Photo by Jose L. Argueta/ISIPhotos.com
By CLIFF STARKEY
WASHINGTON — It had been eight long months since D.C. United tasted victory in an MLS match. A grueling stretch that has only been made barely tolerable by the U.S. Open Cup the team won last year.
The streak is over though, and it ended with the help of their opponent.
Jose Goncalves scored a comical own goal just before halftime, and Chris Rolfe marked his D.C. United debut with a goal in second-half stoppage time to give D.C. a 2-0 victory over the New England Revolution at RFK Stadium on Saturday.
After a cagey start, where both teams looked content to feel each other out, both teams began to find success down the wings. Eddie Johnson and Lee Nguyen dictated the play, and the game began to open up.
Despite the slow start, the first half was full of half-chances, but as halftime neared, it looked like both teams would be going in to the locker room looking for a way to break the deadlock. In the 43rd minute, the game finally got the goal it deserved, albeit in unexpected fashion.
Goncalves looked set to make the most routine of clearances on a tame cross, but he could only watch in horror as the ball rolled off his foot, and into the back of his own net. The own goal put D.C. United ahead 1-0 going in to the break.
Goncalves was frustrated, but didn’t see his own goal as the end of the game.
“We were not ready for this goal—myself, too. But this stuff will happen, and you have to move on,” Goncalves said after the game. ”We knew that we had to play forward and direct, and that’s what we did. But we didn’t have enough chances to score.”
“The own goal hurts, but I do think we were a little hard done to be down a goal,” New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps said.
The second half again saw a handful of half-chances, and it looked like Goncalves would be directly responsible for D.C. United’s first win in over seven months.
However, as the game entered its final seconds, Conor Doyle found Rolfe on an impressive, long distance pass, and Rolfe put the game to bed.
Rolfe’s goal completed a whirlwind week, after being traded from the Chicago Fire just a few days before.
“It’s been crazy,” Rolfe said. “I only found out I was traded a few hours before I got to D.C. The guys have been great—the organization has been awesome—they’ve made it really easy for me, and that helped me tonight.”
After the game, D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen was happy not only for getting a long-awaited win, but also for the outlook of his team.
“It feels good. It feels good for the new guys, but in particular, some of the old guys, Olsen said after the match. “We got a little bit of a demon off our back, and we can continue to move forward.”
The match was an ugly one that featured just three combined shots on goal between the two teams. Despite a few cutting passes to release teammates, Eddie Johnson struggled to make his mark on the match, while strike partner Fabian Espindola proved to be a handful.
“[The offensive struggles aren’t] because I’m telling them not to shoot. I thought there was one or two—I think [Johnson] had one where he probably should’ve put it on goal, but that stuff will get better,” Olsen said.
Nguyen, who was center of New England’s attack throughout the night, said that despite the lack of shots on target, the offensive play was something to see some positives in.
“We were close, but it’s not good enough,” Nguyen said. We need to make the goalie make a save, at least. Had we put any of those on target, we would have had one or two goals in the first half.”
Andrew Dykstra made just one save in posting a shutout in place of injured starting goalkeeper Bill Hamid, who missed the match with a toe injury.
D.C. United play their third home game in a row next week, as they host the New York Red Bulls. New England Revolution host the Houston Dynamo on Saturday.
Check out video highlights of the match below: