D.C. United got one point in their race to the MLS playoffs this weekend, grinding out a 1-1 draw against the Western Conference cellar-dwelling Portland Timbers. Despite holding a lead late-on, the Black-and-Red couldn't finish out the win, and Portland equalized through Bright Dike. Nevertheless, United are now one point closer to securing a playoff berth for the first time since their 2007 Supporters' Shield-winning campaign. As is our custom here at B&RU, let's take a look around at what's being said about the draw in the Rose City.
What They're Saying About It
Goff (Post): Chris Pontius converted a controversial penalty kick Saturday night as D.C. United extended its unbeaten streak to four and took a small step toward the MLS playoffs with a 1-1 away draw against the Portland Timbers. United (15-10-6, 51 points) is fourth in MLS's Eastern Conference, three points ahead of the Columbus Crew and two in front of the Houston Dynamo.
Cammarota (MLSS): Had it not been for the standout play of goalkeeper Bill Hamid (four saves) and the increasingly solid backline, United's fate might have been worse as D.C. again failed to generate much of an offensive attack against the Timbers - nine attempts on goal, two shots on target - without captain Dwayne De Rosario. Still, D.C. haven't lost in four matches since De Rosario's injury and gained a result for only the sixth time this season on the road. Coming off a 1-0 win in Philadelphia, it's the second time this campaign United earned points in consecutive road matches.
Shatzer (B&RU): We should also consider our next opponent. Toronto FC hasn't won a match since mid-July. Their record since then is 0-8-3. We set the goal at four points from this current road trip to Portland and Toronto. We took one of those points from the tougher of opponents. A win in Toronto would put United back in the discussion for one of the top three seeds in the East.
What I'm Saying About It
At bottom, a point is a point, and we got one in a stadium that has not been kind to visitors over its history in the league. That said, a win would have gone a much longer way toward solidifying United's case for the playoffs.
Perhaps more worryingly than the result, though, was United's total lack of attack over the course of ninety minutes Saturday night. Nine shots, two of them on frame, were all the Black-and-Red could muster. The goal came off of a penalty won through a David Horst handball that most referees and ARs probably don't call most of the time (and probably wouldn't have but for Perry Kitchen and Lionard Pajoy's immediate appeals). Whether this was a function of Benny's player selection and tactics, the incredibly cramped proportions of JELD-WEN OMFG Field, a combination thereof or something else, it won't be good enough to get United anywhere, either the rest of the season or in the second season.
Thankfully Bill Hamid and the back line did another bang-up job, coming within a few minutes of third consecutive clean sheet. In the end, it was pinball action on Portland's incredibly slick turf - seriously, I've never seen so many people lose their footing at low speed or slide so far on faster-speed tackles - that did in United's bid for three points. Najar got caught upfield and, though he recovered quickly, couldn't get his feet under him for a proper clearance, leaving Bright Dike just enough time and space in the box to roof the game-tying goal past Hamid at the near post.
Benuski will be along later this week to give his prediction on United's formation and lineup for next weekend's game in Toronto at another recently-built ALLCAPS stadium (BMO Field), but until then, let's have it out in the comments: what specifically does Ben Olsen need to do to generate more offense from his charges? Will inserting Hamdi Salihi and Branko Boskovic be enough? Is it time to bank on the return of Maicon F. Santos? Will the 4-5-1 deployed in Philly and Portland ever generate more than one goal in a game? Am I ending this post with too many questions? Let's hear it.