It's been a while since we D.C. United fans finished a week during the MLS regular season in good spirits (Aug. 3rd, 2013, D.C. United beat the Montreal Impact 3-1), and even longer since we enjoyed a shutout win (Jun. 22nd, 2013, 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes). On Saturday night, D.C. United reset those dates with a 2-0 win over their I-95 rivals, the New England Revolution. While it wasn't a perfect game, this week The Last Word will focus on enjoying the victory and the positive progress which resulted in the win and has been evident during the first four matches of 2014.
- Steven Goff, via washingtonpost.com: "When new arrival Chris Rolfe volleyed in a goal in stoppage time Saturday night, securing a 2-0 victory over the New England Revolution, D.C. United enjoyed a moment eight months in the making: For the first time since last summer, United had won an MLS regular season match. Gifted an own goal by MLS's top defender in 2013, steadied by a goalkeeper making his first league appearance in 31 / 2 years and boosted by Rolfe's clincher, United ended a 15-game winless streak before 10,526 at RFK Stadium."
- Ryan Bacic: "Unlike last week against the Fire, there would be no late equalizer this time around. "I honestly didn't really think much about [how long it'd been] since my last league appearance. It came up in a conversation before the game, but it wasn't something I'm thinking about," Dykstra said. "I've played a lot of games since I left Chicago, so I've been in a good rhythm, and I feel pretty confident about what I'm doing." After United made its long-awaited breakthrough in the win column Saturday, Dykstra's not the only one with reason for confidence."
- Pablo Maurer, via mlssoccer.com: "For a team that many would argue has been short on luck for quite a while, Untied found themselves on the end of a few fortuitous calls on Saturday evening. Aside from the own goal, United were perhaps lucky to not lose the services of midfielder Lewis Neal, who's two rash first-half challenges on Revolution defender Andrew Farrell were only punished by a single yellow card."
- Cliff Starkey, via soccerbyives.net: "Jose Goncalves scored a comical own goal just before halftime, and Chris Rolfe marked his D.C. United debut with a goal in second-half stoppage time to give D.C. a 2-0 victory over the New England Revolution at RFK Stadium on Saturday...Goncalves looked set to make the most routine of clearances on a tame cross, but he could only watch in horror as the ball rolled off his foot, and into the back of his own net. The own goal put D.C. United ahead 1-0 going in to the break...Goncalves was frustrated, but didn't see his own goal as the end of the game."
- Ben Olsen, via dcunited.com: On the game: "Yeah, it's relief. It was just important for us to move forward in our play, but also get the win. It feels good. It feels good for a lot of those new guys, and in particular some of those old guys as we got a little bit of a demon off our back, and we can move forward now."
- New England Revolution coach Jay Heaps, via dcunited.com: On the team's performance: "I thought we came out obviously alright. I thought we had enough in the first half to at least, you know, go in zero-zero or up a goal. In the second half I was a little bit disappointed in how we played in terms of directness. I think we could have been a little better trying to probe. I think we risked it a little too early when we went after it right at the start of the second half. And, I think they did a good job defending but we weren't creative enough."
- Ben Olsen, via dcunited.com: On Perry Kitchen's performance: "I thought Davy and Perry early on in the game were too flat and that's why New England had a lot of possession. As Davy and Perry got out to pressure them in the central midfield, I thought the game changed. I thought they both had very good games. They are both warriors, and Davy was a stud tonight. I'm happy for him. He seems comfortable in that central position, which is nice. I thought the back four was steady with high concentration all night long. They aren't an easy team to play with their interchange and their technical players."
- Andrew Dykstra, via dcunited.com: On his preparation during the week: "I just kind of prepare for whatever. Whether that was being the backup or starting tonight. It was a little tough, but we did it."
- New England Revolution forward Charlie Davies, via dcunited.com: On emotions playing against his former team: "I was pretty emotional at the end, actually. When I landed at the airport I got that weird feeling that it just didn't feel right playing against D.C. You know, I feel really close to the club and to the supporters, so it was difficult to actually get focused and mentally prepared for this game. It was good, but it was an emotional time for me."
- Chris Rolfe, via dcunited.com: On the whirlwind since the trade: "I only found out a few hours before I was traded and then I came here. But, the guys have been great; the organization has been awesome and made it really easy which helped me tonight."
On Saturday night, we saw Perry Kitchen continue his transformation into more than just a very good defensive midfielder. In the most exciting player development issue of the 2014 season so far, Kitchen continues to push higher and higher up the field, routinely playing dangerous balls all around the offensive third. With the ball at his feet and his head up looking for attacking options, we are seeing tremendous progress in D.C. United's most reliable player, and it's occurring without him sacrificing his central role in screening the back four. Finding the best midfield partnership week-in-and-week-out to allow Kitchen to continue his offensive progress will be one of Olsen's key tasks this year. And, please, LEWIS NEAL!, stop the studs up tackles! D.C. United needs you on the field (either starting or as an impact sub) and isn't ready to play with 10 players for long stretches of a match.
As important as Bill Hamid is, and will continue to be, for D.C. United and its fortunes this year, we also saw this team can continue to make progress when he is out. Due to a previously unknown injury picked up while with the US Men's National Team last week, Hamid was replaced in goal by Andrew Dykstra who played well and earned the clean sheet along with an improved back four. We've said for a long time goalie is the deepest position on the team, and we now know D.C. United can compete and win with any of its three keepers on the field (but get well soon, Bill!).
Finally, both the center of the defense and Fabian Espindola showed progress. For Bobby Boswell and Jeff Parke, this was a much improved performance over previous games, and it came against a Revs team struggling mightily on offense. But, give the center backs their due because even though Teal Bunbury did not have a good night for New England, he was frequently harassed into bad plays by Boswell and Parke. Espindola, on the other hand, continued the excellent play we saw last week from him. His work rate is tremendous and he is making other players around him better. His assist on Chris Rolfe's stoppage-time goal was well deserved given his quality night.
The Last Word:
The term "progress" hasn't been a popular word among fans of the Black-and-Red since the beginning of 2013 when used in post-game quotes by the team's coaches and players. But, progress is what we've seen from D.C. United this season and perhaps it is exciting to know there is still more potential to be tapped and more progress to come from Ben Olsen and his squad. Christian still needs to lock down his side of the defense and avoid glaring miscues; Eddie Johnson needs to get his first goal and synchronize the timing of his runs with his supporting cast; and players need to shoot when they have the opportunity. But, if the team consolidates the improvements we've seen over the last few weeks and continues to progress in the weeks ahead, this will be a dangerous team ready for all comers.
Saturday night was a strange game, with goals from a player not on the team (Jose Goncalves) and a player acquired by the team last Wednesday (Chris Rolfe). These were the kinds of games D.C. United lost last season. Now, D.C. United must prepare for its biggest rival and a team desperate for a win. Although they are only 0-1-4, the New York Red Bulls will believe they can come to RFK Stadium this weekend and beat D.C. United to get their season headed in the right direction. D.C. United now must show they can take out the current Supporters' Shield holders and consign them to their historic place behind the Black-and-Red in the Eastern Conference standings--that would be progress we all could get behind!
What's your take? Was this win "progress"?