Unfortunately for DC, it's business as usual

United at a loss to explain "disappointing" 2010 campaign

The Colorado Rapids broke a decade-long habit of failure atRFK Stadium with Saturday night’s 1-0 win over D.C. United, but the result wasbusiness as usual—in all the worst ways—for the home side.

The letdowns, late goals and losses keep stacking up forUnited, and while the disappointment of the season’s seventh setback is acuteenough in its own right, the continuation of a recurring pattern makes thislatest defeat all the more maddening for Curt Onalfo and his men.

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United have raised their energy levels, simplified theirattacking principles and improved their defensive shape in recent weeks, butmatches continue to unravel in similar fashion. Time and again, D.C. fail toconvert possession into real attacking danger. Opposing teams settle into arhythm and eventually strike for a late goal that batters the Black-and-Red’sfragile confidence and steals the points.

“It’s hard to push through it. It’s the same thing over andover again: What now?” forward Adam Cristman said. “We’re responding—guys areat least trying to drive the game and create stuff, but whether it’s before thegoal is given up or after, we’re just not getting the service that we need,we’re not getting good shots off and creating the goal-scoring opportunitiesthat we need to win the game.”

On Saturday, United had additional reason to feelstar-crossed, as the game-winning goal was preceded by what seemed to be aclear foul on Rodney Wallace by Rapids winger Wells Thompson, a development lamentedby Onalfo and several of his players afterwards.

When referee Jorge Gonzalez let play continue, MehdiBallouchy scampered into the space normally patrolled by Wallace and used JuanManuel Pena as a screen to obscure goalkeeper Bill Hamid’s view of hisnear-post finish.

“A questionable missed call leads to the goal, and puts uson our heels,” Onalfo said. “So now we’re chasing the game, they’re able todrop numbers behind the goal, making it difficult for us. They did a good jobat managing the game, but for me overall it was a very even match.”

Hamid produced another encouraging performance in his thirdprofessional start, making several excellent saves on the night only to findhimself on the losing end thanks to Ballouchy’s cleverness.

“Basically like they’re taught in Europe, he used thedefender as a shield,” Hamid said. “He had Pena right in front of him, he tookhalf a touch, and for about half a second I lost sight of the ball. He put itright through Pena’s legs with some pace at the near post. I saw it too late.”

D.C. must now wade into a particularly difficult patch oftheir schedule, with a trip to Houston this week ahead of meetings with ChivasUSA, Real Salt Lake and Seattle Sounders FC. Onalfo vowed to help his team “digdeeper” and find the strength to keep moving forward, but the outlook on EastCapitol Street will remain bleak until the current pattern is broken.

“We’re just not good enough,” veteran Jamie Moreno said. “It’svery simple. I don’t think there’s other answers. Confidence-wise, I thinkwe’re really down and the only thing you can say is that everybody fights. It’svery disappointing.

“You know, we push every day in practice to come here and bebetter, but unfortunately it hasn’t worked. To be honest with you, I don’tknow.”