Unfortunately for DC, it's business as usual

United at a loss to explain "disappointing" 2010 campaign


The Colorado Rapids broke a decade-long habit of failure at
RFK Stadium with Saturday night’s 1-0 win over D.C. United, but the result was
business as usual—in all the worst ways—for the home side.

The letdowns, late goals and losses keep stacking up for
United, and while the disappointment of the season’s seventh setback is acute
enough in its own right, the continuation of a recurring pattern makes this
latest defeat all the more maddening for Curt Onalfo and his men.


United have raised their energy levels, simplified their
attacking principles and improved their defensive shape in recent weeks, but
matches continue to unravel in similar fashion. Time and again, D.C. fail to
convert possession into real attacking danger. Opposing teams settle into a
rhythm and eventually strike for a late goal that batters the Black-and-Red’s
fragile confidence and steals the points.

“It’s hard to push through it. It’s the same thing over and
over again: What now?” forward Adam Cristman said. “We’re responding—guys are
at least trying to drive the game and create stuff, but whether it’s before the
goal is given up or after, we’re just not getting the service that we need,
we’re not getting good shots off and creating the goal-scoring opportunities
that we need to win the game.”

On Saturday, United had additional reason to feel
star-crossed, as the game-winning goal was preceded by what seemed to be a
clear foul on Rodney Wallace by Rapids winger Wells Thompson, a development lamented
by Onalfo and several of his players afterwards.

When referee Jorge Gonzalez let play continue, Mehdi
Ballouchy scampered into the space normally patrolled by Wallace and used Juan
Manuel Pena as a screen to obscure goalkeeper Bill Hamid’s view of his
near-post finish.

“A questionable missed call leads to the goal, and puts us
on our heels,” Onalfo said. “So now we’re chasing the game, they’re able to
drop numbers behind the goal, making it difficult for us. They did a good job
at managing the game, but for me overall it was a very even match.”

Hamid produced another encouraging performance in his third
professional start, making several excellent saves on the night only to find
himself on the losing end thanks to Ballouchy’s cleverness.

“Basically like they’re taught in Europe, he used the
defender as a shield,” Hamid said. “He had Pena right in front of him, he took
half a touch, and for about half a second I lost sight of the ball. He put it
right through Pena’s legs with some pace at the near post. I saw it too late.”

D.C. must now wade into a particularly difficult patch of
their schedule, with a trip to Houston this week ahead of meetings with Chivas
USA, Real Salt Lake and Seattle Sounders FC. Onalfo vowed to help his team “dig
deeper” and find the strength to keep moving forward, but the outlook on East
Capitol Street will remain bleak until the current pattern is broken.

“We’re just not good enough,” veteran Jamie Moreno said. “It’s
very simple. I don’t think there’s other answers. Confidence-wise, I think
we’re really down and the only thing you can say is that everybody fights. It’s
very disappointing.

“You know, we push every day in practice to come here and be
better, but unfortunately it hasn’t worked. To be honest with you, I don’t