D.C. United still struggling to score goals, gets shut out by Revolution in home opener

D.C. United's Rodney Wallace gets over New England's Sainey Nyassi to head the ball in United's home opener.
D.C. United's Rodney Wallace gets over New England's Sainey Nyassi to head the ball in United's home opener. (John Mcdonnell/the Washington Post)
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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 4, 2010

It was just the second match on a 30-game regular season calendar, hardly the circumstances that demanded an immaculate performance. But after a four-goal loss in its MLS opener and with the coach and several players making their home debut, D.C. United's unveiling at RFK Stadium on Saturday night arrived with a greater sense of urgency.

And, for 45 minutes, United showed marked improvement. But as a sleepy second half unfolded, Curt Onalfo's club slipped into New England's trap and yielded a late pair of goals by reserve Kenny Mansally in a two-minute span to fall to the deliberate Revolution, 2-0.

United's grip on the first half did not translate into an abundance of scoring opportunities. The quality chances United did create were off-target or handled by goalkeeper Preston Burpo.

United (0-2) then lost its way in the second half, and with the crowd of 20,664 becoming increasingly restless, Mansally and the Revolution (1-1) struck. He scored in the 80th minute with an expert finish on Chris Tierney's deflected cross and then cleverly lofted a 20-yarder into the upper far corner.

"It didn't get us too far in the end," midfielder Santino Quaranta said of United's superior possession game. "You leave a team like that around and they can hurt you. We have got to finish our chances. If we score [early], that is a really easy game for us."

It was another discouraging night for United, which was routed by Kansas City, 4-0, last weekend and faced a New England squad missing its most important player, injured midfielder Shalrie Joseph.

"New England's game was to come here and slow the game down, and that's exactly what they did," Onalfo said. "Our plan was to make the game fast. I thought for a good stretch we did make the game fast, but in games like this where teams are dropped off, you don't have as many chances as you normally have, so you have to put those away."

United set the tone, moving the ball fluidly and attacking with purpose. In the 14th minute, Burpo made a reflex save with his left foot on Quaranta's free kick from 22 yards that slithered under the rising defensive wall.

United was one touch from unlocking the Revolution defense, but captain Jaime Moreno's distribution from promising positions was rusty and Christian Castillo, supported by a couple thousand blue-clad Salvadoran fans, found it increasingly more difficult to raid the left flank after a hopeful start.

A Moreno-Quaranta combination set up Chris Pontius's near-post run, but Pontius's one-timer was deflected wide by a defender. Pontius should have broken the deadlock late in the half, but after beating Burpo to Brandon Barklage's cross, he headed high from five yards.

"I didn't think [the cross] was going to get through, and once it did, it was a last-second reaction," Pontius said. "I know I should have done better with it."

After the break, United labored to regain its rhythm. Australian forward Danny Allsopp was scheduled to enter at some point, but minor ailments to Castillo, Barklage and defender Carey Talley forced other personnel changes and undermined the plan, Onalfo said.

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