WASHINGTON, May 22, 2014 — No Eddie Johnson? No problem. Chris Rolfe, stepping into the striker role for the suspended Eddie Johnson, scored a stunning goal to help United down the Houston Dynamo 2-0 at RFK Stadium before 8,224 on a rainy night in the nation’s capital. The in-form Fabain Espindola set up Rolfe’s strike and added an insurance goal.
Johnson was issued a late suspension for the game for a reckless challenge on Montreal goalie Troy Perkins in United’s last game.
With the win, United (5-3-3 18 points) has earned two more points than it did all last season and leapfrogged the Dynamo (5-2-6, 17 pts.) into second spot in the Eastern Conference
It was slow start for the home team, but gradually, United began to control the game.
In the 28th minute, Espindola collected the ball from a Lewis Neal throw-in, and with a clever non-look pass, put Rolfe in an excellent position just outside the 18-yard box. Rolfe easily beat defender David Horst with two touches and fired a left foot shot past goalie Tally Hall for his third goal in eight games since joining the team from the Chicago Fire. The United attacking duo kept the Houston defenders on their toes for much the game.
Espindola, who has been a revelation all season, sealed the win with a wonder goal in the 63rd minute. Horst was again the victim. Espindola toyed with the big defender inside the box after a pass from Rolfe and then fired a low shot, leaving Tally no chance. It was the Argentine’s club-leading fifth goal of the season. With five goals and five assists, Espindola has been involved in ten of the club’s 16 goals this season.
Rolfe could have had a brace of goals. On the hour-mark he saw a blistering long-range shot hit and rebound off the Houston crossbar.
United goalie Bill Hamid pulled off big saves in the both halves, notably stopping a fine shot from Houston’s English midfielder Giles Barnes just before the break.
Will Bruin gave the United backline a scare at times, but Hamid and his defenders preserved the club’s fourth shutout in 11 games.
Houston suffered some early bad luck when rookie striker Mark Sherrod went down with what looked like a serious injury in the tenth minute after colliding with Bobby Boswell. He was stretchered off the field in obvious pain and was replaced by Brian Ownby, who was red-carded in the dying minutes of the game for violent conduct.
United next travel to play to high-flying New England on Saturday, with a chance of going to the top of the standings with a win.
The Player Ratings
Bill Hamid (7.5) – Excellent saves in both halves to preserve the win and earn his second shutout.
Chris Korb (6.5) – Some good over-lapping runs on the right flank.
Bobby Boswell (6.5) – Had a good night playing against his former club. He was beaten on a number of headers by Bruin but helped preserve the shutout.
Jeff Parke (6) – Got into a shouting match with Fernandez early on over defensive duties but another solid game.
Cristian Fernandez (6) – Lost Will Bruin on the right flank at one point setting up a dangerous situation for United.
Nick DeLeon (6.5) – Failed to convert a number of passes early on. Had a number of good give-and-go passing sequences with Espindola. Found his feet in the second half producing a number of good chances.
Perry Kitchen (6) – Good solid game communicating well his midfielders, especially Davy Arnaud.
Davy Arnaud (6) – A little slow on the ball at times but added some good defensive work and a couple of shots.
Lewis Neal (6.5) – Earned his fourth start of the season and earned rave reviews from coach Ben Olsen for helping United keep possession.
Fabian Espindola (8) – After an excellent assist on Rolfe’s goal he went on to score a stunner.
Chris Rolfe (8) – Played some nice through balls and did a lot of backtracking before scoring a super goal.
Luis Silva ( NR)
Conor Doyle (NR)
John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times for 20 years. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
Follow John on Twitter at @Johnahaydon or email [email protected]