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The Last Word on D.C. United 1-1 Houston Dynamo: Starting From Scratch, To a Degree

In which we exercise a bit of caution to the return of the shiny new Designated Player.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The last time D.C. United lost at home we were in the throes of a World Cup. And this season, the whole concept of Fortress RFK was reinforced, but after dropped points last week against the New York Red Bulls, the Black and Red cannot help but feel that another opportunity was wasted. Another draw from a winning position, this time a 1-1 draw against the Houston Dynamo.

Their Words:

Our Words (Steven Streff): "Chris Rolfe's stunning effort from a free kick in the first half was not quite enough for D.C. United on Saturday night against the Houston Dynamo, as Ricardo Clark's goal in the second half meant the spoils were shared, 1-1. The big news before the game was the absence of keeper Bill Hamid, who was forced to miss the game with a thigh contusion."

Washington Post (Steven Goff): "United (3-1-2) forged a tie atop MLS’s Eastern Conference with the Red Bulls and extended its home unbeaten streak to 15 across all competitions dating from last summer. But the past two outings, goal scorer Chris Rolfe said, were "unacceptable for this group."

MLS Soccer (Pablo Maurer): "Jairo Arrieta used a nifty run to draw a foul about 22 yards from goal, giving D.C. United a prime chance at a set-piece strike. Rolfe, Taylor Kemp and Davy Arnaud all positioned themselves over the ensuing free kick. Kemp ran over it before Rolfe struck a venomous, curling effort just inside the upper 90 at the near post. Even at full extension, Dynamo keeper Tyler Deric had no chance."

CSN Washington (Dave Johnson): "To be sure there is disappointment for United about the draw, but consider the team’s record without a key player. Minus leading scorer Fabian Espindola United went 3-2-1. Espindola is now eligible to return to action after serving a six-game suspension for an incident in last season’s playoff series with the Red Bulls."

Dynamo Theory: "Houston were out-shot and out-possessed for the second week in a row but it did not prevent the Dynamo from getting the team's second road point of the season. Perennial Save of the Week candidate Tyler Deric came up big and made enough saves to keep United at bay, perhaps earning another nomination with an early second-half save against Chris Pontius, a diving attempt to keep Pontius out of goal. The only blemish on his night was D.C. United's free-kick goal."

Via the team website:

Ben Olsen: "Yeah, certainly disappointed with not getting all three. The other side of that, I’m happy to get one. They had their chances and we had ours. It just seems like we’re not taking our chances to kill off teams. If you let teams hang around in this League, or any league, teams will find ways to get results."

Bobby Boswell: "I think tonight the score was accurate. I don’t think we necessarily played them off of the field. When we play at home we really want to take it to teams. I need to go back and watch it before I say too much, but I just feel that with New York we had such a sense of urgency and tonight it was almost like there was no bad blood between anyone on the field. It was like ‘oh I am not going to kick you and you are not going to kick me.’ It was almost like ‘who really wants it tonight?’ which is a weird feeling."

Andrew Dykstra: "I’m a goalkeeper so I don’t even remember what I had for dinner last night. You just have to put things behind you and I knew I was better than that and the team knew it too. I was out for eight months and had two weeks of training, but things happen. In terms of coming back, this is great for me. Just like forwards, it is about having confidence that drives you."

Owen Coyle (Dynamo coach): "We were outstanding tonight. We came in against a team that was 14 games unbeaten at home and a team that were the Conference Champions. Even in the first half we felt that we had clear-cut chances in the game. I will say that [Chris] Rolfe is an outstanding player and we have to give credit where credit is due. He scored that wonder free kick and it would be very easy for an opposing team to crumble at that point, but we came out and were positive in the second half. We were dominate throughout the second half. We scored a great goal even though the keeper made an outstanding save. My honest assessment is that I think D.C. will be delighted to have gotten a point tonight. We have set standards and we have to keep attaining to those standards in tough places like this."

Ricardo Clark: "The ball was crossed in and we just tried to get bodies in the box. Will [Bruin] made a great run and I thought for sure he was going to score. I wanted to be there just in case there was a rebound. The keeper made a really good save and thankfully I was just in the right place at the right time. I just wanted to be in there and thankfully I was able to capitalize."

My Words:

When we were here last time, we talked about the need to see games out and hope that a balance is struck between defending the lead and winning the game. And you saw some of the quotes from last year when it came to leads that slip. I won't go through the rehashing.

There are a couple of nits that we would like to pick. First off, while Houston did get their fair share of looks at the net, Andrew Dykstra made saves when he could and I would venture to say that the one that got away from him would be one that Bill Hamid would not be able to get to (we only need to look back to last week for that particular movie). So if the narrative of "Andrew Dykstra cost D.C. United a further spot in CONCACAF Champions League" is still out there now, without the caveats of it being his first competitive minutes, on turf where the only thing missing was a clown's mouth and windmill, then that's your business. But hopefully it should illustrate the woefulness of the team in front of Dykstra that night.

There are a couple of different sides to D.C. United's record with Espindola out. Not to beat this drum, but the team was with him, Luis Silva (whom they've only just started to incorporate back into the lineup), Eddie Johnson and Chris Pontius who's only recently started turning in 90 minute games. And the team came away empty-handed points wise once in six games, finding themselves still on top of the Eastern Conference, tied with the Red Bulls on points. That's some nice depth going on there. When you consider that Espindola, Silva, Pontius and Rolfe have yet to share the same field together, that is kind of amazing.

There is also another side of it, and it's the side where we don't entirely know what side of Fabian Espindola will come back to the D.C. United lineup. Espindola did serve as a catalyst in the CCL games against Alajuelense, scoring two of the team's four goals and had at least one other chance to speak of. Additionally, Espindola post-injury was a bit of a mixed bag. 14 games, four goals, an assist, and two red cards, including the one that gave him this extended vacation. And when you consider that Espindola, Silva, Pontius and Rolfe have yet to share the same field together, that the shorthand amongst that quartet has likely not been developed and will take some time to do so. I would expect D.C. to not give up 15+ shots regularly each week so much anymore, but I would not expect things to be milk and honey from the jump.

Here are some distribution charts from four of Espindola's matches, two before his injury last year and two after:

The one with the least action on it was the one where Luis Silva throttled the Montreal Impact. The last two are from the win against Sporting Kansas City and the win in the second leg against the New York Red Bulls. Going on minimal impression alone, one has to wonder as Silva gets closer to form how he fits into Espindola's workrate. But if # 3 is any indication, let's see how Espindola, Silva and the wings of the SKC game (Rolfe and DeLeon) work together:

You've got Rolfe and DeLeon tucking inside (which we've seen before) and Silva helping out in the middle too, getting balls to the outside or (as we saw Saturday) potentially getting attackers on runs involved. Silva is slowly getting to form, and now that he's seeing 90 minutes, Chris Pontius might be wise to talk to Messrs Rolfe and Espindola to see how he can get into the interplay for maximum effect, as presumably he would be the odd man out in this setup, particularly as Rolfe continues to have a quietly effective 2015 campaign.

The Last Word:

Next up for D.C. is the Vancouver Whitecaps, who not only came out of last week getting three points out of Real Salt Lake on the road, but only lead the league in points and are tied with F.C. Dallas in goals scored (though Dallas has a game in hand on that particular number). And D.C. goes on the road to play the Whitecaps as well, where the Whitecaps have lost four games in 26 home matches against Eastern Conference teams (and this includes the newly relocated Western teams from Houston and Sporting Kansas City).

It is going to be tough. Hopefully the guy a lot of people are hoping will provide D.C. United the offensive kick in the pants they need will remember who and where, he is.