The controversial call that led to a penalty kick and helped Vancouver to a 1-0 win Saturday over D.C. United has been debated. More than a few fans have watched head coach Ben Olsen post game review of that call and now all that matters is the next challenge.
The next challenge for United is on the road Wednesday against Seattle and the goal remains the same. The goal is the goal. United has now gone 565 minutes without scoring a goal in the run of play. United’s last two scores have been from penalty kicks leaving Kyle Porter’s goal from a Chris Pontius cross in a 1-1 tie against Sporting Kansas City as the last one in the run of play.
Fortunately United will have both Pontius and Porter in the lineup against the Sounders. The juggling of the first eleven which has been standard operating procedure all season for Olsen will continue. Dwayne De Rosario is out with a hip flexor strain that happened in the 69th minute against Whitecaps FC and Nick De Leon will miss his second consecutive league game with the ankle injury suffered in the U.S. Open Cup win over New England.
United has scored six goals in its last two Open Cup games, but it has not transferred to MLS play. The positive play was there against Vancouver. On Saturday United managed a season-high 23 shots. Pontius had seven of those shots. In addition United had 9 corners and 22 open play crosses to go with 60 percent of the possession.
Soccer is not a game of stats. In the majority of their games this season United has had the edge in possession, but is lacking a true purpose with its possession. Early on against Vancouver there was real venom in United’s attack. Three United shots found the target in the first nine minutes. Sadly over the next 81 minutes United only had one shot on goal.
“I thought we did a good job in the first half, minus getting the goal,” Pontius noted. “We pushed pretty hard and unlucky not to get a goal. I thought we had the right mind set to start the game, but we need to be a lot cleaner in the second half and with our final ball in general.”
It is a fine line for United. The Black and Red’s scoring drought is not about effort. There is plenty of activity and hustle over 90 minutes, but the quality has to be better. A cross will be made, but the run won’t be there. Or the run will be made and the cross goes behind the attacking player. There is a consistent disconnect.
Week after week United is seeing examples of teams that have been able to turn it around. Vancouver after a slow start is now a contender in the Western Conference. The same is true of the Whitecaps Pacific northwest rival and Wednesday’s United opponent, the Seattle Sounders.
Since starting 0-3-1 and only scoring 2 goals the Sounders have gone 6-2-2 with 17 goals.
The Sounders, in seventh place on 21 points, had their progress stopped in a 2-0 loss last week on the road against Real Salt Lake. In their last three home games the Sounders have scored 11 goals. The Sounders regularly play to crowds close to 40,000 at Century Link Field and have not lost at home since the first game of the season.
While United has struggled to get its best attacking combination on the field, the Sounders have had to deal with a similar problem. Against Real Salt Lake, Eddie Johnson, Obafemi Martins and Lamar Neagle were together in the first eleven for the first time all season. Johnson and Martins formed the strike pair, with Neagle as a wide midfielder.
Neagle had to leave the game against Salt Lake with a hip flexor injury, but the Sounders have not played since that match on June 22. To add to the home field advantage, the Sounders should be rested, while United will have its resolve tested. Heavy legs from the fatigue of playing midweek in the Open Cup against New England showed in the second half against Vancouver.
“I don’t if it is an advantage,” Sounders midfielder Brad Evans said of the extra time off. “We are a team that likes to keep a rhythm. At the same time it allowed us to get some guys healthy. You can throw all that out the window when you are fighting. We need the three points just as badly as they do.”