D.C. United had been dealing with lineup turnover partly due to necessity, partly due to injury, and the result had been one goal over three road games. Thankfully they were back home in RFK, facing a Philadelphia Union team that had been buoyed by wins against this same team and the New York Red Bulls. And D.C. United had as many of their offensive players as there were, and the result was a win that was tough, borne on by a dusting of charity.
Our Words (Steven Streff): "Despite fielding a much stronger side than the team that lost to the Portland Timbers 1-0 on Wednesday on a 5th minute goal, United again found themselves down a goal in the 5th minute, thanks to (Sebastien) Le Toux's strike. After some Union pressure, Andrew Wenger forced Steve Birnbaum into a bad turnover in his own box, and then quickly fed Le Toux out wide. Before United's defense could react, Le Toux fired a shot past Bill Hamid for his first goal of the season."
The Washington Post (Steve Goff): "United fell behind in the first five minutes but pulled level in the last moments of the first half. And in the late stages, just as United seemed on course for another home tie, Chris Korb’s long, floating pass into the penalty area dropped onto the right arm of Zach Pfeffer as the Philadelphia substitute was marking Chris Rolfe. The assistant referee signaled a handball; referee Ted Unkel awarded a penalty kick."
Brotherly Game: "Things looked like they would be going the Union's way at the start of the match. Fernando Aristeguieta's pass to Andrew Wenger in the box led to Wenger dribbling along its edge before finding Sebastien Le Toux inside the box. Le Toux took one touch and slammed it past Bill Hamid and into the net for the Union's first and only goal of the match. The Union celebrated, but little did they know at the time it would be their last celebration of the evening."
MLSsoccer.com (Ian Quillen): "Rolfe escaped a booking, let alone a red card, in the 63rd minute despite kicking out into Vincent Nogueira’s thigh after Nogueira fouled him. Nogueira was booked for his tackle from behind. Unkel also gave United’s Pontius a yellow card moments later despite fouling Le Toux as the Union midfield broke to goal, with Le Toux and others protesting the foul had denied a clear scoring opportunity."
CSN Washington (Dave Johnson): "Jairo Arrieta is a super sub. Arrieta came on in the 65th minute as a substitute for Conor Doyle and immediately made an impact. This is not to take anything away from Doyle who continues to work hard, impressed with his passing, but failed to take a shot. Arrieta provided the spark that unsettled the Union defense and helped create the forward progress that led to the game-winning penalty kick."
Ben Olsen (on the game): "Dave Kasper called it a gut check and I think that’s about right. It was a poor start for us and a very good start for them. They were hungry and physical, and we weren’t good enough with the ball to deal with their pressure. It cost us a goal, and then we woke up. We were able to get out of it tonight, but against some teams you’re not going to be able to get out of it. They’re a different team, a changed team that’s playing with hunger and a fire about them. It’s a tough team to play against, and I’m really happy that we were able to dig in and find a way to win after a poor start."
Steve Birnbaum (on the start): "You know we started off pretty slow. First half wasn’t really what we wanted, You know we wanted to come out on a strong foot and kind of put them under pressure and it was kind of the opposite. We had a lot of possession. It was hot out there and we wanted to make them defend for most of the game. We ended up getting the win so the results were what we wanted and that’s what we got."
Jim Curtin (Union coach, on the game and the calls): "...If you let a team like D.C. hang around they’ll take advantage, and to give up the goal before the half was difficult, but at the same time my message at half time was we played very well, we played a good half. I was happy with the group, and we were a little unfortunate on the hand ball there. You’ve seen that let go especially at that moment in the game, it wasn’t intentional but you understand it could be called. I was most disappointed, if you’re going to talk about the decisions, I thought we could have had a red card in our favor for Seba [Sebastien Le Toux] where he gets taken down on the break away. There’s a lot to be proud of with our guys fight and their effort in the game."
Sebastien Le Toux (on the game and the calls): "I think we did everything we had to, especially in the first half. In the second half, legs would be tired and D.C. was pushing a bit more. The goal right before the half cannot put us angry at ourselves because we will have to be up at the half, 1-0. It was not a good reaction. I think we played okay in the second half. I think after re-seeing the video for me it’s a red card, that foul on me in the second half. The referee just give us yellow. We have to be nice with our own team and don’t help the team we play against. It was a really tough because they had a PK and, not purposely, but to him they did a PK and it seems they should have re-ruled that as a red card against D.C., but it’s already done so you just feel frustrated. You get some help here and there from the refs. They didn’t help the game this way. I think we reviewed everything on the field we had and unfortunately D.C. got the win. We played good especially in the first half."
Jason had mentioned the last time we were here that context should be considered when it came to the result, that it made Saturday's game with Philadelphia all the more important in terms of taking three points away at home. And, well, they got the three points, but it's not like we should be wowed by this, right? Well let's try to figure out how to equate this in the words of the Wolf. He's a guy who solves problems, right?
"Just because you are a character doesn't mean that you have character."
D.C. United had 60% of possession, completed 82% of their passes, yet won on a converted penalty kick from a handball in the box? Well, there was some buona fortuna on the part of the Union to a degree. Fabinho staying on the post would have resulted in a goal for Birnbaum, whom it should be noted tied for the team lead in shots on the night with Rolfe. But there remained stretches of ball where D.C. seemed to not have a lot for a Union team that purely looking from a boxcar stats perspective they should have closed the deal on much earlier.
"If I'm curt with you it's because time is a factor. I think fast, I talk fast and I need you guys to act fast if you wanna get out of this."
I understand that there are some security blankets that a lot of coaches have. Heck, we all have them. But I think even while some of the core folks like Fabian Espindola and Luis Silva are out, there can be some fine-tuning done with the existing core. Olsen has experimented with lineups before this year, on more than one occasion. He's getting an increasing awareness of what (for example) Markus Halsti can do, so perhaps giving him a run with teammates that aren't decidedly second choice? One cannot live on wine and Doritos alone for a central midfield, can they?
The Last Word:
D.C. stay home for the next week, but have another double game week ahead of them, Wednesday with the Chicago Fire and Saturday with Toronto FC. Two separate teams with three game unbeaten streaks (Chicago the little sister with two draws in that bunch), two teams that scored goals in a bunch over the weekend. While D.C. has a few missing pieces to the puzzle, and more would presumably be on the way, a note of caution when it comes to seeing if we'll be in the same position we were last November, from the man himself:
"I'm not here to say please, I'm here to tell you what to do and if self-preservation is an instinct you possess you'd better fucking do it and do it quick. I'm here to help - if my help's not appreciated then lotsa luck, gentlemen."