Photo by ISIphotos.com
By TRAVIS CLARK
Heading into Saturday's critical matchup against the Galaxy, three points were almost a necessity for D.C. United. Coming off a collapse in Honduras that was preceded by a lethargic performance against Toronto FC, D.C. found themselves out of a playoff spot. Tom Soehn was missing from the sidelines with the flu, leaving assistant Chad Ashton in charge.
They faced a Galaxy side riding high. A win against Chicago on mid-week ensured that they maintained a position in the top two in the West. Just a year has made a huge difference, thanks to a staunch defense and high-flying Landon Donovan.
Prior to the onset of the game, outer remnants of Hurricane Bill dumped rains on RFK for most of the afternoon. It last well into the first half, which created a slick pitch that troubled both sides.
This affected both clubs as they struggled to maintain possession. United, in need of a solid performance after a poor showing in Toronto and Honduras responded well. Back in their 3-5-2, Jakovic looked steady in the middle while Ben Olsen checked back to neutralize Donovan and David Beckham.
Omar Gonzalez and Gregg Berhalter marshaled the Galaxy backline well, though were lucky when a Luciano Emilio finish was called off because the referee's assistant raised his flag. Replays seemed to indicate that
Chances were prevalent for both sides, as Donovan looking dangerous on the counter attack and Beckham pinged balls across the field. However it was D.C. fashioned the more dangerous scoring chances, failing in the end to best Donovan Ricketts.
D.C. felt aggrieved afterward for two incidents: the first was the Emilio goal ruled out in the 8th minute, then another when the Brazilian striker thought Todd Dunivant shoved him down in the box. However, looking back at their performance they only have themselves to look at, considering they failed to convert any of their other chances.
The profligate finishing from both sides made the 0-0 result seem justified — a blow considering D.C. really would have liked all three points.
At the final whistle, the Galaxy were worse for wear, hands on hips and content with the result — something that is understandable when you consider their mid-week fixture against Chicago. The result surely favored the visitors, who maintained their place in the standings after Sunday's action.
Despite the draw, Olsen noted the improvement in United's play after the game.
"Overall defensively, we didn't give them much," he said. "It's one of the only games we haven't had those lapses in concentration. And that's a big step for us — because that's been haunting us all year. Now the finishing will haunt us."
This late in the season, these improvements needs to translate into three points. The point was simultaneously disappointing for a United side because of the ever-tightening playoff race. Santino Quaranta mentioned the kind of pressure the players are under to make the playoffs.
"It's going through all our heads. If we don't make the playoffs, it's ridiculous," he said. "It's what we gauge ourselves on how we do in a year. It'd be devastating, but there's still a long way to go here."
Their opposition, especially after Sunday's draw between Houston and Seattle, are in good standing — for the time being. They sit two points ahead of their rivals Chivas, who also have three games in hand on the Galaxy. But if it certainly isn't a bad thing to grab four points in the past week, all away from the Home Depot Center.