D.C. United hoped to have some carryover from an offensive outburst last week in its first win of the season, and in the process string together two consecutive league wins for the first time since 2009.
But on Saturday night the attack largely lacked the same bite and verve as in its previous game, and United was shut out for the third time in five games this season in a 0-0 tie with the Seattle Sounders in front of 15,651 at RFK Stadium.
United (1-2-2) had just two dangerous shots on goals — Hamdi Salihi’s offering off the top of the frame in the 23rd minute and a well-taken free kick by rookie Nick DeLeon that nearly snuck inside the near post in the 69th. It nearly saw the game stolen away when former D.C. defender Marc Burch rattled the crossbar with a header in the dying seconds of injury time.
“I don’t think offensively either team was really at their best,” United Coach Ben Olsen said. “It was a pretty physical battle. . . . It’s one of those games where if we’re a little bit sharper in the final third we come out of here with three” points.
Looking to win back-to-back league games for the first time since June 2009, a stretch of 84 games, United’s lineup was unchanged from the team that dominated FC Dallas, 4-1, on March 30 — save for Dejan Jakovic replacing the suspended Brandon McDonald in central defense.
The crispness D.C. showed in that match was lacking early on Saturday, though.
Several giveaways in the middle of the field and a shaky connection between the midfielders and front line had D.C.’s attack sputtering. Seattle looked to close down United’s wing play that had been so effective against Dallas, and neither team had much rhythm for the first hour.
“It was just one of those games where it was run-and-gun,” DeLeon said. “It really wasn’t possession-style. We got it a little bit and settled it a little bit in the second half, but there were some tired legs out there from that type of game.”
There were some flashes of the creativity that had been so effective in the last win. In the 23rd minute DeLeon beat his defender and hit a low cross to the near post that Salihi put off the top of the frame. United showed more going forward in the second half.
DeLeon’s free kick from just outside of the 18-yard box surprised Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, who had to dive to punch the shot clear. Chris Pontius added some energy after entering for Danny Cruz just before the hour mark and the fourth-year midfielder got free on the left side of the box in the 74th minute, but his attempt went wide of the far post.
Seattle’s high-scoring attack was mostly bottled up by United, which limited the Sounders to just two shots on goal and largely kept goalkeeper Joe Willis from having to do much work.
The Sounders (2-1-1) nearly stole a win in injury time when Osvaldo Alonso’s long range offering was punched by Willis right into the path of Burch. The header clanged off the crossbar, though, and D.C. held on for the draw to remain unbeaten in its last three games.
United notes: Andy Najar, back from duty with the Honduran Olympic team, was not on the 18-man roster. The midfielder missed training this week because of illness. Starting goalkeeper Bill Hamid (ankle) was also left off the game-day roster.