D.C. United’s 2-2 draw on Saturday night against the New England Revolution had a little bit of everything, and provided plenty of story lines which could be the focus of post game analysis. That focus could be on the fact that United conceded early goals to start each half, to add to the early goal conceded in the second half of last week’s loss to the New York Red Bulls.
Or the main talking point could be about the rash of injuries that United faced, and the fact that head coach Ben Olsen made five changes to his starting lineup, including having to start with Luciano Acosta and Taylor Kemp to the bench. Or the focus could be on United’s first half turnaround, in which they went from being battered in the first 20 minutes to up 2-1 in the 28th minute.
Olsen addressed all of that after the game, but his main talking point from the draw? That United were finally able to pick up a point of the road, the first point in three tries in 2017.
“It’s not a good thing. It’s something we have to fix,” Olsen said after the game, addressing United’s recent issue with conceding goals to start halves. “We will, but [it’s] certainly alarming, and something that we will address.”
“But that’s not the story today,” he added. “It’s more a group of guys gave everything for each other out there to get something out of this game. To get our first road result of the season is important.”
Last week, in the loss against the Red Bulls, United gave up the winning goal 41 seconds into the second half. That goal basically signaled the end of the game for United, who would go on to concede a second goal 15 minutes later. So there might have been a fear that something similar could have happened when Lee Nguyen struck with a header in the 5th minute on Saturday. Or however it was that the Revs leveled the score (was it Juan Agudelo, or a Sean Franklin own goal as the league has it?) at 2-2 three minutes into the second half.
Instead, this time, United steadied themselves, just enough. They were under pressure after Nguyen’s goal, but then found themselves ahead before the half hour mark with a brilliant one-two punch. Jared Jeffrey, who kept his spot in the deepest midfield spot with Marcelo Sarvas coming in for Acosta, opened United’s scoring with a well-struck shot from a loose ball at the top of the box following a corner. Moments later, United had a lead, thanks to Sebastien Le Toux’s fine finish from an even finer Lloyd Sam pass. For Le Toux, it was both his first competitive goal and his first competitive start with the Black-and-Red.
It was quite the response from a team that had only scored four goals in six games coming into the game.
“It’s great character. [D.C. is] a good team mentally,” said Le Toux after the game. “Now we need to keep doing this every game, and maybe not being down a goal to react right away. We are happy how we reacted after the first goal against.”
“It was a very satisfying point for the entire group,” added Olsen. “We’re not happy about starting off the game and the second half by giving up early goals, but I'm pleased with the chances we created, our ability to bounce back in the first half, and then to hold on down the stretch.”
And they managed all that with a team that hardly resembled the starting lineup from the opening weeks of the season. Injuries have hampered United of late, and in this particular game, they kept Steve Birnbaum, Patrick Mullins, Patrick Nyarko, and Nick DeLeon out. Jose Ortiz was also dropped to the bench, seemingly due to his inability to make a significant impact over the past two weeks. On top of that, Acosta (ankle) and Kemp (illness) were held out of the starting eleven for precautionary reasons.
So United went with a lineup that included first starts this season for Le Toux, Lamar Neagle, and Kofi Opare. In addition, Maxim Tissot took over for Kemp at left back. Not only was it Tissot’s first start for the Black-and-Red, but it was the Canadian international’s first time making the game day 18 for United. He had previously played for the Richmond Kickers on loan this season.
So if you add all that up - playing from behind early on, missing several key players, United’s lack of proficiency in general in front of goal this year - you might excuse yourself for thinking United were in for a long night after Nguyen’s early goal. Instead, this United team showed the kind of character that has helped the Black-and-Red earn a playoff place in three straight seasons.
“I think we got a really deep squad, and that’s always been a theme around here,” Jeffrey told reporters after the game. “I don’t think we read too much into it. Obviously, there’s some different guys, but we expect everyone to come in and do the job and I thought everyone that played tonight did that.”