D.C. United had back to back efforts where they beat a Conference leader and a presumed heir to the American Coaching Crown, one of which was done on the road 3,000 miles away. As the dates unfurl and the games more frequent, they were facing a Sporting Kansas City team only recently finding some sort of footing. The result left the visitors pleased and the hosts disappointed, even as they found themselves shorthanded without one of their weapons.
Our Words (Steven Streff): "With a chance to move top of the standings in MLS following the New England Revolutions' draw on Friday night, D.C. United instead settled for a 1-1 draw at home against Sporting Kansas City. After looking second best throughout most of the first half, Jairo Arrieta gave United the lead three minutes before the end of the half, before Dom Dwyer equalized on the stroke of the halftime."
Washington Post (Steven Goff): "Stacked with early home matches, United continues to relinquish leads and settle for ties on East Capitol Street. Three of the past four affairs have ended on level terms, and in all three, United scored the first goal."
MLS Soccer (Pablo Maurer): "United would enjoy a bit more of the ball during the second half and almost went ahead in the 51st minute. Chris Rolfe’s meandering run towards the endline ended with a bent-in ball to the penalty spot. United midfielder Nick DeLeon couldn’t connect with the service, but Sean Franklin pushed the missed opportunity back towards the far post, where Pontius nodded it down to the edge of the six-yard area."
CSN Washington (Dave Johnson): "After two straight games using a productive forward partnership of Espindola and Chris Rolfe, Olsen went with Jairo Arrieta and Chris Pontius in the first eleven. Rolfe moved back to the left flank. Pontius assisted on Arrieta’s goal in the 42nd minute. The goal was against the run of play and the improving pace of Pontius along with the determination and work rate of Arrieta were on display."
The Blue Testament: "Both teams had their chances in the first half but neither could adequately finish. It wasn't until the 42nd minute that DC United finally broke the tie off a counter. Perry Kitchen sent a diagonal ball to Chris Pontius in the box, who made a nice pass with a back heel that found Jairo Arrieta in the middle of the box. Arrieta dinked it in past a diving Tim Melia to give the home side a 1-0 advantage. This was his second goal of the year and it gave DC United some apparent momentum heading into the locker room."
Ben Olsen (on the game): "It’s a game of two halves and in the first half they looked hungry and surprised us a little bit with their tactics. We prepared for them to be much more aggressive, in their usual manner, but credit to them for slowing the game down and making it tough for us to break them down. I think it took a little bit of our energy and hunger away, but a lot of that [their tactics] didn’t change in the second half. We just looked more alive in the second half. The running off the ball was much better, our composure and quality of passing was better, just every little aspect got better in the second half. I feel if we are a little sharper in the final third we come away with a win, but they also could have had two or three goals in the first half. We got a goal in a half that wasn’t great and then we pissed it away three minutes later."
Bobby Boswell (on the press): "They just packed it in you know? As a defender I know how it is. When you pack it in when, you put guys behind the ball, it’s a very tough thing to break down. It’s so much easier to destroy than to create. We didn’t play very well. We weren’t expecting that. Like I said we haven’t had a team come in here and do that all year and we didn’t think Kansas City would. I think the goal changes everything. If we go into the half 1-0 I think it changes the whole game but when they score like that so quick it’s just right back to the way they were playing. I though we figured it out a little bit better in the second half, just like I said we weren’t able to finish our chances."
Peter Vermes (SKC coach, on the result): "In the first half, we were maybe a little unlucky to not get the two or maybe three [goals]. In the second half, I do not think we had as many attacking options going forward or clear-cut opportunities. Other than a few opportunities that they had down the left side in the second half, we were pretty good."
Some of the narrative coming out of Saturday's draw would appear to be that D.C. blew a lead which at a high level is true, but certainly is different that blowing points at the end of the game similar to something that we talked about before. However this game was less about losing the game or even losing the lead, and more about the fact that a couple of decisions of varying concern.
The first (and the last, I swear!) time was hearing that Fabian Espindola was out of the lineup altogether due to a leg contusion. Things happen, and I've spoken my piece on it. However the second and more curious piece was this:
FWIW, Olsen tells me that Silva is 100% fully fit. Could start if necessary. Surprised to see him excluded from the XI. #DCU #MLS— Pablo Maurer (@MLSist) May 10, 2015
We know at this point that Silva's dealt with injury and working his way back into the fold. But having him ready from the jump Saturday night against Matt Besler and the just-turned-18 Erik Palmer-Brown? It certainly would have helped put more of a threat to score on the field than what existed, and the on-field performance of those threats as they transpired did no favors. The pleasant surprise of Michael Farfan as a center midfielder in a 4-1-3-2 from two weeks ago has turned into the 4-4-2 and dour offensive performance. Espindola's absence can explain most of it, but "politics as usual" can explain its own chunk, particularly with the variety of skill on the roster.
The good news is that now the fun stuff starts for D.C. 13 games in 49 days follow, starting from last Saturday's draw. Between now and the end of June, they play Orlando City SC, the Philadelphia Union and the Chicago Fire twice each (depending on your level of comfort, add two games with Toronto FC in there as well. That is a lot of space that can be placed between D.C. United and whomever the fifth and sixth seeds of the Conference wound up to be, and it is space that can be placed almost two weeks before the first Gold Cup game is played, right around the time when a lot of national team players would be going to prep for said Cup.
The Last Word:
Speaking of that Orlando City bunch, they'll be without Amobi Okugo (due to yellow card accumulation) and Kevin Molino (due to injury, but it IS the MLS injury report after all), though on the latter, it seemed to give Adrian Heath an excuse to play Brek Shea in the midfield again. If Ben Olsen wants to win then he needs to employ the radical idea of putting out the players that can score goals and win the game. If you set out to take Vienna then take Vienna. The chance of putting a lot of this away before Independence Day awaits.