Tampa Bay Sports Day

Late goal wilts DC United hopes

Despite clear improvement over the past month, DC United remains a work in progress. On Thursday, the team regressed slightly, losing 1-0 to Seattle by giving up a late goal.

Neither team played well enough to deserve to win as the stifling heat took the edge off physical and mental creativity. While United has steadily grown into a more disciplined team, its shape on the evening was less dynamic than that of the well coached Sounders.

Coach Sigi Schmidt has trained the Seattle Sounders not only to hold shape, but to do so while in constant motion to create opportunities. It was a tribute to DC United’s own discipline that they were able to contain Seattle for so much of the game. The difference in initiative between the two teams finally paid off with a fine Roger Levesque finish of a well-placed Freddy Montero cross.

Jordan Graye, the rookie who has been pressed into a starting role by a series of injuries to DC defenders, was impressive for much of the night, but fell victim to his own ambition to present the clever Montero with a golden opportunity.

The youngster describes the sequence, “We needed 3 points and the coaches started telling me to push up further and further up the field…Unfortunately I made that mistake. It was kind of a casual play. The throw-in came to me and I took kind of a bad touch. I missed the ball so he picked it up. I tried to get back, but I couldn’t in time.”

Although Graye arrived in time to cut off a direct attack on goal, Montero made a great cross just before Graye could cover that angle. Levesque just beat his own defender, Dejan Jakovic, to score the winner.

The coaches had good reason to urge Graye forward as he had earlier had occasional success overlapping into space. Onalfo offered that, “At the end of the game we pushed the game because we needed, in our mind, we wanted to get three points out of this game. We gave away a terrible ball to give away in our part of the field and we got punished.”

Clyde Simms, the man in charge of cutting off dangerous Seattle forays understood Graye’s performance, “I feel like every rookie goes through it. I remember one time last year, I think in Kansas City, Rodney (Wallace) made the same mistake and he hasn’t made the same mistake since. “When you play a rookie that much, that kind of stuff is going to happen, no matter who the player is.”

Montero was the engine of much of Seattle’s attack throughout the game, and Simms described how DC adjusted, “In the second half we did a much better job of following him into the midfield.” Montero had been too free to possess the ball and turn into attack. “Julius and Dejan did a much better job of following him into midfield and keeping the pressure on him.”

Simms’ partner in midfield, Stephen King, had a similar view of events, “There’s too many times that their forwards, mostly Montero, was coming off and collecting the ball in between the midfield and the backs. It’s something we addressed at halftime and I thought coming out in the second half we actually started playing better.”

DC’s two new signings made late appearances and played with too tentative a style to be very effective. Pablo Hernandez looked skillful, but out of sync with his teammates on several forays. Branko Boskovic appeared even more briefly and was clearly not yet fit enough to meet the stiff opposition he encountered.

He understands that his integration will take time since, “The level everywhere now is high. Everybody runs well, you must be physically very good – MLS is the same. I need to keep playing, and I hope the next game physically I am much better.”

One area in which he will need to adapt is the heat which was very evident Thursday. Even Tino Quaranta, who is a local lad with plenty of experience with the heat, felt it, “It’s very difficult to play like this. It seems like you’re playing in a steam room. It’s no excuse, but it’s terrible.”

He himself had two excellent chances, the first as Najar showed no respect for his elder, Kasey Keller, to beat him to a ball down the wing. Keller injured his ankle in the attempt to win the ball and stayed down for a few minutes.

The ball went to Quaranta whose chip over the fallen Keller was headed away just before crossing the goal. He had earlier come close on an amazing shot that passed under a defender’s legs and yet had to be tipped over the crossbar in an extraordinary athletic display by Keller. It just wasn’t United’s night.

Still, the experienced Sigi Schmidt explained why DC United will probably play the remainder of the season above .500, “I think D.C. has had a little bit of hard luck because they’ve taken a lot of late goals as well.

“As they integrate their two new players – when they get Hernandez up to speed, you know because training with the team and playing in games is different. We had Nkufo here today but he needs to get used to it, I want him to see the game up close and so forth.

“But as those two [D.C. United] players come along, I think they could be a dangerous team. (Andy) Najar is playing very well for them on the wing – he’s a dangerous player, and (Chris) Pontius I think is a dangerous player as well.”

Scoring Summary:

SEA — Roger Levesque 1 (Fredy Montero 7, Sanna Nyassi 1) 89

Seattle Sounders — Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke (Tyrone Marshall 62), Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez, Pat Noonan (Sanna Nyassi 88), Nathan Sturgis, Mike Seamon (Osvaldo Alonso 73), Steve Zakuani, Roger Levesque, Fredy Montero.

D.C. United — Troy Perkins, Devon McTavish (Adam Cristman 81), Dejan Jakovic, Julius James, Jordan Graye, Andy Najar, Stephen King (Branko Boskovic 72), Clyde Simms, Chris Pontius, Jaime Moreno (Pablo Hernandez 56), Santino Quaranta.

Misconduct Summary:

DC — Julius James (caution; Reckless Tackle) 54
SEA — Leo Gonzalez (caution; Tactical Foul) 85

Referee: Alex Prus
Referee’s Assistants: Cyril Madukanya; Brian Poeschel
4th Official: Michael Kennedy
Attendance: 13,716
Weather: Cloudy and 89 degrees