WASHINGTON – It has been a rough couple of weeks for D.C. United.
The Black-and-Red last won against FC Cincinnati on July 18. Since then, United lost 2-0 against the defending MLS champions, Atlanta United; beaten 8-1 in a friendly match against French Ligue 1 team Olympique de Marseille; and tied against the Chicago Fire in a scoreless match.
Philadelphia Union added to United’s winless streak, now at four games, with a 5-1 win on Aug. 4. D.C. United has now scored only two goals against their opponents in the last four games in all competitions.
It was a systematic team failure on all fronts, a defense weakened by an expulsion in the first half, and an offense that lacked creativity, chances and frustrating turnovers. By the second half, United’s offense started to shoot more, but it lacked the finishing needed to find the back of the net.
“In the course of the day, I think they had more guys show up than we did, and that’s a concern,” said United Head Coach Ben Olsen.
It did not take long for United to find itself trailing: in fact, it only took two minutes. Philadelphia midfielder Alejandro Bedoya received a pass and fired it through a thicket of United defenders, nearly missed but hitting the lower-left corner of the goal past goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
It took much longer for the Union to score their second goal, but it was not for a lack of trying. In the first half alone, the Union had 16 shots, seven of which were on target. Compare that to United’s one and only shot, which was not on target.
Injury troubles plagued United throughout the game, and struck early when midfielder Chris Durkin was taken off after a rough fall.
“Something wasn’t right with his ankle. Twist, pop, something, I would expect him to be out,” said Olsen.
At the 36th minute, United midfielder Junior Moreno tackled forward Kacper Przybylko in the penalty box, earning a straight-red card and getting immediately ejected. Luckily for United, at least for the time being, Przybylko sailed the ball far above the net.
In extra minutes at the end of the first half, defender Kai Wagner connected with Marco Fabian for the second goal, taking advantage of a newly depleted 10-man United squad.
With United’s 48.3% possession compared to the Union’s 51.7%, the issue was clearly creating offensive opportunities upfield. Philadelphia’s three yellow cards and D.C.’s lone red card were a testament to the physicality of the match, expected of a rivalry game.
Wasting no time after halftime, Przybylko redeemed his previous miss by scoring Philadelphia’s third goal. Midfielder Warren Creavalle weaved a pass through to him in the penalty box, and Przybylko struck from the left side.
Luck finally fell on United’s side for once, as moments after Przybylko scored, United notched their first goal of the game. It was much needed, bringing some momentum United’s way. Defender Frederic Brillant tapped it in after a header by defender Steven Birnbaum bounced off of goalkeeper Andre Blake’s hands, earning his second goal of the season.
“He did a very good header; I think he deserves more than me, you know, even though I was in the right spot,” said Brillant.
In the 64th minute, United’s midfielder Paul Arriola tried to take advantage of Blake out of position, but his shot went high and Arriola went down. He was taken out of the game for what Arriola described as a “grab, pretty much a muscle spasm.”
“As a player you try to play through the little things and hope it doesn’t get worse,” said Arriola. “And after that I tried to go back on but made the decision not to, obviously, because of the score line at the time and the road we have ahead and the players we’ve already lost.”
Fabian scored the fourth goal of the night, a tough shot that slid just past Hamid’s hands and into the lower-right corner of the net. In the waning minutes of the game, forward Fabrice-Jean Picault shot a low ball through a well-defended United goal in the 89th minute, his first of the match and the Union’s last.
D.C. United hosts the L.A. Galaxy on Aug. 11, then travels to Vancouver to face the Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Aug. 17.