The Last Word: Closing The Book On D.C. United's Loss To The Columbus Crew

USA TODAY Sports

United's 19-game unbeaten streak at RFK Stadium may have fallen, but there were still plenty of positives to take from D.C.'s 2-1 loss at the hands of the Columbus Crew.

Before we begin, let's take a brief moment to recognize what D.C. United has accomplished. It's been more than a full calendar since we saw United lose at RFK Stadium. Since March 2012, this team has gone through many transformations, some for the good, some for the bad, but one thing has remained constant - RFK is an effing fortress. Despite Saturday's loss to the Columbus Crew, I don't think that has changed.

Their Words

- Ben Olsen: We just weren’t good enough on the ball, again. We’ll work on it. We’ve got two weeks to work on things. I’ll take the blame for that game, 100%. We’ve got two weeks now for me to whip this team into shape. I’ll make sure we get back to basics. The coaching staff and I have to teach again, get back to fundamentals because right now the team doesn’t have a lot of the good things that we had at the end of last year. And I’ve got to get that in them very quickly

- Dwayne De Rosario: It feels terrible, for one. And second of all, it was embarrassing. I mean, I don’t know how many offsides we had, so that’s obviously difficult when every ball you play over the top is offside. It kills the flow of the game, kills the momentum, it kills the attack that way. But, you know, it’s the fourth game in. On the bright side, we are noticing the problems now, before it’s too late. We know what we have to fix and it’s like a huge test of character thing.

- Steven Goff: The fact that D.C. United’s Bill Hamid made five marvelous saves Saturday was both heartening and troubling for Coach Ben Olsen. The 22-year-old goalkeeper remains in fine form, but the amount of work required of him is a sign of United’s deficiencies elsewhere. "We’re asking a lot of Bill right now," Olsen said following a 2-1 loss to the Columbus Crew before 11,034 at RFK Stadium. "I wish I didn’t have to see him make so many great saves." If not for Hamid’s gems, Olsen added, "the game could have been 8-0."

- Thomas Floyd: After disappearing for much of his season debut at New York last week, De Rosario was dropped into midfield Saturday but still struggled to find the ball and dictate the game the way he did last season. On the plus side, he did nearly score twice, getting denied by Andy Gruenebaum on a dangerous header and a point-blank rebound opportunity. But United’s whole attack suffers when he doesn’t get involved in the possession game.

- Massive Report: After a few early chances, Columbus would strike on a free kick in the 15th minute. Tyson Wahl sent in a bending left footed service that caught Bill Hamid between his line and attacking the ball. Williams took advantage looped a header to give the Crew an early lead.

My Words

- Regardless of how much you love don't mind or hate Lionard Pajoy, I think we can all agree at this point that Rafael should be starting ahead of him whenever possible forevermore. Rafael may not be an expert at holding the ball up (Pajoy hasn't been this year either), but he has all the other traits that we should be looking for in a target forward. He's big and strong enough to win long balls, as demonstrated by his abuse of Glauber during his goal, and can distribute to the midfielders well too. Obviously the finishing abilities of the two forwards can't even be compared. We always hoped that Rafael would be able to supplant Pajoy in the starting lineup at some point this season. Now we can begin to hope that switch will happen immediately.

- By the way, did you guys see Chad Ashton's interview with Kyle Martino at halftime? Does anyone else get the feeling that if we'd asked him to rate Hamid's performance after the New York game, Ashton would have said "Hamid played well, but he needs to hold the ball better..."

- Whether you agree or disagree with Allan Chapman's call on the Kyle Porter goal, let's at least all agree that Pajoy cost us that goal. I'm actually less disappointed with the referee on that call than on the non-called penalty kick earlier in the half. I'm actually confused as to why some, including Ben Olsen and Josh Wolff, think it's such a tragedy that the referee allowed the play to continue before conferring with his assistant and making the final ruling. On such an important game-changing decision, don't we want our referee to gather as much information as is available to him? This is something that happens in every sport, and it should probably happen more often in soccer, not less often. And it wasn't a problem on this play, because in the end, Chapman got the call right. Lionard Pajoy's dumbass decision to chase the ball negated Kyle Porter's run. The only potential problem is that of the slippery slope - What if the referee had allowed play to continue and Gruenenbaum deflected Porter's shot out of bounds. Is the ruling a corner kick, or is it offsides? What if Gruenenbaum catches the shot, quickly distributes, and Columbus scores 30 seconds later. Is the ruling a Columbus goal, or is it still offsides?

- While we're discussing the referee, his pandering to Columbus' tactics deserves some discussion too. The Crew are very self-aware of their set piece accumen, so they go out there looking to draw fouls. And watching Federico Higuaín's near perfect service made me long for last year. I miss Branko Boskovic, and I wish we'd used him better when we had him. The Crew create scoring chances when they hit the grass easily. When we had a set piece specialist last year, we should have done the same.

The Last Word:

Many have been suggesting that this match was a step forward for D.C. United, despite the scoreboard. I can see how that perspective might be prevalent, but we need to keep the standings in mind also. Those of us who suffered through the entertaining seasons of 2008, 2009, and 2011 will also remember that it sucks to miss the playoffs. Even though our offense may have lacked sex appeal towards the end of the year, the 2012 season was far preferable in my opinion. And I have no doubt that Olsen would agree. A few entertaining losses won't kill us, but the playoffs are always going to be this team's goal. The conservative formula that got us into the playoffs last year isn't far from anyone's memory.

So even though this match was fun to watch, and even though United's attack generated far more scoring chances than in the previous three matches, we shouldn't expect to see the same formation used again when United's schedule resumes on Fri. Apr. 5 against Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong. Olsen won't like the lack of control his team held in the midfield. Don't be surprised to see an extra defensive midfielder deployed once again when the team returns to action.

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