DYNAMO 3, D.C. UNITED 1
D.C. United’s struggles continue in a 3-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo.
It didn’t take long for D.C. United to dig itself a three-goal deficit Saturday night against the Houston Dynamo.
First, rookie Ian Harkes lost track of his man while defending a corner, and Andrew Wenger’s bouncing header gave Houston the lead. Then on successive attacks, United’s back line failed to detect enemy forwards in its box. Mauro Manotas was unmarked when he tapped in from close range. With time and space, Memo Rodriguez gathered himself eight yards from goal and powered the ball home with his forehead.
Each of these defensive lapses in concentration came in the first 17 minutes, and United went on to lose, 3-1, for its fifth straight defeat in MLS play.
“They certainly started with more bite,” United Coach Ben Olsen said. “They seemed to have more energy, more focus, for the first 15 to 20 minutes. If you take that portion of the game off, things can go wrong. And things went wrong.”
United (5-13-3, 18 points) was sharper after the halftime break as Houston (9-7-5, 32 points) sat back on its lead. After captain Bobby Boswell’s leaping header drifted into the top corner in the 62nd minute, United had a goal and half an hour to fight for a point.
And it did fight. With Olsen animatedly barking instructions while pacing the sideline, United kept counterattacking Houston on its heels with 70.5 percent of the second-half possession.
“They regroup at halftime, and they knew they’re just going to sit in. We knew they were going to sit in,” Boswell said. “It’s not ideal. No team should give up three goals in a whole game, sure as heck not in 17 minutes.”
But United put just two of its 11 second-half shots on target as a handful of chances missed, preventing a more dramatic finish. Just before Boswell’s goal, Patrick Nyarko watched a backpost header get cleared off the line before playmaker Luciano Acosta gathered the rebound and pushed his best chance match wide of the post.
In the 75th minute, Harkes’s free kick curled across the sixyard box and dropped to the foot of forward Deshorn Brown. With the net gaping, the Jamaican’s sliding attempt rolled past the post.
Gold Cup duty kept United’s American goalkeeper Bill Hamid out of the lineup, and he isn’t of the expected to return to action until Saturday night in Minnesota. Still, the defense was the main culprit against the Dynamo.
“You can’t replace a guy like Bill, but they were tap-ins tonight. It’s not like [starting goalkeeper Travis Worra] botched anything. It’s a team thing, man,” Boswell said. “We’ve got to figure it out as a group or we’ll die individually. On good teams, coaches hold players accountable. On great teams, players hold players accountable. We got to do a better job with each other, fighting for each other.”
The Gold Cup also kept the Dynamo’s top two scorers, Mexican Erick Torres and Honduran Alberth Elis, out of the match. Torres and Elis had combined for 18 of Houston’s 34 goals before Saturday. Without them, Houston still won on the road for the first time this season.
On Wednesday night in Seattle, United became the first team in MLS history to lead by three goals and lose in regulation. The Sounders trailed 3-0 in the 50th minute and won, 4-3. Against Houston, United had 73 minutes to mount a comeback of its own but never did.
United is in last place in the Eastern Conference and 13 points out of a playoff position with 13 matches remaining.
“I know you guys don’t believe me when I say it,” Olsen said, “but I do have a lot of belief in this group. I do. But we got to start soon.”
D.C. United’s Ian Harkes struggles to gain his footing as he battles Houston’s Alex at RFK Stadium.