Familiar defensive lapses left D.C. United to match its franchise record for consecutive matches without a victory in a 2-0 defeat to the Portland Timbers. But the shockwaves afterward concerned the attack, where coach Ben Olsen left Dwayne De Rosario on the bench while giving veteran forward Carlos Ruiz his first start since being signed in the offseason.
"It was a coach's decision," Olsen said afterward, but wouldn't elaborate on why De Rosario missed out on his first start of the year while healthy and not suspended.
"Surprised is not the word," said De Rosario, who has one goal and one assist in nine appearances this season. "He didn't think that me and Carlos could play on the same field together... There's talent in this locker room, but I don't know if we're using it to the best of its ability."
The change failed to inspire United (1-9-2), which was shut out for the seventh time, lost for the eighth time in nine games and matched the 2002 team by going winless in 10 straight matches. D.C. struggled to stay organized and was guilty of simple errors that made things easy for the Timbers (5-1-7), who ran their own unbeaten streak to 11.
Former United first-round draft pick Rodney Wallace continued his breakout season with his first goal against his old team in the first half, and Darlington Nagbe added a second in the 57th minute to make the climb too steep for D.C. in front of 14,131 at RFK Stadium. Each player scored his fourth goal of the year.
In the 21st minute, Frederic Piquionne easily corralled a throw in and cut by Brandon McDonald across the field just above the D.C. penalty box. He slid the ball on the left side to Wallace, who was missed by the rotating United back line and had time and space to size up the D.C. goal before powering a shot past Hamid.
Nagbe then got behind McDonald in the 57th minute, bringing down Ryan Johnson's lofted ball and finishing as two other defenders tried to slide in from behind.
"It's embarrassing, how soft we are," Olsen said. "Everywhere around the field. The lack of anger a few of our guys play with, the lack of chip on some of our guys' shoulders, it's mind boggling."
Meanwhile, after complaining in the media about his playing time, Ruiz showed his veteran savvy and combined with Chris Pontius more than once even though United didn't get on the score sheet. Kyle Porter also missed a solid chance off a feed from Pontius on the counterattack in the first half, and Raphael Augusto's introduction improved United's possession early in the second half.
United's best chance to score might have been an uncalled handball in the box on Timbers defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste in the 73rd minute, and moments later substitute Lionard Pajoy missed a golden chance on a through ball from De Rosario, who entered the contest in the 66th minute. Ruiz left in the 71st.
"Everybody else has gotten a shot on this team," Olsen said when asked about Ruiz. "He deserved it, and I thought he did well."
Ruiz, 33, who is tied for 9th on the MLS all-time scoring list with 88 career goals, was asked about whether he can combine with De Rosario, 35, who is three places ahead of him at sixth with 101 goals.
"It depends what Ben wants, because we are not young like a couple years ago," Ruiz said. "If he wants us to run up and down, up and down, it's going to be a little bit difficult."
De Rosario faced the same inquiry.
"Well, I think if you look at our track record as goal scorers, as creators," he said, "I think it's not a bad problem to try it at least once."