, the longest such streak in the league. D.C. United also continued a league-leading streak, going their 10th straight match without a win (nine of those results being losses).

Both of Portland’s goals were the result of poor marking and communication by United’s back line. Former United midfielder Rodney Wallace found himself with time and space in the 21st minute and made no mistake, drilling home a left-footed shot from some 14 yards out.

Nagbe finished the game off in the 57th minute, out-muscling D.C. centerback Brandon McDonald before collecting Ryan Johnson’s pass and firing a shot past United keeper Bill Hamid. The goal, which came against the run of play, was a back-breaker, and D.C. United seemed hapless to mount any sort of a comeback.

It was a lack of effort not lost on Head Coach Ben Olsen.

“It’s embarrassing how soft we are,” a clearly agitated D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen said after the match. “On every part of the field. The lack of anger that a few of our guys play with, the lack of a chip on some of our guys’ shoulders. It’s mind boggling to me.”

While D.C. struggled, the Timbers received some quality performances from newcomers to the starting lineup. Freddie Piquionne and newly-acquired centerback Pa Modou Kah both played well, with Kah looking like a comfortable fit playing in place of suspended starter Mamadou Danso.

More surprising than the final result were some of Olsen’s lineup choices,  most notably the omission of Dwayne De Rosario from the starting lineup, and the inclusion of Carlos Ruiz.

It was Ruiz who earlier in the week went public with his complaints about playing time. Olsen responded by handing him a start, and benching former MLS MVP Dwayne DeRosario in the process.

If Olsen’s mood was dark, the angst in the locker room after the match was other-worldly. De Rosario, who entered the match mid-way through the second half, voiced his disapproval with his role as a second half sub.

“[Olsen] doesn’t think that me and Carlos can play on the same field together, so that’s the way it is. I’m not happy about that,” said DeRosario, who cracked a smile when asked whether he believed that he’d pair up well with Ruiz.

“I think if you look at our track record as goal scorers, as creators, that’s not a bad problem to have to try once.”

Ruiz, for his part, was appreciative of the opportunity he was given. When asked by the assembled media whether he thought a partnership with De Rosario could work well, he was more reserved.

“It depends what Ben wants. We aren’t young like we were a couple of years ago – so if he wants us to run up and down, up and down, it’s going to be a little bit difficult.”

Despite Olsen’s harsh words, there were certainly positives for United. They out-possessed what’s perhaps the most possession-oriented team in MLS and certainly created their share of chances. Ruiz showed a few brief flashes of creativity and fire up top; Perry Kitchen was a rock in the center of the park, as he has been all year. At the end of the day, though, the result was the same – just a third of the way through the season, United continue to watch their already slim playoff hopes rapidly disappear over the horizon.

This 2013 D.C. United team isn’t just bad – they are on pace for a historically awful season. At 1-9-2, they are averaging a scant 0.42 points per game, well below the previous MLS record of 0.52 set by the now defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny in 2001. Even worse, their offensive futility – D.C. averages just half a goal a game – would shatter the previous MLS all-time low of 0.70 goals per game set by D.C. United during their nightmarish 2010 campaign.

If D.C. United are to right the ship in any way,  they will get their chance in the next month. After an opening 10 games that saw them face some of the toughest opposition in MLS- they’ll next face Chicago, Toronto and New England, who Olsen described as more “realistic” competition.

As for tonight, a disillusioned Olsen seemed eager to write the loss off. When asked “What now?” during his post-game press conference, he looked blankly off into the distance and offered a simple response.

“Go home. Hug my kids if they’re still up.”

Here are the match highlights:


    • Say what!? That’s a pretty absurd conclusion given United’s history, the fact that they have vibrant supporters groups and the stadium issue is constantly evolving. And I’m not even a DC fan.

      • +1

        Jonk has no idea what he’s talking about. Maybe he thinks bc attendance is low that there is a lack of support, but that’s not bc the team doesn’t have support. It’s the front office that’s the issue. RFK is a disaster and most fans dont want to spend money there. The FO refuses to bring in quality players and can’t close a stadium deal. That’s the reason for the poor attendance.

      • This coming from the same fans who blasted other teams’ attendance, fans who had better excuses than an icky stadium (one you guys love to praise as being a cathedral). Act like fans of a team with all the trophies and success you talk about.

      • Huh? Watch the highlights and tell me if those fans ever boo or stop cheering. Those are the real DCU fans you should be paying attention to.

        You’ll never hear me complaining about being a DC United fan, no matter how rough things are going.


  1. People can speculate on formations and lineup decisions all season long. But until the FO addresses the offseason losses (Santos, Boskovic, Dudar, Salihi and Najar), we’ll continue to be poor, or mediocre at best.

  2. By the way, wonderful article Pablo. Welcome to SBI? I don’t always look at the author, but this is my first time to remember seeing you. I looked, by the way, after I thought how good it was and wanted to see who.

  3. I missed the game but after watching the highlights I have decided that we have to start Ruiz, no matter what. he is too dangerous not too and his possession play and the way he makes those around him threatening cannot be denied.

    McDonald must be on the outs with the coach after this. I’m thinking trade and benched for white and Dejan until he is sold.

    I haven’t seen anything but defensive mistakes and wasted counters from Sanchez this season (and nothing in the highlights this game), why give him minutes? Either Pontius or Deleon must take his starting position.

    I am very impressed with Porter, he reminds me of Deleon last year. he has to stay on the starting line up, he has the right effort too.

    Why wouldn’t this be our line up going forward (and until Saragosa, Thorrington, Woolard, and Neal heal)?


    That still leaves us Augusto, Rafeal, and Townsend as attacking subs from the bench. Obviously Pajoy will get minutes too.

    This has to be the line up. If not, what am I missing?

    When Thorrington gets back he will add a lot to this team, pairing him again with Kitchen. They do work. Hopefully that happens soon, and then Deleon fights with off form Pontius and on form Porter for time on the wings. good stuff.

    Obviously we need more reinforcements than a healthy Thorrington, so who do we bring in? what positions? Who gets replaced? If we look at how ‘soft’ our defense is, how can we not look at a major (DP perhaps) signing at centerback?

    I still believe this is a good team, I just don’t see the results.

    • This is a poor team, devoid of talent. The level is so bad that meh player who can’t cross like porter is seen as being a good player.

      There is virtually nobody on the team that would seriously content for a spot on a playoff level team.

    • What’s the story as to why Ruiz is not starting? He stated in the media he’s physically ready to go. Assuming that’s true-?, just not in Benny’s plans or at odds about his role, or…? Seems ridiculous to me not to see what Ruiz can bring to your point above.

      Also, talent aside have to think its at least somewhat likely this squad does not buy into the coaching style or philosophy.


      • I was surprised Ruiz got a start. History with Benny says once a player goes to the media, he never gets back in the starting line up. he obviously respects him, but I have no idea what is going on and how these decisions are made.

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