October 19, 2019

D.C. United Game 9 Recap: Early goal and Hamid’s saves lift United to rare road win

Yes, D.C. United fans, it is still legal and in fact encouraged for your local 11 to go on the road and win a match in Major League Soccer play. You could understand if some folks forgot what that felt like before Saturday’s 1-0 victory by United at the Philadelphia Union in front of 18,522 (including a healthy number of United supporters) at PPL Park. Chris Rolfe scored the only goal in the 6th minute. United hadn’t won a league away match since the 2012 season. With the win, D.C. improved to 4-3-2 (14 points), good enough for second place in the Eastern Conference pending other results Saturday.

It wasn’t exactly the most convincing of wins, but given the long barren stretch away from the rickety confines of RFK Stadium, no one should really be picky. Rolfe’s goal came from the center of the penalty area, past not only Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath, but also United players Eddie Johnson and Lewis Neal, who both had made smart runs toward the goal as Rolfe took his chance. Both were in offside position, but neither deflected the ball, and while they were between MacMath and where the ball entered the goal, MacMath never made a move to try and save the shot, so he wasn’t impeded and the goal stood despite Philadelphia’s protests.

Johnson, who has been notable for his lack of goals since coming to United from the Seattle Sounders in the offseason, may have had his first later in the half, but he was ruled to be offside upon receiving a nice lead pass from midfielder Davy Arnaud. If Johnson was offside, it was his right arm, which he wouldn’t have been able to use to score a goal. Johnson continued with the play and beat a charging MacMath, but the goal – which would have been Johnson’s much anticipated first for the club – was waived off.

United had much the better of the play in the first half and Johnson’s disallowed goal aside, probably should have been ahead more than 1-0 at halftime. Fabian Espindola had a nice chance breaking in to MacMath’s right, but Espindola tried to beat MacMath to the near post with his shot and got the other side of the frame instead.

The second half was a different story. United put together very little possession, and it was only some great saves by goalkeeper Bill Hamid and some poor work in the final third by the Union that allowed United to maintain the advantage. Hamid was at his best after a United turnover just inside its own half. Philadelphia quickly attacked, and Andrew Wenger found himself in the penalty area, on the ball, with Hamid rushing toward him.

Wenger shot from about the penalty spot, right into Hamid. The rebound quickly fell to Conor Casey, but Hamid showed great reaction time to dive left and stop his rebound shot, as well. Danny Cruz then flew into the box as if he were wearing a rocket engine, and his shot was blocked by Perry Kitchen before Cruz crashed into Kitchen and went down holding his head. Jeff Parke, who was turned around by Wenger at the start of the play, then cleared the danger.

The Union have only scored on goal in their last four matches, and for United, it was probably fortunate that Philadelphia was the opponent and not a skilled offensive team given how titled the field was for much of the second half. But three road points are quite the progression over what was seen last season and the 14 points for the season are only two off D.C.’s total for all 34 matches in 2013.

The schedule is friendly, as well. United return to RFK Stadium next Saturday to take on the Montreal Impact. Montreal lost at home Saturday to Sporting Kansas City, 3-0, a loss that dropped the Impact to 1-5-3 (6 points) on the season. The result prompted Montreal team President Joey Saputo to tweet practically right at the final whistle, “Our fans deserve better. Changes will be coming, guaranteed.” The Impact are a team United should beat, especially at home.

NOTES:  Rolfe’s goal was his second for United since being acquired earlier this season from the Chicago Fire. The goal was unassisted. … Arnaud, Kitchen, and Chris Korb picked up cautions for United. … United had only five total shots (two on target), to Philadelphia’s 13 (four). … The Union had nine corner kicks to United’s mere two. … Alex Caskey, Luis Silva, and Conor Doyle were the subs used by head coach Ben Olsen. … United’s last road league win was October 6, 2012, at Toronto FC. … United has now already shutout I-95 rivals Philadelphia, New York, and New England this season.

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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