July 13, 2020

D.C. United Game 16 Recap: Finally, United earns a league win

D.C. United ended its 13-match winless streak in Major League Soccer play Saturday night with a 1-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes before 13,149 at RFK Stadium in Washington. United’s record improved to 2-11-3 (9 points). San Jose dropped to 4-7-6 (18 points).

The win marked United’s first league triumph since March 9 – a 1-0 win at home over Real Salt Lake in just the second match of the season. That win left D.C. 1-1-0 on the campaign, but the next three-and-a-half months of defensive breakdowns, toothless offense, and bad luck left United entering late June still seeking that elusive second win.

That win came Saturday night on the back of a Chris Pontius penalty kick in the first half – the first goal for Pontius this season. It was a script that started out at least very similar to the previous Saturday, when Dwayne De Rosario scored a first-half penalty kick to give United a 1-0 lead over Toronto FC.

In that game, however, United were trailing, 2-1, by halftime and never recovered against the second-worst team in MLS. This time, however, there would be no such comeback for the visitors. United successfully saw out the first half to take the lead into the intermission, then survived the second half despite a few good Earthquakes chances that were either just off target or saved by United goalkeeper Bill Hamid (3 saves, 4th shutout).

Casey Townsend started at forward for United, ahead of Lionard Pajoy, taking two shots and putting one target before being replaced by Pajoy after 68 minutes. Pontius and Ethan White returned to the starting lineup after they both missed the Toronto match due to injuries.

Pontius got his chance to break a season-long scoring drought in the 11th minute after United defender Chris Korb made a nice run into the penalty area on United’s right attacking side. San Jose defender Justin Morrow tackled Korb in the open field after Korb took a touch on the ball, sending him to the ground, and causing referee Jair Marrufo to signal for a penalty kick.

After a bit of needling or trash-talk from San Jose’s Marvin Chavez just before Pontius was to take the kick, the penalty area was cleared and Pontius was clearly unfazed, hitting home his penalty low and into the corner to goalkeeper Jon Busch’s left. In holding the lead for the 79 remaining minutes, United had the lead for the longest period in any single MLS game this season (Pajoy’s winner vs. Real Salt Lake in March came in the second half).

United got a solid 90-minute performance from its midfield – an encouraging sign on a number of levels but especially so for John Thorrington, who has missed much of the season due to injury and has been a regular target for substitutions in the second halves of games he has started. In defense, however, White only lasted 37 minutes before having to be replaced by Conor Shanosky.

In all competitions, United is now 2-1-1 in its last four matches, having beaten San Jose in the league and the Philadelphia Union in the U.S. Open Cup, while playing to a scoreless draw at the New England Revolution and losing to Toronto last week. In that time, United has scored 5 goals (three in the Open Cup, all by De Rosario, and two penalties in the league), and conceded 3. That goal differential of +2 is far different than the league goal differential for the whole season (-18).

United will look to continue that uptick in form Wednesday night at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Md., when it faces the Revolution in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal match at 7 p.m. The Revs beat the New York Red Bulls, 4-2, in the last round to advance to Wednesday’s match. New England is 5-5-5 (20 points) in MLS play, 7th in the Eastern Conference.

Last night’s win doesn’t get United out of the Eastern cellar. D.C. now sits three points behind Toronto FC for 9th place, after TFC played to a 0-0 draw in Houston last night. United are currently 13 points behind the Union for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot with 18 matches to play. United are 20 points behind the Montreal Impact, who lead the East with 29 points.

But perhaps more important than all that, there can be no more talk of United’s long winless run in league play, one that lasted a remarkable 105 days. United will try to make it two wins in a row in MLS when the Vancouver Whitecaps (6-5-4, 22 points, 4th, West) visit RFK Stadium for a 7 p.m. kickoff next Saturday.

United 1-0 Earthquakes
Pontius 11′ (PK)

Shots: DC 15-19 SJ
Shots on Goal: DC 3-3 SJ
Corners: DC 7-4 SJ
Fouls: DC 12-6 SJ
Possession: DC 47.5%-52.5% SJ
Cautions: Porter, DC; Thorrington, DC; Hernandez, SJ.

UNITED (2-11-3, 9 points): Hamid; Korb, White (Shanosky 38′), Rochat (Kemp 90′), Woolard; Thorrington, Kitchen, Porter, DeLeon, Pontius; Townsend (Pajoy 69′).

EARTHQUAKES (4-7-6, 18 points): Busch; Hernandez, Morrow, Beitashour, Attakora; Salinas, Chavez (Martinez 80′), Baca, Cronin; Jahn, Gordon.

Ed Morgans is a Contributor to District Sports Page, covering D.C. United. For in-game analysis and story notifications, follow him on Twitter @writered21.

About Ed Morgans

Ed Morgans is DC United Page Editor for District Sports Page. Ed worked for The Journal Newspapers (now The Examiner) and covered DC United from 1997-2002. He spent the 2003 season writing for the club’s website. Ed has covered All-Star Games, MLS Cups, CONCACAF Champions Cup, World Cup qualifiers, and international friendlies. He also worked as a blogger at www.bigsoccer.com, the country’s leading soccer message board website. You can follow Ed on Twitter @writerEd21.

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