CARSON, Calif. –- You could hear it in D.C. United coach Tom Soehn’s voice. You could feel it afterward in the locker room.
The fact that United went on the road and played the LA Galaxy to a 2-2 tie on Sunday at The Home Depot Center -- despite holding a two-goal lead with 10 minutes to play -- didn’t sit well with either the coach or his players.
“I think we come away a little disappointed,” Soehn said. “I thought we deserved a little more. Especially in the opening games of these seasons, there’s turmoil.”
While part of that sentiment might have to do with what D.C. felt were two disputable calls late in the game, United weren’t about to make excuses for their collapse that occurred during the final 10 minutes.
“We still got a point out of it, which is a positive,” said midfielder Devon McTavish, who received seven staples in his head due to a mid-air collision with teammate Greg Janicki. “But there was a lot out there that we could’ve gotten. We could learn from this, because we played well for a good 80 minutes.”
D.C. led 2-0 to that point because of goals from Christian Gomez and rookie Chris Pontius. Gomez scored on a penalty kick in the 44th minute after being wrestled down inside the box by Galaxy midfielder Dema Kovalenko, while Pontius’ goal in the 62nd minute was a beauty.
Pontius, a native of nearby Yorba Linda who had 130 friends and family on hand to watch his MLS debut, unexpectedly found himself in open space 17 yards from the goal and fired a rocket that found the back of the net.
“I was actually pretty surprised,” said Pontius. “I thought someone was going to close me down, but I was able to pick up my head and pick out the spot I wanted to put it in. Rodney (Wallace’s) run cleared it out for me. He left me wide open.”
Soehn had praise for his first-round draft pick.
“Took a little bit for him to get going, but once he got his rhythm he showed a lot of his qualities from spring training,” Soehn said. “One of the reasons why we drafted him is he’s a smart player, he’s athletic, he’s got a knack to score goals. I thought he had a good (game) for a debut.”
With a two-goal cushion, D.C. seemed to come away with a season-opening road win. But a handball infraction in the penalty area against Wallace –- which television replays didn’t appear to support –- put Landon Donovan in line for a penalty kick.
Donovan converted it in the 80th minute, and then struck again five minutes later with a header assisted by Kyle Patterson to tie the game, where the U.S. international was left all alone behind the United back line and goalkeeper Josh Wicks looking for an offside call.
“I haven’t seen the replay of it, (but) everyone in (the locker room) is telling me it wasn’t a handball,” Soehn said. “It hit Rodney in the thigh. So obviously you’re disappointed with that. And some guys think Landon was offside, but I haven’t seen that either. In the end, if it was, it’s disappointing that the referee got involved in the final result.”
With that, D.C. learned a valuable lesson about what not to do next time it has a two-goal lead.
“Two-oh is a dangerous lead,” said Pontius. “You tend to settle in a little bit more. I think we got a little too comfortable. You can’t leave Landon Donovan open. He’s going to put that away every single time.”
Added Soehn: “L.A. never quit. I give them credit for that. They fought until the end. We come out with a point, but we’re disappointed.”