D.C. United put together a convincing effort in last week's win over the Vancouver Whitecaps and facing a Columbus Crew SC team who was white hot offensively, there could be some excusing of their performance this week that they could lose. Nevertheless, last week's impressive performance was followed by an equally impressive win over the Crew, and another clean sheet for a team who is back where they belong, not only (tied for) first place but also (tied for) giving up the second fewest goals in Major League Soccer at this point.
Our Words (Steven Streff): "Espindola's opener in the 15th minute came at the end of an expertly worked counter from Chris Rolfe, who picked up a loose ball from his own box and worked his way up before finding (Fabian) Espindola. (Sean) Franklin then added the insurance in the first half, volleying home Espindola's corner."
Washington Post (Steven Goff): ""Getting back into form wasn’t a real concern of ours, physically and mentally," Coach Ben Olsen said of Espindola, the team’s MVP last year. "This is what he does. He plays soccer for a living and he wants to score goals. It was great to have him back out there. He plays with a fire that we all love. The guys rally behind his energy."
MLS Soccer (Pablo Maurer): "Twenty minutes into the second half, Crew SC nearly pulled one back. Austrian defender Emanuel Pogatetz sprung Kei Kamara on the counter, with Kamara swinging a ball to the back post for a wide open Ethan Finlay. Finlay could do little with the service, which was struck a bit too heavily. Three minutes later, Klute played a ball into the area for fellow second-half sub Steindorsson, but the Icelandic international's header drifted wide of the post, never threatening United keeper Bill Hamid."
CSN Washington (Dave Johnson): "Saturday’s performance against the Crew was a performance by United that reflected the team’s first place standing. United seized their chances and on defense shut down the Crew who entered the match as the highest scoring team in MLS. The Crew did not record a shot on goal until the 50th minute. Kei Kamara, with five goals on the season, barely had a quality touch. Bobby Boswell and Kofi Opare provided the steel at the back, but it was a collective defensive effort."
Massive Report: "Facing a two goal deficit, Gregg Berhalter made wholesale changes at halftime. Justin Meram and Waylon Francis were lifted for Chris Klute and Kristinn Steindórsson. Columbus would look a little sharper, but they failed to turn their share of possession into dangerous chances. Crew SC wouldn't record a shot on goal until the 71st minute and they'd only test Hamid a total of three times."
Ben Olsen (on Espindola's performance): "Fabi getting back in to form wasn’t a real concern of ours. Physically and mentally this is what he does, he plays soccer for a living and he wants to score goals. It’s great to have him back out there. He plays with a fire that we all love and I think the guys rally behind his energy. I thought Rolfe was very classy again and Davy and Perry did a lot of work in the midfield. It’s a tough battle on the outsides, especially for the outside midfielders and outside backs, because of the way Columbus plays. They are so aggressive you have to be good defensively and I thought we were for large stretches of the game."
Sean Franklin (on closing out a match): "We talk about playing a complete game, and we did it tonight. It wasn’t perfect, but we kept the shutout which is important. We are going to look at the film and get better. I thought towards the end of the game hey were throwing numbers at us and we did a good job of holding them off."
Davy Arnaud (on Espindola): "Yea, you can see what he does for us and this is only his second game back. We are almost 10 games in and as the games go on he’s going to continue to do the same thing for us. We are at our best when he is good."
Gregg Berhalter (Crew coach, on the goals): "It’s about those small moments and in those small moments we didn’t execute. They had the corner kick they scored on and our corner kick they scored on. It’s a good lesson. D.C. is a very good team but I feel that we have to be sharper in those small moments."
Mohammed Saeid (on the game): "It’s hard to describe this early after the game but I think we made a couple of mistakes on their goals. They countered us and they scored on the chances they had. I think we dominated possession and we had a lot of chances and I think at the end of the game people came through on goal. I don’t know if it’s a penalty or a free kick but I mean he had a perfect touch I don’t know why he would go down. And the referee… referees referee you know you can’t really say anything about it."
There may be another time to talk about D.C. United being off to their best start in their 20 year history, that they are first in the Eastern Conference and in the Supporters' Shield standings for the first time in a blue moon, but let's talk about a couple of things in this space. First, is this:
OK, so we see what's NOT here, right? OK. Now I know what DC sports press is going to say. That Major League Soccer is not a "Big 4 Sport." I mean, is it because a D.C United player hasn't shat into a teammates' shoe, or that they don't make an annual habit of folding every May? God knows it can't be because they have an offensive nickname. Is "Big 4" number of hours it takes to listen to Ted Leonsis patronize, or how many stadiums the "Major Sports" can have the DC City Council pay for, all the while having paying customers (who bemoan a stadium for a soccer team under the guise of 'using public funds') flock to Nationals Park in what may be the largest and most continuous dissonant relationship going.
It says something about sports writing in DC that people eschewed the sixty-six year old Tony Kornheiser for being old and out of touch, only to turn to the sixty-seven year old Tom Boswell. And as far as the online presence goes, I'm just going to presume it's the "DC Sports Bog, driven by web traffic and little else," which explains how the DCSB figurehead hasn't been by RFK, especially now that Bobby Boswell is back in town I guess. Maybe along with losing directions to the stadium, there have been other things that the Bog has lost. That Ben Olsen is a DC sports figure who has the (gasp!) strange notion of supporting other sports teams in the town he lives in, to see that notion not be reciprocated, particularly with his regained level of success as a coach, is frustrating as much as it is the analog thinking of those who rationalize it.
The Last Word:
D.C. United hosts Sporting Kansas City Saturday. D.C. United has not lost at RFK in eleven months. First place in the Conference and the League are presumably at stake as they begin to ramp up on a brutal stretch of games in May and June. It would be nice if some love were repaid to the team who has quietly put their heads down and done their jobs while gradually being ignored by the non-beat press, some of which actually have had and since neglected relationships with the team. The team's performance over the last year and a half justifies not only the coverage, but puts the team in a position to (rightfully) call out those folks in town.
It's time for both sides to reach out to one another because whether or not people like it, D.C. United is a source of celebration and frustration, has games broadcast on national television, and has aspirations to postseason success, like every other "major" sport in town. It's time it is reported on that way.