June 26, 2017

D.C. United Game 8 Recap: Fabian Espindola dominant in 2-0 Columbus Crew SC win

D.C. United won their second straight game in Major League Soccer and stretched their unbeaten run to six games thanks to a 2-0 win over Columbus Crew SC before 13,107 fans at RFK Stadium.

Fabian Espindola played a role in both goals, which came in the first half as the home side put themselves on top early and did not let go. The opener came after a Crew SC corner broke down and United countered, with the ball breaking to Chris Rolfe inside his own half. The forward then played a delicious through ball into the path of the rampaging Espindola, who then chipped goalkeeper Steve Clark to notch his first goal of the season.

Espindola also played a big hand in the home side’s second goal, which came just four minutes before the halftime interval. The Argentine swung in a dangerous corner that Clark tried to come for but could not claim. At the back post, Sean Franklin was unmarked and able to sweep home a difficult half-volley into the back of the net to double United’s advantage.

The home side were once again led offensively by Espindola, who is clearly looking to make up for lost time after his six-game ban that he started the season with expired. With United one up, he found himself unmarked in the box from a low cross, but Clark was equal to the task as he came off his line quickly and blocked away the shot.

Nick DeLeon also had two superb chances for United, starting with the game scoreless as he sent a half-volley just over the bar from outside the penalty area. Then, with halftime just around the corner, he latched on to Chris Pontius’ downward header from Bill Hamid’s long goal kick and hammered another shot from distance that sailed just over.

Meanwhile, Columbus looked threatening at times as they dominated possession for long periods, but they were unable to find a final pass to unlock a stellar United defense. Kei Kamara looked handy as the visitors’ lone striker, but he found himself swarmed by the home side’s defenders if he had a sniff of goal in the penalty area. His best chance came in the opening period as he took down a cross and looked to turn and fire, but Kofi Opare was on hand to deflect his attempt to safety.

Justin Meram also saw a volley at the near post go just over the bar before the break, while in the second period Federico Higuaín had a powerful header from long range go wide of Hamid’s post also. Higuaín continued to be an attacking presence for Columbus, but unfortunately his teammates sometimes looked devoid of ideas of how to find him in the best attacking positions.

The visitors continued to have good chances in the second half as United’s defense seemed content to soak up the pressure and break forward in counter attacks, something they looked to use regularly but found themselves unable to produce many telling moments.

Columbus’ best chance of the second half arguably fell to Ethan Finlay, who was unmarked in the box but unable to get his foot on a cross from Kamara. Substitute Kristinn Steindorsson also had a good opportunity after some hesitant United defending and a failure to clear their lines, but his first-time shot to the far post from inside the penalty area was watched wide by Hamid.

With their defense coping well and their attack looking at times a little unconvincing going forward, United were able to continue Luis Silva’s rehabilitation from injury with a substitute appearance in place of Rolfe, while Miguel Aguilar replaced Espindola late on having been dogged in recent weeks by visa issues.

The fulltime whistle signaled another victory for United, and means they now have not lost in 16 games in all competitions, a run that has helped keep them right at the top of the Eastern Conference standings this season. With more home games to come for D.C., they will be hopeful of adding to their points total and maintaining their impressive start to 2015.

Goals
DCU — Fabian Espindola (Chris Rolfe) 15’
DCU — Sean Franklin (Fabian Espindola) 41’

Disciplinary
DCU — Fabian Espindola (caution, encroachment) 71’
DCU — Sean Franklin (caution, time wasting) 90’

Attendance: 13,107

D.C. United XI: Hamid; Franklin, Opare, Boswell, Korb; DeLeon (Farfan 63’), Kitchen, Arnaud, Pontius; Rolfe (Silva 71’), Espindola (Aguilar 86’).
Subs not used: Worra, Kemp, Doyle, Arrieta.

Columbus Crew SC XI: Clark; Grana (Jimenez 65’), Parkhurst, Pogatetz, Francis (Klute HT); Saeid, Tchani, Finlay, Higuain, Meram (Steindorsson HT); Kamara.
Subs not used: Lampson, Wahl, George, Schoenfeld.

D.C. United Game 4 Recap: United snatch 1-0 win away to Orlando City SC

It was yet another late show from D.C. United, as a goal in second-half stoppage time secured them all three points away to Orlando City at the Citrus Bowl in Florida with a 1-0 win.

In the first half, United owed their clean sheet to goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who kept them in the game with several incredible saves to continue the form that saw him named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year for 2014. However, in the second period it was the visitors who arguably had the best of the game, and missed a couple of glorious chances having been largely stale in attack in the opening 45 minutes.

Then, in the first minute of second-half stoppage time, the crucial goal came. Luis Silva had been brought on as a substitute for his first action of the 2015 season after injury, and had a free kick from about 20 yards out. The United forward curled one around the wall that Donovan Ricketts could not keep out of the Orlando goal, and secured the visitors all three points. [Read more…]

D.C. United Game 3 Recap: Late goal seals United victory over Los Angeles Galaxy

In a battle between two teams with players absent for a variety of reasons, D.C. United triumphed 1-0 over the Los Angeles Galaxy at RFK Stadium in their latest MLS fixture thanks to a goal in second-half stoppage time from Chris Pontius.

The Black-and-Red faced an opponent they had not beaten since 2009, but the visitors had some depth issues with Gyasi Zardes, Robbie Keane and Jaime Penedo all away on international duty. Meanwhile, the hosts had injury and unavailability problems of their own, although with Miguel Aguilar’s work permit now secured he was eligible for selection again.

The home side’s goal when it came was a product of some good teamwork, with the ball finding the net with just over 30 seconds remaining before the final whistle. Nick DeLeon broke down the right and was fed by a deliciously weighted pass from Davy Arnaud that left the Galaxy defense flat-footed. After some trickery, DeLeon lofted a ball into the six-yard box that Pontius managed to get his head on and steer home to secure a vital victory. [Read more…]

D.C. United Game 20 Recap: United romp past Toronto to continue streak

D.C. United improved to 4-1 without injured leading scorer Fabian Espindola, and 11-5-4 (37 points) overall with a resounding 3-0 thumping of Toronto FC (7-7-5, 29) before 16,171 at RFK Stadium. United, second place in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference and winners of four straight, brushed aside the conference’s third-place team with ease thanks to goals from Eddie Johnson and Chris Rolfe, then a TFC own goal set up by some terrific work by D.C. midfielder Nick DeLeon.

United goalkeeper Bill Hamid was called upon to make a couple quality saves among the eight he totaled, but for the most part, D.C. were better on the ball, did more advanced work off the ball, and United’s defense were somewhat of a brick wall compared to that of TFC. With space open on all sides of the field, it was only a matter of time before United, even without the seven goals and eight assists from Espindola in the lineup, made Toronto pay.

The onslaught began in the eighth minute, when for the first time this season, Johnson scored from open play, crashing home a header from the middle of the penalty area off a perfect Perry Kitchen cross. Johnson has now scored in three straight games, but the other two came from penalty kicks and Johnson’s opening goal of the campaign was a header from a corner kick.

Kitchen, meanwhile, was the best American midfielder on the field, even with U.S. National Team stalwart Michael Bradley in the 11 for Toronto. The assist was his second of the season to go with three goals, and his defensive work was on point as always.

Chris Rolfe made it 2-0 in the 59th minute, converting on a 1-0n-1 chance with Toronto goalkeeper Joe Bendik after DeLeon was felled in the penalty area. Referee Chris Penso played advantage and Rolfe finished the chance neatly.

DeLeon was also involved in the third goal, opening up space for himself in the box after first eluding Justin Morrow, then dispensing of would-be defender Nick Hagglund. His shot was saved by Bendik, but then it was knocked into the net by a recovering Hagglund.

Since losing Espindola, United have outscored its opponents, 10-4. United looks to continue the surge Sunday at the Houston Dynamo (8 p.m., CSN).

THE GOOD: A lot to choose from. But DeLeon’s moves both on his goal and in the midfield to create space and hold possession were of high quality.

THE BAD: Johnson, Davy Arnaud, and Chris Korb were all cautioned. But really, that’s being picky. Nothing to complain about over tonight’s performance.

THE UGLY: This was Hagglund’s second straight game vs. United that went really poorly. Good for United, but given TFC’s appetite for success by bringing in guys like Bradley and Jermain Defoe, the defense (28 goals allowed) has to be shored up for the Reds to be a serious MLS Cup contender.

  • The club announced the acquisition of defender Kofi Opare, via trade with the Los Angeles Galaxy. According to the club, the Galaxy also sent United its second-round pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. The Galaxy move up to United’s spot in the allocation order. Opare will provide defensive depth which is needed since center back Jeff Parke remains out injured, though rookie Steve Birnbaum (90 minutes tonight) is doing well in his absence.Opare is a 23-year-old Canadian defender. He had five starts in his six appearances for the Galaxy this season. Opare made six appearances (all starts) for Los Angeles in 2013, his rookie season. Opare played his college soccer at the University of Michigan.

Ed Morgans is the D.C. United Page Editor for District Sports Page. He covered United for The Journal Newspapers from 1997-2002. For in-game analysis and story notifications, follow him on Twitter @writered21.

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