Tampa Bay Sports Day

Colorado streaks past fading DC United 1-0

The Colorado Rapids ended one of the longest streaks in MLS history Saturday night, defeating DC United 1-0 at RFK Stadium for the first time in 11 years and sending the home side further into the abyss of the MLS table.

Mehdi Ballouchy pounced on a loose ball and added his own bit of skill at the end to earn the game’s only goal in the 67th minute, ending another ominous streak for the visiting side, 263 minutes without a goal, the longest such drought in MLS this season.

“To be honest, the last few times we’ve been here we haven‘t played soccer; we just kicked the ball and tried to squeeze and press,” said the crafty Morrocan. “We didn’t play soccer the last couple of times and we paid for it.”

“I don’t know if that is a good thing or bad,” said a smiling Pablo Mastroeni, the only current Rapid to who was on the side during their 2-1 win in the nation’s capital on June 10, 1999. “It’s been a while. We have had some decent performances over the years and haven’t been able to get results.”

On the flip side, United’s anemic offense has not scored in 235 minutes during which they produced very little quality with very few ideas in the final third of the field.

After Danny Allsopp’s long penetrating run down the left channel produced a bad angle shot that Rapid’s keeper Matt Pickens had little trouble knocking away in the 30th minute, United could not muster another shot on goal and very little else of substance in the attacking end of the park.

“You might just want to copy and paste the last interview we did,” said a dejected Carey Talley. When asked if it was really any different, “Ya know (pause), No it wasn’t. I don’t really think we were too dangerous in any part of the field. There was a couple of ooohs and aaaahs.”

And when learning that his team did not have a shot on goal after Allsopp ’s decent chance, “There you go.”

“You can’t blame the forwards. A lot of times the forwards deal with the service that they get and I don’t think it’s there a lot of time,” continued the veteran defender. “But saying that, we are a little naïve at times in crucial areas, just saying ‘ah, it’s okay, everything’s fine’ and no, it’s down our throat and they are through us.”

A minute prior to his deep counter attacking run, Allsopp was denied by an alert Pickens who was a step ahead of the powerful Aussie and punched away Christian Castillo’s sensational cross from the left wing. Shortly thereafter in the 32nd minute, Castillo found himself alone and had a go from 35-yards out but his left footed shot just missed high and wide of the left post.

“We did what we wanted to defensively, we were disciplined and causing troubles and won a lot of balls in the middle which allowed us to get forward but we just never got anything,” said forward Adam Cristman.

“It’s hard to push through; it’s the same thing over and over again-okay what now? We are responding; guys at least are trying to drive the game and create stuff but it’s just not, whether it’s before a goal is given up or after, we are still not getting the service that we need, we are not getting good shots off and creating the goal scoring opportunities that we need to win the game.”

Just a minute before the United outburst, Conor Casey missed badly on the best chance of the match by either side. Casey slipped perfectly between Juan Manuel Pena and Jordan Graye at the 6-yard box to latch onto Bellouchy’s equally perfect cross but his header missed well wide of the left post.

After he was bypassed for the preliminary United States World Cup roster on the previous Tuesday, all eyes were on Casey to see how he would respond. The burly forward could have put the confident visitors ahead in the first minute of the match but an Omar Cummings cross from right wing was just a shade out of his reach.

After the brief spell of ooohs and ahhhs, Colorado sat back a bit in hopes of getting the game’s tenor in their favor as United’s direct approach had very little bite in the final third. As has been par for the course this season, United were punished for one breakdown in the 67th minute coupled with a bit of uncontrollable circumstance.

“I think our shape was good tonight, and I think it was good enough to win the game. Unfortunately, on one play it [the shape] fell apart, and hurt us,” said United midfielder Clyde Simms. “Unfortunately in this league it only takes one play to lose a game, and we really need to try to be more creative offensively and to try to create more opportunities for ourselves.”

Ballouchy sprung free for the winning tally only after Wells Thompson’s studs-up chop on the ankle of United’s Rodney Wallace near the center line, left many scratching their heads as to why referee Jorge Gonzalez allowed play to continue, even with what had been throughout the game a very relaxed standard.

Regardless of the how, Ballouchy pressed forward in the right channel and showed his skill, buying some space with a crafty step-over, cutting inside before rifling a low shot thru the lunging Pena and past a flat-footed and slightly screened Bill Hamid at the near post.

“That is one thing we didn’t want to do-let the referee influence our play,” said Mastroeni about Gonzalez’s standard and the physical tone of the match. “I think it was chippy both ways; he let things go, I think he called a pretty even game. When it was tight he let things go and when it was an obvious foul he called it.”

Colorado could have doubled their lead four minutes later but Colin Clark hit the post from distance after coming on for Thompson immediately after the go ahead goal.

Again down late at home, United coach Curt Onalfo inserted Jaime Moreno in favor of Pena and Andy Najar for Kurt Morsink, going with three in the back. The choice substituted attacking savvy for defensive savvy and attacking energy for defensive energy respectively.

Consequently, Colorado could have extended their lead on multiple occasions in the final minutes, highlighted by Bellouchy’s sizzling free kick in the 78th minute that hit squarely off upper-90. Cummings’ speed was a bit too much for Talley but the savvy veteran forced him wide enough to the right, allowing Hamid to get a toe on a shot tagged for the far post.

Scoring Summary:

COL — Mehdi Ballouchy 2 (unassisted) 67

Colorado Rapids — Matt Pickens, Marvell Wynne, Julien Baudet, Drew Moor, Danny Earls, Mehdi Ballouchy, Pablo Mastroeni, Omar Cummings (Quincy Amarikwa 89), Jeff Larentowicz, Wells Thompson (Colin Clark 68), Conor Casey (Ross LaBauex 89).

D.C. United — Bill Hamid, Jordan Graye, Carey Talley, Juan Manuel Pena (Jaime Moreno 72), Rodney Wallace, Thabiso Khumalo (Brandon Barklage 46), Kurt Morsink (Andy Najar 80), Clyde Simms, Christian Castillo, Adam Cristman, Danny Allsopp.

Misconduct Summary:

DC — Christian Castillo (caution; Reckless Tackle) 15
COL — Pablo Mastroeni (caution; Delaying a Restart) 57
DC — Adam Cristman (caution; Reckless Foul) 73
COL — Mehdi Ballouchy (caution; Tactical Foul) 90
COL — Ross LaBauex (caution; Tactical Foul) 94+

Referee: Jorge Gonzalez
Referee’s Assistants: Steven Taylor; Eric Proctor
4th Official: Jasen Anno
Attendance: 13,570
Time of Game: 1:51
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-78-degrees