D.C. United downs Red Bulls to take four-point lead in the standings

Photo: Bill Hamid [dcunited.com]
Photo: Bill Hamid [dcunited.com]

WASHINGTON, September 1, 2014 — The attacking combination of Fabian Espindola and Luis Silva, plus the impressive goal-keeping of Bill Hamid, continues to pay off for D.C. United. The three players combined on the game-winning goal as United earned a hard-fought 2-0 win over their I-95 rivals, the New York Red Bulls, in the sweltering heat at RFK Stadium before 19,453 on Sunday.

 Eddie Johnson came off the bench to score United’s insurance goal in stoppage time.

 The win gives United (14-8-4, 46 points) a four-point lead in the Eastern Conference as the club continues to close in on securing a playoff spot. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls (7-8-10 31 pts.) are still out of the playoff picture, in sixth spot in the standings.

The Red Bulls came loaded with talent. French ace Thierry Henry, World Cup Australian star Tim Cahill and Major League Soccer’s leading goal scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips all started for the New Jersey-based club.

 United coach Ben Olsen decided to leave Johnson on the bench and instead went with the productive combination of Silva and Espindola, to spearhead United’s attack. It paid off. In the 57th minute United broke the deadline with a stunning route-one goal.

 Espindola headed Hamid’s long clearance forward to Silva, who slipped the ball to the side of the on-rushing Red Bulls’ goalie Luis Robles, and then slotted the ball into the empty goal. It was Silva’s eighth goal of the season. Hamid was credited with an assist on the goal – his first ever in MLS. It was also Espindola’s team-leading, ninth assist. Hamid had earlier made a dramatic first-half save to stop the deadly Wright-Phillips who has 20 goals to his name this season.

United began the game with a positive attitude, stringing together some fine passing sequences. Espindola had a chance in the 3rd minute forcing Robles to pull off a big save. The striker tested Robles again 13 minutes later with a shot from distance. Silva also tested Robles, who made a dramatic save, but the shot looked like it was going wide.

Finally, the Red Bulls produced a chance in the 31stminute and it could so easily have been the opening goal. Wright-Phillips headed down Chris Duvall’s cross but Hamid pulled off an amazing save, diving cat-like to the ground, like the famed goalie Gordon Banks,  to palm out the shot for a corner. Cahill then hit the United post just before the break with a low shot. Hamid, who made five big saves in the game, then stopped Lloyd Sam’s shot. United were lucky to get into the locker room for the break without giving up a goal. After the break United looked the better team as the Red Bulls wilted in the heat and left open gaps in its defense.

Johnson came off the bench in the 66th minute and wasted a good opportunity to increase United’s lead. He then made up for the error sealing the win with a well-taken goal in the game’s dying minutes. The striker headed on Perry Kitchen’s pass and then chipped the ball over Robles for his fifth goal of the season. The three-points were vital for United as the club continues its dramatic turnaround from last season. The team now faces three league games on the road. With wins like this, United is finally beginning to earn respect in the league and looks like a team that could go all the way to the championship game. The team will certainly be tested in its last eight games with only three of those at home.

The Player Ratings: Bill Hamid (8.5), Sean Franklin (8), Bobby Boswell (7.5), Steve Birnbaum (7) Taylor Kemp (7), Nick DeLeon (6.5), Perry Kitchen – (7), Davy Arnaud (7.5), Chris Rolfe (6), Fabian Espindola (8), Luis Silva (7.5); Substitutes: Eddie Johnson (6.5), Jared Jeffrey and Alex Caskey, 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.

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