D.C. United looking for goals, not style points, against Kansas City Wizards

Santino Quaranta reacts after missing a shot at RFK Stadium on April 3. However, he has tallied one of United's two goals this season.
Santino Quaranta reacts after missing a shot at RFK Stadium on April 3. However, he has tallied one of United's two goals this season. (Ned Dishman/getty Images)
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By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 5, 2010

D.C. United's aim has been not only to win, but also to do it in a certain style and grace reflecting its championship campaigns during MLS's formative years.

Club officials shudder at the idea of employing cynical, defensive tactics in order to grind out results. For the betterment of the young league, they argue, teams should forge an entertaining brand, and if the outcome doesn't always go their way, so be it.

After losing its first five matches this season and scoring just two goals, however, United is in no position to concern itself with aesthetics. The club is in frantic need of a victory, by any means, and seems certain to alter its tactics starting Wednesday night against the Kansas City Wizards at RFK Stadium.

"We discussed some things to try to get the team focused on results, no matter how ugly they are," United President Kevin Payne said. "Since I have checked the standings recently, we haven't gotten any points for style. We're not worried about that right now. If we get the ship righted and if we add a few players in the summer, maybe then we will try to go back to playing the kind of soccer we want to play."

Coach Curt Onalfo identified glimmers of hope Saturday, a 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls that unraveled after a promising first half. Although his team made better use of the flanks and generated quality opportunities, goals remained elusive.

United has not scored in three league home matches and has yet to take a lead in any of the five games. Its only goals came five minutes apart in a 3-2 defeat at Philadelphia on April 10. Since then, D.C. has gone scoreless for 202 minutes. (Kansas City has been shut out three consecutive games.)

United has also yielded several soft goals, the result of defensive breakdowns, overcommitted attackers and unstable goalkeeping.

"I don't think we have earned the right to play good soccer," Payne said. "More to the point, it's not working. If it's not working, you have to try something else."

Changes might come in goal, where Troy Perkins has struggled since rejoining the club from the Norwegian league. Backup Bill Hamid, 19, has not made an official appearance since emerging from United's youth academy last fall.

Further moves are likely this summer, when the international transfer period reopens. United technical director Chad Ashton spent two weeks in Argentina and is scheduled to scout in Europe and Africa this month.

"We could use some more talent in a few spots, but that is not why we are 0-5," Payne said. "We are 0-5 because we haven't been as competitive as we need to be, collectively or individually. It seems like every game four or five guys don't show up."

Asked if some players are simply not good enough to meet the front office's expectations, he said, "There is a point with certain players which you have to say, 'Maybe this is it, maybe this is what we are going to get and maybe it's not as good as we think it is.' "

United notes: Onalfo was fined $1,000 and suspended from an additional U.S. Open Cup match for improper behavior during last week's tournament qualifier against FC Dallas.

He was ejected in the 32nd minute for disputing a foul call. The dismissal carried with it a one-game ban, to be served in the second preliminary round June 2 against Real Salt Lake. The MLS Disciplinary Committee ruled that, if United advances, Onalfo would also be barred from the sideline in the round of 16 of the tournament proper this summer. . . .

United will play El Salvador's national team June 19 at RFK. Proceeds will benefit the Spanish Catholic Center. The club is also planning to make a donation to benefit former midfielder Joe Vide, 25, who is battling Hodgkin's disease.

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