After a disappointing start to the season last week, D.C. United came into Saturday's game against the New England Revolution hoping to end the two game road trip on a positive note. And while it wasn't pretty against the Revs, the Black-and-Red did just enough to earn a point, keeping a shutout in a 0-0 draw.
Manager Ben Olsen summed up his side's performance succinctly.
"It was gutsy. It was a gutsy performance from us. I'm happy for the group to get our first point."
United were on the back foot throughout most of the game, but managed to keep the Revolution from creating many scoring opportunities. A week after conceding four goals in the second half to the LA Galaxy, United did a better job of managing the game over 90 minutes. That said, Lee Nguyen forced a couple of saves, and Kelyn Rowe could have won the game in second half stoppage time.
Overall though, it was an improved performance.
"More discipline [this week]. I think we bailed each other out, it was more of a what-if mentality," said Olsen. "What if the guy next to me doesn't make that play. Am I in a spot to help him? I think that ultimately gave us a point. Guys were laying out, blocking shots. A lot of those little things start to add up over 90 minutes."
That extra effort was especially helpful on Saturday, with Andrew Dykstra, United's first choice keeper while Bill Hamid is out injured, not part of the 18 due to injury. In his place, Travis Worra stepped in to make the first MLS start of his career. After little action in the first half, Worra did well to make three saves in the second half, preserving a point for United with his first career shutout.
As the game wore down though, Rowe had one final opportunity to earn all three points for the Revs. New England moved the ball through the midfield before Nguyen found Rowe coming in from the right. Worra cut down the angle, and Rowe side-footed an effort wide of the mark. The game ended just moments later.
"As soon as they split the ball through, I think I got a good angle on the ball," Worra said after the game. "Honestly I felt like I was in a good position. Even if he put that on frame, I thought I was in a good position to make a save."
"He did really well in his first start. With the shutout, that's big," Nick DeLeon told B&RU. "Confidence is high, and I thought he managed the game well for us."
At the other end, United struggled to get much going offensively. A week after Lamar Neagle scored early, and United had several chances early in the second half to add a second goal, the offense sputtered on the Gillette Stadium turf.
United managed just two shots on target, both coming in the first half. Luciano Acosta's weak volley attempt went straight into the arms of Bobby Shuttleworth, while Rob Vincent - also making his first MLS start - tested Shuttleworth to no avail.
"It was tough getting the attack going today. I think we were under the gun, it was a domino effect," DeLeon said. "Couldn't really get a rhythm going, and when it reached a certain point, we were happy with a point."
The Black-and-Red also had to key in on defending set pieces better, after the Galaxy took advantage of United's defense last week. A header from a corner, a header from a free kick, and a penalty kick ultimately doomed United against LA.
United conceded several dangerous free kicks against the Revs, especially in the first half. And with Nguyen and Chris Tierney both capable with a dead ball, United had to be wary of the threat from New England. Jose Goncalves came closest on all the opportunities, bouncing a header from Tierney over the bar in the 37th minute.
Other than that, it was a job well done from United.
"They are a dangerous team on set pieces. They are very creative, they have guys who can serve in some good balls, and they like to play pretty quick," United left back Taylor Kemp told B&RU after the game. "We tuned in on that a lot this week in practice because we knew we gave them up last week, so we wanted to make sure we didn't do that again."