A win is a win -- so says the old adage -- but United's 1-0 victory over the Red Bulls sure was a stressful one. After a solid, confident first half, D.C. United began conceding ground in the midfield, leading to multiple Red Bull chances that could have tied the game. But none did, and that's what matters most. United now has two wins (and two clean sheets!) in a row and some real momentum for the first time this year. The once shaky back line now looks settled, and the attack continues to build chemistry. Things are looking up. Here are the player ratings.
I must say I was a tad skeptical of Dykstra when he was chosen over Joe Willis to step in for Bill Hamid but these last two performances have assuaged my fears. Dykstra commands his box very well. Even though Willis has a slight height advantage, Dykstra seems more confident and aggressive coming of his line. He's looked a little overanxious at times but has firmly cemented his spot as backup.
Tough game for Franklin. Again he found himself guilty of several defensive breakdowns, often times checking too close to the center backs and affording Jonny Steele ample space to operate down the flank. More clinical wide men in this league will burn Franklin if given the kind of space Steele saw on Saturday, so Franklin has to clear that up. Offensively I have no qualms as usual, but it's the defense that has to improve for the team's sake.
Bobby Boswell: 8.5
Another superb game from the burly veteran following up from his excellent performance last week against the Revs. United's team focus on keeping the Red Bulls attack in front of them kept both Boswell and Jeff Parke effective throughout the 90 minutes, with Boswell in particular handling the likes of Thierry Henry astutely.
Jeff Parke: 7.5
Didn't quite reach the heights of last week's match but Parke was still solid partnering with Boswell. If there's anything these last two matches have told us, it's that as long as the ball is in front of Boswell and Parke, they're still adept at keeping the opponents at bay. If Olsen is intent on keeping that partnership - which is certainly looks like he is - then United will need to keep the setup that Adam touched on in this week's tactical review: Allowing the opponent possession in the midfield for the sake of keeping the ball in front of the back line.
The mercurial Spaniard impressed me last night. Faced with the potentially tricky matchup of Lloyd Sam he performed well. Scrappy defense and simple passing seem to be the best formula for Cristian, at least to avoid the bone-headed plays of which he seems capable. The cross for EJ's saved backpost header was also nice to see.
Perry Kitchen: 6.5
Not the commanding performance of last week, but certainly did his part in keeping the Red Bulls at bay in the second half. The distribution wasn't as dynamic but was solid. Even in games where Kitchen is not at his best, he remains the most important player in the team, integral to both the defense and setting of the offense.
Davy Arnaud: 6
He gets a bump for scoring the winning goal, naturally, but still had some of the same possession problems of last week. Nevertheless Arnaud still provides a superior level of energy operating with Kitchen in the center midfield. The defense and Kitchen we're certainly important, but the addition of Arnaud to the midfield has really helped the side balance out and get results on the board in these last two matches.
Chris Rolfe: 7
Beyond the clean touches and clever passes that we knew Rolfe would bring to the table, I was excited to see his defensive commitment yesterday. Harrying Kosuke Kimura and helping Cristian out were as much a part of his game Saturday night as his offense, which I didn't expect. Given that performance it's a lock to see him out wide against the Crew next week.
Nick DeLeon: 5.5
Not his worst game offensively, but DeLeon certainly had a hand in some of the struggles on the flank defensively. DeLeon's defense has been in and out this season, and with the buccaneering Franklin on the same side it can cause for some worry when the other team is attacking.
Eddie Johnson: 5.5
I'll give him credit for getting into dangerous places, but at some point these chances have to start turning into goals. Don't get me wrong, he's coming along well. The fact that he's getting more and more chances each week is certainly encouraging, but if United had drawn or lost these last two games there would certainly be more focus on the flubbed chances. Start banging them in soon, Eddie.
Another energetic performance from Espindola. Not the cleanest, mind, but his direct style fits in well when United is playing more on the counter, as they were on Saturday. Espindola and EJ don't seem to click quite yet, and the sooner their chemistry builds the better.
Jeffrey came on to relieve Arnaud in the 66th minute and immediatley assumed Arnaud's role of slightly sloppy midfielder with great hustle. Despite the Red Bull's increasing possession I would have liked to see Jeffrey instill some calm in to the side, arguably his best trait as a player, but instead he rushed passes and failed to slow down the game. We're going to need Jeffrey later on this season to spell either Kitchen or whoever the other midfield partner is, which means we'll need to see that calm passing sooner rather than later.
Alex Caskey: 6
We got a first look at newly acquired Alex Caskey Saturday night, and I was largely impressed. Caskey was brought on to provide pressure on the wings and look to counter attack, which he largely did. I hope we don't have to use Caskey as a main starter this season, but he seems a good pickup as a defensive option late in matches.
Connor Doyle: 5
Another match without a true look at Doyle. I know sitting EJ is hard, but in one of the upcoming matches an extended run for the Espindola-Doyle partnership might be in order.