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The Last Word: DCU Lets Another Game Slip Away

In a game that was a microcosm of D.C. United's 2013 season, missed opportunities, an inability to finish, and controversial calls are the narrative of the team's 1-0 loss to Vancouver.

Bill Hamid was involved in two controversial plays against Vancouver.
Bill Hamid was involved in two controversial plays against Vancouver.

The Black-and-Red lost on Saturday night 1-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps at RFK Stadium in front of a paltry crowd of 13,122. It was a game that gave every fan just enough to confirm what they currently think about this team. For the pessimists, D.C. United was woeful with its final shot, only putting 4 of 23 shots on frame and continuing a streak that has seen it not score a goal in the course of play for six straight league matches (not since May 19 in the 1-1 draw against Sporting Kansas City). For optimists, the defense continued its better play of the last few matches, and Vancouver's goal came on a controversial penalty kick call by referee Matt Foerster (followed by a controversial non-call that would have given United a PK in stoppage time). For realists, D.C. United has 9 points exactly half way through the regular season, with an overall record of 2-12-3 and facing a difficult three-game road trip over the next few weeks (at Seattle Sounders on Jul. 3, at Colorado Rapids on Jul. 7, and at Chicago Fire on Jul. 20).

Their Words:

- Pablo Maurer: "D.C. had entered their encounter with Vancouver brimming with optimism. After a miserable start to their 2013 campaign, United had found a bright spot in the U.S. Open Cup and, more recently, in several solid league performances. And they were actually dominant in first half play, out-possessing the Whitecaps and dictating the terms of the encounter from the opening whistle. Just one minute in, Dwayne De Rosario fired the first of United's twelve first half shots towards goal, redirecting a corner kick with a side-volley that narrowly missed its target. Some six minutes later De Rosario combined with fellow Canadian international Kyle Porter on another quality chance, but his strike from 12 yards out was deflected off-target. United's best chance to pull ahead in the opening 45 would come 17 minutes in. Center back Ethan White played a picture-perfect through ball some 40 yards to fellow defender Chris Korb. Korb turned and played an awkward cross to Chris Pontius 10 yards from goal, but Pontius appeared to trip himself up while attempting the shot."

- Adam Taylor: "No way around it, referee Matthew Foerster is the lede tonight. His decision early in the second half to award the Vancouver Whitecaps a penalty led to the game's only goal. And it was 100%, absolutely, without any doubt the wrong call. If you saw it live, you probably knew it on the first look, and the replays confirm it: D.C. United 'keeper Bill Hamid got the ball on his 48th minute challenge on Matt Watson before colliding with the onrushing Vancouver attacker. Even Watson didn't appeal for the call. Only one person at RFK Stadium missed the play, and he was the man in the middle. There was no foul, but Foerster blew his whistle anyway and pointed to the spot. Camilo Sanvezzo sent the ensuing penalty down the center as Hamid dove left, and that's all she wrote...Tonight was undeniably a better performance than we've unfortunately grown accustomed to this season, but it still wasn't enough. And the result is another loss. Behind 1-0, and even before, the Black-and-Red couldn't solve a Vancouver defense that's been anything but stout this season. Faster ball movement, better crossing, and smarter runs off the ball are all good things that we saw tonight, but the end product was only four shots on target from 23 attempts. All that said, the team fought tonight, even if the air went out of their sales a bit after Vancouver's goal. United pressed for a goal against the parked bus that was the Whitecaps, right up until Bill Hamid's stoppage time yellow card for running through a Vancouver player in the Whitecaps box trying to head the ball toward Brad Knighton's goal. The hunger is there, even if the quality isn't at the moment. And when your season is one constant ebb the way United's has been, you won't get any favors from referees - and so the cycle continues."

- Bill Hamid on the penalty kick, via "I just saw me make full contact with the ball. I feel like I almost...I actually beat the guy there, to the ball. I honestly didn't even know he fell. I don't know. I'll leave that to the replays and I'll leave that to the critics."

- Chris Pontius, via "[There were] plenty of opportunities. These are things that some nights they are clicking and you are going to put every chance away, and the other nights it seems like nothing is bouncing or falling your way. Definitely tonight was one of those nights. That is on us. We have to be a lot cleaner. You have to pick out a man in the box, then it has to be a clean finish."

- Ben Olsen:

- Thomas Floyd: "As the Whitecaps took the RFK Stadium field Saturday against D.C. United, they did so without a single member of coach Martin Rennie's opening day defense..The result? A 1-0 win for Vancouver's first shutout since that Week 1 triumph over Toronto FC. "It's important that you have that depth," Rennie said. "I think all teams have a little bit of adversity and we do as well. The players who have played have stepped up and done a great job, and whenever the other players get their chance they have to do the same.""

- Vancouver Head Coach Martin Rennie, via "I think it was a stonewall penalty. I didn't have any doubt in my mind that that was a penalty kick. I don't think we were lucky at all, I thought we controlled the tempo of the game for large spells of the second half, and if we hadn't scored when we did maybe we'd have scored later. But on the road, you're not always going to dominate the game in terms of possession. But I think we were well worthy of the win. We were on the road and performing a long way from where we live and getting the win is important."

- Vancouver midfielder Matt Watson on earning the penalty kick, via "I got a little bit of a touch but the goalkeeper also got a touch on it. I'm going to have to watch it again but he definitely got a piece of the ball and definitely went through me as well, so I guess it's a PK. He took out my feet and that's what the referee called the penalty for, and there's nothing I could really do. But hey, obviously I'm happy with the PK and Camilo put it away."

My Words:

Ethan White continued his emergence as D.C. United's most reliable center back with another fine game. Except for a dangerous sequence in the 64th minute during which Bill Hamid was forced to make two solid saves as the defense left Whitecap players making late runs unmarked for open shots, the defense looked relatively solid again as it has for the past few matches. White also created perhaps the most dangerous opportunity for D.C. United in the first half with a pass that opened up the defense for Korb to look for Dwayne De Rosario and Chris Pontius who were both making runs inside the box.

The offense on the other hand cannot obtain a goal in open play by any means. Tonight, practically every attacking player on D.C. United's roster saw the field (with the exception of Nick DeLeon who was out with an injury). Chris Pontius, DeRo, Kyle Porter, John Thorrington, and Sainey Nyassi all started, while Carlos Ruiz, Lionard Pajoy, and Casey Townsend all came on as subs. Despite good chances that could have seen United with a multiple goal lead at halftime, and a few additional looks in the second half, the team couldn't find the back of the net.

The Last Word:

If you haven't yet watched Olsen's comments above, go do so now. Obviously, this is a coach (and a team) feeling the pressure. His comments on the referee are those most fans will agree with. From my seat at the stadium, I thought the PK call on Hamid was wrong. It was clear that Hamid got to the ball first and knocked it away before the contact with Watson, and Watson's reaction right after the play (and quotes after the game) didn't cry out that he thought he had been clearly fouled.

In his post-game comments, Olsen also refers to a non-call on a PK in the "93rd minute." I didn't see that play during the game from my angle. Watching it back on video, the play occurred in the 94th minute on the first header Bill Hamid came forward on. Hamid actually gets his head on the ball, and it then appears to bounce off the raised arm of Whitecaps defender Brad Rusin. Several United players immediately reacted and asked for the PK call, but it was not forthcoming. The video clip below shows the play in the opening few seconds, and then has a slow motion replay at about the 50 second point.

I'll leave it to the experts on whether Foerster made the right calls in these two situations, but what should Ben Olsen say about them after the game? His comments calling the referee a "joker" almost certainly will result in fine, but as a fan I wouldn't be happy if he had let the calls go by without comment.

Despite the controversial calls, D.C. United should never have been in a position for the PK calls to determine the outcome of the game. One goal during the many chances they had would have preserved at least a draw, and two goals would have seen them comfortably win the game. While the better defensive performances over the last few weeks have ensured they are in every game they have played recently, there must be goals to secure wins and protect against the chance of bad calls. But, what attacking options are left on this roster after using virtually all of them against Vancouver?

The road ahead is tough for D.C. United. Starting with three straight road games in July, D.C. United only has seven home games in the second half of the season.

What's your opinion of Ben Olsen's comments after the game? How should he have reacted? What did this game tell you about D.C. United?