D.C. United had time off last week. I know, a festivus miracle! And why not celebrate your return to play with a trip to North Texas in mid-July, to play an FC Dallas team that was hoeing its own soil in the land where people drop seeds of the Supporter's Shield. With an expected sparse and abundantly defensive lineup, D.C. held the fort as best as they could but ultimately let in a last minute goal to fall to Dallas and go to second overall in the race for the Shield.
Our Words (Steven Streff): "United - without Bill Hamid in goal and Fabian Espindola up top - were second best for most of the night, but kept Dallas at bay for a large portion of the game thanks to the performance of Andrew Dykstra in goal. Kellyn Acosta made the breakthrough for the Hoops in the 73rd minute, but Taylor Kemp's cross induced an own goal from Matt Hedges to put United on the cusp of a point on the road.
Facundo Coria's burst forward in stoppage time looking for a winner was punished by Dallas as they quickly broke the other way, allowing Castillo to score his 8th goal of the season."
MLSsoccer.com (Scott Sidway): "With the game tied 1-1 in stoppage time, midfielder Victor Ulloa fired a shot from the end of the penalty box that was blocked by Taylor Kemp. But Castillo was in the right place at the right time, recovering the rebound and firing the ball above the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra to put Dallas on top."
CSN Washington (Dave Johnson): "It was an own goal, but DC United finally scored after being shutout for close to 275 minutes. Last night was United’s 21st starting lineup in 22 games and while they have had success the Black and Red needs to find a consistent attacking formation. Fabian Espindola will be back from red card and he will be reunited with his old Real Salt Lake teammate once Costa Rica is done in the Gold Cup."
Big D Soccer: "Castillo would put FC Dallas back up in stoppage time for his eighth goal of the season. Tesho Akindele would send in a cross to Ulloa, who would one time a shot that would get deflected to Castillo at the top of the six-yard box. The Colombian made sure to hammer home the shot to give Dallas the three points."
Ben Olsen (on the game): "We're disappointed in the result, and frankly at this point, in the performance. We were second best for most of the night, but credit their guys. Like Seattle, we hung in there and then again late we didn't do a good enough job of seeing out the game. But what are you going to do? You pick yourself up and get better for next week against Philadelphia."
Taylor Kemp (on the defense): "It certainly feels like we should have gotten out of here with a point. Dykstra made some big saves. I thought the backline did pretty well all night. They put a lot of pressure on us, and it was tough with the heat. Just a little unlucky there at the end, and we could have been a little bit better, a little smarter with our possession there at the end to try and kill off the game, but they pressed us and were able to get one at the end."
Oscar Pareja (on the game): "We had a pretty consistent night with a lot of moments showing good fitness, good mentality. I thought we sustained the aggressiveness and the pace for the whole game and that says a lot of things about the program and about the mentality of the players. The first half, I thought we dominated. We created the options. We sustained that attack and in the second half it was the same story. We gave up a goal in the second half that makes us think there are still a lot of things to get better at, but I thought the willingness of the team to go and fight for the three points, that was incredible. That was a magic night for the whole team and now I can’t be more proud."
We're going to skip over any lessons that were gleaned from Saturday's loss for a second, and shift our attention to something that was the subject of some rabbles and rousing before the game Saturday, which was the lack of recognition by Major League Soccer for this year's All-Star Game, to be played in Commerce City, home of the Colorado Rapids, as they play Tottenham Hotspur. Guys like Laurent Ciman of the Montreal Impact and Sebastian Giovinco of Toronto FC got well-earned nods. Others, like Steven Gerrard for the LA Galaxy and Frank Lampard of New York City FC less earned, but none the less have been fun to debate. Others, like Rapids defender Drew Moor, have been just damn fun. If you haven't seen his reaction (which I put in today's Kicks), it is here again.
But the question became why D.C. United didn't get any players? First (until Saturday) in MLS, first in the East, they have the goalkeeper of the year in Bill Hamid, why shouldn't the roster have a Black and Red player or two? I think the reasons are twofold.
The easy one is that as a team, the team has been more of a team. Which is to say they've had to rely on one another, be it the beginning of year suspension from their Designated Player (Fabian Espindola), or injury (Sean Franklin) or injury (Chris Pontius) or what have you. You would be hard pressed to find a team that has played more than D.C.'s 28 games this year, and doing so at times with bubble gum and tin foil. To hopefully illustrate, D.C. has had 13 players may more than 1,000 MLS minutes. When looking at the other teams that have played as many games as D.C., the New England Revolution have 12 and the Galaxy have 10. D.C. has had to use every ounce of their roster.
This is not saying that without injuries, D.C. would have had fair representation on the roster. In fact, the less craps I could give about the roster, or the game, the better. But I think, between Fan and Commissioner's picks, there is a subtle message to D.C. United that I hope is taken to heart: playoffs are a different beast. Do something in them. And at this point, it's easy to see that the League knows what the answer is at the moment. Conor Doyle was the last player to have been credited with a goal for D.C. United, and that was 27 days ago. The lack of scoring, much as it bit the team in the behind last November, is rearing its Francis Dolarhyde choppers once again.
The Last Word:
D.C. returns home to RFK to play the Philadelphia Union Sunday, which will be their first game home in more than a month, which coincidentally is also the last time they won a game. They should have Espindola back, and former Real Salt Lake teammate Alvaro Saborio may get some time with Espindola to get the band back together. If they can't find the groove early, before starting a 7 game in 29 day run of matches in August, there could be a crashing and burning on the horizon.