D.C. United was trying to find its form in the regular season with something they hadn't had in awhile (a losing streak), though a slightly nervy yet ultimately victorious match in U.S. Open Cup play midweek had to have buoyed them to some degree ahead of an aspiring New England Revolution team. When the dust settled, D.C. found themselves on the righteous side of the ledger once again sending the Revs to their homes disappointed.
Our Words (Steven Streff): "D.C. United ended a two game MLS skid, and started a new home winning streak in the process, in a 2-1 win over the New England Revolution on Sunday at RFK Stadium. The Black-and-Red fell behind early from a goal from former United striker Charlie Davies, but responded in the second half with two goals from Chris Rolfe.
With a lineup that featured 10 changes from the team that beat the Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Wednesday in the US Open Cup, United came from behind in the second half for their 9th win of the season, solidifying their spot atop the Eastern Conference, with 31 points from 18 games."
The Washington Post (Roman Stubbs): "After D.C. United was awarded a penalty kick late in the second half of Sunday’s match against New England, forwards Fabian Espindola and Chris Rolfe deliberated who would attempt the potential winning kick. Just 11 minutes earlier, Espindola had fed Rolfe with a perfect cross to the tie the game — and now the teammates were working in concert again, two fierce competitors itching to push their team to victory.
"I think Fabi expected to get a chance to take it, so we just went over there and talked about it. We decided that I could take it today," Rolfe said, "and it worked out."
MLSsoccer.com (Pablo Maurer): "The Revs nearly doubled their lead on a similar combination play in the 23rd, when Nguyen received a pass from Bunbury and found Chris Tierney streaking into the left side of the area. The veteran left back couldn’t sneak his shot past Hamid, who wisely charged out to meet to smother his shot. About 30 seconds later, United forward Fabian Espindola made his own run down the near sideline, bending a cross in towards Nick DeLeon at the spot. DeLeon could not connect."
CSN Washington (Dave Johnson): "Yes United did it again and claimed there(sic) points despite conceding the opening goal. It is a credit to United’s character and resilience that the team has a winning record, 5-4-1, when allowing the first goal. Still surviving through slow starts is not a game plan United wants to hold on to. United was able to bag three points on Sunday, but knows it needs to better from the opening kick especially with a heavy road schedule next.."
The Bent Musket: "D.C. United were the stronger team long before they equalized in the second half through Rolfe. Needing to change his side, Jay Heaps opted to bring off London Woodberry and Andy Dorman, both players on yellow card accumulation watch, for Kevin Alston and Steve Neumann respectively.
The two substitutes would unfortunately affect the game negatively as Alston was unable to head away a dangerous cross in the 70th minute, as his leaping miss allowed Rolfe to volley home the equalizer at close range. Ten minutes later, disaster struck again as Neumann chopped down DC's Miguel Aguilar in the top corner of the penalty area. With Aguilar and the ball moving away from goal, it was a needless challenge from Neumann and referee Ismail Elfath didn't hesitate to point to spot despite the play occurring near the edge of the area."
Ben Olsen (on the team performance in both halves): "I thought the first 25 minutes they [New England] were very good. Their passing was just better than ours and on a hot day, if you start chasing the ball a little bit, and you don’t take care of it yourself to make sure they’re defending, you’re going to take some waves and you’re going to defend a lot. And again, with that heat out there, we had trouble getting out to guys; they always had an option. I think around the 30th minute we started to connect some passes and had some better ideas out there. We had more triangles, more connections, and then for the rest of the game I thought we were pretty good, always threatening from then on out. They are a good team. Their front four are a handful; the physicality they bring, Lee [Nguyen] exploiting your holes and Charlie [Davies] doing what he does in the box, it’s an impressive front four."
Davy Arnaud (on coming from behind): "Yeah, it’s become a little bit of a reoccurring theme for us, giving up first goals. The good thing is we’ve shown that we can come back a lot. I feel like we’ve said the same thing now two or three different times. It’s good that we come back, but we don’t want to be playing from behind too often because it’s not easy to do, but the response in the second half was great, and we got the important win."
Jay Heaps (on giving up the goals): "I feel like it was definitely more mental. It wasn’t like we were under a lot of pressure. Obviously we weren’t good with the ball, and I think that’s what frustrates me the most. There was no real pressure and we kept giving the ball back, and I don’t know where that comes from and that’s a mental lapse. We can keep the ball when we want to keep it, but we didn’t, and we weren’t diligent enough to get open when our keeper had the ball and the next pass was going to be lumped up the field. I have to go back and look at the film specifically, but overall I was not thrilled with how we played in the second half."
Much like another team I saw over the weekend, D.C. United's first team and U-23 team emulated one another in eerie ways. Both teams had to play in the heat against tough opponents, both teams gave up a goal and underachieved in the first half. Both teams (presumably) got a minor dressing down by their head coach. And both teams had to rally and score two second-half goals to win 2-1. But more importantly, both teams might have a similar approach to a degree, in that they are trying to see some developmental advancement in their clubs. It could be a bunch of kids, or it could be the strongest possible lineup D.C. United put onto the field in who knows how long. Obviously, it didn't work out that way for the latter thanks to a calf issue Chris Pontius picked up in pregame, though goodness knows they'll get the chance to bond even further over the course of the next month.
And what about this road trip for D.C.? Well, in seven road games they have been shut out four times, and their four road goals scored is the second fewest in Major League Soccer. They have scored one goal (Jairo Arrieta's goal against this very same Revolution team 30 days ago) in 406 minutes. Want to feel worse? The teams doing as bad or worse (Columbus Crew SC and Montreal Impact) have played three and six(!) fewer games on the season than D.C. has.
One flip side of these dour numbers is that Espindola has only played in one road game this year, a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps where he helped see Matias Laba get sent off and was the catalyst in other areas. So goodness knows they'll have a chance to relearn each other's nuances now that they get to full health and a lack of midweek congestion going forward.
Another flip side of these numbers? The teams D.C. is playing against have some degree of kismet in terms of timing. We've alluded before to the Eastern Conference being a bit of a mess and in D.C.'s first opponent (the Chicago Fire) they are going to get just that. D.C.'s next opponents are Toronto FC (coming off a midweek rivalry game with the Impact), the Philadelphia Union (also playing their third game in seven days at that point, and just coming home after getting smoked 5-1 against the Los Angeles Galaxy), the Seattle Sounders (without Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins) and F.C. Dallas (who at this moment haven't won a game since May 9).
The Last Word:
So yeah, D.C. United need to do something about their past road woes. Thankfully, some of those pieces are back and ready to go, and others are getting closer to it. When they come back off the road, they may be without Bill Hamid and possibly Perry Kitchen to Gold Cup duty for the United States (the final is on D.C.'s July 26 home date), but the secondary roster window opens July 8. Dave Kasper has shown in the past that he leans toward that acquisition to minimize cap hit, be it trades (Dwayne De Rosario, Luis Silva, Kofi Opare, Brandon McDonald, Lionard Pajoy), Designated Players (Branko Boskovic), waiver drafts (Jared Jeffrey), homegrown player signings (Collin Martin, Conor Shanosky) or international loans (Conor Doyle, Pablo Hernandez). The chances of a new face or two are probable.
More importantly, if D.C. can prove themselves to be able Road Warriors and put more space between themselves and the pack over the next month, then there's the slightly increased chance of snacking on danger and dining on death come the time when it is most important.