The uneven performances continue for DC United as the Black & Red lost a heartbreaker at RFK on Saturday afternoon 1-2 to the Columbus Crew. The visitors entered the match with extreme confidence in their attempt to eliminate United's home unbeaten streak – and the constant pressure upheld by Dominic Oduro and Federico Higuain proved too much for the DC side. Josh Williams opened the account for the Crew; however courtesy of the young designated player Rafael's "wonder strike" from about 30 yards out in the 22nd minute, DC United then leveled the match at 1-1. Ben Olsen surely was not happy with his teams overall performance and some of the referees decisions but, calls cannot be reversed in soccer – well, on Saturday the calls did.
Columbus came into the match strong and showed no sense of tentativeness from the opening whistle. With Higuain and Oduro working together in the attack, the deep ball continued to cause pressure to Bill Hamid in his penalty area. The Crew saw a majority of the chances in the early going primarily from the pace-filled Williams alongside the flanks. Tyson Wahl also provided plenty of stability for the visitors whose set-pieces were spot on on the afternoon causing the young DC goalkeeper to question whether or not he should challenge for the ball, which eventually cost DC to concede early.
Despite the loss, Olsen can take away a few positives in terms of their attacking style. Rafael was able to combine plenty with Lionard Pajoy who although was stuck alone in advanced positions too often, was able to link up with the onrushing Brazilian and captain Dwayne De Rosario. As the young DP made his MLS debut for the Black & Red he certainly did not disappoint with his brilliant long-range goal.
Olsen also commentated on the goal by Kyle Porter that was initially allowed, then called back as he told DC United.com "I thought it was the right call. But you don't make the right call after you let the play go. You just don't do it. He screws up the first one and then he screws up again to make up for it. He brings it back. He made mistakes. Live with it." Although the manager takes a very stern approach to the referee's decision, he makes a valid point that what is done is done and that his side must look back to the fundamentals. The current squad is miles behind the end of last years side, and there is plenty of work to be done within the next few weeks to regain full form.
The young American goalkeeper was once again solid for DC despite a few mental lapses but made a few key saves on Oduro and Higuain. And the manager knows that his side much figure out their attack because Hamid cannot take on the vast amount of shots he has been in recent weeks. Olsen spoke to DC United.com and said "Look, we're asking a lot of Bill Hamid right now. He's a monster. And I wish I didn't have to see him make so many great saves." It was no help for the goalkeeper that in the defensive midfield, Perry Kitchen uncharacteristically gave the ball away in the midfield much too often resulting in Nick DeLeon and Chris Pontius falling out of position much too often.
Another unsettling thought of the DC side is that the starting XI seems to lack cohesion. De Rosario and Pontius are taking one another's space up the pitch, and Rafael was even a bit too attacking for United's liking. There is plenty of work to be done that is for certain, and could be a bigger even blow if winger DeLeon is out for an extended period. The youngster was subbed off after he sustained an leg injury which will be evaluated within the next few days.
Chad Marshall was sound on defense for the Crew who left little room to maneuver for Pajoy. DC may need to reconfigure their attacking options as Hamdi Salihi and Maicon Santos are not longer with the club, and Ruiz is not getting any younger. If Pajoy wants to maintain his starting position he is going to need to do what strikers do – score goals. Even Pontius spoke about the lack of finishing skills and possession according to MLSSoccer.com "We're not holding the ball enough. We need to give our defense more of a break to defend, and I think we do that with possession on the ball, and we just haven't done that." DC will likely look towards their captain in De Ro to retain possession and spray the ball into advanced positions where scoring chances can be created, successfully.
Plain and simple, as Pontius told MLS reporters "I want to see us be able to take over a game." Their next chance will come against Sporting KC.
My DC United Man of the Match: Bill Hamid
DC United's Next Match: April 5th at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park (8:30pm) versus Sporting Kansas City
Follow Robert Moore on Twitter @Robert_Moore24
(image courtesy of USA Today Sports Images)