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Needing a goal to secure a win at Toronto FC on Saturday, two D.C. United players - and one TFC goalkeeper - conspired to give three points to the visitors. Join us as we look at the media response to United's win and dive deeper into the result.
Well, that was more difficult than it should have been, wasn't it? The double-pivot managed yet again to generate next to nothing and yet bring home a needed result, absolutely flabbergasting many and rendering the rest of us at least conflicted. But we'll get more into that in a bit.
What They're Saying About It
Webb: The game's only goal came about in the 88th minute when former Maryland midfielder Jeremy Hall made a hash of a routine midfield clearance that set Maicon Santos down the right sideline. The Brazilian forged a bit of space before launching a left-footed shot on goal. United teammates Branko Boskovic and Chris Pontius were both furious with Santos as they were positioning themselves in front of goal but as the play continued, Kocic somehow managed to spill the admittedly easy save right into the path of Salihi who poked the ball into the empty net to send United to an improbable if not undeserved win.
Shatzer: Save for the first 10 minutes of the game, the last five minutes of the first half, TFC had better chances on goal than United. Of course that changed though when Branko Boskovic, Hamdi Salihi, and Maicon Santos came on the field. As we know it would. But even the goal for United was lucky. It came on a driven shot from Santos on a counterattack that Milos Kocic should have saved fairly easily. Except he didn't, and Salihi was there to clean up the rebound. It may have been lucky, but it was the only goal in the 1-0 win for D.C.
Tronovitch: "I am very pleased with Hamdi," D.C. United Head Coach Ben Olsen said following the game. "The guy is a true pro. A lot of forwards don't score that goal, they don't finish off the play, and that's what Hamdi is - he is a finisher." Indeed, Salihi's goals per 90 minutes rate is 0.58 - the best on the team. He has seen time in 21 games this season (10 starts), scoring six goals in just 937 minutes. Salihi scored in each of DC‚s three games against Toronto this season, all of which were wins by the Black-and-Red.
Cammarota: It's been far from pretty, but since captain Dwayne De Rosario was announced out for the remainder of the regular season, D.C. haven't lost. Against five clubs with losing records, United are 4-0-1, including 2-0-1 on the road, and have recorded three clean sheets. All three of those shutouts have been 1-0 wins. Saturday's road victory was arguably the ugliest of them all, but Salihi - United's only Designated Player - scored the sixth goal of his admittedly frustrating season when D.C. needed him most.
Leung (TFC Perspective): We lose when we are outplayed, and we lose when we're the one who do the outplaying. A horrible DC United was there for the taking, after almost 90 minutes of scoreless football. And then, one mistake...and even a point became just a dream. It looked as though for the most part it was a competent game, save for the whole finishing part. The cruelty of it all!
What I'm Saying About It
The comments to Martin's recap are probably the most heated of any I can remember on this site after a win. And understandably so. We were arguably outplayed over 90 minutes by the worst team in the league (by a mile, or two). Our opening tactics were probably too conservative and defensive coming against a team that relies on magic to score and that has a psyche ripe for the smashing into bits with an early goal. Where we here at B&RU like to say "sweep the leg," Benny seemed to come out with more of a "not in the face" attitude, entirely reliant on a TFC-esque potential moment of magic to try and take home anything more than a point.
And so, after 88 minutes of not very threatening soccer, Maicon Santos made some magic and forced current Reds and former DCU 'keeper Milos Kocic to make a save. He did, but he also gave up an improbable rebound, which Salihi pounced on. For a split second afterword, Salihi seemed to be curling his mustache, leaving Kocic in his mounty uniform accepting blame for not saving the damsel we tied had tied to the train tracks; for the first time, Snidely Whiplash had actually defeated Dudley Do-Right using the clueless hero's own luck- and timing-based method.
I'm as confused as anybody. I don't love the double-pivot or how it leaves us dependent on DeRo-less moments of magic, but there's no denying that we are now unbeaten in five and all but assured of a playoff spot. We're left being happy with the take-home result of an unsatisfying on-field product. As commenter beardyblue argued in the comments to Martin's recap, one of the reasons we're less than satisfied is the loss of the imperious United from late spring. It's a lot less fun to win the way United are winning than the way the San Jose Earthquakes have been winning this year (though they've left it late plenty of times, too).
It obviously remains to be seen whether United's newfound grind-based gameplan will find postseason success, and I understand the skepticism that's out there in the Unitedverse. And I'm with those who hope to see the trio that helped push United to the win this weekend - Salihi, Santos and Boskovic - getting more minutes and (gasp!) starts - to close out the season and kick off the playoffs. But whether they get their run-out or not, we're looking at extra soccer, and I'm celebrating.