“It was a long game. I am extremely appreciative of the effort our guys gave tonight,” D.C. United coach Ben Olsen said. “The last two games didn’t go our way and we found a way to get something out of it.”
Aware of San Jose’s man-marking tendency, Olsen opted to switch his lineup and formation. With three center backs, Olsen placed midfielder Paul Arriola behind Ulises Segura on the right side. It was only the fourth time this season that the two started together.
The new formation only lasted 25 minutes, though, as defender Leo Jara stepped on the pitch for Russell Canouse, who left with an ankle injury.
“He rolled his ankle,” Olsen said. “The plan was to bring Leo in at some point anyways. Not that soon, but I thought he added to the game in the right way.”
United’s unfamiliar formation failed to shut down several attempts by the Earthquakes attack. The Quakes (5-6-3, 18 points) took 17 of their 21 shots in the first half. With the pressure on, San Jose felt destined to score and it was MLS goals king Chris Wondolowski, who finally marked the scoresheet.
Through the first 11 games of this season, Wondolowski was stuck at 144 career goals until he found the back of the net four times against Chicago Fire on May 18. He continued to separate himself from the previous record-holder, Landon Donovan, Saturday with his goal against United.
In the 37th minute, defender Nick Lima crossed a ball over United’s backline. Wondolowski snuck behind defender Jalen Robinson and headed in an easy goal.
With a sluggish first half behind them, United (7-4-6, 27 points) increased the offensive pressure. Forward Wayne Rooney tried to equalize minutes into the half after midfielder Lucas Rodriguez won a free kick from about 25 yards out, but his attempt went high.
“The second half was much better. We looked more comfortable,” Olsen said. “They dropped a little bit of their pressure after their goal and we were able to help things out offensively and get more chances. Unlucky, maybe, in the second half not to get the winner.”
United had another set of chances to equalize in a span of two minutes when Jara took a shot from long range saved by Daniel Vega, followed by a shot from midfielder Luciano Acosta that missed the target. On the ensuing corner, midfielder Junior Moreno took a wack at goal, but again Vega came up with the save.
Down a goal, Olsen was forced into a defensive change after a scary collision between defenders Florian Jungwirth and Steven Birnbaum. Jungwirth got up without a scratch after the clash of heads, but Birnbaum was bleeding heavily from his head and eventually walked off under his own power with a towel pressed against his wound.
Birnbaum had a similar cut last week against Houston Dynamo in a clash with Alberth Elis. Birnbaum received 11 stitched and passed concussion protocol in a training room during the game.
“He has last weeks here,” Olsen said and gestured to the left side of his head. “And now he has an identical one … on the other side. He is made out of something different. He will be fine.”
Jun 1, 2019; Washington, D.C., USA; D.C. United midfielder Ulises Segura (8) shoots the ball on San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper Daniel Vega (17) in the first half at Audi Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
With yet another formation change, United dug in and found some offensive momentum. In the 68th minute, Jara took another shot from distance. Vega couldn’t get hands on the ball, which popped out to the feet of Acosta, who cleaned up the rebound to equalize late for United.
Wondolowski nearly doubled San Jose’s lead during stoppage time, but it was ruled offside. Both teams looked exhausted and aggravated in the final moments of the match that went to 10 addition minutes of stoppage time.
United limp away with a point and a long international break ahead. The Black-and-Reds’ next league match is July 26 against Orlando City SC.
“Everything needs to be worked on from the front to the back to the middle of the pitch,” Rooney said. “We have to realize what we need to do and how to improve. I think we are a bit fortunate to be where we are in the league. It is a big wake up call for us, this last month.”