This season has been full of welcome changes for D.C. United, but I suppose some things will always remain the same. The sun will keep rising in the east, gravity will keep us from floating out into space, and United will lose when playing the Houston Dynamo on the road. Despite getting to the 90th minute with a shutout in the house of horrors that is BBVA Compass Stadium, United fell 1-0 on a 91st minute goal from, you guessed it, Will Bruin.
The goal certainly belongs with the other DC disasters to take place in Houston. A blind flick-on by substitute Brian Ownby was probably not a threat, but Taylor Kemp's rushed attempt to nod it backward and away from Omar Cummings only served to turn a situation free of danger into a threat. Still, the ball fell to Steve Birnbaum in such a way that a simple clearance out of bounds was possible.
Instead, DC's prized rookie made a rookie mistake, letting the ball bounce. Bruin sensed the opportunity, applying immediate pressure and eventually pushing an off-balance Birnbaum into the ball, just as Bill Hamid arrived. The ball fell perfectly for Cummings, who tapped it around a prone Birnbaum and an obstructed Hamid to Bruin, who rolled the ball over the line from about two yards out.
The goal undid 90 minutes of gritty defensive work on a night where United's ability to create going forward looked like it had been left back at RFK Stadium. From the start, an excited Dynamo side put the Black-and-Red under immense pressure. Kemp pulled Oscar Boniek Garcia back just inches outside the box in the 5th minute, and Bruin capped off the early dominance by nodding a Giles Barnes off the top of the crossbar two minutes later.
Houston created numerous other looks, though never quite coming as close as that Bruin miss. Hamid tipped another Bruin header on another cross from the right flank over the bar in the 21st minute, Barnes blazed a shot wide after juking past Perry Kitchen in the 27th, and Hamid produced a wonderful save to stop Barnes inside the box after Lewis Neal's attempted cross-field ball was turned into a 3v2 break by the Dynamo in the 39th minute.
United's best chance ended up coming with a touch of controversy. In the 43rd minute, Kemp floated a cross to the back post for Neal, who headed the ball back into the middle. Luis Silva was left with a lot to do and sent his attempted scissor kick well over the bar. However, while he was swinging his foot at the ball his shin was hit by David Horst's studs. Horst's intentions were pure, but the reckless nature of the challenge could have broken Silva's leg. Referee Edvin Jurisevic, as he ended up doing all night, opted to make no call.
In the second half, United looked a bit better, particularly whenever Chris Rolfe was involved. Rolfe nearly teed Neal up for a 51st minute shot just inside the box only for Garcia to intervene, and Tally Hall had to produce his first save of the night from Rolfe's 58th minute shot from just beyond the restraining arc.
Jurisevic's refusal to make big calls in the box became an even bigger talking point during the game's wildest sequence. First, substitute Collin Martin's 65th minute through ball gave Eddie Johnson a good shooting opportunity, but Jermaine Taylor arrived in time to block. However, Taylor's block popped the ball up into his fully extended hand, prompting a heated penalty shout from United's attackers.
Play moved straight up to the other end, with Dynamo debutant DaMarcus Beasley overlapping aggressively. In the end, just as it looked like Beasley would get to an softly falling ball on the doorstep, Neal arrived to clear. However, Neal's swing at the ball also hit Beasley in the mouth (chipping his tooth in the process). All eyes were again on Jurisevic, who naturally gave a goal kick.
Beasley - who looked fully fit despite having several weeks off before his transfer - charged forward on a marauding diagonal run with the ball in the 72nd minute, eventually forcing Kitchen to drag him down to prevent letting the USMNT stalwart from going 1v1 at full speed with Birnbaum. Kitchen was booked on the play, and as a result will miss United's trip to Utah to face Real Salt Lake.
The match was drifting towards a 0-0 draw even as Houston began desperately throwing numbers forward in an attempt to end an eight-game winless streak. Davis had another shot go wide, while Johnson wasted an 87th minute free kick earned - and I do mean earned - by Rolfe.
Following the goal, United simply lacked the reserves of energy to create any scoring chance, and in all fairness the game probably deserved to end 1-0 in Houston's favor. Shot and possession totals can be very misleading, but tonight they were a good indicator of the action: The Dynamo had 20 shots to United's 7 and ended up having 57% of possession.
Up next for United is Saturday's trip to Rio Tinto Stadium to take on RSL in a game with legitimate Supporters Shield implications for both sides.