Which play from D.C. United’s loss Saturday night at Gillette Stadium best serves as a microcosm of the club’s dismal, and often times unlucky, 2013 campaign?
The questionable foul called against defender Dejan Jakovic that resulted in a penalty kick in the 50th minute? (An attempt that was saved by goalkeeper Bill Hamid).
The significantly less-questionable lack of an offside call on Diego Fagundez’s game-tying goal in the 58th minute?
Or the ball off the foot of Conor Doyle in the 81st minute, a would-be equalizer, that bounced over New England goalkeeper Matt Reis’ head and perhaps snuck across the line as he dove back to save it?
“What do you want me to say?” a frustrated D.C. coach Ben Olsen said after the match, his club’s league-leading and franchise-record-tying 20th loss of the season. “We had stretches. We had chances. We were going up against too much today. Take that for what it’s worth.”
Said United captain Dwayne De Rosario: “Not to take anything away from New England but you give a penalty shot, and then what looks to be offside goal and then we have opportunity and the ball grabs the net or its on the line, so that’s pretty much our season.”
Though a number of calls at critical moments worked against United, they also benefitted from a bit of good fortune when they took the lead on a New England own goal in the 11th minute. It was their first lead on the road this year.
Following the loss midfielder Chris Pontius refused to use the officials as an excuse.
“Sometimes the calls go your way, sometimes they don’t. It’s just the game of soccer,” he said.
Still, in a season that has been as unforgiving as any in club history, Saturday’s match found yet another way to further frustrate United’s players. While the game held major implications for the Revolution and their playoff hopes, it also was significant for United as they prepare for the U.S. Open Cup final on Oct. 1. This likely was the last lengthy spell of game action that Olsen’s starters will see before their date against Real Salt Lake.
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D.C. were outshot 22-8 and managed only two attempts on target as Hamid (five saves) was masterful throughout the evening. Afterward, De Rosario was critical – as so many in the league are – of the surface in Foxborough.
“It’s very difficult to play on a field like that,” De Rosario said. “You know it’s terrible, it’s unacceptable. I think this is a great stadium but the pitch is a disaster. But, we have to deal with it. Every team has to deal with it and it’s very tough to play football on that field. A lot of the game I think you saw was in the air bouncing, bobbling and it’s not a pretty game.”
For much of the season in D.C., it really hasn’t been.