Every Monday, The Post will publish a soccer spread on Page 2 of the Sports print edition. Some items are geared toward casual fans who do not necessarily follow the Insider. Some material has appeared on the blog previously. This week’s package:
With the most treacherous stretch of the season looming, D.C. United has slipped into its first genuine rut. A two-game skid is hardly a calamity, especially for a club that endured a three-win season in 2013. But after performing with such nerve throughout most of this rejuvenating campaign, United looked out of sorts from the very start of a 3-0 defeat at Real Salt Lake on Saturday night.
By midway in the first half, the outcome had been decided, thanks to three goals in a 13-minute span.
“We had no chance against them,” said forward Fabian Espindola, who returned from a two-month injury absence and played the last 40 minutes. “They managed the entire game.”
Losing consecutive games for the first time since the start of the season, United (11-7-4) missed another opportunity to climb atop both the Eastern Conference and MLS’s overall standings. Six days earlier, the club conceded a stoppage-time goal and lost to struggling Houston.
“It was an extremely poor first half,” Coach Ben Olsen said. “We were just off the pace. They came in hungrier than we did; they came in with more energy, more commitment, and we’re not a good enough team to not have a chip on our shoulder when we play. Hopefully we learned that lesson.”
Although United could use defensive midfielder Perry Kitchen‘s absence as an excuse for some of the problems, almost all of the starters faltered against surging Real (10-4-9). They allowed 5-foot-2 Joao Plata to score on a header and Chris Schuler, a central defender, to strike from close range twice. They did not defend set pieces well and allowed acres of space in the run of play.
And they lost their cool. Forward Eddie Johnson slammed the ball off a fallen opponent after being called for a foul. He may have deserved a red card but received only a yellow. The MLS disciplinary committee does not in general take further action against a player unless the actions were a “clear and unequivocal red card” and were of an “egregious or reckless nature, such that the committee must act to protect player safety or the integrity of the game.”
United should find out by mid-week whether Johnson will miss Sunday night’s match against the Colorado Rapids (8-9-6) at RFK Stadium. In May, Johnson was suspended one game for a “reckless challenge” on Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
The Colorado game is the first of five over 15 days for United, which will also play at MLS contenders Kansas City and Los Angeles, welcome a dangerous New York side and begin the CONCACAF Champions League by hosting Waterhouse of Jamaica.
“We have got a hell of schedule coming up,” midfielder Lewis Neal said. “We’ve just got to make sure, as much as this hurts, to try and put this one behind us very, very quickly.”
Spirit draws in Seattle
Despite allowing a late goal, the Washington Spirit inched closer to a National Women’s Soccer League playoff berth with a 1-1 draw at first-place Seattle. Diana Matheson scored in the 29th minute for the Spirit (10-8-5) before Kim Little equalized for the Reign (16-1-6) in the 89th with her league-best 16th goal.
Washington will advance to a semifinal at Kansas City in two weeks with a victory in the regular season finale Saturday night at Maryland SoccerPlex against New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC (6-8-7). It would also secure passage with a loss or draw by Chicago (8-7-7) in either of the Red Stars’ last two games or a loss or tie by the Portland Thorns. The Spirit, Thorns, Red Stars, Western New York Flash and Sky Blue are vying for the last two playoff berths. Seattle and Kansas City have already clinched. …
The Richmond Kickers, United’s third-division partners, extended their unbeaten streak to 20 with a 2-1 victory over the Charlotte Eagles. Richmond (13-1-9) is a point behind Orlando City (15-2-4) in the USL-Pro standings with a month left in the regular season.
In Norway, World Cup midfielder Mix Diskerud, who last week rejected a move to the Columbus Crew, launched Rosenborg’s comeback from an early two-goal deficit by scoring on a 29th-minute flick in a 3-2 victory over Start. …
In Germany, Silver Spring’s Joe Gyau scored twice in the first half for his first goals as a member of Borussia Dortmund’s under-23 squad, which competes in the third division. Gyau, who left Hoffenheim this summer, posted the first and third goals in the 5-1 home victory over Jahn Regensburg. Video:
Premier League nears
NBC Sports’ second season of English Premier League coverage begins Saturday at 7:45 a.m. with Manchester United hosting Swansea City on NBCSN. Other featured matches include Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace at 12:30 the same day on NBC, Liverpool-Southampton and Newcastle-Manchester City on NBCSN on Sunday morning, and Burnley-Chelsea next Monday on NBCSN. …
At Wembley Stadium, Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud lifted Arsenal to a 3-0 victory over Manchester City in the annual Community Shield match, pitting the reigning FA Cup and Premier League champions.