Tampa Bay Sports Day

Misery continues for youthful DC United

United goalkeeper Troy Perkins sat slumped in his chair deep in his locker some 15-minutes after the final whistle staring somewhere or even nowhere; stunned perhaps but depressed most likely after more critical errors caused another miserable home loss.

Landon Donovan converted a penalty kick in the 58th minute after United had equalized just four minutes earlier, giving the Los Angeles Galaxy a 2-1 win at the once ominous RFK Stadium. United have dropped six games at home this season and with the win, the Galaxy are now 9-8-2 at the venerable old barn.

For the second consecutive match, United left back Jordan Graye committed an untimely turnover that led directly to the game deciding goal in the second half. He was also victimized by a sneaky Sean Franklin chip over his head, giving him the space on the flank to set up the game’s opening goal by Edson Buddle in the 38th minute.

With Philadelphia’s win Saturday over Toronto, United sits firmly at the bottom of the MLS table with just 12 points over their 17 matches.

The win also snaps a modest two game losing streak for the Galaxy, who lost 2-0 at New England last week and allowed multiple goals for the first time all season, while the other loss came at Seattle in a U.S. Open Cup match.

“You’re going to lose games along the way, and the way you respond in the next game is important,” said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena. “Our response was really good tonight. I thought we went out in the first half and set the tone. The conditions were going to be unbearable at some point tonight and they were. I think it was really challenging obviously for both teams, and I’m happy the way the team came out on top.”

They lost both of those games without Donovan but statistically, this result should not surprise anyone as Los Angeles have scored the most goals, allowed the fewest and own the best goal differential in MLS, while United sit at the opposite end of all three categories.

“We haven’t been used to losing at all this year,” Donovan said. “We needed to stop that and I say all the time that winning is a habit. We got out of the little things that we do right last week and this week we did them well and when we do that, we have enough talent and we are going to win.”

Both Donovan and Buddle were both loudly cheered by the appreciative DC United fans for their commendable performances for the U.S. National Team in the recent World Cup in South Africa.

“Nice applause before the game which was nice. It’s definitely a lot nicer than getting boos,” said a fairly stoic Donovan.

Los Angeles dominated possession from the start stringing multiple, coordinated passing sequences from all angles but United maintained a sturdy back line. Conversely, United attacked in a more singular manner with very little movement off the ball. The Galaxy pressured United very high up the field showing very little respect for the home side’s ability to create from the back with a cohesive attack.

“In the first half their runs were a little more decisive. They were working a lot harder,” said Perkins of the Galaxy attack. “In the second half they just tried to hit long balls and look for counter attacks. We weren’t really tight enough; especially in the first 15 minutes we were too loose. I think a lot of times we were tight enough but a lot of time we just weren’t good enough.”

A Buddle goal looked imminent for Los Angeles in the 21st minute when he beat Perkins to Sean Franklin’s near post cross from the right flank, but the sliding keeper got his leg on the poke and Julius James repelled Buddle’s rebound attempt from the goal line to keep the scoreboard empty.

Franklin and Buddle combined again however, to give the visitors a well earned opening goal aided by good dose of luck. After getting loose down the right wing with a crafty chip over Graye’s head, Franklin sent an initial low ball toward the top of the penalty area which was well read by a back tracking Stephen King.

However, Buddle read his clearing attempt even better, collecting the ball and advancing into the United box. Dejan Jakovic slid nicely to block the rangy forward’s first shot but as Jakovic rolled around trying to avoid handling the ball, Buddle gathered the loose ball, side stepped around King and slammed a left footed shot off the inside of Perkins’ left heel from 7-yards to make the score 1-0.

“I tried to get back into position when the play takes you back across but I should have been set a little earlier but it was a great individual effort on his part,” said Perkins about the goal. “Dejan does a great job of blocking the first attempt but unfortunately there was no cover there for the second one.”

United did respond well however with a flurry in the closing seconds of the half. Santino Quaranta was in the middle of all of it, with an ambitious run from the right flank culminating in his being taken down creating a foul at the top right corner of the penalty area. Pablo Hernandez stepped up, labeling a bending free kick for the near post that Donovan Ricketts smothered with a great diving save.

King immediately had another shot from inside the box blocked and Quaranta followed that with a side volley knuckled toward Ricketts which was parried away to safety to end the half.

The Galaxy quickly resumed their attacking ways, nearly extending the lead some three minutes into the second stanza. McTavish showed a bit too much respect for Donovan on the left flank, allowing the U.S. hero to rip a low cross to the far post that was just a touch long for a sliding and unmarked Alan Gordon.

The miss was punished by United as they equalized on a sensational free kick in the 54th minute. The left footed Hernandez drove a perfectly weighted inswinger into the heart of the crowded penalty area that drifted over the ill-timed leap of Buddle and somehow found the head of the smallest player on the park, Andy Najar, who pounded it passed the diving Ricketts to make the score 1-1.

The joy was short lived however, and much like in their 1-0 loss to Seattle on Thursday, a Graye turnover in his own end proved damaging again, freeing the omnipresent Franklin for a 20-yard shot that was blocked by the hand of the sliding James forcing referee Jasen Anno to correctly point to the penalty spot and subsequently issue the yellow card. Donovan calmly stepped up and hammered the kick inside the right post, just past the outstretched fingertips of Perkins.

“Coach told me to go with my first instinct during the game but I’ve kind of been hesitating since the play the last game, on the second goal I didn’t go with my first instincts,” said a dejected Graye. “I should have probably taken it out wide but instead I just tried to give it up because in my mind, I’m just not really trying to dribble out of the back so I tried to pass it quickly and he ended up deflecting it and it was right down our throats.”

Onalfo made two late changes, one due to injury however, bringing Carey Talley on for Jakovic, who injured his right hamstring and Branko Boskovic for King. United’s lackluster ideas and missed passes amounted to very little, other than a Hernandez flick over the bar from a Quaranta delivery from the right flank, and the Galaxy killed the game off for their 12th victory of the season.

“Again it came down to a couple of mistakes. It was an even game. I felt that in the first half we started slow, I think we dropped off too much. Our back line was too deep. We adjusted that and made that better after 15-20 minutes and all of the sudden we started getting some outside back involvement, started getting a little bit of the game,” added Onalfo.

“But overall I think it was a very even first half, except Edson Buddle makes an offensive play. In the second half we come out motivated and ready to get back in it. Credit to our guys for fighting back in. You get the equalizer and you have the momentum and then we make an error and we shoot ourselves in the foot.“