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.
Watch: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
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 know.”