Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By PABLO MAURER
On Thursday morning, in an empty parking lot in Buzzard Point—among a throng of media, city officials and fans—D.C. United announced that they’d finally reached an agreement with the District of Columbia to construct a new, state-of-the-art, soccer specific stadium.
Tonight, in a sparsely attended match at RFK stadium, the news was far less groundbreaking.
It was more of the same for United, who dropped their match to the New England Revolution 2-1 and sunk even deeper into the wrong end of the MLS record books. Riding goals from Dimitry Imbongo and Diego Fagundez, the Revolution pulled even with Houston for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“I thought our energy was good in the first half and we started extremely bright,” D.C. head coach Ben Olsen commented after the match. “[In the] second half it got a little open and they made a couple plays. Overall though I thought it was a step in the right direction coming from last week, but it’s still a loss and it still hurts.”
Despite playing without injured starters Chris Pontius and Perry Kitchen, United waited only seven minutes to get on the board. Luis Silva used a moment of individual brilliance to give the black and red their earliest goal of 2013.
New England defender Stephen McCarthy started things off with a careless giveaway, which United midfielder Nick Deleon played deftly to John Thorrington, who was well positioned near the center circle. Without hesitation, Thorrington turned and sprinted upfield, eventually playing a through ball to Silva, who controlled the service and struck a low, venomous shot just under the outstretched arms of Revs keeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
United had other quality chances as well, including a lovely exchange between Silva, Deleon and Kyle Porter in the 18th minute. Silva played a cheeky backheel to a streaking Nick Deleon, who dribbled to the endline and played a dangerous cross to Porter. The Canadian international, however, couldn’t pull the trigger fast enough, and his effort was deflected out of bounds.
Though the opportunity was missed, it was the sort of creative exchange that DC has been short on all year, the type of chemistry they’ll likely try and build going forward
The Revolution, on the other hand, threatened sparingly. Saer Sene found himself with a golden opportunity at the 20 minute mark, but his strike from seven yards out was directly at United keeper Joe Willis. Later in the half Kelyn Rowe, streaked down the flank and played a cross to forward Imbongo, whose far-post attempt was parried away by Willis.
The field certainly tilted in New England’s favor during the second half, however, with the Revolution playing the sort of soccer that’s made them one of MLS’s most entertaining sides to watch this year.
The Revolution would level the game after just nine minutes of second half play, as defender Chris Tierney played a cross to Imbongo at the six. It was an easy tap-in for the Revolution forward, made so by an easily beaten Taylor Kemp and a completely out-of-sorts Joe Willis.
Less than 10 minutes later, New England would strike again. Imbongo played a pass across the top of the 18 to Sene, who took a touch on the right side of the box and struck a bending ball towards the far post from 15 yards out. His attempt found the woodwork, dropping directly at the feet of Revolution midfielder Diego Fagundez, who tapped it in for the Revolution’s second goal.
The insertion of Dwayne De Rosario in the 65th minute did little to stop the Revolution, though the former MLS MVP,who made his first appearance since late June, did play a part in United’s only quality chance for an equalizer, combining in the 81st minute with Silva and second-half substitute Lionard Pajoy.
The game could have ended 3-1, after United brought keeper Joe Willis up to the penalty area for a stoppage time corner kick. Sene found himself in alone on goal after the attempt caromed out of the area, but referee David Gantar mercifully blew the whistle as the Revolution midfielder prepared to shoot towards the empty net.
De Rosario later expressed his frustration at some of the team’s younger players. “I see the old guys out there digging down deep, fighting, scrapping,” he shared after the match. “I want to see some of that fight from the younger guys.”
The Revs were given an added moral boost by the insertion of Silver Spring, Md. native Kevin Alston in the 85th minute. Alston, who hasn’t seen the pitch since March of this year, got his first touches since being diagnosed with Leukemia.
“I was overly excited to be on there,” a jovial Alston told SBI after the match. “But at the same time, I was just telling myself, ‘Don’t mess up, don’t mess up.’”
While the Revs will keep their eye on the MLS playoffs, United remain in the cellar and will likely continue to turn their attention towards the future. After adding pieces like Conor Doyle, Jared Jeffrey and Luis Silva—all of whom were in the XI tonight—DC’s fans may finally have begun to see a dim light at the end of a very long tunnel.
“I’ve got one eye here, presently, on the week to week in MLS, to try and continue to tinker and find out which guys are gonna be around,” reflected Olsen. “I’ve got another eye on the Open Cup, which is a big deal – and finding out what the best team we have to put out there is.”
“And I’ve got my third eye,” Olsen concluded, “on the future of this club. And that’s a very important thing right now. I still believe in the future of this club and the bulk of these guys I have in this locker room.”
Here are the match highlights: