Roller coaster D.C. season continues

D.C. United's maddening inconsistency reared its ugly head once again on Saturday, as FC Dallas earned a shrewd 2-0 victory in their lone 2005 visit to RFK Stadium. The Hoops were paced by two Carlos Ruiz goals, while United kept up their seven-week-long pattern of sandwiching three-goal performances between shutouts.

The Black-and-Red dictated play in the early going, but had little to show for it, lacking a cutting edge in the final third. Conversely, Dallas made the most of a dominant period in the early part of the second half as Ruiz lashed home a gorgeous bicycle kick in the 49th minute, then created -- and converted -- a penalty kick seven minutes later.

"We were really frustrated in the first half," said D.C. defender Bryan Namoff, whose foul on Ruiz set up the spot kick. "They really compacted, and we forced the ball into the middle when we should've attacked from our wings. They took advantage of their opportunities, and we didn't."

United's attack force can dazzle any defense in the league on a given day, but Dallas' obstinate back four shut down the passing lanes and surrounded dangermen Christian Gomez and Jaime Moreno whenever they received the ball, limiting the home side's imagination.

"We were too predictable," said D.C. coach Peter Nowak. "When we had a chance to go forward, we took five, six, seven, eight touches. We played too slow and too predictable, and it was easy to cover all these angles and runs. We have to do a better job than that. At this level you have to play with one, two touches."

Nowak was frustrated by the soft defending that allowed Roberto Mina to cross to Ruiz on the opening goal, but could only applaud the stellar finish by "El Pescadito."

"Sometimes we had no bite," said Nowak. "On the first goal, Mina went by three people, and no one really made any tackle, any contact, any movement. He played a perfect ball and it was a world-class shot."

Once they grabbed the lead, the visitors outdid United at their own counterattacking game, with Ronnie O'Brien covering tremendous amounts of ground and putting quality passes in time with his teammates' runs.

"Dallas was good at just sitting in," said Freddy Adu. "They wanted to counter, and they got a couple of goals. We tried all night to break them down, but the defense was too compact and it was real hard to slide in through balls and to get in behind them. Credit to them -- they played a great game."

Adu started on the right flank in what will be his last United match for several weeks. Next week he departs for the FIFA World Youth Championship in Holland, where he will play a starring role for the U.S. under-20 national team.

"Obviously we could've played much better, myself especially," said a subdued Adu. "I felt like the whole team, for whatever reason, we were a step slower. (FC Dallas) were getting to every first ball. It's one of those things you can't explain, it just sort of happens, and great teams find a way to fight through it. Today we were very unlucky."

One of United's few bright spots was the return of Dema Kovalenko, who made his first start of the season and played the full match on the left wing, though he was disappointed to waste several good scoring opportunities.

"Tough game," said the Ukrainian-born midfielder. "I had a couple of chances -- I missed one from two yards out. I'm glad to be back, and play 90 minutes for the first time in six months, but I was a little rusty. We've got to go back and work on it next week, and go to San Jose and get three points."

Charles Boehm is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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