Another day, another loss at RFK Stadium. As the Philadelphia Union traveled to the nation's capital – both sides were experiencing a goal drought which was certainly put to bed on Sunday. The Black & Red lost a thrilling match to the Union who proved triumphant after a brace from in-form striker Jack McInerney which saw his side leave RFK with a 3-2 victory and with a crucial three points. Two goals from McInerney on the night moved the talented youngster's goal tally to six so far on the season.
The heated I-95 battle once again did not disappoint – with the Union making the most of their chances, while clinching their first victory at RFK. After the first six matches of the season had seen DC struggle with a goal drought, the home side was able to bag a pair of goals courtesy of Lionard Pajoy and Perry Kitchen. However, now seven matches into the MLS season, United sit (1-5-1) on four points and are quickly falling far behind in the Eastern Conference.
For the Union, McInerney tallied in both the seventh and 26th minute and was a menacing force in the attack asking plenty of questions from Brandon McDonald and Dejan Jakovic throughout the match. With the onslaught of pressure from Conor Casey, Brian Carroll and McInerney, Philadelphia were able to put immense pressure on DC and primarily the center-backs which at times coughed up the ball – leading to the matches opening goal. After a heart-breaking early goal for DC United, their hopes were once again hit hard as Danny Cruz linked expertly with Casey at the top of the penalty area who then beat goalkeeper Bill Hamid to his left.
United did not go down without a fight; however, as Ben Olsen's side opened the second half enjoying a majority of the pressure. The added pressure from Pajoy who is also a former Union player, cut the deficit in half shortly after halftime as he converted his second of the season past Zac MacMath. Although Pajoy's finish comes to much pleasure for Olsen and the DC United faithful, the play on both the attacking and defensive end form Daniel Woolard was superb as he did not fear to venture forward. It was Woolard's cross that resulted in Pajoy netting DC's opener.
DC United's struggles continued against the Union and seemed once again on the back foot. Early in the season, United were solid on defense and Hamid seemed super-human with his shot-stopping abilities while McDonald, Woolard, Jakovic and Chris Korb were a solid defensive unit who were extremely hardly to break. In recent weeks, mistakes in the center of defense have added even more pressure on the young goalkeeper who has been pulling the ball out of the back of his net too often. Despite the defensive troubles in recent weeks, a positive to take away is from the Perry Kitchen / Dwayne De Rosario connection which led to Kitchen smashing in his first goal of the season. More often than not, Kitchen remains more of a defensive midfielder who does not venture forward as much as everyone would like yet on Sunday, United proved the starting XI do have attacking quality within their squad.
Furthermore, Olsen was pleased with the tenacity to come back in the match; however, their inconsistency is near atrocious as of late. Olsen told DC United.com "Again, we haven't put together a group effort on both sides of the ball and that's what we'll push for in the next weeks." In terms of good performances Olsen indicated that Kyle Porter played well in his first MLS start and added a different dimension in the attack alongside Pajoy and De Rosario – but once again the Black & Red's fell short.
Now seven matches into the MLS season – DC United have certainly dug themselves a fairly substantial hole and although the deficit is not yet too deep to escape, a Ben Olsen master plan in terms of squad arrangement and tactics should be in order in the next few weeks. If the Black & Red cannot counteract their current string of poor performances, I would fully expect numerous chances in the starting XI – and possibly a resurgence of Carlos Ruiz into a starting position despite his age.
My DC United Man of the Match: Perry Kitchen
Next Match: DC United vs Columbus Crew on April 27th (7:30pm EST) at Crew Stadium
(image courtesy of USA Today Sports Images)