Tampa Bay Sports Day

DC United battles back to tie Seattle 3-3

In what has become commonplace during the first half of this MLS campaign, DC United scored early, gave up that lead and worked back diligently to escape with a 3-3 draw on Wednesday night on the road against the Seattle Sounders.

United will stay out West instead of coming back to Washington as they prepare for Saturday’s match at Colorado.

With a relatively youthful side on the park, the loud and passionate crowd combined with the unfamiliar environment seemed to unnerve United in the early moments.

“I think we let the environment takes its toll on us,” said United head coach Tom Soehn. “We still have a few inexperienced guys and it is the first time they have been into a place like this. The energy Seattle brought, we backed down quite a bit.

“When you’re playing on the road you need all 11 guys to play well and we were way below that tonight. But there were certain guys that I would give credit to who fought and competed.”

United seized the momentum, albeit not for long, in the 34th minute when Chris Pontius snuck behind the Seattle back line to finish a perfect diagonal ball from Santino Quaranta from the right flank.

However, in what also has been all too typical this season, United squandered that lead minutes later on a splendid strike from distance by Osvaldo Alonso four minutes later.

“Yeah, especially after their first goal, the momentum changed.” Said Pontius. “It allowed their fans to get into it and it is a loud stadium. I don’t think many of us have played in anything like that, I know I haven’t. It was definitely something we had to adjust to. In the second half we calmed down a little bit.”

United then gave up an own goal as Marc Burch deflected a harmless, spinning Nate Jaqua shot past a helpless Josh Wicks just moments before halftime to spot Seattle a 2-1 advantage going into the break.

United themselves were the beneficiary of a Sounder’s own goal however as Tyrone Marshall inadvertently headed a Pontius cross into the upper-90 of his own goal past a flatfooted Kasey Kelller the in the 87th minute.

That goal was preceded by two brilliant goals by two of the best players on the park in the second half, brilliant strikes from inside the penalty, first from Seattle’s Fredy Montero to extend the lead to 3-1 in the 57th minute, and then from Christian Gomez in the 63rd to draw a goal back for United.

Montero’s goal highlighted some very passive defending by United as neither Burch, nor any other defender, decided to close down the crafty Columbian inside the penalty area allowing him time and space to bend a left footer from 17-yards out around an extended Wicks inside the far post.

“Overall I was a little disappointed in some of the performances on our side,” said Soehn. “We gave them a lot of opportunities and in an environment like this you can’t afford to do that. Again the group was resilient and the guys who came in impacted in a big way. We fought back to get a point on the road.”

The three goals aside, Wicks solidified his claim as first choice goalkeeper with multiple saves and good command of his penalty area throughout the night.

“For Josh’s sake I don’t think he is at fault for any of the goals. We broke down defensively and a lot of the chances they had came from the breakdown defensively. That is a little discouraging,” said Soehn.

Gomez came on at the start of the second half to add another attacking threat after United fell behind. Soehn has used Gomez, 35, and Jaime Moreno, 34, both as a starters and super-subs in recent weeks both to manage their minutes due to nagging injuries or utilize their still classy attack prowess to change or settle a game when necessary. Moreno did not travel to Seattle.

Gomez paid immediate dividends against New York two weeks ago as a second half substitute generating two scoring chances just seconds after coming onto the field. Moreno also came on and scored a penalty kick, that Gomez created, to put that game away 2-0.

They both started in DC’s critical match at home against Chicago last Saturday, a controversial 2-1 win that vaulted United ahead of the Fire into first place in the Eastern Conference.

“I think some of it is the guys we are bringing in off the bench. Bringing in them late in the game they have the ability to break teams down and it happens a lot…We have used them in so many different ways and it’s not just them, it’s everybody,” said Soehn about Gomez and Moreno specifically.

“Sometimes they are called on to start and sometimes they are called on to change the flow of the game and they do a pretty good job of injecting energy and keeping the ball. Every team brings you different challenges and I factor that into who plays and who you think can come in and change the game late.”

United moves on to Denver to take on the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, providing Gomez a chance to remind the Rapids why they wanted him for about half a year. The game will be broadcast on CSN at 9:30 PM.

Match Facts

DC United at Seattle Sounders FC, June 17, 2009

Scoring Summary:
DC — Chris Pontius 4 (Santino Quaranta 6) 34
SEA — Osvaldo Alonso 1 (James Riley 2, Brad Evans 1) 38
SEA — Own Goal (Marc Burch) 45
SEA — Fredy Montero 6 (unassisted) 57
DC — Christian Gomez 3 (unassisted) 63
DC — Own Goal (Tyrone Marshall) 87

D.C. United — Josh Wicks, Bryan Namoff, Dejan Jakovic, Marc Burch, Andrew Jacobson (Christian Gomez 46), Clyde Simms, Rodney Wallace, Fred (Ange N’Silu 21), Chris Pontius, Santino Quaranta, Luciano Emilio (Thabiso Khumalo 73),

Substitutes Not Used: Greg Janicki, Avery John, Milos Kocic, Ben Olsen

Seattle Sounders FC — Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Tyrone Marshall, Tyson Wahl, Freddie Ljungberg (Stephen King 77), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Sebastien Le Toux, Nate Jaqua (Patrick Ianni 85), Fredy Montero (Steve Zakuani 66).

Substitutes Not Used: Ben Dragavon, Sanna Nyassi, Nathan Sturgis, Peter Vagenas

Seattle Sounders FC D.C. United
Total shots: 17 (Fredy Montero 6) 10 (Chris Pontius 3)
Shots on goal: 10 (Fredy Montero 3) 4 (Chris Pontius 2)
Fouls: 6 (Nate Jaqua 2) 17 (3 tied with 3)
Offsides: 3 (Nate Jaqua 2) 0
Corner kicks: 5 (Freddie Ljungberg 3) 4 (Santino Quaranta 4)
Saves: 1 (Kasey Keller 1) 7 (Josh Wicks 7)

Misconduct Summary:
DC — Dejan Jakovic (caution; Reckless Tackle) 84
DC — Bryan Namoff (caution; Delaying a Restart) 92+

Referee: Ricardo Salazar
Referee’s Assistants: Fabio Tovar; Darren Clark
4th official: Jasen Anno
Time of game: 1:52
Attendance: 29,104
Weather: Partly Cloudy -and- 69 degrees