In the opening game of the 2013 season, D.C. United suffered two late goals at the hands of the Houston Dynamo - a familiar result in a far too familiar place. Here's what the rest of the local media has to say.
- Chris Pontius (via Steven Goff) - "I felt good about it for about 10 minutes in the second half. We actually started moving the ball and people wanted the ball. I didn’t see that in the first half. It’s expected in the first 25 minutes of the first game of the year; it’s going to be hectic. They were on the ball, they wanted the ball. We were hiding at times from the ball. I don’t understand why. We’re chasing the game the whole time."
- James Riley (via Andrew Wiebe) - "Just unlucky – a good ball whipped in, we both go up, and unfortunately I’m on the wrong end of it and [the ball] hit off my head and in," he said. "Obviously very disappointed. The guys worked hard. We could of gotten out of here with a draw. It would have been a good result for us."
- Thomas Floyd - The defensive cohesion was surprisingly lacking for a group mostly comprised of holdovers, as the Dynamo found gaps throughout the game and won many of the one-on-one battles. Perhaps that’s natural since Houston dominated possession and was able to exhaust United with constant pressure.
- Dynamo Theory - D.C. seemed to settle in and defend deep, something that nearly let them escape with the point though. The Dynamo were the better team on the night, but the game appeared headed for a draw with goalkeeper Bill Hamid likely to be the man of the match.
- SBNation.com - D.C. will likely be disappointed having suffered yet another loss in Houston but it's not the end of the world. They're a solid team that should be just fine in the tough Eastern Conference though they will need to find ways to score goals, especially if DeRo misses any significant time during the season.
- We may have a budding competition for a starting job on our hands at full back. At halftime, Olsen elected to pull Daniel Woolard in favor of James Riley, which seemed a smart move given that Woolard's best play of the half had been the very definition of a "professional yellow." It was the only way that Woolard was able to stop Oscar Boniak Garcia, but the problem is that committing professional yellow fouls isn't a strategy that can last very long. Chris Korb was more effective than Woolard on the left (although it must be said that Korb was beaten along the endline on Houston's second goal in a most unlucky fashion). Riley seemed to play better than Woolard and contributed more offensively, but he also was solely responsible for Houston's first goal with a terribly ugly (or pretty, however you choose to see it) own goal. Riley might get the start next week, but Woolard was in fact the only starting defender to finish the match with an even plus/minus stat.
- The first two substitutions of the match were pretty easy choices for Olsen. The third was probably a tougher decision, and might not have been the right one. With United down a goal, Olsen shifted his team into more of a diamond 4-4-2, with Kyle Porter coming in on the left, Chris Pontius moving up top next to Lionard Pajoy, and Marcos Sanchez playing the #10 role. While he didn't have a ton of time to assert himself offensively, Porter also did very little to help Korb on the second Dynamo goal. And while moving Pontius, United's most competent attacker on the field by a mile, closer to goal seemed a good idea, I wonder if giving Rafael his MLS debut would have been a better move.
- One of the lone positive developments in this match for United was something that we had previously hypothesized about this offseason. We'd wondered if Perry Kitchen would take on more of an offensive role this year, and now it doesn't look like we'll have to wonder anymore. With United's lineup in this match, with an ineffective John Thorrington starting in place of the dynamic Dwayne De Rosario, United needed a player who could help distribute the ball to the only decent attackers wearing black - Pontius and Nick DeLeon. Kitchen was that player, getting forward more often than he did in most matches last season. We'll see if this development continues when DeRo returns.
The last word
As soon as the Dynamo scored their first goal, I had flashbacks to RFK Stadium on Mar. 10, 2012. Remember that day? United was handily overpowered by Sporting Kansas City, but held the match scoreless due almost entirely to Bill Hamid's heroics until the final minutes. Saturday night's result was as disappointing as that one for a single reason: Hamid deserved a better.
But we all know that the 2012 season didn't end there. United improved and adapted as necessary, en route to a third place overall league finish. There's no reason to think the same can't happen this year.
Fortunately, United doesn't have to go back to Houston
again this season until the Eastern Conference Finals in November.