D.C. United Notes: Olsen backs Pajoy; midfield lacking rhythm; and more

Pajoy (Getty)

By THOMAS FLOYD

WASHINGTON — It was a classic Lionard Pajoy sequence. Run down a pass with hustle. Beat a defender with skill. Yank the shot wide with errant aim.

If Pajoy had cashed in on his hard work, D.C. United would have taken the lead in first-half stoppage time at Sporting Kansas City on Friday. But he didn’t. After Claudio Bieler cracked United’s defense late, the visitors instead returned to the nation’s capital with a 1-0 loss, a 1-3-1 record and just two goals scored in this 2013 campaign.

“He needs to be better at finishing. Everybody knows that,” coach Ben Olsen said. “I believe in Lio, I believe he can get a little bit of confidence. All it takes is one goal. But it hasn’t been good enough. He knows that, and he’s pressing to get one.”

In 424 minutes this season, Pajoy has put just one shot on frame — a point-blank header in a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake on March 9 for his only goal of the season. With Pajoy starting every match up top, United have the second-least-prolific offense in the league a year after finishing fourth in MLS with 53 goals.

But Olsen isn’t about to heap all of his team’s troubles on the 31-year-old striker, who incidentally was quite sharp during a finishing drill at the end of training Monday.

“Keep in mind there are a lot of other guys who haven’t scored on this team right now too,” Olsen said. “So for everybody to look at Lio right now as the reason we’re not scoring goals is, I think, a little bit unfair. Certainly not completely unfair. That’s a reality of a No. 9’s life.

“But there has to be more service to him, we have to be more cohesive in the offensive third to get him more chances. So maybe he needs three or four. But there are a lot of forwards in this league that are getting three or four really good chances and putting one in.”

Here are some more notes from RFK Stadium on Monday:

‘EARNING THE RIGHT’ TO BUILD

Discussing his team’s defensive mentality for that trip to Kansas City, Olsen after the match said the club is still “earning the right to play soccer,” noting “we’re not good enough to … build out of the back.”

So how are United going to solve this problem?

“I think everyone needs to be a little bit more aggressive and want the ball at certain positions,” centerback Dejan Jakovic said. “We obviously have to do a better job of holding up and creating more chances. I feel like that part of our game is going to come. I’m not too worried.”

Added midfielder Perry Kitchen: “We just have to read the situation, obviously. If there’s time and space, we’re not going to just dump it down the field.”

On Monday, Olsen elaborated on his remarks, noting United aren’t the only team in MLS still trying to find cohesion in midfield.

“The league’s pretty poor right now,” Olsen said. “There are a few teams that are, I think, solid and are going to continue to rack up points. But the rest of the league is still finding out who they are. A lot of turnover, a lot changes. The key is early in the season to pick up points while you’re still trying to find that rhythm.”

As midfielder Chris Pontius said, “It’s not a good feeling right now, but it’s one that can just turn around obviously with just one game of explosion of offense.”

DE ROSARIO OPTIMISTIC ON INJURY

After sitting out the loss to Kansas City with an adductor strain, captain Dwayne De Rosario hopes to be on the field Saturday for United’s Atlantic Cup clash against the New York Red Bulls.

“The leg feels good, the body feels good,” De Rosario said. “Obviously it’s day to day to see how I feel. It’s a huge game for us. Obviously it’s rival New York, a game everybody wants to be a part of, I want to be a part of. Hopefully the leg’s ready to go.”

Regarding the decision to sit out at Sporting after suffering the injury during a closed-door scrimmage against the Richmond Kickers on March 29, De Rosario said he “was just being cautious. It’s a long season, still the start of the season, so I’m not going to overdo anything right now.”

Olsen, on the other hand, was slightly more tepid on the status of the 2011 MVP playmaker.

“It’s early,” he said. “We’ve got a long week to where he comes in at late in the week. But we’re still moving him along.”

AUGUSTO EARNS PRAISE

Central midfielder Raphael Augusto, 22, against Kansas City made his first start for United since joining the club on loan from Brazilian side Fluminense, completing 21 of 32 passes during his 72 minutes.

“For his first real soccer game, in the MLS, I thought he did well,” Olsen said. “He helps up with possession. I want him on the ball more. If we’re going to have him out there and have some of his offensive qualities, we have to look for him. He has to look for the ball more.”

DELEON MAKING PROGRESS

Midfielder Nick DeLeon, sidelined since straining his hamstring in a 2-1 loss to Columbus on March 23, observed training from an exercise bike but was upbeat about the ailment.

“It’s healing good, I can say that,” DeLeon said. “If it keeps healing this way, it could be sooner. A week, it could be two, it could be three. You don’t know. Progress is going good, though.”

———

Do you think Olsen is right to support Pajoy? Or should United make a change up top? And what does D.C. need to do to improve its possession game?

Share your thoughts below.

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38 Responses to D.C. United Notes: Olsen backs Pajoy; midfield lacking rhythm; and more

  1. ChiTown says:

    “In 424 minutes this season, Pajoy has put just one shot on frame”

    Keeping this player on the field should be a fireable offense. I’ll take it a step further. Keeping this player on the team’s payroll in any manner should be a fireable offense.

    I could get at least a shot on frame a game in my current shape at that level. I’d score the same amount of goals too. None.

    • MJC-DC says:

      Awesome, except Pajoy has scored one of two DC United goals this season.

      • wilyboy says:

        Really? That’s your defense?

        • MJC-DC says:

          Do you realize we got into a debate a few days back? Where I expressed numerous times that my ideal DCU starting lineup would not include Pajoy. However, I also wanted to be realistic and given our other options at forward and injuries don’t see him losing his spot in the short term.

          Is it possible I’m not defending him, just instead pointing out an error in someones extremely cynical comment.

          Furthermore, as a DCU fan I will continue to applaud Pajoy’s workrate, defensive play, pressure on opposing CBs and hold up play. I’ll be there this Saturday cheering on every player on that field, hoping that the team starts to gel and play a better offensive game which they are more than capable of. I won’t hold up one players head due to poor team efforts.

          Your entitled to your opinion and can vent all you want about how he’s dragging this team down. I’ll support him in whatever role he has be it starter, super sub … so long as he’s on this team.

          • wilyboy says:

            Your reply is a far better argument then the first.

            I do remember, we settled that issue. I was commenting on your implication that Pajoy should not be slandered because he’s scored one of the team’s 2 goals. That’s ridiculous.

          • DC DP Bust says:

            Pajoy a super-sub?

            Hhahahhahhahhha

    • RK says:

      It isn’t true; he had a point-blank shot that he hit right at Nielsen — that should’ve been an easy goal.

      • JAY NT says:

        he was offsides so it doesnt count in stats

      • BK says:

        Pajoy is so crap he doesn’t even know it, baby.

        Probably the crappiest player I’ve ever seen get a coach’s endorsement. Hard to figure if Olsen really believes in him or if he recognizes that publically ripping his own players would be poor form. I will say that if Pajoy plays much longer, I will be losing faith in Olsen as a manager of this club.

  2. ChiTown says:

    ““The league’s pretty poor right now,” Olsen said. “There are a few teams that are, I think, solid and are going to continue to rack up points. But the rest of the league is still finding out who they are. A lot of turnover, a lot changes. The key is early in the season to pick up points while you’re still trying to find that rhythm.””

    Uh, no. Just because your personnel decisions are awful doesn’t mean the league is pretty poor right now. Some of the best MLS soccer ever is being played right now. Teams like SKC, Montreal, Galaxy, Dallas, Chivas.

    I’m pretty sure “but they’re all doing it too!” wasn’t even a valid excuse when I was in trouble as a kid. To hear a coach use that as a reason why his team is at the bottom of the table is just crazy.

    • JAY NT says:

      i couldnt believe it when i read that quote because nothing could be further from the truth

      actually, the goal drought doesnt bother nearly as much as the complete lack of chemistry between our attackers

      watching the rest of the league is a painful reminder that we SHOULDNT be this poor

  3. ChiTown says:

    ““But there has to be more service to him, we have to be more cohesive in the offensive third to get him more chances. ”

    That’s funny, Freddy Adu lead the league in good chances created when Pajoy was in front of him and Pajoy still wasn’t scoring goals. Seeing a trend here.

  4. 2tone says:

    Some curious answers here from Olsen about Pajoy. Olsen was quick to bench Daveis and call him out when Davies from Olsen’s view point wasn’t doing enough for United. Uhm, Charlie Davies scored 11 goals that season. How well has the striker position been for DC since Davies was shunned by Olsen? Here is a hint not very good.

    Pajoy squandered numerous chances that were set up by Adu at Philly. Pajoy is missed cast as a striker. At best he is a winger type of player not a striker.

  5. michael says:

    Pajoy might be the worst striker currently playing professional soccer. I would rather have Phil Dowd up top for DCU.

  6. EasyE says:

    Should be starting Ruiz. Pajoy is a joke.

  7. JAY NT says:

    this would be comical if it were happening to another team

    what the hell is ben thinking?

  8. KC says:

    Having watched every DC game so far, the offense is inept and Pajoy has a lot to do with it. The coach can make excuses all he wants but the bottom line a strikers main job is to create scoring chances. I haven’t looked it up but I’d be shocked if DC wasn’t last in the league in shots on goal.

    Salihi may not have been stellar but he could score goals when given the chance, so could Maicon Santos (in streaks) but they didn’t do the “little things” and saw the bench in favor of guys like Long Tan….someone explain to Olsen that a strikers lack of defense can be overlooked when they are getting shots on goal off.

    • ChiTown says:

      Not last, but close.

      The Revs have 10 SOG through 4 games.
      DC United has 14 SOG through 5 games.

      DC United has only 35 shots through 5 games.

      Timbers have 72.
      San Jose has 74.
      RSL has 84.
      SKC has 89.
      NYRB has 88.

  9. Jacknut says:

    Pajoy is the only player on DC United that could have pulled that sequence off. The hustle to chase the ball down. The strength and skill to turn a Best XI Defender and a Best XI Keeper into pretzels. And finally, the lack of sharpness to finish the ball. Maybe Gladiador can do it, but DeRo doesn’t get to that ball, Pontius gets muscled off, and forget about the rest of the team.

    What’s really obvious is how valuable Andy Najar was to this team at the end of the season. He unbalanced opposing defenses opening up space for DC to eke out the 1 or 2 goals that led to the run to the Eastern Conference Final. No one on the team is making that late run this year.

    • JAY NT says:

      you’ve got to be high if you think ONLY Pajoy couldve done that

      but assuming you’re right…why do we want our offense built around longball in the first place?

      what happens if Pajoy pulls a hamstring or groin muscle? then all of a sudden this team will have to learn how to pass to each other and *GASP* actually create chances on the ground

      • DCUnitedWillRiseAgain says:

        No he’s quite right, the other strikers in the league that could have pulled off that sequence would completely fail to miss the net.

  10. bryan says:

    i really disagree with Olsen on a lot of what he said. i agree with the comments above. as a DC United fan, this worries me.

  11. Todd says:

    There is something wrong, and has been for some time with this organization. Kevin Payne saw the writing on the wall and bolted for Toronto. I love DC, but there is not much going for this team, both on and off the field, and that is just sad.

  12. JAY NT says:

    the players who’ve managed to earn his trust must love him but this is ruining all the goodwill he built up with the supporters during his playing career

    • Jake Johansen says:

      Kevin Payne HIRED Ben Olsen. He’s to blame. Ben Olsen didn’t even know if he wanted to be a coach.

  13. ThaDeuce says:

    The comments I thought were spot on were about Marcos not earning the right to play out of the back. That dude is the goat from last match, not pajoy. I hope he makes up for it.

  14. wilyboy says:

    As midfielder Chris Pontius said, “It’s not a good feeling right now, but it’s one that can just turn around obviously with just one game of explosion of offense.”

    I don’t know where that random goal explosion is going to come from. Maicon Santos was good for an astonishing performance now and then, but the rest of the strike force is out of shape, unseasoned, or Pajoy.

    You better score some goals solo, Chris.

    Oh, and Ives, it is not typical for Pajoy to beat anyone with skill. That was a remarkable display of his ability to do anything but score.

  15. Helium-3 says:

    The problems aren’t the players but Olsen and his tactics.

    If Chivas USA can play an entertaining brand of soccer with lesser quality players
    than DCU …

    Look at them last year and now with Chelis. You might not like their philosophy but
    their attacking soccer is refreshing to see vs. Olsen’s move the ball slowly, predictably
    and once it a while we might get a shot on goal.

  16. DCUnitedWillRiseAgain says:

    Missing Thorington, DeRo, DeLeon obviously takes its toll. Especially when you have also clearly downgraded at RB. Ruiz may have insane touch, but he moves like my gran. Our Rafaels are still coming along. Sanchez had a bad game. Pontius has not gotten his form back completely. These are not excuses, they are just reasons. I think the the season could get better, but we definitely need another DP striker. The encouraging sign here for me is that we were one bad Sanchez touch away from that road draw. Once we start playing non-playoff teams, we should start picking up points at a greater rate. So far we have played 4 out of 5 games against playoff teams and the other one was Columbus. I am not panicking yet.

    • NOLA DC says:

      Is Saragosa getting a free pass for his part in that play? He got nutmegged so hard he fell on his ass instead of running with the player. I thought his error was more embarrassing (but more understandable) than Sanchez’s.