clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Substitutions prove pivotal in D.C. United's win over Orlando City

After a lackluster first half, appearance of Chris Rolfe, Miguel Aguilar, and Jairo Arrieta changed the outcome for United in 2-1 victory

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

After 45 minutes Wednesday night against Orlando City, proceedings were not looking favorable for D.C. United. Despite a strong opening salvo to start the game that put the Lions under pressure, the Black-and-Red conceded the opening goal in the first half, and then struggled to get back into the game for the rest of the half.

By the time 90 minutes was up, that first 45 was a distant memory, as United roared back in the last 20 minutes of the game to win 2-1, and move atop the table for the Supporters' Shield.

"Little lethargic in the first half. Some new guys in there that were a touch rusty from the start," United manager Ben Olsen said after the game. "I didn't think it was the end of the world. We were just off in some of the final stuff."

With a heavy slate of games in May and June, and another game on the docket for Sunday, Olsen made several changes to the side that drew with Sporting Kansas City on Saturday. Chris Rolfe, Jairo Arrieta, and Chris Korb made way for Michael Farfan, Luis Silva, and Taylor Kemp.

Though they weren't sweeping changes, it was clear that the shuffle had an affect on United's performance in the first half.

"We weren't really good. We were off a bit," captain Bobby Boswell added. "We got to be better than that. The way we rebounded was great. We came out and really put it on them in the second half.

The biggest difference in the second half was the introduction of Olsen's subs, who made all the difference in turning a deficit into a victory. Rolfe, Arrieta, and Miguel Aguilar came in, and had a big influences on the two goals that United score to run their unbeaten streak to 8 games in league play.

With that, United is also now unbeaten in 18 games in all competitions at home.

"We took care of the ball a little bit more. We were patient but urgent in the way we broke them down," said Olsen. "It was a very good second half. The subs bring just what we need subs to bring. Rolfie brings his class, I thought Miguel brought energy and a youthful feistiness that the game needed. And Jairo comes in and makes a wonderful pass to Rolfie."

Aguilar in particular brought about energy that was sorely missing in the first half. Almost immediately after coming on, he set up Nick DeLeon for what should have been the equalizer. Minutes later, Aguilar was doing his best to get United forward when he was fouled, setting up Kofi Opare's goal.

"I'm a very attacking minded player. I love going at players. We were 1-0 down," Aguilar said of his appearance. "So I just came in with the mentality to play free, we need to get a goal back, we need to win.This team is strong mentally and physically. Our soccer speaks for itself."

If it was Aguilar's energy that helped spur United on, it was Rolfe's involvement and finishing ability that eventually won the game for United. Coming on in the 54th minute for Silva, Rolfe immediately made his presence known, becoming an outlet that United desperately needed offensively.

And once Opare netted the equalizer, it was of little surprise that Rolfe got the winner, with a deft touch from fellow substitute, Arrieta.

After Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud worked together to dispossess Kaka at midfield, Arnaud quickly took the ball the other way, and picked out Arrieta with a pass to the wide open Costa Rican. Rolfe began the play offside, but as Arrieta moved forward, Rolfe came back onside, and created space between him and his defender.

An acrobatic touch with his left foot did just enough to get the ball past Donovan Ricketts to win the game.

"[Arrieta] went out wide, and I took his spot. We made eye contact," Rolfe said after the game. "From that point on, it was a perfect pass, a pretty easy finish that I almost messed up."

With United being as healthy as ever this season, and with a busy schedule until July 3rd, it was unsurprising to see Olsen tinker with his lineup against Orlando. He'll likely do the same on Sunday against the Philadelphia Union. And while Rolfe has been one of the most standout performers this season for United, even he is liable to see the bench from time to time, just to save energy for further down the road.

That was no problem for Rolfe on the night, and he made it clear that it wouldn't be an issue in terms of contributing in the future.

"That's the way things are going to be now with guys getting healthy," Rolfe said. "We have a deep team, and as guys get healthy, some guys are going to have to start on the bench and take some minutes off. Tonight was my night, to do that."

"You have the same attitude every game whether you start on the bench or you're in the starting eleven. You focus on what you can do at any given opportunity, and tonight it was successful for me."