WASHINGTON, June 28, 2014 — Playing without it’s talisman Fabian Espindola, D.C. United struggled to crack open the backline of the high-flying Seattle Sounders at RFK Stadium on Saturday night and succumbed to a 1-0 loss off a first half Chad Barrett goal before 16,922.
United (7-5-4, 25 pts.) contained much of the possession but could not produce the final ball, that would give them the needed goal to get a result despite having 14 shots.
The injured Espindola has been United’s playmaker and goal scorer all season with seven goals and eight assists, and without him, United could do nothing to break through the backline of the Western Conference leaders. The home team was also missing key defender Cristian Fernandez, who has started in all United’s game but was missing because of what coach Ben Olsen said were “personal reasons”.
Seattle (11-3-2, 35 pts.) was also without key players. Clint Dempsey and defender DeAndre Yedlin, are both at the World Cup in Brazil with the U.S. team preparing for Tuesday’s battle with Belgium, and leading goal scorer Obafemi Martins (8 goals, 6 assists) was serving a red-card suspension.
Against a weakened Seattle, United missed a big opportunity but still share the top spot on points in the Eastern Conference with Sporting Kansas City.
Luis Silva making his second start tested Seattle goalie Stefan Frei early with a long-range shot. In the 23rd minute, Bill Hamid came up big stopping a shot from Chad Barrett. Moments later the hard-working Chris Rolfe hit the post with a powerful shot. Then Barrett came close with a header in the 28th minute. But United could not contain the big striker, and in the 39th minute, Barrett put Seattle in the lead, heading a cross from Brad Evans past Hamid. The play started from a corner kick which United failed to clear. It was Barrett’s fourth goal of the season.
United had trouble breaking through the middle of the field which Seattle successfully clogged up, allowing Silva and Johnson little room to maneuver. United managed just one shot on goal in the first half. Coach Ben Olsen sent on Jared Jeffery at the break to replace Lewis Neal, who sprayed a number of crosses, but could not penetrate Seattle’s defensive setup.
United was too slow in developing attacking plays and was clearly missing the crosses of Espindola and Fernandez. Eddie Johnson produced a couple of moves in the first half but could not stamp his mark on the game.
Olsen was pleased with Johnson and said it was his best game this season.
“You can contribute [the poor result] to anything you want, but that was the reality tonight. Individually, I thought that was Eddie’s best game,” Olsen said. “I thought it was a good night and it’s a tough game sometimes when a final product isn’t good enough on the night and they sneak a goal. They had two shots, and one off frame but sometimes that’s all you need.”
The striker did get a good chance in the closing minutes but Seattle goalie Stefan Frei made a good save, blocking the close-range effort. Johnson clearly needs to be serviced the ball more from his teammates, and then produce something when he gets the pass.
The loss was only United’s second defeat at home this season and ended a three-game unbeaten streak.
The Player Ratings
Bill Hamid (5.5) – Didn’t have a lot to do and could do nothing about the goal.
Sean Franklin (6) – Made some good offensive forays
Bobby Boswell (6) – Allowed Chad Barrett to get by him and shoot on goal but made some good passes to Chris Korb on the flank in the second half.
Steve Birnbaum (6.5) – The rookie continues to keep the starting role from the injured Jeff Parke and made his third consecutive start. Made a number of good defensive headers and helped the offense on set plays.
Chris Korb (5) – Played right-back in the first half and then moved to the left flank. Fed Eddie Johnson some good passes from the flank but fluffed a golden chance late in the game.
Nick DeLeon (5) – Did a lot of running and worked hard and had a header go too high late in the match.
Perry Kitchen – (6) – Kept Kenny Cooper in check on set plays.
Lewis Neal (5.5) – In for the suspended Davy Arnaud. He played in the center of the midfield and sprayed the ball well in the first half.
Chris Rolfe (6.5) – A bad pass led to a Seattle attack but put in some good defending. Saw a shot hit the post in the 24th minute.
Eddie Johnson (6) – Made some good offensive runs and produced a fine cross in the first half. Had a good effort stopped late in the match.
Luis Silva (6) – In for the injured Fabian Espindola. Produced a good shot in opening minutes.
Jared Jeffrey (5.5) – Replaced Lewis Neal at halftime to bring a little more muscle and creativity to the attack. Too ambitious on some of his crosses, but worked hard to win the ball.
Collin Martin (NR) – Came on for Silva and made an impact on the right-flank.
Taylor Kemp (NR) – Cam on for Sean Franklin.
John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times for 20 years. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
Follow John on Twitter at @Johnahaydon or email[email protected]