Two early goals proved to be too big of an obstacle for D.C. United to overcome in a 2-1 loss to the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.
And while those two goals came in contentious circumstances, rather than throw blame elsewhere, the DC locker room was more upset with their performance during that crucial opening stretch.
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“We started the game very poor,” United captain Dax McCarty told MLSsoccer.com by phone. “We’ve really tried to focus on coming out to matching their intensity. We knew it was their home opener, and they wanted to come out and try to impose themselves on us and we weren’t up for it for whatever reason. We played a little scared for the first 20 minutes.”
It was during those opening 20 minutes that New England struck twice. The first came when a Kevin Alston long ball split United’s back line, but the ball appeared to hit the Zack Schilawski’s arm before he finished past Pat Onstad.
The next came when McCarty was attempting to clear a ball in his own penalty area. But Revolution defender Pat Phelan dove in on the play, and McCarty collided with Phelan. Referee Baldemero Toledo pointed to the spot, and Shalrie Joseph just managed to beat Onstad.
And like that, United were down 2-0, just 20 minutes in – a mountain to climb against a Revolution team that defends well with a lead, especially at home. The manner of the goals didn’t help, but the damage was done.
“Whether we deserved to be down two goals or not at that point or not is very debatable,” McCarty said. “In my opinion, we certainly didn’t, but you can’t start a game like that and get to a 2-0 deficit and expect to come back and get a result against a team that likes to sit in like that.”
Down two goals, United improved over the rest of the game.
“After that, I thought we played some pretty good stuff,” Onstad said. “I thought the energy was good, especially in the second half. It was one of those games where if we could have nicked one in the first 20 minutes of the second half, I thought we had every chance to win that game.”
At halftime, coach Ben Olsen made two changes, throwing on Charlie Davies and Fred. He also switched to a 3-5-2, with rookie Chris Korb playing along the back line with Dejan Jakovic and Marc Burch. The aim was to create chances and trouble New England.
“Obviously certain games dictate the way you’re going to play,” McCarty said. “Down 2-0 at halftime, we knew that we had to come out and open the game up and try to push the game and get those two goals back. We knew they were going to sit in – no disrespect to New England, but that’s what they do well.”
It worked to some extent, as DC looked dangerous through stretches. Chris Pontius and Andy Najar both tested Matt Reis. But the lone goal came too late, as Davies scored a penalty past Reis in stoppage time, and there wasn’t enough time to grab a second.
Despite the defeat, Onstad was happy with the team’s fight after going down 2-0.
“One thing I will take away is there’s a lot of fight left in these guys,” he said. “You could see us fight right till the 94th minute. There was no giving up. I think when you’re down 2-0 on the road, there are teams in this league that will fold. And we didn’t do that, we kept pushing and pressing to try to get that first goal and then obviously the second one.”
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