In his review of the third sixth of the D.C. United season, AMT mentioned that two penalty kicks were two of the most important moments of their own respective sixths. I sure do hope that the missed penalty kick from Charlie Davies tonight doesn't turn out to be the defining moment of this period of the season.
It certainly has to be the favorite though, as that moment marked a clear turning point in this 1-0 loss to the New England Revolution. Throughout the entire first half, D.C. was the dominant side. They had far more chances, and far better chances. Matt Reis was always in good position to stop United, but there was always the feeling that D.C. would break through at some point.
That changed after the penalty kick. For the remaining seconds of the first half, United's attacking players were clearing sulking. And while Ben Olsen wanted his side to pick up the pace in the second half, it didn't happen. Or at least it happened only on rare occasions. There wasn't the energy or the aggression that we saw in the first 45.
It was like we were back in Dallas. Content with a tie. A tie would've been a gift.
United's defense isn't good enough to keep a clean sheet for 210 consecutive minutes. But the defense wasn't the problem. The defense actually did well once again to limit their opponents only to difficult shots from the run of play. What was missing from the defense this week was the ability to turn away every aerial attack, but again, I thought they did their job well enough.
The offense let us down. The offense has to be better. Its nice that we've only allowed one goal in our past three matches, but we've only scored one goal in our past three matches now too.
Full recap here. Player ratings below.
One thing that I feel is missing too often from this team (and many other soccer teams) is the ability to get the ball to the hot hand, to use a basketball term. In the first half, that was De Rosario. He should have touched the ball on every single possession. In the second half, and at times in the first too, that was Andy Najar. The Phenom's crossing skills were on display as he came close to earning assists multiple times. He was the only attacking player wearing black who was dangerous for 90 minutes.
Brandon McDonald and Bill Hamid also carried over good performances from the past two weeks. McDonald was refreshingly vocal as the newly minted leader of the backline, and Hamid once again looked totally competent. I think this might be the first time since 2007 that I'm actually comfortable with our goalkeeping.
I apologize. I must admit that I am partially to blame for this loss. I told the Bent Musket that D.C. United was done making rookie mistakes in the back. Well Perry Kitchen proved me wrong tonight. I don't want to be as hard on him as Rongen was in the broadcast. Obviously he didn't put his headed backpass in the right spot, and he knew it. He also played really well other than that single mistake, and with the number of free kicks and corner kicks we were giving up, it wasn't surprising to see one of New England's many tall players finally put one on target.
In the first half of action, Dwayne De Rosario looked like the older brother playing with his younger brothers and all their friends. He was a clear step above everyone else on the field, with the possible exception of Matt Reis. De Rosario's influence faded though, and the team failed to capitalize on their many opportunities.
Dude. Charlie. You can't miss penalty kicks. I don't see how that fits in The Miraculous Recovery Of CD9 novel. Let's cut that chapter out, k? Besides the penalty kick miss, Davies was one of the major culprits of missing chances, or slowing the play down when it needed to be pushed further.
The biggest culprit though was Chris Pontius, who just couldn't connect with his teammates when he needed to. Actually, there was a lot of that in this game, including the failed Kitchen-to-Hamid backpass. Its as if we were a team full of young players. Its as if three of our players have been here for less than a month. The communication and anticipation of teammates' runs needs to improve.
I was fine with keeping Ethan White in the starting lineup ahead of Dejan Jakovic for as long as we were able to keep our shutout streak alive. But with that streak ending, and with White getting beat by Stephen McCarthy to end it, I think we'll see Jakovic next to McDonald next week instead.
Perhaps this game gives us a hint that our expectations need to be reassessed once again. We entered the year thinking we'd be in the fight for the last playoff spot. Then the team made a few moves and we thought maybe we'd compete for the Conference title. This match was a major step back. Maybe we need to step back the expectations a bit too.
United returns to RFK Stadium on Saturday to take on Everton (tickets), and then resumes MLS play with a trip to San Jose one week later.