- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 15, 2007

Tom Soehn may have to go back to the drawing board just two games into his first season as a head coach. Rewiring D.C. United’s defense likely will be his first task.

United collapsed 4-2 to the Kansas City Wizards in its home opener at RFK Stadium last night before 22,358 that included D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty.

United beat Kansas City four times last season but was down by two goals in the first eight minutes of last night’s match. While Luciano Emilio and Christian Gomez pulled goals back for the home team, their efforts were canceled out by Kansas City’s Eddie Johnson, who had a goal and two assists and was involved in all the Wizards’ goals. It was United’s worst home start since a 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2000.

“I think we have been too busy reading all the articles on how good we are and not doing all the right things on the field,” said Soehn, who now has two weeks to fix United’s problems before the team’s next game, April 28 at the Columbus Crew.

United is now 0-2 after losing its season opener 2-1 at the Colorado Rapids last week.

The game started off fast with three goals in the first 11 minutes — two by Kansas City. The Wizards — playing in their season opener — clearly looked like the fresher of the two teams.

“When you look up at the clock and see it’s just the ninth minute and you are two goals down you know it’s going to be a tough fight back,” United defender Bryan Namoff said. “We lacked concentration on the field. It was the little things, but by the time you add them all up, it was over.”

Kansas City stunned United in the third minute when rookie Michael Harrington collected a pass from Johnson and beat defender Facundo Erpen in a foot race. Harrington ran the ball down to the byline on United’s right-flank and from a narrow angle, fired a low shot past United goalie Troy Perkins.

United’s defense was exposed again five minutes later. Johnson, who earned just one assist and two goals all of last season, again was involved, setting up a pass for Sasha Victorine, who outran Josh Gros and beat Perkins with a shot from just outside the six-yard box.

“For now we’ve forgot what it takes to win games,” Soehn said. “There are a lot of little battles you have to win on the field and right now we are not winning them.”

Three minutes later Erpen was able to make up for his earlier mistake. The Argentine defender floated a long-range pass to Emilio, who brought the ball under control on the 18-yard box and blasted a shot past Wizards goalie Kevin Hartman to make it 2-1. It was Emilio’s second goal of the season and, including preseason Champions’ Cup action, his sixth goal in six games for United since joining the team in January.

United tied the game in 34th minute on a free kick taken by Gomez, last year’s MLS MVP. Brian Carroll won the kick 35 yards from goal after Victorine dragged him down. Gomez’s shot curved around the Wizards’ defensive wall and was too powerful for Hartman to hold, skipping under the keeper’s body into the net.

But just when it looked like United was taking control of the match, Johnson put the Wizards ahead again before halftime.

After the break, Soehn sent on Brazilian midfielder Fred for the erratic Erpen and Devon McTavish, making only his fourth career start for United, moved into the right-back role.

The moves didn’t do much good. In the 54th minute Johnson broke through the United defense yet again. While his shot was blocked by Perkins, Scott Sealy hit home the rebound to push Kansas City’s lead to 4-2.

“We are not focused on the little things and we are being sloppy and turning over balls in bad spots,” Perkins said. “This league is getting to the point that if you turn over balls a team is going to punish you.”

Notes — United now holds a 14-12-6 series lead over the Wizards. The Wizards were missing Nick Garcia, who was serving out a red card. Curt Onalfo, the Wizards’ new coach, played for United from 1998-99 and was an assistant coach from 2001-2002.

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