Looking to exact revenge over New York City FC for last month’s 4-0 drubbing, D.C. United didn’t set the world on fire in the first half. Despite pressing NYCFC early, United created few chances, and ended the half on the back foot. A Maxi Moralez header late on was the only real threat at goal, but United didn’t really look like a team needing a win at home before a three game road trip.
“The end of the first half, that was a tough 20 minutes,” midfielder Lloyd Sam said after the game. “Another day, we might have gone 1-0 down, and the game could have been different.”
Instead, United survived, with goalkeeper Bill Hamid collecting Moralez’s header in the 44th minute. That allowed United to get into halftime with the score level. From there, the Black-and-Red made a couple of tactical adjustments.
The result? A 2-1 win that gave United their second win in a row. A vital three points before three consecutive road trips.
“You know me, I love a real group effort,” head coach Ben Olsen said in his press conference after the game. “Everybody played a part in this, everybody played up to their standard, and gave everything they had.”
Everyone might have played their parts, but it was the goals from Sam and Luciano Acosta that made the difference on Saturday afternoon. Sam took advantage of a bad bounce for the opening goal in the 53rd minute. Later Acosta was quickest to react to a rebound from Sam’s shot - after the diminutive Argentine had started the attacking move - in the 73rd minute.
United had to sweat out a late goal from David Villa, who has tormented the Black-and-Red with seven goals in seven games against the capital club. But once they did that, they put a stamp on a quick turnaround from a poor start to the season. With seven points from five games, four of which were at home, United have put themselves in a better position than last year’s poor start.
“This league, you know how it is going on the road. That’s why this game was even more important to get that win,” Sam said of the win against NYCFC. “How do we keep it going? We have to show fight like we did today. If we show that same sort of fight when we go to Red Bulls next week, that will help us get a good result.”
Sam’s opener, his first on the season, had a bit of fortune about it. Up until that point, United had struggled to test Sean Johnson in goal. A first half header from Bobby Boswell and a shot from Acosta early in the second half were the only two saves that Johnson had made.
So when Andrea Pirlo played a pass back towards Frederic Brillant, Sam decided to take a chance. City like passing out of the back, which can create openings for their opponents. And thanks to an uneven field, that opportunity presented itself to Sam.
“I thought, let me just run this down and see what happens. Thank god we have a bumpy field,” said Sam. “And then [Brillant] ended up missing the ball, and I thought, oh my god, I’m in here. The rest is history.”
It wasn’t quite that easy for Sam at that point. But his first touch was perfect, and his second touch was a left footed strike that skipped under Johnson for the opening goal.
“We weren’t generating so much, creating chances,” Sam added. “So sometimes you have to make something happen another way. Glad to see that happen.”
Then Acosta, who missed last month’s loss in NYC due to an ankle injury, added his second tally of the year. After setting up Sam for a shot after a wonderful play, Acosta chased down a rebound, and with aplomb, left footed an effort just by Johnson for the 2-0 lead. Though United would concede a goal to Villa in the 84th minute, it was enough for the them to earn their second win of the season, and second win in a row.
“It was a good motivation, to keep winning. We have to get used to winning, and even more so at home,” Acosta said after the game through a team provided interpreter. “It’s important, now that we have confidence, to keep winning. And to keep up that attitude.”