United Has Lit­tle Of­fense or De­fense In Home Opener

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sports - By Steven Goff

Af­ter two dis­ap­point­ing post­sea­son ex­pe­ri­ences, D. C. United de­cided this past win­ter to re­vamp its at­tack and ig­nore its de­fen­sive needs.

Through two matches, that approach is look­ing like a ter­ri­ble mis­take.

The Kansas City Wiz­ards tore apart United’s de­fense for three first- half goals, in­clud­ing a pair in the first eight min­utes, and claimed a 4- 2 vic­tory last night be­fore 22,358 at rainy RFK Sta­dium, spoil­ing D. C.’ s home opener and send­ing MLS’s

pre­sea­son fa­vorite to its sec­ond con­sec­u­tive loss.

“ We are, right now, not as good as we thought we were and it’s go­ing to take a lot of look­ing at the film and each other and fig­ur­ing it out,” mid­fielder Ben Olsen said.

United did re­cover to draw even late in the first half, but con­tin­ued to al­low the Wiz­ards ( 1- 0) un­chal­lenged op­por­tu­ni­ties. Ed­die John­son had a goal and two as­sists, but that told only part of the story. With space to op­er­ate be­tween D. C.’ s slow- paced mid­field and slowre­act­ing back line, John­son used sleek runs and clever foot­work to cre­ate nu­mer­ous chances for him­self and his team­mates.

When it wasn’t scram­bling to stop Kansas City’s re­lent­less as­sault, United la­bored to mount a for­mi­da­ble at­tack. Lu­ciano Emilio and Chris­tian Gomez scored in the first half, but John­son snapped the tie be­fore in­ter­mis­sion and cre­ated Scott Sealy’s clincher in the 64th minute to leave D. C. with an 0- 2 record for the first time in seven years.

“ You set your­selves up to get back in the game and then we let two more goals in,” Coach Tom Soehn said. “ You let four goals in, you’ve got no chance. . . . We’ve forgotten what it takes to win games.”

Said Gomez: “ I’m wor­ried, ob­vi­ously. We have to fix some things.”

For the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive week, D. C. found it­self with an­other early two- goal deficit.

In the third minute, John­son sent a long ball down the left side to rookie Michael Har­ring­ton, who beat Fa­cundo Er­pen, bore down on goal­keeper Troy Perkins and waited un­til he was com­fort­able with the an­gle be­fore slot­ting an eight- yarder to the far cor­ner.

Five min­utes later, United fal­tered again. This time, Josh Gros slipped on the treach­er­ous turf, al­low­ing Sealy to run free. John­son made a run to the cen­ter of the box, ac­cepted Sealy’s cross and slid the ball to the un­in­hib­ited Sasha Vic­torine for a ris­ing shot be­tween Perkins and the near post.

“ I think I let the guys down,” Perkins said. “ I should have made one save at the be­gin­ning. That would’ve changed the whole game.”

United struck back in the 11th minute. Er­pen sent a long ball be­hind the Kansas City de­fense to Emilio, and while the Wiz­ards pleaded for an off­side call, Emilio fin­ished to the lower right cor­ner for his sixth goal in six over­all ap­pear­ances since join­ing the club in Jan­uary.

With its pos­ses­sion game fal­ter­ing, United turned to Gomez to level the score on a boom­ing, 30- yard free kick that had too much pace and move­ment for goal­keeper Kevin Hart­man to han- dle.

The mo­men­tum had swung to United, but af­ter two ad­di­tional threats, the Wiz­ards re­claimed the lead. A de­flected ball fell to John­son, who waltzed in alone and slid a shot un­der the div­ing Perkins.

Soehn yanked Er­pen at the half and in­serted Brazil­ian mid­fielder Fred, but John­son, a 23- year- old World Cup for­ward whose star had faded the last two years, em­barked on sev­eral more bold runs into the heart of United’s crum­bling de­fense. Perkins de­nied him in the 54th minute with a su­perb arm save, but Sealy one- timed the re­bound into a mostly va­cant net for a 4- 2 lead.

United’s play turned des­per­ate, and when the fi­nal whis­tle sounded, trig­ger­ing a cho­rus of boos, the club headed into the bye week won­der­ing why things had gone so ter­ri­bly wrong so quickly.

“ All th­ese peo­ple sit and watch us play in the rain and sup­port us; I just feel em­bar­rassed,” Olsen said. “ The im­por­tant thing here is that we can’t start throw­ing each other un­der the bus. It’s im­por­tant to stay to­gether right now. We’ll get out of this.”


United mid­fielder Ben Olsen is taken to the ground by Kansas City’s Aaron Hohlbein. D.C. is 0-2.


United’s Lu­ciano Emilio slides un­der Kansas City’s Aaron Hohlbein. “We’ve forgotten what it takes to win,” D.C. Coach Tom Soehn said.

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