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3 things we learned in D.C. United’s 1-0 win over Columbus Crew

Like reading through fuzzy tea leaves in week 1, let’s try this again.

When you’re playing in ostensibly a home game for the last time in three months with an opponent who pasted you a couple of weeks prior, as D.C. United was heading into Saturday’s game with the Columbus Crew, and it’s compounded by the start you’ve had to the year thus far, you kinda need a win to get the weight off your back and make everyone breathe a little easier.

Now, I don’t know if protecting a lead for 89 minutes and 17 seconds (including being down a man for close to half of that time) qualifies as getting the weight off, but the dynamics of D.C.’s 1-0 win over the Crew are nothing but good news for that particular group of players as they continue to grow with and learn from one another of the course of this seemingly interminable road trip, and the things that happened in this game aren’t things that necessarily will repeat themselves over the next six months. While it doesn’t hurt to try, here were a couple of takeaways from this one:

Please let this much better Junior Moreno stay for a while.

Here are Federico Higuain’s passing maps from the last two Columbus games, both Crew losses (against the Vancouver Whitecaps and Chicago Fire, respectively):

Now here’s the first half Pipa had against D.C.:

Now, here are the defensive actions (tackles, blocks, interceptions, clearances and recoveries) for Ulises Segura and Junior Moreno in that first half:

Moreno and Segura set up shop in Zone 14 and weren’t about to let Pipa come in and do work for anything. Nobody else got more interceptions than the three Moreno got in the first half, and he also recorded 5 recoveries, a tackle, a clearance and created two chances, without so much as committing a foul. Nice to have a defensive midfielder NOT do that last part for a change.

Say what you will about Segura on the night (and you should), but Moreno’s first action in a month showed he appears to have been studying up on his opposition and working with his teammates, so this is encouraging on multiple fronts.

Don’t get me wrong, it is just one win, but it seems like historically if you can get an early goal on the Crew (as say, the Fire did the week before), they’re almost overreliant on letting the wings come up and do the attacking and hammer crosses in, so long as your back line and center backs are working together, you should be able to handle it with relative ease. Which brings me to...

Saturday night was the time Steve Birnbaum and Frederic Brillant became President.

I’m perfectly willing to admit this is a take driven by game states. Shoot, Birnbaum and Brillant each had 11 clearances, and Chris Durkin had 8 in 45 minutes! And Brillant had a header on a platter that could have given United a second goal early. Nevertheless, 5 of 6 duels won, 5 blocks, 2 interceptions and successfully completing their only tackle (all combined numbers) while dealing with Gyasi Zardes )and for the last half hour Adam Jahn in the air), well, it was encouraging.

When’s Balotevernandez getting here?

It’s not all milk and honey, nor should it be at the moment. But with Darren Mattocks out due to a concussion, D.C. turned to Patrick Mullins at forward, and he was...there? Seriously though, in his first start of the season, he completed 6/11 passes and didn’t have a shot on goal, and doesn’t in 2018 so far over 129 minutes. Less than optimal and something that will continue to be an issue until D.C. presumably makes it rain like they never have before.

Or we could be back to where we were a couple of weeks ago, I dunno.