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Three things we learned from D.C. United’s 1-0 win over Orlando City

A win’s a win, but the Gold Cup break didn’t result in a dramatic improvement

Caitlin Buckley

After yet another piece of magic from Wayne Rooney against Orlando City, D.C. United did just enough to make sure that was enough to secure a 1-0 win. Here’s what we can take away from United’s first league game in over three weeks.

Watch the goal. No, really.

Go ahead, we’ll wait. Specifically, note Devon McTavish’s observation that there was no first touch involved. Not many players are going to do that, and I don’t know what it is about British Designated Players and goals from the defending half. Watch Wazza against Orlando the last time they played. Or the time before that. Got it in now?

D.C. is catching teams at the right time...

Orlando was missing three starting midfielders and their left back to the Gold Cup, Copa America and to injury. They will face a Toronto FC team missing two big pieces to the Gold Cup, and who gave two guys their first 2019 MLS minutes Wednesday night, one of them had just signed a homegrown deal days before, and they’re coming down here Saturday. Concurrently, Philadelphia plays New York City FC and Atlanta United plays the Montreal Impact while the New York Red Bulls play the Chicago Fire.

Were there ever a time to get six points, particularly as four of the top six in the East are playing one another, this would be it.

...But it needs to be better.

Putting aside the fact that Orlando actually has a sneaky good team defensively (being top 5 in MLS in expected goals against will do that), D.C. was out-shot, out-possessed and out-passed on the night. After the goal, Orlando completed more passes (397) than United attempted (389), and almost half (167) of Orlando’s total passes were in the attacking third. Did Orlando feel comfortable looping the ball into the box via crosses? You bet, at a clip of 26 to 3. D.C. set up the low block, was comfortable absorbing the wave as they usually do and rode it out for the win. With 19 shots and only 3 on goal, things like this will happen:

The bottom chart here is from last night, while the one above it is D.C.’s next opponent. There are issues at both ends. United continues to have problems finding their finishing boots, scoring more goals than just 3 other teams above the red line in the East. Two of those teams (Atlanta and the Red Bulls) have multiple games in hand on the Black-and-Red. However, look at both charts, and try to tell me that with an xGA that is 4th worst in MLS (and 2nd worst in shots allowed/game) at the moment, that D.C. isn’t playing with fire in back.

The short turnaround to face a Toronto FC side that was Pity Martinez’s Charlie Adam impression away from seeing an eight-game winless run become nine last night does them little favor, and then they have to go on the road to play FC Dallas, which has never been a friendly fixture for this team. They’re going to need to find a way to ease some frayed nerves after Wednesday.

Rooney’s goal was magical, but that magic gets harder and harder to find as summer goes into fall.