Tampa Bay Sports Day

Same old, same old for United

New coach, some new ideas but the same old results in the same old manner. In what has epitomized DC United’s season throughout, they were punished for their ineffective finishing and costly mistakes as they fell to FC Dallas 3-1 in a physical match throughout.

Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman made three magnificent saves in that first half hour to keep his team in the energetic match and completely against the run of play, David Ferreira scored in the 33rd minute to open the scoring for the visitors.

Rookie Eric Alexander notched his first MLS goal in the 49th minute to extend the lead and second half substitute Jeff Cunningham added a garbage time capper, again off a careless turnover, in second half stoppage time. United’s only marker came on an own goal by Jair Benitez in the 80th minute.

The goal was Cunningham’s 128th of his career leaving him just four behind United’s Jaime Moreno, who announced earlier in the week that this will be his final MLS season, for the league’s all time scoring record.

The physical tenor of the match was set early with a belligerent tackle by Brek Shea on Pablo Hernandez in the 6th minute and four other unfriendly challenges by United in first ten minutes. The ensuing free kick from Shea’s challenge some 28-yards from goal led to a Marc Burch blast a minute later that the veteran Hartman did well to parry away at full extension near the left post.

Moments later, Danny Allsopp took down Dallas enforcer Daniel Hernandez near midfield on a seemingly benign but certainly foul worthy tackle, prompting the Dallas enforcer to linger inexplicably on the turf for over a minute.

Referee Abbey Okulaja decided to let them duke it out before finally pulling out the yellow card in the 22nd minute when Milton Rodriguez slammed his forearm into the back of the neck of Julius James away from the ball and after the ball had run out of bounds.

United pressured very high up the field in the first half hour, causing a rash of turnovers that the savvy visitors did well to sort out, but they were aided greatly however by the home side’s typical lack of precision.

“We wanted to pick our pressure up a little higher and I thought we did a very good job at it. And we created some good chances,” said United coach Ben Olsen. “Our final third, when we did pick up balls in the first thirty minutes, when we did pick balls off we weren’t clean enough in the final third and we weren’t maybe precise enough to get the goal, but that’s who we are, that’s what we’ve struggled with all year. You know, we get the chance off pressure and we don’t do so well with it.”

In the 28th minute, Boskovic penetrated deep into the left side of the Dallas penalty area and when his passing options seemed dim, cut loose a low left footed blast from 11-yards out, forcing Hartman to extend hard to his left again to keep the game scoreless.

Allsopp had the best opportunity of the bunch in the 34th minute, darting uncontested thru the heart of the Dallas back line off a nifty ball from Hernandez but Hartman prevailed once again, getting his right foot on the Aussie’s hammered shot from 17-yards out. Allsopp has not scored a goal in league play since scoring both goals in a 2-1 win over Kansas City in early May.

“I think up until that point there was some pretty good stuff. That was the positive side. It seemed like after we missed Danny [Allsopp]’s chance we took it the wrong way; I felt like there was some air let out. It’s disappointing but for the rest of the game it wasn’t good enough. It’s pretty simple,” said Olsen.

“You look at our chances in the beginning again, we came out pretty strong, the right mentality and we don’t score a goal. You know what happens is that mentally, it wears on you as the game goes on and as human beings you’re like ‘here we go again’ can we get that breakthrough and score a goal,” added United midfielder Santino Quaranta.

“And if we did it would have made that game a lot easier for us because we came out with the right mentality, we stuck to our plan, we pressed them and they didn’t have a lot of chances in the first half.”

Two minutes later and completely against the run of play, Dallas had that chance and made United pay. Shea caught United’s static back line flat footed, getting onto Alexander’s perfectly weighted ball through the left channel to run alone into the penalty area.

As United goalkeeper Bill Hamid unconvincingly came off his line, Shea played a square ball across the face of the goal to Ferreira, who tapped it into the open goal after darting around Carey Talley to the far post.

Dallas extended the lead shortly at the turn of the half on Eric Alexander’s first goal of the season finishing a quality series of passes in and around the United penalty area. Ferreira floated a ball from the left flank into the penalty area to a wide open Rodriguez who had two options, have a go himself or lay off to the unmarked Alexander. He chose the latter and the rookie buried it into the left side netting to make the score 2-0.

“I was hoping for a little bit more life right off the bat (in the second half) but we’re still okay, we’re still hanging in there. Then the second one comes and I saw some heads go down, which is very disappointing, very, very disappointing,” said Olsen.
The sequence happened while Talley writhed in pain on the turf after what seemed to be a rib injury after being slightly undercut by Shea as both were vying for high ball some 30-yards from United ‘s goal. Talley was unable to continue and was replaced by Dejan Jakovic.

United did creep a goal closer in the 80th minute on an own goal by Jair Benitez, who knocked a Santino Quaranta cross from the left flank inside the far post past a helpless Hartman to cut the lead to 2-1. The entirety of the play however, was created by Allsopp who worked his way out of a serious jam in Dallas’ left-hand corner to get the ball to Quaranta.

Cunningham’s goal looked much like many of the others this year given up this year by United. Jakovic seemingly had the situation under control on the left side near the top of his penalty area but a miserable attempt at a back pass left Cunningham with the ball and after dancing around the helpless Hamid, he tapped it into an open net for his third goal in Dallas’ last two matches.