- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 8, 2007

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Tom Soehn has just begun his first season as the head coach of D.C. United, but through the team’s demanding MLS preseason, Soehn was able to clearly identify one certainty about his team.

When United doesn’t play its possession game with a certain level of effectiveness, bad things happen. Soehn won’t have to look any further than the game film of yesterday afternoon’s game against the Colorado Rapids to prove his point.

Victimized by too many turnovers and unable to generate consistent scoring attacks, United suffered a 2-1 loss against the Rapids in the first official game at Colorado’s sprawling new soccer-specific stadium, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, which has been widely lauded as one of the top soccer venues in North America.

It was a frigid, wind-swept MLS opener for both teams, though United was coming off a loss on Tuesday against CD Guadalajara in the semifinal of the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup. United plays its MLS home opener Saturday against Kansas City.

“It’s going to be refreshing for us to get home and recharge our batteries,” said Soehn, who spent the past three seasons as United’s top assistant under Peter Nowak. “We’ll sit back and watch this and see what we can do better, but right now it’s good to go home and refocus and get back to work. Today was not good enough. We didn’t get enough service. We had one service and one goal. That’s something we have to work on. When you’re not good with the ball, you can play on a small field and you’re not going to do well.”

United enjoyed a 7-5 advantage in shots on goal, but too many of those chances ended in easy saves for Rapids goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul. Other than the lone United goal, which was scored by Luciano Emilio in the 79th minute to trim Colorado’s lead to 2-1, United’s best shot might have been its last, when a potential game-tying chance by Ben Olsen from the top of the box was thwarted by a diving Coundoul.

The arms Olsen immediately flailed in frustration and disbelief after Coundoul’s save pretty much typified United’s day.

“We got ourselves into spots, but we just weren’t there,” said United goalkeeper Troy Perkins, who surrendered goals on the first two shots on goal he faced. “This is a wake-up call for us for the rest of the season. We have to come out and really do well, because everything means a lot now.”

Emilio enjoyed a pair of scoring chances in quick succession in the early minutes, and United almost took the lead when a blast by Jaime Moreno from about 30 yards out nearly arced over Coundoul’s head in the 11th minute. Afterward the Rapids dominated the rest of the first half.

Colorado, unbeaten in its past eight games at home against United, opened the scoring in the 19th minute when Herculez Gomez poked a header inside the left post off a corner kick from midfielder Terry Cooke.

Cooke helped give the Rapids a two-goal edge in the 35th minute. Corralling a cross from Kyle Beckerman along the right wing, Cooke slotted a pass to Panamanian striker Roberto Brown, who was roaming unchecked in the middle of the box. Brown had enough time to gather the ball and fire another post-hugging shot past Perkins.

The score remained 2-0 until Emilio struck a header past Coundoul off a cross from the left wing by Kasali Yinka Casal. United, however, could not draw even after Olsen’s late attempt was stopped by Coundoul.

“Uncontested headers, unfortunately at this level they’re going to finish them,” Perkins said. “And the other one, the guy gets two touches six yards out from goal. What are you going to do? They were two good finishes for them, and we just weren’t good enough. As a professional, you have to be able to play no matter what, and we didn’t today. We didn’t bring our A-game, and that’s what you have to bring to win.”

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