Revolution 2, United 1
The losses are beginning to pile up for D.C. United, each one more unbearable than the previous, each marred by baffling blunders and disorderly finishes.
"We're killing ourselves right now," goalkeeper Nick Rimando said following Saturday night's 2-1 loss to the New England Revolution in which United allowed another own goal and then disintegrated in the waning seconds to drop its third game in eight days.
Taylor Twellman scored on a sharp header in the fourth minute of injury time, capping a disastrous second half for United (11-8-5) and solidifying the Revolution's hold on first place in the MLS's Eastern Conference. Instead of moving within a point of New England (13-5-6), United finds itself clinging to a playoff berth that seemed so certain a week ago.
Last Saturday, United's six-game unbeaten streak in league play ended with a home loss to a Los Angeles team that had been inept on the road. On Wednesday, D.C. was seconds from defeating Dallas in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal when it yielded the tying goal and subsequently lost in a penalty-kick tiebreaker.
Here, before a crowd of 18,049 at Gillette Stadium, United's 1-0 lead dissolved two minutes into the second half on Bobby Boswell's second own goal in two weeks and third of the season. Then during injury time, a moment after Dema Kovalenko was ejected for the second time in four days, Twellman worked himself into position and directed Andy Dorman's pass into the lower right corner for his 11th goal of the year.
"The frustrating part is that we are losing these games -- I don't necessarily think these teams are winning them," midfielder Ben Olsen said. "We're just shooting ourselves in the foot, over and over. These are tough times and I know we're going to turn it around, but it's hard right now."
Santino Quaranta had given United the lead with a rasping drive from 20 yards in the 36th minute, the defense wasn't having much trouble disrupting the Revolution's attack and Rimando had barely been tested. But just after the break, Boswell headed Jay Heaps's long ball over the helpless Rimando to level the score and turn the match in the Revolution's favor.
Boswell has been the most pleasant surprise on the United roster, an undrafted rookie who has played almost every minute after stepping into central defense for all-star Ryan Nelsen (now playing in England's Premier League). However, Boswell had an own goal against Kansas City in May and another one last Saturday during the 3-2 loss to Los Angeles.
"Nobody and nothing can hurt us, except ourselves," Coach Peter Nowak said. "My disappointment is bigger because we're making the same mistakes."
Despite Boswell's gaffe, it seemed United would leave with no worse than a tie. But as the match wore on, the defense began to bend, and then during injury time, Kovalenko received a red card for an ill-advised tackle on James Riley in front of the New England bench. He also was tossed from Wednesday's game, but because that was a non-league encounter, he didn't have to serve the mandatory one-game suspension Saturday night. (This dismissal, however, will force him to miss Wednesday's game against Real Salt Lake at RFK Stadium.)
Twellman, a University of Maryland product, won it with his header on only the third shot on goal for New England. He is tied with Colorado's Jeff Cunningham for the MLS scoring lead.
"Too naive" is how team captain Jaime Moreno described United's late-game problems. "We keep beating ourselves. We know soccer doesn't end until the referee blows the whistle and we've just got to keep working and not make so many mistakes. . . . It's a slap in the face to wake us up and realize there are people out there that want to beat us badly. We missed a good opportunity tonight."
United Notes: Nowak didn't send Freddy Adu into the game until the 87th minute, barely enough time to make an impact. . . .
D.C. will face Colorado on Monday in the Soccer Hall of Fame Game in Oneonta, N.Y., but only a few of the regulars will make the trip and assistant coach Tom Soehn will guide the squad. Former United captain John Harkes and ex-Colorado star Marcelo Balboa, both of whom will be inducted into the Hall, will play in the match.