D.C. United loses to New York Red Bulls

Juan Manuel Peña, front, struggles for possession against Salou Ibrahim. Peña had missed the previous two league matches with a hamstring injury.
Juan Manuel Peña, front, struggles for possession against Salou Ibrahim. Peña had missed the previous two league matches with a hamstring injury. (Ned Dishman/getty Images)
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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 2, 2010

It began with so much promise: crisp ball movement and tidy combinations, a fizzy pace and threatening shots from near and far. Surely, after four consecutive losses to open the MLS calendar, D.C. United had discovered the answers to its many riddles.

But after dictating the pace and creating several opportunities Saturday, United broke down defensively -- a weekly occurrence -- and yielded two goals early in the second half to drop a 2-0 decision to the New York Red Bulls before 12,089 at RFK Stadium.

Salou Ibrahim and Juan Pablo Ángel scored nine minutes apart for the Red Bulls (5-1), who ended a 10-game winless streak in Washington. United is off to the worst start in club history and the third poorest in MLS's 15 seasons, trailing the Kansas City Wizards (0-7) in 1999 and the New England Revolution (0-6) in 2001.

"There aren't a whole lot of positives to take," United Coach Curt Onalfo said. "We are 0-5. We just lost in front of our home crowd again. It's unacceptable."

D.C. has scored just twice in league play -- both in the same game, both as the result of mistakes by the opponent -- and been shut out in all three home matches. Onalfo has changed formations, shuffled the lineup and emphasized better use of the flanks. Nothing has worked.

In a hapless second half against the first-place Red Bulls, United failed to maintain cohesion and permitted two gut-wrenching goals.

"We shut off for 15 minutes again," said goalkeeper Troy Perkins, who faced only three shots on goal and continued his disappointing spring.

Even with midfielder Clyde Simms and defender Juan Manuel Peña back from hamstring injuries and 2007 league MVP Luciano Emilio available after re-signing this past week, United lost its way.

"We moved the ball well, made some good runs from behind, we were intelligent with our passing," Onalfo said. "It just has to translate into goals."

Adam Cristman, a two-goal scorer during Wednesday's 4-2 U.S. Open Cup victory over FC Dallas, stabbed a 16-yarder past the far post and turned at the top of the box for a near-post bid.

Ángel narrowly missed the right corner before Simms, an uncommon scoring threat, made an assertive run to meet Kurt Morsink's well-weighted pass inside the penalty area and tested goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul.

The oppressive conditions seemed to take a heavier toll on United, sapping the energy that had spurred the lively start. Simms maintained his attacking prowess after the break, ripping a 25-yard volley that a soaring Coundoul touched away.

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