WASHINGTON — D.C. United played well against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night, controlling possession, combining crisply, creating chances and defending in organized numbers.
The problem was, they only did so for 66 minutes and only had one goal to show for it.
Houston erased all that with an inspired five-minute stretch that began with Devon McTavish’s own-goal in the 66th and included Geoff Cameron’s headed game-winner four minutes later.
Perhaps recalling last weekend’s gut-wrenching comeback loss to LA, many DC players dropped their heads and, by the time they regained their composure, there was no way back into a match that seemed theirs to win.
The Dynamo ultimately left RFK Stadium as 3-1 winners.
WATCH: Full match highlights
“It’s aggravating,” DC defender Jed Zayner said. “Going up first, having the game in your hands the whole first half, and then [in the] second half just letting it slip away.
"Two mental lapses by our team and that’s what soccer is. If you’re not detailed every minute of the game, it’s going to bite you right in the butt. That’s what just keeps on happening.”
It marks the second straight match, and the third this month, in which United have started well only to fumble away victory down the stretch. With Dominic Oduro’s injury-time strike for Houston, the Black-and-Red have now allowed a whopping 18 goals in the final 15 minutes this season.
The pattern of late collapses has now become all too familiar for interim head coach Ben Olsen and his men.
“It’s getting old — it’s getting really old,” Olsen said. “We let each other down again.”
In a bizarre footnote, Olsen and Houston coach Dominic Kinnear were both ejected late in the game after Olsen walked over to his Dynamo counterpart to apologize for a hard United foul. The duo shook hands amiably, but the refereeing crew took exception, sending them off for what referee Alex Prus later described as “irresponsible behavior for leaving the technical area.”
The final result eclipsed the impact of one of the prettiest goals of United’s season. Teenage winger Andy Najar tormented the Dynamo defense all night, and his slaloming run and finish in the 29th minute gave the home fans another tantalizing reminder of his massive potential.
“It’s unfortunate because I thought we played well, we worked hard, we fought hard and we were playing really well,” Najar said. “But there were moments of lack of concentration towards the end. When they scored the second goal, that really let the whole team down. I can’t really explain why those things happen.”
With his goal, Najar draws level with Santino Quaranta and Freddy Adu for most goals scored by a United rookie, which further builds his case for MLS Rookie of the Year consideration.
Such concerns offer scant consolation for DC at the moment, however.
"We’ve had a rough season so any stat that anybody gets, you can throw that down the toilet, really, to be honest with you," a frustrated Quaranta said. "I want to win games.
"It hurts to lose, simple as that," he added. "I don’t care about any records or anything.”