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DC United 1-0 New York Red Bulls: Out-possessed DCU Holds On to Claim First Match in 2014 Atlantic Cup

Arnaud's 4th-minute header proves the difference as DC United tops New York to close out its homestand with two straight wins.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

D.C. United entered Saturday's game winless in the last five iterations of its Atlantic Cup rivalry with New York. Its last regular-season win over the Red Bulls? Try April of 2012.

Let's just say a lot of things are changing for the Black and Red these days.

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.

"You're not gonna find any team that goes out, week in and week out, and puts on an unbelievable performance and just walks over teams," Arnaud said afterward. "Tonight wasn't our best performance—that won't be our best performance at home all year. We didn't play as well as we played last week.

"But at the end of the day, you walk out of here with three points in a big game against a conference rival, and that's what it's all about."

And now United, after starting the season 0-2-1, finds itself the winner of two straight. But it was a lackadaisical showing for much of Saturday from the hosts, who opted to sit back after Arnaud's header opened the scoring in the fourth minute.

That lone tally of the night would come off a Fabian Espindola corner kick, which center back Bobby Boswell—a nuisance on set pieces all evening long—flicked on at the near post to an awaiting Arnaud at the back.

From there, though, it was almost all Red Bulls.

"There's never a bad time for a goal, but when you score that early, it maybe changes the way you play a little bit," Arnaud said. "I thought we were a little deep too early—we got caught sitting too deep. You feel like you're protecting the lead a little bit. "

Protecting that lead was a task seemingly made all the more difficult by the absence of Hamid, who sat out his second straight game with a foot problem. This time, his backup, Dykstra, would have a lot more work to do.

Last week against New England, in a 2-0 home win, Dykstra faced just nine total shots. This week, he faced 19.

"I think he's done well. He's seized the opportunity," Boswell said. "[But] it's a solid group thing. It's not about any one guy. He did well in the last two games, and if he's the guy for our next game, I'm sure he'll be ready to go and try to keep another zero."

New York looked as if it would equalize on several different occasions on Saturday, but 15 of those 19 total shots would end up off the mark.

In the 36th minute, Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry beat Sean Franklin in the air just outside the six, but his ensuing header would go just wide of the net. Johnny Steele would then miss by about the same distance with a hard strike across the face of goal to open the second half, while an Eric Alexander laser in the 57th minute barely missed the top-left corner of Dykstra's goal.

United, meanwhile, spent the second half mostly ball-watching, as the visitors gradually built up their eventual 57%-43% possession advantage. Eddie Johnson, who had a pair of clean, unmarked shots on the game, nonetheless remained scoreless through five matches in the District.

"I know the goal didn't come again, and you guys will be all over that," Olsen said at his postgame press conference. "But maybe try focusing on the three points and how well [Johnson is] playing and holding the ball up and doing some of the stuff that his team needs to get three points."

Olsen went on to stress the importance of "grinding out" points as his new-look squad continues to gel and find its identity. New York was "the better team," he readily admitted. But when asked how it felt to finally win two straight games again, Olsen balked.

"How long's it been?" he asked.

"Two years," someone said. DC United did win just three total games in 2013, after all.

And so the fifth-year head coach smirked, then took a long sip from his water bottle. As far as an answer was concerned, that would have to do.

The drought was over.