September 15, 2019

D.C. United Game 27 Recap: United build Eastern lead with point at Vancouver

HAMID SAVES THREE AS UNITED BATTLES TO DEADLOCK AT WHITECAPS

With midfielder Chris Rolfe lost to an arm injury and forward Eddie Johnson out due to concussion symptoms, it was fair to have somewhat lower expectations as D.C. United visited the Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday night. But United held firm, kept a clean sheet, and got out of western Canada with a scoreless tie before 18,116 at BC Place. The result sets United’s record at 14-8-5 (47 points), good enough for a five-point lead at the top of the Eastern Conference over Sporting Kansas City, which lost to New York Saturday, 2-1. Vancouver is 7-6-13 (34 points).

The revamped attack featured Luis Silva and Fabian Espindola leading the offense, with David Estrada slipping into the open midfield spot. United didn’t create many chances, though Espindola gave the Vancouver defense plenty of problems and sent one close chance over the bar. Vancouver had a great chance on Kendall Waston’s header on 30 minutes, but he narrowly missed just wide to United goalkeeper Bill Hamid’s left post.

Hamid and his counterpart, Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted, each made three saves on a night where only six of 24 total shots on goal between the teams were on target. The match didn’t lack for action, but accuracy was another matter. This will bother the Whitecaps far more than United in retrospect, since the result left Vancouver still level with the Portland Timbers for the final Western Conference playoff spot, though the Timbers have one more win than the Whitecaps.

New acquisition Samuel Inkoom, who is expected to help in defense and perhaps midfield, did not feature for United. With defenders Jeff Parke and Chris Korb both out, Sean Franklin and Taylor Kemp took the outside back positions with Bobby Boswell and rookie Steve Birnbaum in the middle. Birnbaum, drafted out of the University of California in the offseason, has now started United’s last 14 matches, going 90 minutes in every appearance.

United is now done facing the Western Conference for the Major League Soccer regular season, having finished a respectable 4-4-1 against the West. With seven matches left, the focus now turns to gaining the top seed in the East. United needs 14 points from its remaining seven matches to clinch home-field advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The battle for the East begins Wednesday at New York, with an 8 p.m. kickoff on ESPN2.

THE GOOD: Grinding out a result on the road, and the eighth shutout of the season for Hamid (tied for the league lead) are definitely good.

THE BAD: Losing Johnson was tough news with Rolfe already out. United probably can’t afford to be without both very long.

THE UGLY: United fans are surely glad to be done with the club’s road trips at Western Conference teams and the 10 p.m. kickoffs (or later). There are no starts later than 8:30 p.m. the rest of the season.

NOTES: Hamid’s shutout was the 28th of his MLS career. … The draw between United and Vancouver was the only tie of the weekend so far in MLS. There are three matches today, including Portland vs. San Jose at 4:45 p.m. on ESPN2. … Bobby Boswell picked up the lone caution of the match, however he was not in danger of discipline for yellow card accumulation.

Ed Morgans is the D.C. United Page Editor for District Sports Page. 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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