First-half lapses prove costly against Union

D.C. United's offensive struggles early this season have been well-documented. But its latest loss, a 3-2 defeat Sunday to the Philadelphia Union, fell directly at the feet of the defense.

Breakdowns along the back line were responsible for three goals in the first 26 minutes by the Union (3-2-2, 11 points), who handed United (1-5-1, four points) its fourth loss in a row before 12,349 at RFK Stadium.

"The way we started the game, it's just unacceptable," United coach Ben Olsen said. "It's very alarming that we started the way we started in the situation that we're in right now."

United dominated possession (66.2 percent to 33.8 percent) and delivered 24 open play crosses to just seven for the Union. But most of that came well after Jack McInerney all too easily scored the first of his two goals in the seventh minute.

After a lazy pass by United center back Dejan Jakovic was intercepted, Philadelphia forward Conor Casey put through McInerney, who kept his composure as Jakovic and Brandon McDonald bumbled behind him and then beat goalkeeper Bill Hamid with a crisp finish.

The Union doubled their lead four minutes later. United outside back Daniel Woolard was outpaced by Danny Cruz into the corner, Jakovic was late closing down Casey and Hamid only could get a hand on his shot from 18 yards.

Jakovic and McDonald tried to make amends by getting into the attack and helping United get on the board in the 17th minute. Jakovic slid the ball to McDonald, who found Dwayne De Rosario with a curving pass to the end line. De Rosario fed the ball back to the middle, and Perry Kitchen connected for his second career goal and United's first in 265 minutes.

But the defense was culpable as Philadelphia stretched its lead again. Sheanon Williams' long throw-in was flicked on by Amobi Okugo, and McInerney got behind Woolard for his second of the afternoon and sixth of the season.

"It's on me," Woolard said. "My guy scored. We can't give up goals like that. We definitely can't give up three."

United pressured the Union on multiple occasions, but Williams denied United's best chance of the first half with a sliding block at the 6-yard box to deny Chris Pontius. McDonald also tested Union keeper Zac MacMath.

Lionard Pajoy scored on his former team for the second time in two games to cut the deficit to 3-2 three minutes after halftime. But he botched an open counterattack in the 67th minute as United's attack fizzled. It didn't get another shot on goal until Carlos Ruiz's last-ditch free kick in stoppage time.

"I think there would be a lot of bleeps if I gave my thoughts," De Rosario said. "I don't really know what to say. I truly am just very frustrated right now. ... Ten minutes left, we start lumping the ball. We have guys that can play. We have no need for that. We're playing into our weaknesses instead of our strengths, and it's a big problem right now."