WASHINGTON, April 13, 2014 — Things are looking up for D.C. United as last year’s nightmare season becomes a distant memory. The club earned its first back-to-back win since October 2012, with a 1-0 win against the arch-rival New York Red Bulls on Saturday night at RFK Stadium before 12,364. The team is now unbeaten in three games and has taken seven points from a three-game home stand.
United (2-2-1, 7 points) got the ideal start, taking the lead in the fourth minute on a goal from Davy Arnaud. Fabian Espindola’s corner kick was headed on by Bobby Boswell to Arnaud lurking at the far post, who headed it home from close range to make it 1-0.
The team played some of its best flowing soccer in a long time in the first half, but United faced a barrage of shots from New York after the break and still managed to hold on for the win.
“That was an old fashioned grind-out with some luck on our side,” said United coach Ben Olsen. “As we seek to find our identity, we have to find away to get a result and we did that.”
The Red Bulls had a chance to get back in the game early, but Jonny Steele aired his shot. In the second half Steele again came close to tying the game but his shot went inches past the post. United gave up the ball all too much at times allowing Thierry Henry to produce a number of good crosses for his teammates. Henry had eight shots on the night but only two were on goal.
Boswell came close with a header in the 51st minute, but his effort went straight into the goalie’s arms. In the 55th minute, Henry connected with Kosuke Kimura’s excellent cross but his header was too high.
For a while, it was all New York. Eric Alexander had a shot go over the upright. United was living dangerously and the backline was allowing Lloyd Sam numerous runs on the right flank. Olsen kept the very busy Rolfe, who had played so well on the right flank, on the left side after the break. Rolfe worked tirelessly.
It looked like a Red Bull goal was coming, but United’s backline held on. Goalie Andrew Dykstra made a big save to stop Roy Miller, who was allowed to run through the United defense and get a shot off.
The United players certainly worked well covering for each other, but certainly allowed New York too much possession.
“It was a vicious cycle given the ball away,” Olsen said, “but I give the back-four and everyone credit.”
Red Bulls’ striker Peguy Luyindula hit the post with a rocket of a shot in the 73rd minute. Then Bradley Wright-Philips came close, but United held on to win the three points. The club has now earned more points in the Eastern Conference than it did all last year. New York will feel hard done by for not getting a result from the game, but give United credit for keeping their composure and weathering a pounding all through the second period.
Eddie Johnson has now gone five games in search his first United goal.
“Eddie’s movement was very good and he is doing what we ask him,” Olsen said.
The player ratings:
Andrew Dykstra (7) – Making his second start for the Bill Hamid, who aggravated a foot injury, the backup keeper produced another solid game, earning his consecutive shutout in a row.
Sean Franklin (6) – Made life difficult for Thierry Henry at times, and put in another good game.
Bobby Boswell (7.5) – Earned the assist on the goal with a fine header and was dangerous in the air all game long.
Jeff Parke (6) – Another fine game keeping his composure under intense pressure.
Cristian Fernandez (6) – Produced some good passes out of the back and some fine defending late in the game.
Davy Arnaud (6.5) – Positioned well at the far post to get the early goal. Didn’t do too much after the goal and was subbed in the 66th minute by Jared Jeffrey.
Nick DeLeon (5.5) – A quiet game, but nearly set up Eddie Johnson for a goal late in the game.
Perry Kitchen (6) – Wasted an early opportunity from a Boswell header but worked hard.
Chris Rolfe (7.5) – In his first start for United he looked sharp offensively working on the right flank and setting up some good passes.
Fabian Espindola (7) – Produced a great corner that set up the goal and produced other chances with some good crosses. Had an excellent shot on the 80-minute mark.
Eddie Johnson (6.5) – Won most of the air balls against a big Red Bulls backline in the first half and nearly scored in the 28th on a header at the far post.
Jared Jeffery (6) came on for Davy Arnaud in the 66th minute.
Alex Caskey (5.5) came on for Rolfe in 71st. N/R
Conor Doyle (6) came for Eddie Johnson in 84th minute.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org