Tampa Bay Sports Day

DC United pulls out late tie 1-1

Ben Olsen nodded a Jaime Moreno free kick just inside the post only a few seconds into stoppage time to bail out DC United giving the home side a disappointing 1-1 draw with New England after dominating most of the match.

The assist was the 100th of Moreno’s career making the Bolivian forward the only player in MLS history to reach the century mark in both goals and assists.

United dominated possession throughout most of the match, firing 20 shots at the Revolution goal and creating several quality chances.

“You leave this game frustrated because I thought, especially in the first half, they were ripe for the picking,” said United boss Tom Soehn.. “I don’t think we did a good enough job of managing the space and hitting the weak side and causing them more trouble and then we let in a goal and now you’re chasing the game.

“Thankfully Ben got on the end of something but overall you leave disappointed because we had plenty of opportunities to take the three points today and we let it slip.”

“It’s always tough, giving a goal in the last minute – kind of feels like a loss at the moment. But at the end of the day it’s a good result,” said Soehn’s counterpart Steve Nicol. “We defended quite well, we tied half of it because of their play, and half of it because of us not keeping the ball as well as we could have, but we defended great, there were times where they should have scored.”

With several players either out with injuries or playing hurt, Nicol deployed with just one pure attacker and five midfielders.

Brad Knighton got the start ahead of veteran Matt Reis who is still recovering from knee inflammation. Nicol also inserted Steve Ralston into the starting XI for the first time this season after the MLS original was sidelined with a quadriceps injury sustained in the pre-season.

He did come on in the second half of last week’s 2-1 win against FC Dallas, scoring the game winning goal on a penalty kick in the 80th minute of their home opener.

“They didn’t have a lot of guys today; you knew they were going to play defensive,” said Soehn about New England’s tactics. “They played a 4-5-1 and made it real compact and you knew they weren’t going to get many chances but to their credit, whenever they get one or two they end up finishing some and today it cost us.”

Shalrie Joseph knocked in a header over two defenders in the 50th minute to give New England the lead, completely against the run of play.

The Revs only shot on goal of the first half came just past the half-hour mark when Jeff Larentowicz’s long range free kick took a tricky bounce on its way toward the goal but Louis Crayton stayed with it and gathered it in cleanly.

United manufactured their first quality scoring opportunity in the 19th minute, but Rodney Wallace’s ball across the face of the goal from the left side skidded just out of the reach of a sliding Gomez. Three quick one touch balls started with Moreno from the right side playing it quickly into Luciano Emilio at the top of the box, who in turn played it to Gomez and back to Moreno before peeling toward the goal. Moreno immediately pushed it into Emilio, who turned and played it into space on the opposite side to Wallace.

Moreno returned to the lineup after serving a one game suspension following a red card against Houston.

“We knew they were going to sit back in this game and they sat in the 4-5-1 for most of the game so that gave us room. They were playing for a tie on the road,” said United midfielder Chris Pontius, who missed two great chances in the second half. “We had our chances today and we didn’t put them away and that’s what it came down to.”

“With the way we played, especially in the first half, we could have gotten more out of that game. The one positive is we started playing some attractive stuff in the first half,” said Olsen.

Just before Gomez’ try, referee Jair Marrufo chose against a penalty when Wells Thompson’s cross from the left flank appeared to deflect off the hand of United’s Bryan Namoff inside the penalty area, denying the Revolution a golden opportunity to take forge ahead even earlier in the match.

On Olsen’s equalizer, Knighton overcommitted, taking a bad angle toward the ball and allowing Olsen to get onto the perfectly floated free kick to the far post from the left flank. Olsen flicked the ball just inside the post off the chest of Pat Phelan, who tried in vain to keep it from crossing the line.

“I am usually at the 18 and the back post looked a little bit open throughout the game,” said Olsen about the goal. “It’s the 90th minute and we’re down so everybody is pushing and I jumped in there and fortunately a good ball came back post and it was lucky to sneak in there. I don’t know what happened, I didn’t really see it. It’s a tie and still ends up being disappointing.”

Sainey Nyassi was whistled for the foul that prompted the free kick despite Fred embellishing slightly to perhaps draw the call.

“I don’t think it’s a great call on the free kick. Fred was on his way down and the referee couldn’t wait to give it. I was sixty yards away and I could see him going down. It’s disappointing,” said Nicol about the foul.

Fred nearly won the game for United seconds later but his dipping half volley off a bouncing ball from 30-yards out slipped just outside the right post.

Joseph’s goal was the Revolution’s first foray into United’s end of the field in the second half, punishing United for slack marking in their penalty area. After exchanging balls with Thompson near the left corner of the penalty area, Ralston, the MLS all-time assist leader, added to his total,

He floated a ball into the 6-yard box to Joseph who nodded it in home over Wallace and Andrew Jacobson, who came on for Marc Burch at the start of the half, to make the score 1-0.

“They threw in the ball and communication wasn’t that good and all of a sudden Ralston was hiding out in the corner and they did a little one-two and we weren’t as tight as we should be but still it was a chipped ball, a little blooper ball and Shalrie Joseph came in and if he gets his head on the ball from 4-yards out its pretty hard to save it,” said Namoff. “That was pretty much the only real strong opportunity they had.”

Crayton decided to stay on his line but got his hand on the ball but not enough to knock it away. “We should have done a better job of defending. I shouted to them to tell them to be aware he was coming but unfortunately he jumped over the both of them and headed the ball right past me,” said the former Liberian international.

“At the time I decided to stay on my line because I had two of my players (there) and it was an early cross so there is no way I could have come out of the goal so I decided to sit back and see my defense do a better job. The cross was too quick for me to come out of the goal. I got a tip on it but I was wrong-footed.”

“I think you saw for a couple of minutes afterwards that it took us a while to get back from that. That’s who they are; they sneak goals. You just can’t turn off for one play against that team,” added Olsen.

United did counter quickly when Pontius created the first of his two chances with a crafty dribble around Thompson to open up space but the rookie’s right footed shot from 12-yards out on the right side of the penalty area sailed high and wide to the near side.

Moreno had an even better opportunity seconds later running hard to the penalty spot to latch onto a Gomez ball from the right flank but the Bolivian’s strike from 10-yards out hit Knighton squarely in the chest.

“There was a lot of space between their mids and their back line. Jaime did a great job of finding it but we didn’t punish them for it. That is still something we still have to get better,” said Soehn.

Pontius’ other opportunity in the 59th minute came from the same spot as the former with the exact same result.

“There were two I should have had. I just can’t believe I did the same thing twice,” said Pontius about the misses. I totally missed the second one. The first one I was trying to go near post on; I saw the goalie a little bit on the far post and the second one I completely mishit it.”

Moreno’s wisdom created yet another chance for United as he feinted and dribbled around multiple defenders in the left side of penalty before curling a shot that bounced off the chest of the shaky Knighton before he could scoop it up in the 65th minute.

“I guess the real positive of today is that we have been losing goals at the end of games from mental errors and today we came back,” Soehn said. “I’ve always said we are a young team but we’ve got enough games now where we’ve got to start showing some maturity and sticking in there and getting a goal back at the end is a positive but I still feel like we gave away 2 points today.”

Olsen had exchanged words and a bit more with Thompson earlier in the match after the feisty Revolution midfielder shouldered the veteran hard off the ball at the corner flag in New England’s end of the park. Olsen, somewhat surprised, jumped up quickly, grabbing Thompson by the shirt as the assistant referee intervened. Both received yellow cards.

“He’s a good kid. It’s New England-DC. I figured I’d try to start a fight to get us moving or something, said Olsen, the latter part in jest. “It’s a heated game-there are no hard feelings. He’s a competitor; those guys are great competitors-that team always has them.”