D.C. United continues to limp along without their offense due to injury and suspension, and in the Los Angeles Galaxy, their opponent was also missing their offense due to international duty, and the play was every bit as one would expect with lineups like these. It was gritty, it was ugly, it was, well, perhaps just the way that Ben Olsen liked it. And in the Chris Pontius goal that won the game for D.C., there was a moment of beauty to take away from it, one that gave the Black and Red their first win over L.A. in six years, and Ben Olsen his first winning March as head coach.
Our Words (Steven Streff): "While neither team looked to settle for a draw, neither team really came close to finding a goal, setting the stage for Pontius' winner. Late in stoppage time, DeLeon got the ball in the box, and flicked the ball over left back Robbie Rogers. DeLeon then lifted a ball to the far post, and Pontius beat Dan Gargan to the ball, and headed home from six yards out, to give United two wins from two at RFK this season."
MLSsoccer.com: "With both sides locked in a scoreless draw for nearly the entire evening, Pontius always seemed to be D.C.’s danger man, carving out chances on both sides of the halftime whistle and nearly finding the back of the net on multiple occasions. His 94th-minute winner seemed more expected than surprising, the logical conclusion in a game where Pontius found himself in so many dangerous spots."
The Washington Post: "Against Los Angeles, the D.C. United forward’s final chance came in the third minute of stoppage time in a scoreless game. He maneuvered around his defender in case Nick DeLeon crossed the ball to him. His timing was impeccable as he headed in the lone goal of the game in the last minute of stoppage time to give United a 1-0 win over the Galaxy. United had not beaten the defending MLS Cup champions since 2008."
CSN Washington (Dave Johnson):"There is still work to do. It took United every bit of the 93 minutes allowed to find a way to three points. Full credit to the team for accomplishing the goal of three points, but more must be done to create more scoring opportunities chances. Jairo Arrieta is putting the work in up top and there is a developing chemistry with Pontius. Still United has to provide the right support to unlock Arrieta’s finishing power."
Ben Olsen (via team released quotes): "Our team is best when we play fearless. We do a good job of that at home, and we need to find a way to do that on the road in a controlled way as well. It’s a good group. We do respond, and we talk about responding after negative events and putting together positive streaks rather than negative streaks. Now we have a chance to put together back to back wins which is a thing I think all good teams do."
Chris Pontius: "It’s huge, especially going into next week. It’s another tough game going against Orlando. It’s not an easy place to play on turf down there. We are all pretty satisfied with ourselves for this win. We asked ourselves to have a response after a bad loss in New York, and we came out in the first 15-20 minutes, and it was a completely different game than what we put forward in New York in the first 15-20 minutes. So I liked our response tonight."
Bruce Arena: ""Our team played very well today, and I thought we deserved to have a point. We have nobody to blame but ourselves, but I thought the referee made a bad call at the end. It was ridiculous, the way he called the game. That is just part of it though and we have to accept responsibility too."
When we were here last time, we talked about the need to start to give some run to the youngsters of D.C. United, and while we were happy to see it happen, we certainly did not want to see things unfold in the circumstances such as they did. As of this writing, we hope for the best for Steve Birnbaum, while pondering the possibilities of a center back pairing of Birnbaum and Kofi Opare when the time comes for Bobby Boswell to shuffle off to the fishing boat that awaits him.
So what did we learn about D.C. United's win over the Los Angeles Galaxy? Well, it would seem that minus its offensive weapons, the team has reverted to a default that will continue to cause anxiety until Fabian Espindola and Luis Silva come back into the rotation. It is a default that to a degree gave the team its last trophy: absorb an attack as best as possible, counter when the opposition has numbers up, hopefully get something out of it. Now there are some caveats here, in that D.C. does not do this exclusively, and that an attack that uses Alan Gordon as a 90-minute attacking option shouldn't be trusted to succeed to begin with.
With that said, this note from our own Jason Anderson:
In looking further, the Black and Red gave up 16 shots each to the Montreal Impact and New York Red Bulls, leaving Bill Hamid to make slightly more saves in his first three games this year compared to last season. Putting the small sample size statement out of the way for a moment, this type of thing is going to be unsustainable over the course of a season. Whether it is Boswell and Birnbaum, Boswell and Opare or Birnbaum and Opare, this is the type of thing that is going to need to get sorted out in short order, particularly if Boswell's mistakes from the New York Red Bulls game last week (and the Alajuelense first leg) rear their ugly heads again. And when it comes to the playoffs or any other two leg series, the impetus to score goals is kind of a big thing.
The Last Word:
Reducing things to a base level when it comes to playing at home while key members of their attack are gone are commendable and it should also be noted that D.C. was more than happy to allow the Galaxy the ball for most of the first half. Kudos to Olsen in this regard, it once Leonardo was forced to leave due to injury when D.C. spent more time in the L.A. half of the field. And they did get the points, making for their second win in three league games, putting them in second, one point behind the Red Bulls. And they did it at home where they have been automatic. Since a loss to the Seattle Sounders during the World Cup, D.C. is unbeaten in their last 13 at home across all competitions, winning 12, and allowing only 6 goals during the run. Of the next three games they are without Espindola, two are at home, including a revenge game with the Red Bulls.
One would presume that the closer we get to Espindola and Silva's return (along with the debut of Markus Halsti sometime soon), the closer we are going to get to seeing some offensive vitality until everyone hits the ground running. But with next week's opponent in Orlando City SC (with a Designated Player in Kaka who is tied for the League Lead in shots) and a game on the road where the last time we saw D.C. United, they weren't in good sorts, the beatings will continue until morale improves and, in the speed of the OCSC attack, that might not be good news for the Black and Red.