D.C. United’s season-opening trip stayed to the script. The Dynamo continued their unbeaten run at home since opening BBVA Compass Stadium, and the visitors struggled to get much going offensively without suspended playmaker Dwayne De Rosario, dropping to 0-8-1 all-time in Houston.
The silver lining for D.C.? United are done with BBVA Compass Stadium for the rest of the regular season.
Here are a few observations from United’s 2-0 loss:
• Bill Hamid was on fire. While turning away Brad Davis‘ penalty kick actually was a pretty routine stop, his denial of Giles Barnes‘ point-blank blast off a corner kick was just stunning. Hamid continues to grow a reputation for standing on his head when United need him to, and his decision-making in the box also shows improvement. This could be a big year for the 22-year-old.
“Bill came up big in the first half to at least make the game doable for us,” coach Ben Olsen said.
• The defensive cohesion was surprisingly lacking for a group mostly comprised of holdovers, as the Dynamo found gaps throughout the game and won many of the one-on-one battles. Perhaps that’s natural since Houston dominated possession and was able to exhaust United with constant pressure. But Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic, Chris Korb, Daniel Woolard and James Riley all had their fair share of slip-ups.
“I think opening day there are still some kinks and you have to battle for the right to play,” said Riley, whose own goal proved to be the winner for Houston. “We bent but didn’t break until the own goal, and it happens.”
• Chris Pontius and Nick DeLeon were dangerous on the flanks, as usual. Pontius in particular enjoyed an active game, making dynamic runs on the ball and also stepping up to take set-pieces, one of which rattled the crossbar just before halftime. His leadership role, which I wrote about in the fall, continues to grow.
After the game, Pontius has pointed comments about his team’s first-half play: “It’s expected in the first 25 minutes of the first half of the year that it’s going to be hectic. They were on the ball and wanted the ball. I thought we were hiding from it, and I don’t understand why.”
• Olsen doesn’t have much trust yet in his new strikers. Lionard Pajoy went the full 90 minutes despite not creating any real chances. And when United needed a goal late, Olsen turned to recently signed midfielders Marcos Sanchez and Kyle Porter rather than forwards Rafael and Carlos Ruiz. Both players are still gaining form and fitness, and Ruiz in particular was never going to play more than 15 minutes, so perhaps they just need another week of training before Olsen feels comfortable using them.
• John Thorrington in the playmaker role didn’t pan out. Taking De Rosario’s spot in the lineup, the more defensive Thorrington never found a rhythm on the ball and United’s attack suffered as a result. Once Sanchez replaced him, there was a little more natural flow to D.C.’s forays forward. Let’s hold off judgment on Thorrington, though, until he has a chance to play alongside Kitchen in the deeper role he was brought to United to play.