D.C. United played like Olsen's Army tonight, fouling early and often
Yes D.C. United did the improbable. They actually scored a goal! Or I should say, they had one scored for them.
Even if it was an own goal, a 3-1 loss definitely feels different from a 3-0 loss. D.C. played well for much of the first half, keeping this match against the hottest team in the league fairly even. But, as we've identified far too often this year, defensive breakdowns were the difference once again, as well as one team finishing their chances and the other putting them over the bar or straight at the goalkeeper.
One thing I noticed though that gives me at least a bit of pride: This is Ben Olsen's team. They came out more physical tonight than in any other match this season. Aggression was one of Olsen's trademarks, and that was on display for United tonight. They played physical, but they were still out-physicalled by Brek Shea.
I'm still waiting though for Ben Olsen to put more of his own stamp on this team. I've yet to see Olsen make a lineup decision that Curt Onalfo wouldn't have made also. Change up the formation, change up the starters, whatever! Clearly what we've been doing hasn't been working.
United's counterattack was working well tonight. Their strategy: boot the ball to the right and let Andy Najar run with it. And it worked. It worked in the sense that we were able to develop several counterattacking opportunities from Andy's feet. But the final pass was always lacking. United's lone goal of the night was in fact an own goal, but had the ball scooted past Jair Benitez's leg instead of bouncing off it and into the net, I'm fairly certain that Najar would have finished it off anyway.
Danny Allsopp also worked well on and off the ball. It was his aggression that really made a difference up top. Had Allsopp been able to shoot a bit more accurately, he probably would have had at least one goal.
With three goals allowed, there's plenty of blame to go around. Devon McTavish and Carey Talley each were beaten on the first goal. Talley should feel particularly embarassed, as David Ferreira had no trouble running right past him to score what is surely one of the easiest goals of his career. On the second goal, if you were wondering why Ferreira had so much room to operate on the right before setting up Eric Alexander, it was because Santino Quaranta was standing around near the midfield line. Nice. And then of course Dejan Jakovic's mistake to gift Jeff Cunningham the final goal makes me worried that Talley isn't the only problem. For his part, Bill Hamid could have done better on the final goal specifically too.
On the attacking side of the ball, Branko Boskovic tried to do much. Even though they haven't really given him any reason to, he needs to trust his teammates more inside the box.
This match was an improvement for D.C. United. If they can continue to improve, they might stand a chance against the Philadelphia Union next Sunday at RFK Stadium, a team that has only won one more game this season. If there could be such a thing as a must-win game between two bad teams, this is it.