Spring has sprung!
It's late March and D.C. United just got their second win of the season, putting the team near the top of the Eastern Conference and in prime position to repeat its 2012 success. We're all excited about the Mad Men season 6 premier and Derrick Rose's return prior to the NBA Playoffs. Life is good. And no one has ever heard of Ed Snowden.
But wait. It's 90 degrees outside. This doesn't feel like March...
So how come United only has two wins?
- Nick DeLeon (dcunited.com): "It feels good. It is a relief and a huge weight off the shoulders. We finally got a win, and we finally got a little bit of breaks there at the end when they had a few good looks. Bill [Hamid] came up with a couple of big saves at the end. Like I said we finally got some breaks that we haven’t been getting all year and we got the shutout and the win. It felt really good."
- Ben Olsen (dcunited.com): "I think it gives us hope for a cup in an important tournament. It’s exciting. I want us to get more games and continue on this rhythm. For the last two or three weeks, I’ve sensed that we’ve kind of leveled off from that spiral and I felt as if there was a good energy and a spirit with the guys that they wanted to really get out of this. I thought you saw that a little bit tonight, and hopefully it’s something to build on. We have to build on it. It’s not good enough to win this game and relax and not understand that we have a long way to go. But we’ll get there."
- Robert Jonas (Quake Rattle And Goal): "D.C. United, not playing like a team that has collected only 1 win all season, took control of the match from the opening whistle in front of their home supporters. Their effort was rewarded in the 10th minute when midfielder Chris Korb enticed defender Justin Morrow to trip him up in the penalty area. Referee Jair Marrufo hesitated to make the call at first, but after deliberating with his assistant pointed to the spot. Pontius converted the penalty to score his first goal of the season."
- Stephen Goff (Washington Post): "Chris Pontius scored his first goal of the year on an 11th-minute penalty kick and, breaking from season-long trends, United played a composed, simple and effective game to win in Washington for the first time since the home opener against Real Salt Lake."
- Pablo Maurer (DCist): "Alain Rochat is a huge pickup for United's back line, and he showed why on Saturday night. Defensively, he showed a sense of confidence and class on the ball that United has been missing all year, something many of D.C.'s fans expected upon his signing. What comes as more of a surprise was his quality on the other side of the ball. Rochat found himself in the final third with some frequency against San Jose, overlapping and sending dangerous balls into the box. It was a breath of fresh air to say the least."
- Yes, D.C. United was lucky to win this match. We didn't necessarily deserve the win, based on the run of play. United didn't generate as many chances as the Earthquakes, but they did finish one of the few chances they earned, and that's all that matters in the sport of soccer. The standings have no column for Deserved Wins or Unlucky Losses. Let's take the points and move on, just like all those other teams were able to move on when United was the team failing to finish its chances earlier this year.
- Overall though, it was a fairly even match between two below average teams, each with a player who stood out as more special than all others - Rafael Baca for the Earthquakes, and Chris Pontius for United. This was the first match of the season where Pontius looked like the Pontius we got used to watching last year. Hopefully it's the first of many.
- This match was a reminder that, despite his numerous flaws, Lionard Pajoy does have some utility as a player. When Casey Townsend was clearly fatigued, Pajoy came on to play the role he was born to play - the run around like crazy for 25 minutes to help preserve a lead. If you watch Pajoy, you'll see what he adds. When the opposition is in possession and building out of the back, Pajoy is constantly marking the player who would otherwise be the easiest target for a pass. This leads the opponent to make more difficult passes instead, and it generates turnovers. Pajoy may be terrible at scoring, ball-winning, staying onside, tying his shoes, and lots of other things that forwards are supposed to do. But he does have at least one strength.
- Do you guys remember what happened the last time a United player scored a penalty kick goal? I do. He went on to score a hat trick in the U.S. Open Cup four days later. What you got, CP?
The Last Word
In the grand scheme of things, this match was mostly meaningless. Maybe it will help keep us from breaking some of the all-time worst records. Maybe it won't. Maybe it will be the difference between picking second or third overall in the 2014 MLS Draft.
But if there's anything to take away from this match, it's certainly not that we increased our point total by 50%. It's the increased confidence that comes from a win. And the increased confidence that Pontius should have after finally getting his first goal of the year. Counting the Open Cup, this was two wins in our last three matches. With some extra confidence, perhaps we'll see another one on Wednesday.