For a second consecutive game, D.C. United left the field after the final whistles with one point. Despite a good start, the Black-and-Red had to rally, using a late goal from Steven Birnbaum to get a 2-2 draw. Coach Ben Olsen was ushered off the field late in the second half after sharing his thoughts with the officials about several sequences in which he felt his team was fouled and didn’t receive a call.
The home side went up early on a magnificent run and finish from wide back Taylor Kemp. He beat several defenders and fired a laser into the far post from a tough angle to beat the keeper. The Black-and-Red would create a few more quality chances in the coming minutes, but couldn’t finish any of them.
The Union then took advantage of a set piece opportunity as Tranquillo Barnetta caught keeper Bill Hamid cheating towards the center of the goal to play the cross. Instead, Barnetta ripped it to the near post, getting the ball past Hamid’s outstretched finger tips to tie the game at 1 a piece. The air was let out of the stadium as the teams went in to the break.
Philadelphia continued to take advantage of miscues from the home side, they would take the lead in the 57th minute. Luciano Acosta, who had played a pretty solid game, was dispossessed right outside of the home team’s box. Ilsinho got the ball to Chris Pontius, who beat his former teammate Hamid for the tally.
From there, everyone finally got to see D.C. United play with the type of desperation and urgency that a team in their situation should be playing with. Everything was about getting forward, they finally broke through in the 94th minute. Birnbaum finished a nice pass from Patrick Nyarko. The central defender’s diving header was angled perfectly past the diving Andre Blake.
While it was a relief to not lose the match, the Black-and-Red didn’t find any solace in the result. There’s 12 matches left in the regular season, it’s literally now or never as far as D.C. United’s postseason hopes go.
Nyarko. The winger had a great impact on the contest, he provides a sense of calm for D.C. United. Patrick played a large part in building and creating several of his team’s chances when attacking. Very strong on the ball and a willing and capable passer, his pace really aids the team in changing from defending to attacking during counters.
Vincent. For someone who hasn’t played central defensive midfield on the MLS level, he looked fairly comfortable in the role. With Sarvas unavailable (suspension) and Jeffery injured, he stepped up and took the challenge. Wasn’t flashy at all, but got the job done and was very vocal in doing so. I was most impressed with his comfort level, not only to play a role he hasn’t played in this league, but the confidence to be vocal in that role.
Counter attack. So much quicker, takes much less energy to take advantage of the opposing team. It used to take 5-7 passes for D.C. United to counter attack, it now happens in just a pass or two because of the pace of the team. Acosta in the middle now has options both ahead of him and flying up the wings. Even just getting it up to a winger puts an added pressure on opposing defenses.
Sense of Urgency. There was none except in the last 8 minutes of the game. D.C. United played most of the game as if they were ahead of the red line in the standings, as Nyarko said after the game, they need to “impose their will” at home and they certainly didn’t.
Mental lapses. It’s been a reoccurring theme this season, the team just can’t get out of their own way. Several times against the Union, D.C. United would lose their mark for a second or commit a silly foul. They’ve had issues stopping set pieces, yet they continue to make the silly fouls that put them in bad position. It happens on the attacking end as well, sometimes an extra touch is taken when the ball should be moving. More often than not, those little moments add up and cost them.