Tampa Bay Sports Day

United adjusts well, holds off Houston 1-0

Any time the Houston Dynamo come to RFK Stadium, fans witness a disciplined battle of pressure on pressure. Against most teams in MLS, DC United will establish more control in midfield, while the opponent eventually cedes some of that space and seeks to counterattack. Houston plays too much like United to let that happen.

Both teams have a proud history and strong tradition. DC poster child (and now grizzled veteran) Ben Olsen described the essence of this particular game, “They did a good job of clogging us up in the middle; Clyde (Simms) and I didn’t have as much time on the ball, so we kinda had to go other avenues. Then in the second half, we went after them.

“We turned the page and put some pressure on them, put some balls in the box. Luci was great, Ange was great. The way Luci held the ball up for us tonight is a big part of why we were OK.”

Olsen plays with a lot of emotion, but displayed an interesting wisdom by noting that, “I’m kinda glad Jaime got a red card. Obviously it put us in a bad spot. I didn’t think it was the greatest call in the world.

“It’s good to be tested early like that and come out with three points. It shows that we‘ve got some men out there and we stepped up in a difficult situation against a good team.”

He elaborated, “They’re still Houston. They still have a lot of weapons. To fight like that as a team and get out with three points is a great first win for us. There are still things we can work on. The soccer is still at times not the greatest.”

Olsen did single out goalkeeper Louis Crayton’s performance as a positive, “There’s a certain confidence that he gives us, ‘cause he’s such a knucklehead back there. It’s nice to have a guy that’s been around the block a little bit and hopefully he can continue in that type of form.”

As his defensive midfield play combined with that of Simms, it inspired the youthful back line, “All the backs today had a little bit of bite, a little bit of fire.”

He then complimented Houston, “And they came with it too. You know, they needed a win. You could see that right off the bat. They came with some good energy. I was pleased that we matched that.”

Asked about whether Houston had focused on marking him especially tight, Olsen averred that, “I think they put me to the test. They were putting us all to the test. They came after all of us and I think we responded.”

His exceptional anticipation of Dynamo passes brought his teammates into the mix, “We’re working on our defensive shape, the movement of Clyde and me. It’s important to get out and clog up holes and make it a little bit easier on your three backs, ‘cause you only have three.

“Today the game was easier for Clyde and me because there were a lot less mistakes individually in the back and the pressure up top was better. It was a good day and we’ll move on.”

Another by now old hand, Bryan Namoff, echoed Olsen’s view of things, “We had a lot of pressure on us the whole game. It was a battle that went back and forth and I think we corrected a little bit of it in the second half with Chris’ (Pontius) dropping back a little bit too far (in the first half), but sometimes we have to do that.

“But, in the second half he did a lot better job of staying higher and then coming back. He was in a higher position to get the ball and started to face up their left back.” Pontius’ higher position drove the possession game slightly further back into the Houston end and opened up more overlaps for Namoff.

“There were times when he would try to pinch in, which allowed me a lot more space to try to get on that right side.”

As the Dynamo chose to concentrate their attack down their left side in the first half, Pontius had been driven into a right defender role as Namoff was forced inside by the flow. The youngster displayed his flexibility by adapting. He explained, “You go into every game knowing it’s not going to be the same in every game. You’ve got to expect change and deal with it.”

Pontius contrasted the game with that of the previous week, “At Chicago, I was attacking a little bit more and Rodney was sitting. You’ve got to see the game, read the game and play off of it.”

The need for adjustment did not faze him, “I’m fine with it. I’ve done it throughout college. I played right back in college for two years.”

On the left side, United spent the first half often neglecting Wallace who maintained width fairly well, only to see it rarely rewarded with the ball. Houston used more of both sides of the field in the first half and transitioned the ball laterally more effectively.

Still, they had difficulty breaking DC down. Left back Marc Burch pointed out the reason, “Last year we found a lot of times that Clyde was getting isolated 2 on 1, 3 on 1. This year (with Olsen pairing with Simms) we keep them in front of us and a lot of teams are playing kickball against us right now. If they’re not playing through us, then at least we can win the ball from the back.”

While Coach Tom Soehn has been dealt a difficult hand with injuries to several starters, he has turned adversity into opportunity by relying early on two very young wide midfielders and one critical older central midfielder.

Twice in three games, DC United has been stressed by late misfortune. In Los Angeles, they responded barely adequately, in DC, they showed the mettle that Olsen hopes will carry them through what promises to be a season of growth.

Scoring Summary:
DC — Luciano Emilio 2 (Bryan Namoff 1) 47

Houston Dynamo — Pat Onstad, Richard Mulrooney, Bobby Boswell, Geoff Cameron, Wade Barrett (Julius James 72), Brian Mullan, Ricardo Clark, Stuart Holden, Brad Davis, Brian Ching (Corey Ashe 67), Chris Wondolowski (Kei Kamara 46),

Substitutes Not Used: Mike Chabala, Tally Hall, John Michael Hayden, Craig Waibel

D.C. United — Louis Crayton, Bryan Namoff, Dejan Jakovic, Marc Burch, Chris Pontius, Christian Gomez (Fred 57), Ben Olsen (Greg Janicki 79), Clyde Simms, Rodney Wallace, Luciano Emilio, Ange N’Silu (Jaime Moreno 65),

Substitutes Not Used: Brandon Barklage, John DiRaimondo, Thabiso Khumalo, Milos Kocic

D.C. United Houston Dynamo
Total shots: 7 (Chris Pontius 4) 13 (Brad Davis 3)
Shots on goal: 3 (Luciano Emilio 2) 4 (Brad Davis 2)
Fouls: 13 (Ben Olsen 3) 19 (5 tied with 2)
Offsides: 3 (Ange N’Silu 2) 2 (Brian Mullan 1,
Kei Kamara 1)
Corner kicks: 2 (Christian Gomez 2) 7 (Brad Davis 6)
Saves: 4 (Louis Crayton 4) 2 (Pat Onstad 2)

Misconduct Summary:
HOU — Wade Barrett (caution; Reckless Foul) 49
DC — Jaime Moreno (ejection; Violent Conduct) 71
HOU — Julius James (caution; Tactical Foul) 86

Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee’s Assistants: Nate Clement; James Conlee
4th official: Mark Kadlecik
Time of game: 1:50
Attendance: 12,594
Weather: Clear -and- 61 degrees