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Another Lead Slips Away

The Screaming Eagles had a great tailgate in beautiful weather, including a raffle to benefit the Conservation Center where we have our pregame festivities (see photo above), before playing Orlando at Audi Field this past Saturday (April 13). Unfortunately, despite leading 2-1 after 80 minutes, DC gave up two late goals and lost, 3-2.

First, something I forgot to mention in my last blog: in the DC at Columbus game on April 6, late in the first half there was a hydration break. Usually these only occur in 90+ degree temperatures, but this one was just after sunset and was for players observing Ramadan to take on some water (and a little food; I saw one player gulping down a banana). Muslims observing Ramadan do not eat or drink during daylight hours, and for a soccer player in a game, no water in particular must be tough. An interesting event that I have not seen before.

Back to Orlando: it was the final game of a 4 game "no noise protest" by supporters groups in the North Stands because of DC's preseason trip to Saudi Arabia. I did notice some chants occasionally from that area this game, but still no drums. That will change at the next home game against Seattle on April 27.

DC came out in a 3 man back: Antley, Bartlett and McVey from left to right. Hopkins and Klich were in defensive midfield, and Dajome and Herrera were on the wings. Fletcher, Benteke and Stroud were up top. Ted Ku was out injured.

DC got off to a great start in the 5th minute when Orlando keeper Pedro Gallese ran into people on a corner, leaving Benteke wide open to loop the ball into the far side of the net. There were other good early chances, but no more goals. After 20 minutes, Orlando began playing better, and in the 28th minute Orlando's Ivan Angulo got past McVey on the left side of the box. Bartlett came over to cover, Antley stayed in the middle to cover another Orlando player, and Angulo sent a cross to the far post where Dagur Thorhallson nodded in an uncontested goal to tie the game 1-1. Christian Dajome was near Thorhallson but did not cover him until it was too late.

Orlando continued to look for quick counters, and Bono was almost caught out of goal in the 38th minute, but Aaron Herrera (who had a great game) hustled back and cleared the ball out of danger.

There was a dustup in the 42nd minute when Orlando's Wilder Cartagena taunted a downed DC player after a foul. Herrera came in and shoved him away, and after a relatively tame scrum calm was restored. Both Herrera and Cartagena got yellow cards. After that, the referee was calling yellow cards for anything, and DC got the brunt of that; by game's end Antley, Hopkins, Klich, Dajome, Benteke and even the DC bench had seen yellow, often harshly.

The half ended 1-1. Peltola came in for Hopkins and Pirani for Fletcher to start the second half. DC continued to generate chances, and in the 66th minute Pirani scored after a great headed assist from Benteke. It's amazing how Benteke not only wins a ton of headers, but frequently puts them in a great location for teammates. It reminds me of old NBA star Bill Russell, who was a defensive legend and won 11 titles. Russell was a master shot-blocker, but he would not only block the shot, he would block it directly to a teammate to start a fast break. Benteke has similar skills.

Things were looking good for DC at that point.

Murrell came in for Stroud in the 77th minute, but David Brekalo equalized for Orlando in the 82nd minute on an inch-perfect corner kick from Facundo Torres that just eluded Benteke. You can't get them all.

Benteke probably should have drawn a penalty a couple of minutes later when he was undercut on (another) header off of a free kick. Santos came in for Dajome shortly after that.

Just into stoppage time, Nicholas Lodeiro sent a through ball to Duncan McGuire, who may have been miles offside but also may have been in his own half (where offside can't be called). Somehow with all the available cameras no one showed a view which could have answered that question. So 3-2 to Orlando. There were 11 (actually more due to extra delays) minutes of stoppage time. Pirani (93rd minute) and Herrera (99th minute) had powerful shots on goal, but unfortunately straight to the keeper, and the game ended 3-2.

DC did not look as crisp as in other games, and there were a lot of errant passes. The three man back seems especially vulnerable to quick counters, especially with Herrera up closer to midfield. DC had the usual multiple chances (17 shots, 7 on goal, 7 corners) and of course the 2 goals, but they seem to have trouble holding on to late leads sometimes. The result leaves DC right at .500 (2 wins, 2 losses, 4 draws). The next game is this coming Saturday night (April 20) in New York against NYCFC; it will be at Citi Field (the Mets' home field) rather than the usual Yankee Stadium.


The Nest Liner

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