WASHINGTON – With a loss or tie meaning the end of D.C. United’s playoff hopes, Wednesday’s match against Portland was always going to be a brutal fight to the end.
And that’s exactly what it was: D.C. throwing caution to the wind tied at 1-1, and creating a host of chances in the final ten minutes of the game. But the game-winning goal proved elusive and the draw spelled the end of postseason hopes – though it came with the fight and effort the coaching staff was hoping to see.
“That basically was my pre-game speech – let’s go down swinging,” head coach Ben Olsen said. “Let’s show people that we are completely committed out there and ready to push it to the limits to get this result.”
When Jair Marrufo’s final whistle blew with the score somehow still tied, both Timbers and D.C. players collapsed to the field, completely and utterly exhausted.“The effort down the stretch from our guys has been very good, it’s just coming up a bit short and it’s costly,” forward Josh Wolff said.
“[Dwayne De Rosario has] been exceptional for us, and again he comes up with a big play. And a couple other ones you just have to take your hat off to [Portland goalkeeper] Troy [Perkins] and their defense for making some incredible tackles or saves right there on the end line.”
De Rosario’s goal in the 72nd minute injected new life into D.C. late in the second half, and the crowd erupted when Blake Brettschneider headed home in the 88th minute – only to be correctly denied by the assistant referee’s flag.
Even after that, the chances were certainly there to keep the season alive – De Rosario had a shot blocked off the line, Joe Ngwenya couldn’t get a hold of a last gasp effort to best Perkins – and in the end it left a sour note of futility despite the effort.
“I still don’t know how we didn’t get the goal, but I’m proud of how we worked and it’s fair to say we left it all on the field tonight,” midfielder Perry Kitchen said.
But in the face of the positive, missing the playoffs wasn’t overlooked, with Olsen taking his share of responsibility.
“I’m extremely disappointed that we haven’t made playoffs. Again, I apologize to the fans and the organization,” he said. “A lot of this I’ll take the blame for because we were a good enough team to make the playoffs. I can promise you I’ll get better as a coach and this team will get better.”