D.C. United played a game with a week's rest for the first time since the end of April in a run where they were playing a variety of squads with a variety of forms. They did their best to hang with an Orlando City squad but ultimately dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker, the first back to back losses for the Black and Red in the regular season since August of 2014.
Our Words (Steven Streff): "For a fleeting moment, it looked like Bill Hamid had stymied Kaka in the first half of Sunday's game between D.C. United and Orlando City. Hamid, who had already saved a Kaka at full stretch minutes before, had guessed correctly on Kaka's penalty in the 30th minute.
That moment was just a moment though, as the ball popped right back to Kaka, who headed into the empty net for the lone tally in the Lions' 1-0 win over D.C. United. Pedro Ribeiro earned the penalty seconds after forcing Hamid into a save, and despite the homegrown player making the initial save on the penalty, Hamid could do nothing about the rebound."
The Washington Post (Steve Goff): "More than two months ago, in United’s previous visit to Orlando, Silva made an emphatic season debut by scoring on a free kick in the dying moments for a 1-0 victory. On this night, Silva meshed with Espindola to intensity pressure on Orlando’s desperate defense. In the 84th minute, Silva and Arnaud combined to set up Doyle for a 20-yard smash that swerved wide by a whisker."
The Mane Land: "The third time was a charm for Orlando City against defending Eastern Conference regular season champion D.C. United. After playing well but failing to get a result in two previous meetings, the Lions scored a first half goal off a penalty kick rebound and held on for a 1-0 win in front of 30,054 fans at the Orlando Citrus Bowl.
The victory runs Orlando's unbeaten streak to five games and marks the first time the club has won consecutive matches as an MLS team. City moved to third in the Eastern Conference table, a point ahead of Toronto FC and four behind second-place New England."
MLSsoccer.com (Simon Veness): "United, meanwhile, remain atop the Eastern Conference despite their losing their second consecutive match. They looked lethargic for long periods in the steamy Citrus Bowl – two hydration breaks, one in each half, were called due to the heat – and lacked any real cutting edge up front, with Fabian Espindola and Jairo Arrieta forced to live off scraps."
CSN Washington (Dave Johnson): "United has the attacking pieces, but has now has gone two games without goal from the run of play. The team’s lone tally against Toronto was on a corner kick. Fabian Espindola and Jairo Arrieta are working hard enough and are threatening. There needs to be more connection with the flank players."
You'll forgive us, as we've been away the last few days and not as focused on footie as we normally would or should be. We're just getting back into the swing, in fact. But in seeing the last two games, it is a little concerning the form in which D.C. United finds itself. Sure, D.C. lost back to back for the first time in the regular season since August, and they face the Eastern Conference representative in the MLS Cup on Sunday, and potentially find themselves losing a second consecutive game at home for the first time since the beginning of 2014.
Additionally, we've said in the past that over May and June, D.C. United could find themselves putting their foot on the throats of a lot of teams in the East should they hold form. Disclaimer on injuries aside, since their 2-0 win over the Columbus Crew on May 2, the team has turned in a 3-4-2 clip over their last 9 games, 11 of a possible 27 points. To borrow from our beloved Ben Bromley, that's...not great Bob. So let's put the last nine games of the East up against D.C.'s and see if they are putting distance between themselves, shall we? Over the last nine games:
- Toronto FC, 5-3-1 (16)
- Montreal, 4-4-1 (13)
- New England, 3-2-4 (13)
- Orlando City SC, 3-3-3 (12)
- D.C. United, 3-4-2 (11)
- Philadelphia, 3-6 (9)
- Columbus/New York Red Bulls, 2-4-3 (9)
- Chicago/New York City FC, 2-5-2 (8)
So what's to gain from all this? Well, first and foremost, the Eastern Conference sucks. It suuucks. Didn't hear me before, I'll say it again: the Eastern Conference can suck the chrome off a trailer hitch, it sucks that bad. So D.C. is in a bit of a rut, but it's the East. They could send out Bill Hamid and 10 Mr. Meeseeks and still have a reasonable shot at a point in ANY Eastern Conference venue.
This does not excuse, however, the real problems that D.C. has in offense so far. Since scoring three goals and three assists in his first ten games, Chris Rolfe has scored once in his last five, and on a PK at that. If Rolfe isn't shooting, and Chris Pontius isn't playing, you have the two most prodigious shot takers on the squad out. Take any two players on the roster not named Rolfe and Pontius, add their shot totals together, and you MAY get to Rolfe's 34 (as of this writing). The D.C. lineup tends to have a Spinal Tap drummer in it or two these days, but this should not serve as an excuse for the field players to not let their freak flag fly. Fire shots on goal, see what happens. Goodness knows there is ample confidence from the five most rear-playing members of the squad (or at least the triad of Hamid, Bobby Boswell and Steve Birnbaum or Kofi Opare), it's about time some confidence to move forward is shown. If the team resorts to a behavior of settling in and absorbing an attack, we will soon be rueing another first-round exit before long.
The Last Word:
D.C. have another midweek game (I know, hard to believe!) against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Wednesday, the first of hopefully many more U.S. Open Cup games for the team's 2015 run. One would presume the team we see there will be streets ahead of the one that was summarily bounced last year by the Rochester Rhinos. One would also hope that Olsen would not only look back to that game, but to last night's as reason for performances such as that to be exceptions to the rule over the course of the regular season. With the New England Revolution on the weekend for the Black and Red, hopefully even less reason to motivate the boys in the room is needed. But if D.C. and the Revs meet in the playoffs, performances like last night's are going to need to be eliminated, but quick.