WASHINGTON – All told, Saturday evening’s 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls isn’t a bad result for first-place D.C. United, a performance miles ahead of their late-March loss to New York and one which keeps them atop the Eastern Conference standings.
But it was the manner in which United drew their opponents which left a sour taste in their mouths, making the tie feel much more like a loss. After charging ahead on a pair of Perry Kitchen strikes, D.C. allowed two goals in the game’s final 25 minutes, including a Lloyd Sam dagger at the death, to drop valuable points.
The disappointment wasn’t hard to see in a United locker room that felt a bit like a morgue postgame. United captain Bobby Boswell broke the silence with some postgame observations.
"I told these guys after the game,” Boswell told MLSsoccer.com "I take this team up 2-0 late in a game over any team in the league. I told everybody that tonight was a learning lesson, we have to figure out what we can do better whether it’s keeping the ball, tracking runners. You learn more from a loss than a win sometimes and this certainly feels one, because we dropped two points.”
Added veteran midfielder Davy Arnaud: "We’re not that team. We feel like we’re not the team that’s going to give up late goals and give points away. Like Bobby said, we came in and we have to learn from it.
“For where we want to be in this league, it’s unacceptable for us to give up points like that. Leading 2-0 in the 60th, 70th minute, we should be leaving here tonight with three points."
United seemed in control for long stretches of Saturday evening’s match, despite being out-possessed and out-shot overall. Missing several key offensive starters — Eddie Johnson and Fabian Espindola remain out, while Luis Silva continues building his fitness towards an eventual starting role — D.C. relied on some unusual contributors, getting two goals from their defensive midfielder and an assist from fullback Taylor Kemp.
Even after conceding a 67th-minute Damien Perrinelle goal that cut their lead in half, United seemed poised to secure all three points.
But a rare error from the normally sure-handed Bill Hamid led to the draw. In the 90th minute, Sacha Kljestan struck a pacy, knuckling free kick from 22 yards out. Hamid had difficulty fielding the short hop, and the ensuing rebound fell kindly for an unmarked Sam to hammer home.
“The guy that scored the goal was my man,” lamented Arnaud. “When I saw the ball go over the wall, my first reaction is, ‘we got Big Bill back there,’ It’s normally pretty routine for Bill. But you have to anticipate that he might not get it – Bill has been fantastic for us since I’ve been here.
“He’s so good sometimes that you kind of take that for granted.”
It was a bit of role reversal for United, who've won a pair of games this year with goals just seconds from full time and have often been bailed out by their shot-stopper. Just last week, Hamid stood on his head to keep D.C. in their match against Orlando, one which they eventually won on a stoppage-time free kick.
“[Bill will] probably say that he could do better,” added Boswell. “But I think he did a pretty good job and we've got to do better to bail him out. He bails us out so many times, it would’ve been nice to bail him out on that one."
As for Hamid himself – who will likely depart tomorrow for a stay with the US national team as they prepare for their friendly against Mexico in San Antonio on Wednesday – he didn’t have much to say when asked about the free kick, choosing to remain focused on what lies ahead.
“We’re walking away with a point,” said the 'keeper. "We have to move forward and keep plugging away."