United Finally Returns to Winning Ways

Victory over San Jose ends 13-game league winless streak
by Peter Muller   |   Monday, June 24, 2013

United Capitol – column on DC United (DCU) & the Washington DC/DMV area soccer scene.

When DC United last won a Major League Soccer match, more than 3 months ago, the club’s season was as eagerly anticipated as the onset of spring. After an inspired run to the playoffs in 2012, United seemed set to build on the promise they had shown and a young corps of players appeared ready to blossom.

Instead, United embarked on a 13-game winless streak that killed any hopes of a playoff return and raised questions about the quality of the players, the tactics of the coach and the commitment of the management.

Finally, on the day after spring officially gave way to summer, DC earned their second victory of the season Saturday with a 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes at RFK Stadium in front of 13,149.

Chris Pontius scored his 1st goal of the season on an 11th minute penalty kick to give United an early lead and a workmanlike defensive performance enabled the Black and Red to shut out San Jose for the victory.

“It’s been brutal,” said manager Ben Olsen. “It’s been brutal for the staff, the players. It’s been brutal for the organization. It’s been brutal for our fans. But what I’m most proud of is that we kept things moving forward.”

For DC, the win broke the fever but could hardly be called cathartic. United has now gone 5 games without scoring from the run of play and put just 3 shots on target all night. At the midpoint of the season, DCU is averaging just over half a goal per game and have accumulated a -18 goal differential.

Saturday’s victory came against a team in San Jose that has struggled on the road and is playing under an interim coach following the departure of Frank Yallop. The Earthquakes also were missing 2 key attackers, Chris Wondolowski and Steven Lenhart, who were out with injury.

But a DC team that had won just 1 of 15 games entering the match was pleased to pull out the victory. “It feels good to get out of here with a win, even though it wasn’t necessarily the greatest game,” said Pontius.

The Washington Post reported that United will release Brazilian forward Rafael this week, meaning he will join the mid-season purge that has already claimed fellow Brazilian Rafael Augusto and Panamanian Marcos Sanchez. United’s remaining strike force, which includes Pontius, Dwayne De Rosario, Lionard Pajoy, Casey Townsend and Carlos Ruiz has totaled just 5 goals all year.

Defensively, United recently acquired Alain Rochat from Vancouver to provide veteran leadership, but otherwise Olsen has been giving his young players an opportunity. On Saturday, Ethan White again got the start over Brandon McDonald, who did not make the gameday roster, and was paired with Daniel Woolard in central defense. When White left the game late in the first half with a possible concussion, 21-year-old Conor Shanosky replaced him.

The question for United’s management is whether they will make upgrades to the team when the international transfer window opens in July. They have cleared space on the roster and made room under the salary cap, but it remains to be seen whether an organization that continues to lose money playing at RFK Stadium will commit additional resources to a lost season.

On the field, United turns again this week to their one bright spot of the year – the U.S. Open Cup. On Wednesday, DC will host the New England Revolution at the Maryland Soccerplex for a quarterfinal matchup.

“The Open Cup is one of two trophies that we’re in this year and it’s huge for us,” said midfielder John Thorrington. “We actually enjoy going out and playing there (Maryland Soccerplex). It’s a different kind of atmosphere and hopefully we’ll reward the fans that come out there again on Wednesday with a positive result and keep advancing.”

NEXT UP: June 26 – DC United vs. New England Revolution, Maryland Soccerplex, Boyds, Md. 7 p.m., TBD.


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Peter is a government relations professional in Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, CA. He has been a DC United season ticket holder since 1997 and has attended every MLS Cup except one – in 1998 when he was busy helping his boss get re-elected to Congress.