It's not often a quote from the opposing coach becomes the last word on a D.C. United match, but it did indeed happen on Saturday night following United's 1-0 win over theNew York Red Bulls. For Mike Petke, the man who may best understand the Atlantic Cup rivalry from having played on both sides of it for so long, spoke with candor when he pointed out professional soccer is a results business. While results are the name of the game when you lead a team whose annual payroll tops $11M in America's largest city (or least in a suburb of a suburb of America's largest city), it's also true when your club spends a more modest (but still relatively respectable) $4M on salary as Ben Olsen's side does. As Petke reminded us, it's about results, and Saturday the result fell D.C. United's way.
- New York Red Bulls coach Mike Petke, via dcunited.com: "Hats off to [D.C. United], however, at the end of the day, we were the better team tonight, but the better team doesn't always win. I am very optimistic and very excited about a lot that I saw out of my players, but at the end of the day, we're in a results business and we didn't get the results."
- Steven Goff, via washingtonpost.com: "Until the renovated lineup is fully synchronized, Eddie Johnson starts scoring goals and Ben Olsen is satisfied with its overall form, D.C. United is going to have to find industrious ways to compile points. It's not going to be fancy, but at these early stages of development, Olsen is not worried about the aesthetics."
- Ryan Bacic: "In what marked the 63rd all-time meeting between the two clubs, United got an early goal at RFK from Davy Arnaud, and Andrew Dykstra--earning his second straight start in the place of the injured Bill Hamid--weathered attack after attack from there. The victory, a tenuous 1-0 that for most of the second half looked destined to change, improved DCU's edge in the series to 32-22-9."
- Ben Olsen, via dcunited.com: "It was a good old-fashioned grind out with a little luck on the side. But we talked about this, we said until we are clicking everywhere around the field and really have our identity of who we are, we've got to find a way to get points until that happens, and I think we did that tonight. They had a bunch of chances. They were very good, they were a better team. I didn't think we did enough with the ball playing out of trouble and having stretches of possession. And then it was a bit of a vicious cycle where we were giving the ball away and we were tired from defending for so long."
- New York Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty, via mlssoccer.com: "It's a minor travesty that the result we had to show for it was a loss. Sometimes the soccer gods are smiling on you and you get lucky bounces here and there, and sometimes they aren't. We can't blame anyone but ourselves. The score should've been, realistically, 4- or 5-1 and that's being generous."
- Nick DeLeon, via dcunited.com: On offseason acquisitions: "Our general manager (Dave Kasper) did a good job in the offseason bringing in some good names, and like we have been saying, it is going to take time for us to get on the same page playing together. But, we are starting to put results together, so it seems we are moving in the right direction."
- New York Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry, via dcunited.com: "We tried to come back. I thought we dominated the game around 30 minutes into the game, but it wasn't enough to win. After 30 minutes, we passed the ball well and we created chances, sometimes we were a bit unlucky. I don't think we deserved to lose, but full credit to D.C., they won the game."
- Ben Olsen, via dcunited.com: On set pieces for this year's team: "You can see it can get you points. It doesn't matter what league you're in in the world, if you're good on set pieces you can steal points. Sometimes it's the difference in getting to the playoffs. We had several focuses in the offseason, and one of them was to get better on set pieces. It's not just guys putting their heads in tough spots, it's also service, and I thought Fabian's service was great."
- Davy Arnaud, via dcunited.com: On his goal: "You know, it's funny. Chad Ashton talked earlier in the week about that run at the back post. A lot of times people don't get there, and a lot of times the ball goes right there. And so, he told me to go there and the first corner there it is, right there."
- Chad Ashton, via dcunited.com: On Andrew Dykstra: "Andrew's great. I'm so happy for him. When I looked back at tape, the biggest thing he is doing really well is giving information. His information to the backs is unbelievable. It's really specific, and it's keeping everything organized. For any keeper to get two shutouts back-to-back is a big deal. For him to go win, win after not playing with our team for a while is a huge deal."
- Eddie Johnson, via mlssoccer.com: "It's always frustrating. I came here to score goals. If I wasn't getting opportunities, then it'd be even more frustrating. The guys are starting to find me; my timing and understanding of when to make my run, when the guys get into position, it's getting better and better every game. It's just a matter of time."
A famous sports adage says, "You are what your record says you are." The google machine attributes this line to Bill Parcells, a guy who knows a thing or two about winning in professional American sports. And yet, this simple statement is so unsatisfying when viewed through the lens of the avid fan. We fans (and I count myself a big one for D.C. United) want to dissect every possible reason why the team has the record they have, why they are not playing up to their potential, why they are over achieving, how they will do the rest of the season, etc. In fact, without such dissection and analysis we wouldn't have the community we have right here on Black and Red United.
And yet, when viewed through the prism of what a team's primary goal is every time it takes the field, namely to win, Bill Parcells' sage wisdom provides clarity. D.C. United is not a perfect team right now, not even close, but it is a team getting results. Even with the warts, this week we celebrate D.C. United for finding a way to defeat their most fierce rival and the current Supporters' Shield holders--a team D.C. United had not beaten in their five previous regular season meetings.
While we're at it, let's also celebrate Andrew Dykstra. He came up big when the Red Bulls put the ball on frame, and also prevented other good chances from materializing by smothering crosses or punching them out of the area. We also celebrate Bobby Boswell and Jeff Parke for doing an admirable job of dealing with perhaps the single most talented player in the league in the form of Thierry Henry. Kudos to Fabian Espindola and Boswell as well for being persistently threatening on set pieces, and to Davy Arnaud for making the back-post run. Hats off to newcomer Chris Rolfe for being consistently dangerous and shooting the ball, and to Perry Kitchen for continuing to develop his ability to hit the killer through ball. Finally, a well-deserved attaboy to the fans at RFK Stadium who, along with some overdue good fortune, helped lift the team to an important early-season win.
The Last Word:
So, what is D.C. United this season? They are a 2-2-1 team sitting in fourth position in the Eastern Conference. Further, they are exactly in the middle of the current Supporters' Shield standings in tenth position (BTW, they are ninth on a points per game basis). Ironically, tenth is precisely the same position D.C. United sits in the recently released player salary table when totaling player guaranteed compensation for each team. Personally, if you had offered me at the beginning of the season fourth place in the East after Week 6, I would have taken it without asking questions. To be in this position at this point in the season, knowing the team still can (and must) get better is perfectly fine for this fan.
And, what do I think about Saturday's win over the Red Bulls? I think it was huge, and I think it was deserved because it was fairly decided on the field free of any controversy (other than the Red Bulls' inability to score and D.C. United's inability to get a second goal). Now, D.C. United has to get ready for a stretch of big-boy soccer over the next three Saturdays with games at the Columbus Crew (#3 in the Supporters' Shield standings), home against FC Dallas (#1 in Supporters' Shield standings), and away at the Portland Timbers (last year's Western Conference regular season champs). Then comes a very difficult stretch of seven matches in 32 days.
Every game feels big at this point, and we will know much more about this team as the results keep coming in. This is fun. And let's keep dissecting and analyzing it, because we are fans after all.
What's your view? Is Mike Petke right? What does Saturday night tell us about the next 10 games for D.C. United?