After a 17-day break since it's last Major League Soccer match, D.C. United faced a tired and depleted Seattle Sounders team at RFK Stadium on Saturday night. Despite dominating in all the ways which ultimately don't matter, the hometown team dropped a 1-0 decision to the league-leading Sounders. And now, D.C. United must prepare for a two-game road stretch that is the leading edge of a road-heavy second half of the season which will see the team play 11 times away from home in their final 18 games.
- Ryan Keefer: "The big concern about D.C. United's temporary life without offensive nucleus Fabian Espindola was what the team would do for firepower. While United had some chances, the answer lived up to most of the presumptions as the Seattle Sounders scored a first-half goal that a vaunted defense made sure stood en route to a 1-0 win in front of 16,922 at RFK Stadium."
- Roman Stubbs, via washingtonpost.com: "Olsen has long spoken about his team taking the next step — that it will take results against teams like Seattle to do so — and the desperation to elevate set in for Olsen and his team Saturday night at RFK Stadium. The Sounders are the Western Conference’s best team, but D.C. United had a golden opportunity to pick up three points against a team playing with two of its stars in Brazil, another serving a suspension and the rest coming off a midweek game in California. But that seemed to fuel Seattle on Saturday night, and it only mounted pressure on the home team as the match wore on. D.C. United had more possession, shots on goal and higher passing accuracy — yet it didn’t clear one ball out of its zone late in the first half, and it was the difference. Seattle’s Chad Barrett headed in a cross moments later to set up the 1-0 win, on a night when D.C. United watched all 14 of its shots on goal come up empty."
- Pable Maurer, via mlssoccer.com: "United were missing the services of talismanic forward Fabian Espindola – out four to six weeks with a knee injury and another two on suspension – and it showed. They built well from the back but seemed to have trouble unlocking Seattle’s midfield. The Sounders were also missing several key pieces, most notably US national team forward Clint Dempsey and outside back DeAndre Yedlin and a suspended Obafemi Martins, but they found success playing a bit more direct."
- Ben Olsen, via dcunited.com: "Individually, I thought that was Eddie’s best game. I thought it was a good night and it’s a tough game sometimes when a final product isn’t good enough on the night and they sneak a goal. They had two shots, and one off frame but sometimes that’s all you need...Yes, I would like Fabi on the field, but I like our group. We can score goals without Fabi. We’ve had a lot of guys contribute in some form or fashion. Have we relied maybe too heavily on him? Yeah, absolutely, but we’ll be okay. We’ll score goals. I think tonight it was just the last moment that let us down."
- Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, via dcunited.com: "I thought we were solid. We played 120 minutes on Tuesday and I thought our performance was one of those where we bent a little bit but we didn’t break. I thought our defense held together well. We got a great goal from Chad Barrett, a great header. We’re pleased with the end result and I think our defending was solid."
- Bobby Boswell, via dcunited.com: On playing without Fabian Espindola. "Yeah, I mean you can’t replace a guy like that. You know, there is a reason he has done so well in the League, because that is how he drives. But, you can make the argument that they were missing guys too. It is not about who wasn’t there, it was more about who was and we just couldn’t get it done tonight. We had a big opportunity tonight. It’s better to play at home than at Seattle, but we couldn’t get the win."
- Seattle Sounders forward Chad Barrett, via dcunited.com: On winning the first game following the World Cup break. "It’s huge. This is what we were really looking forward to. D.C. were refreshed and they really showed it today, they played really well. They’re a very good possession team, a lot different from last year. Obviously they missed the likes of Espindola, which really helped us out today, but they’re still a good team. You really got to give it up to our defense. They did an unbelievable job to keep that zero on the board...We just don’t give up. We’ll fight till the end. If you’re going to play the Sounders, you’re going to play us for 90 minutes. If you give up for a second we’re going to make you pay for it. We’re a good team with a lot of attacking power. I feel like our defense is really coming around."
- Chris Rolfe, via dcunited.com: "You know, I thought we had a lot of good ideas tonight. Our final touch in and around the box just wasn’t good. I don’t know why that was the case, unless we were all just anxious from not having a game in a while. Again, we created a lot of chances, we just didn’t finish them."
Despite missing Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, and DeAndre Yedlin, Seattle continued their unbelievably superb run of road results this season (5-1-2, 17 points, 2.13 points/game) by beating D.C. United on Saturday night. It wasn't pretty, but they out Benny-balled a D.C. United side missing Fabian Espindola and other first choice starters as well. We won't complain about it (looking at you Sporting Kansas City), however, since it's a well-worn MLS strategy which D.C. United has employed to good effect in both 2012 and this year.
For D.C. United, they will have to move on this week to focus on the road ahead while forgetting Rolfe's shot which hit the post, the open looks missed by numerous players, their utter domination of the match statistics, and the timely goalkeeping by Sounders keeper Stefan Frei. For Seattle scored first, held on, and won the match.
The Last Word:
D.C. United has now compiled a record of 5-2-3 (18 points) at home this season for a respectable 1.8 points/game average. On the road, however, they are 2-3-1 (7 points) for an anemic 1.17 points/game. And this means while D.C. United is tied right now for first place in the Eastern Conference with 25 points total from 16 games (1.56 points/game), they are only on pace to earn 50 points this season because the rest of the season is road heavy (11 road games vs. 6 games at RFK). Last season, 50 points would have just earned the last playoff spot, while in 2012 it would have meant D.C. United would not have made the playoffs (they would have finished 7th in the East).
D.C. United is to be applauded for their turnaround this season, but they will have to improve their road results while maintaining their current home form if they want to secure their place in the postseason. This being MLS, however, teams rarely make it that easy, normally waiting until the final week or two of the season to lock up a playoff spot. Let's hope that tradition gets turned on its head this season.
Will D.C. United get a result next weekend at Toronto or the following weekend at San Jose?