United relinquished a two-goal advantage in the second half, squandering a sure opportunity to overtake New York in the tightly bunched Eastern Conference standings. While the Red Bulls (7-7-15, 36 points) were losing at home to Real Salt Lake, United (8-8-11, 35) built its lead on goals by Dwayne De Rosario late in the first half and rookie Ethan White early in the second.
But Juan Pablo Angel answered with goals 12 minutes apart and De Rosario failed to capitalize on a questionable penalty kick call in the waning moments in front of 14,849 at RFK Stadium.
After witnessing another subpar performance at home, United Coach Ben Olsen reached his breaking point.
“We played like boys, not just the second half,” he said. “I thought the first half we played soft, we played naive. There is a mentality to this game that right now some of our guys don’t have.”
He wasn’t finished.
“Up 2-0, now we think the game’s easy. Now we think we don’t have to tackle, we don’t have to win second balls: Let’s just roll the dice and hope we get lucky. It’s absolutely gonna stop — it has to stop or we will not make the playoffs. The way we fade in and out of games as a group, the way we take breaks, it’s the reason we haven’t [won] two games in a row” since 2009.
Needing to make up ground in the playoff race, United viewed its first home game in almost six weeks as a mandatory victory. Chivas (7-12-11) had lost four straight, including a 3-0 defeat to D.C. 11 days earlier. But instead of replicating that sterling effort, United started slowly and was fortunate to go ahead by multiple goals before imploding to fall to 3-3-7 at home.
“We lost our urgency on the defensive end, thinking maybe it was going to be a little easier to close out the game,” captain Josh Wolff said.
United didn’t deserve to win, yet was presented with the opportunity to take it in the third of five added minutes when De Rosario was nudged by Angel and fell in the box. On the ensuing penalty kick, Dan Kennedy blocked the low bid.
“I should’ve buried it,” he said. “A game like this — 2-2, 90th minute, penalty shot, perfect time to put the icing on the cake — I feel like I let my team down.”
United was in trouble from the start, lacking synchronization and failing to convert energy and urgency into a cohesive performance. Chivas pressured United all over the field and didn’t concede the time and space required to mount a formidable attack.
Chivas was winning tactically, but the match remained scoreless until the 39th minute when De Rosario peeled from his marker and utilized an open pocket to direct a nine-yard header into the right corner.
Less than two minutes after intermission, United struck again. De Rosario snapped Santino Quaranta’s corner kick on target. Kennedy made a slap save, but White (Bethesda-Chevy Chase High) was waiting inside the six-yard box to volley the rebound.
Chivas answered 10 minutes later as Angel beat Perry Kitchen to Nick La Brocca’s cross and headed past Bill Hamid from eight yards. La Brocca’s equalizing bid streaked dangerously close to the top left corner and Angel’s shot was covered by Hamid, further exposing the precariousness of United’s lead.
United continued to unravel. In the 69th minute, Angel beat the falling Brandon McDonald to Ante Jazic’s cross and slammed an eight-yarder past Hamid.
“We talked about at halftime the only way they were going to beat us was off of a free kick or crossing,” midfielder Clyde Simms said. “And both goals come from wide crosses that we didn’t get good pressure on early enough.”
Hamid preserved the draw with a reflex save on Laurent Courtois’s clear run in the 87th minute. After De Rosario’s failed penalty kick, United lamented yet another missed opportunity at home.
“I haven’t seen consistent, game-after-game, high-level performances,” Olsen said. “The talent is there. Talent is not enough. I’ve been on terrible teams that won games just because you have guys who will do anything — anything — to win a game. . . . That part is missing, and it’s got to stop. I don’t know necessarily how to instill it right now, but certainly I’m going to do my best and try to fix it.”
●REAL SALT LAKE 3, RED BULLS 1: Fabian Espindola scored two first-half goals and Alvaro Saborio also tallied and Real Salt Lake won in Harrison, N.J.
Real Salt Lake (15-7-6) needs one more win to clinch a fourth consecutive playoff spot.