United Can't Weather Storm, Falls to Dynamo
Thursday, July 24, 2008
When the first raindrops began to fall last night at RFK Stadium, players, coaches and spectators knew better than to believe that this cursed MLS match would proceed without interruption.
The first attempt to play by D.C. United and the Houston Dynamo, in early June, had been postponed by a severe thunderstorm, a rarity for the all-weather sport of soccer. The second try on Tuesday was undermined by a neighborhood power outage.
Last night's effort was proceeding without delay until early in the second half when heavy rain turned the field into a collection of ponds and lightning caused a partial blackout. After a 2-hour 54-minute delay, with just a few hundred witnesses remaining and the players attempting to navigate a saturated field, the Dynamo preserved a lead it had forged hours earlier and claimed a 2-0 victory on undoubtedly the strangest evening in United's 13-season history.
Brian Mullan scored before the disruption and Brian Ching scored after it as the Dynamo (5-4-8) ended United's six-game unbeaten streak in the regular season and extended D.C.'s overall home losing skid to a club-record four games. Houston had a 23-4 advantage in shots.
United Coach Tom Soehn was disgusted with his club's performance, saying, "Just as a whole, that was bad."
Changes are on the way, he promised.
"We are going to bring in some reinforcements, people that I think are going to make us better in spots on the field where we need to get better," he said, declining to elaborate.
United was thoroughly outplayed in the first half before showing signs of life after the break. But the storm killed the modest momentum, and when play resumed at 11:41 p.m., Houston "came out motivated. We came out like we did in the first half: no energy and no life. They punished us over and over again."
Houston showed far superior understanding on the attack, outshooting United 12-1 in the first half.
In the 20th minute, the Dynamo was rewarded for its persistence when Mullan collected Geoff Cameron's pass on the right side, cut back on Gonzalo Martínez and placed a left-footed, 12-yard shot into the far side of the net.
Five minutes later, seeing the game slipping away, Soehn altered his backline and outside midfielders, and replaced rookie Pat Carroll with Rod Dyachenko. It was a drastic shift so early in the match, but he had to act before it was too late.
Despite United's changes, the Dynamo remained in rhythm. Zach Wells had to make a one-on-one save on Dwayne De Rosario. It seemed United's only salvation was another weather delay. If such an event were to occur before halftime and force another postponement, Mullan's goal would be erased and the game replayed in its entirety. Once intermission passed, however, the match was official.