Winning ugly. Stealing a win. Grinding it out when the other guys have the better of play. However you want to describe D.C. United's 1-0 road win against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday, the Black-and-Red remain perched atop the Eastern Conference.
What They're Saying About It
Shatzer: This performance from United won't leave the team feeling confident, but it will leave them atop the Eastern Conference standings. It won't intimidate any future opponents, but it will get us closer to the playoffs. Matches like this happen occasionally, even to playoff teams. And we should all keep in mind that United doesn't necessarily have to be playing its best soccer in June. United just needs to be playing well enough throughout the summer to help solidify one of those top three spots in the East. Our best soccer is still ahead of us. If we don't see it until October, I'm okay with that.
Salazar: Through the first half, Philadelphia owned a majority of possession (53.7%) and saw that number increase (57.4%) over the final forty-five minutes. Beyond controlling the ball, the Union created more attempts on goal, corners and open-play crosses than the Black-and-Red.
Tenorio: I asked Pontius if he was worried about hearing from the league for a possible dive on the foul that set up his goal. "No, he got a piece of me on it," Pontius said. "But I think he got the ball first. But he did get a piece of me on it." United will also be wondering if they'll hear from the league regarding Dejan Jakovic's two-footed tackle in the second half. Bill Hamid said his knee was fine after a collision in the first half.
Webb: Boskovic' free kick was whipped perfectly over the wall to Pontius who ran on to the ball at the back post for an easy tap-in. On the evening United created very few chances and were just a step off and were fortunate not to go behind if not for a few sparkling saves from Bill Hamid. Hamid's save on a Carlos Valdez header in the 86th minute preserved the win for United. United's next opponent will be another Eastern Conference rival when they travel to Harrison, New Jersey to take on the Red Bulls on Sunday, June 24th.
What I'm Saying About It
- I completely understand the general inclination to give Man of the Match honors to a one-goal game's goal-scorer. So it's not that surprising to see MLSSoccer.com's honors going to Chris Pontius, even if I wouldn't have necessarily gone in that direction. It's also not that shocking to see two Union players filling out their top three performers of the night, given how Philly bossed most of the evening. Of course, going that route means that the single most important performance of the night goes unrecognized. So, by way of corrective action for MLSS's oversight, big ups to true Man of the Match Bill Hamid, whose performance gave the Black-and-Red a chance to win a game they could have easily lost by multiple goals.
- This game has me feeling a little bit like my hand is in the cookie jar. Think back on how many times over the last four or five years has this happened: United controls possession and creates chance after chance they can't quite put away only to ship a goal late on and lose 1-0 or 2-0. Tonight, we were (finally) on the other side of that coin, stealing a result we didn't have much business claiming. They say that good teams find a way win even when they don't play their best, and I'll take it. That said, I'm not toasting this win, especially with a tough rivalry game coming up next Sunday in Jersey - one where, despite the 4-1 drubbing we dropped on the Metros in DC this spring, the boys in black are going to have to play a lot better to take any points home with them.
- Honest inquiry: Did Branko Boskovic's substitute performance Saturday answer those lingering questions? I'm on record as wanting a simple 6-month extension for him, at the same salary, to let him see out the season in D.C. before longer-term talks get going. After seeing what he brought to the table this weekend - and for the last couple months - that's starting to look more and more like a reasonable outcome. Once the Montenegrin entered the match, United saw more of the ball, looked to concede fewer opportunities and engineered more of their own chances. Plus, his superb set-piece service created the game's only goal. While earlier in the year, Boskovic was the only guy on a team of flyers playing at a slower tempo, Saturday night we saw a guy who had sped up his own play, but not to the point of losing control; we saw a guy who dictated the tempo for everybody on his team, not a guy playing in the dirt by himself. We saw a string-puller that exploited the space created by Philly's focus on Dwayne De Rosario and United's other attacking options. That said, he's still not going 90 minutes, whether for fitness or tactical reasons, and a DP salary is a lot of money to put out for a sub. At the very least, should we expect Boskovic to start next weekend?