Wayne Rooney's early second half goal seemed to put D.C. United on track for a seven-point week on Saturday against the Houston Dynamo, but two goals in two minutes later in the half gave the hosts all three points.
The loss to the Dynamo concluded a trying week for the Black-and-Red, who played three games in seven days, with the last two both on the road. United had to managed around absences, short rest, a whole new lineup on Wednesday, and still had a chance at three points on Saturday night.
It wasn't to be though, denying D.C. a chance to move atop the Eastern Conference by themselves. Instead, United kept pace with the Philadelphia Union, trailing on goal differential, but having played one more game. D.C. gets somewhat of a reprieve this week, as Wednesday's game is a friendly against Spanish side Real Betis, before Saturday kicks off another stretch of three games in eight days.
But before we move forward, here are three thoughts from the game that was on Saturday night.
It Was A Tough Week For United
No matter what the result was on Saturday night, the final whistle against the Houston Dynamo ended a taxing week for the Black-and-Red. The MLS schedule makers did United no favors in scheduling three games in seven days, with the last two were on the road. In most cases, if a team plays three games in quick succession, there's usually a three-day break between at least two of the matches. That wasn't the case for D.C., who had to play Sunday night, Wednesday night, and then Saturday night.
United tried their best to manage minutes and maximize results. The strongest starting lineup was used against Sporting Kansas City and resulted in a win. On short rest, Ben Olsen drastically changed his lineup, but also set his group out to prevent Toronto FC from scoring. That worked well enough, though the advantage in shots for the Reds (35-3) would have caused some stress on United's sideline.
Getting that result with that group allowed United to feel like they were in a good position going into the game against Houston. There had been two positive results for the side heading into Texas, but United has always struggled on the road against the Dynamo. And then the game got away from the Black-and-Red early on, and while Rooney's goal gave United an early second-half lead, that lead quickly evaporated into the team's second loss on the road this year.
It was the first time this year that D.C. had given up an equalizer in a game and the first time they dropped points from a winning position. That will have soured things a bit for United, but getting more than four points from those three games would have been a resounding success. As it is, the four points helped United keep pace in the Eastern Conference.
Two Minutes United Would Like To Have Back
D.C. United were never really in control of the game on Saturday, but Rooney's goal 25 seconds into the second half certainly gave the visitors the advantage. United have played well from ahead this year, and there certainly should have been hopes of at least one point in Houston.
However, three points turned to zero points in the space of about 98 seconds. That was all the time that Memo Rodriguez and Tommy McNamara needed to score for Houston, completely taking the wind out of United's sails. Rooney's goal seemed to have awaken the Dynamo, but D.C. have faced second half onslaughts before this season when leading, most notably against Orlando City and the Colorado Rapids.
But in those games D.C. were able to hold on, defending their box well for the most part. That wasn't the case on Saturday night when first Rodriguez skipped around challenges from Leonardo Jara and Chris McCann to fire in the equalizer. Ninety-eight seconds later, Marquinhos Pedroso misread a cross into the box, allowing McNamara to bundle home the cross at the far post.
United were still reeling when Mauro Manotas had a shot saved by Bill Hamid moments later, as they struggled to cope with falling behind. United eventually settled down but couldn't create many goal scoring opportunities late on, before or after Paul Arriola's sending off.
Defensively United have done so well this season to keep clean sheets and defend well as an unit. But when the game got away from them on Saturday, it got away from them in a big way, resulting in a two-minute nightmare.
It's A Different World With Video Reviews
I don't think Arriola had any intent to step on Adam Lundkvist after committing a foul late on in the game. It was a clear foul from the winger, sending Lundkvist to the ground. But as Lundkvist rolled on the ground, Arriola jumped up and landed by stepping on the Swede's midsection and hand. The best camera angle was from behind the play, meaning you couldn't see where Arriola was looking.
But after initially getting a yellow card, it was clear that the ruling was going to be changed after a video review for Arriola. Arriola jumps toward Lundkvist, when avoiding the fallen player would have been easy. Arriola immediately grabs at Lundkvist, realizing his mistake, but it was no surprise when the ruling was changed.
In years past, Arriola would have been able to get away from this with just a yellow card. But with cameras now catching everything on the field and referees having the opportunity to review incidents on replay, there's little hope of not receiving a red card on a play like this. Even though it's tough to judge intent, it was clear that this was an avoidable situation, which ultimately led to Arriola's dismissal. The winger will now miss Saturday's game against the New England Revolution but was remorseful after the game for what had transpired.
Not good enough from us tonight, especially disappointed in myself.. Time to focus on the next one @dcunited. ⚫️?— Paul Arriola (@PaulArriola) May 19, 2019