Sporting KC v DC United

Searching, searching, searching for D.C. United’s offense

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It is getting hot in the RFK Stadium kitchen. Supporter and media axes are being sharpened after the latest Black and Red black eye, this one a 2-0 loss at RFK Stadium.

With four points and just two goals scored in six matches, Ben Olsen’s team is last in the East … and the RFK faithful are anything but happy. Among the pressure points getting more and more of a squeeze these days, two names are coming up a lot.

One is a veteran of the beatings around here, Lionard Pajoy. (When it comes to whipping on this poor guy at ProSoccerTalk, we just usually call that a “Sunday.”)

Specifically, the questions continue to be asked about his ongoing ability to maintain starter status, never mind that he continues to underwhelm near goal. The Colombian striker has just one goal and just two shots on goal in six starts this year. Since the trade that brought Pajoy from Philly late last year, he has 4 goals and 11 shots on goal in 18 D.C. United matches.

The other central figure in all this, a newer one, is young Brazilian attacker Rafael. There seems to more debate on this one. He was removed at halftime Saturday despite finding himself in a few promising positions against the Red Bulls. On came veteran Dwayne De Rosario, but to marginal effect. “De Ro” has yet to look anything like the 2011 league MVP this season.

Tactically, defensive midfielder Perry Kitchen seems to be playing ahead of Rafeal, who was thought to be the more attack-minded of the midfield pair. Perhaps that helps explain the disconnect; we don’t really know about Rafael’s instructions.

Either way, Martin Shatzer, a wise Black and Red blogger who has seen more than his share of DCU contests, thought Rafael’s removal was 100 percent the right call. (Shatzer’s opinion is in the comments section … a very bitter comments section, at that.)

Since we’ve spent so much time over the last 8 months hating Pajoy, I think it’s fair that we call attention to how poorly Rafael played tonight too. He lost the ball several occasions, wasn’t physically strong, and frequently cut the ball back instead of moving forward. I don’t think he won a single header against Olave, while meanwhile a much shorter Cahill was dominating our center backs in the air. I think Rafael’s lone positive contribution to this match was drawing a foul on Holgersson as the ball was rolling out of bounds. Subbing out Rafael for De Rosario at halftime was the right call and exactly what I would have done too.

Sounds like the young Brazilian is going to be sort of a hit-or-miss player for us.

(which might still be an upgrade over Pajoy, who is more of an all-miss player)”

Whoever is most to blame, and how much of this is on the still-young Olsen, the bottom line is this: United simply must gin up an attack that generated just three shots on goal Saturday, while losing their third in a row and second consecutive match at home.

Here’s what Olsen said following last night’s setback:

Look, there’s a lot of things we can try. But again, you get into that balance of whether you work with what you have or you start making crazy substitutions, and then you start working on it form there. At this point, we have to fix something. I don’t know if we have to look within the League; I don’t know if we have to make a trade. That’s just stuff we have figure out. It’s a little early, 10 minutes after the game, for me to put my finger on it.”

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 2-1 Montreal Impact

Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

The game in 100 words (or less): For weeks, it was a widely held belief that the Montreal Impact would snatch up the sixth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference with little or no resistance from their opposition. As they went six games unbeaten (four wins), all looked to be setting up perfect for the club that fired Frank Klopas midseason, but there was another team in the race for sixth that kept winning themselves: Orlando City SC. On Saturday night, Montreal and Orlando City faced off at the Citrus, with the expansion Lions claiming their fourth-straight victory with a 2-1 triumph. Montreal now holds a one-point lead on Orlando in the race for sixth, and have two games in hand, but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion L’Impact will qualify for the playoffs no resistance whatsoever.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

33′ — Bush’s mistake gifts Larin the opening goal — Larin did what your taught to do as a striker — “put it on frame, test the goalkeeper” — but in no universe does a shot so feeble have any business finding the back of the net. Evan Bush has been great this year. Hopefully (for Montreal’s sake), this howler doesn’t turn into the yips with the playoffs looming.

43′ — Hall’s “mistake” gifts Oduro an equalizer — Dominic Oduro equalized in the 43rd minute, when he took the ball out of the hands of Tally Hall and smashed it into the back of the net, but the goal should have been disallowed due to Hall having full control of the ball.

80′ — Hines hits the winner for Orlando — Seb Hines put the ball back into the mixer and just so happened to find the back of the net in the 80th minute. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Seb Hines

Goalscorers: Larin (33′), Oduro (43′), Hines (80′)

MLS Snapshot: NY Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew SC

Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
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The game in 100 words (or less): Two weeks in a row Columbus Crew SC have had a chance to go top of the Eastern Conference with a victory, and two weeks in a row Crew SC have failed to take a single point from massively important fixtures. Their latest defeat, a 2-1 humbling at the hands of the East-leading New York Red Bulls, started so well for Gregg Berhalter’s side, but was undone by a pair of costly, comedic defensive errors that allowed Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips (15th of the season) to erase an early deficit (Justin Meram) and win all three points. The result not only keeps the Red Bulls top of the East, but gives them a three- and four-point cushion with three and two games in hand on their nearest competitors., D.C. United and New England Revoltion respectively. For Crew SC, they’re four points back of the Red Bulls in fourth place, one point ahead of fifth-place Toronto FC, who have a game in hand.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Meram pokes it past Robles for an early lead — Meram “earned” his goal all the way back in midfield, when the Iraqi international’s mazy run took a routine turnover inside Crew SC’s defensive half and turned it into a dangerous counter-attacking opportunity. Harrison Afful overlapped and provided the cross for Meram to send home.

12′ — Sam capitalizes on multiple mistakes to equalize — Crew SC pass the ball out of the back. They don’t boot it forward to clear. It’s just what they do. Sometimes, that’ll bite you. When your goalkeeper and right back both have blunders clearing the ball 10 seconds apart, you probably deserve to concede an ugly, scrappy goal.

21′ — Wright-Phillips capitalizes on more defensive gaffes — See the above description for Red Bulls goal no. 1.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Damien Perrinelle

Goalscorers: Meram (9′), Sam (12′), Wright-Phillips (21′)