The Black-and-Red got their first three point result last night against the Philadelphia Union, winning 2-1. It wasn’t the best of nights for the home side, but they did get a couple of things off their chest so to speak. They ended the scoreless streak to start the year and put a number up in the win column. As Patrick Nyarko shared after the game, “there’s still a lot of work to do.”
For the first time this season, the home side seemed to be on the same page on every level. That’s not to say they their best outing of the season, just wanted to share that they looked to knock out some of the silly decisions that plagued them in the previous three matches. They started slow in terms of building quality chances, but definitely far more poised when on the ball. Far often in past games they would have possession and quickly give it away versus today, they took the time given to them and didn’t rush. With Jose Guillermo Ortiz starting in place of the injured Patrick Mullins, it gave D.C. United a different feel up top. While Mullins is a bit more patient and nuanced with his play, ORtiz is unabashadley aggressive at nearly all times. Sometimes it leads to losing possession or him getting ahead of his feet, but today it led to the Black-and-Red ending their scoreless streak to start the season in the 18th minute.
Following a stretch of play in which they caught the Union’s keeper Andre Blake off his line, but couldn’t get the ball through the wall of defenders, they found the back of the net. Blake was one of the main culprits in his own undoing, he played a very bad ball to Fabinho who was to the left of the keeper right outside of the box. Instead of letting the ball bounce harmlessly out of bounds, the defender tried to get his head on it. The ball popped up and D.C. United’s Lloyd Sam was right there to take the ball and head towards goal, the was soon approached by a rushing defenseman and played the ball back into the center of the box. Ortiz collected it, then turned and fired as most goal forwards do. His shot wasn’t true at the start of it, but it bounced off of Richie Marquez and in turn beat Blake.
Soon after the home side got their second goal of the 2017 season. Ortiz was involved again, he was played a ball at the top of the box and tried to play it on to a charging Acosta. Again the ball hit Marquez, this time in the wrong part of his body and a hand ball was called in the box. Luciano Acosta stepped up to take the penalty and cooly beat Blake with a shot to the corner.
The second 45 minutes wasn’t good for D.C. United at all, the Union dominated play and forced the Black-and-Red to defend for the entire half. While the home side didn’t exactly dominate possession in the first half, they did a much better job of sustaining it.
The Union would get on the board in the 70th minute courtesy of CJ Sapong. Alejandro Bedoya fired a shot from the right side of the box that Bill Hamid got a hand on. The ball wasn’t cleared and Sapong tapped the ball inside the far post. From that point on it was D.C. United bunkered in their own half of the field and the few times that they did move it forward, they were quickly dispossessed or gun shy when it came to taking a shot.
The possession battle went in favor to the Union to the tune of 57% to 43%. They took 17 shots, with 9 being on target. Bill Hamid again had one of those heroic performances, stopping 7 of the 9 shots on target.
In the 78th minute, Bill made an outstanding save on a point blank shot from Sapong. The remaining 12 minutes consisted of the Black-and-Red playing the ball downfield until the time ran out. Nick DeLeon did get an opportunity very late in the game to add to his team’s tally, but his left footed shot couldn’t stay down and sailed over the goal.
Slow Start. Like the Washington Wizards started their season (2-8), D.C. United isn’t quite there in terms of the record but they are definitely off to an extremely slow start. I bring up the Wizards to say that there is no reason to write this team off this early or to think that they can’t work theirselves out of their current situation. As said after their last game, it’s still too early in the season to determine who this team will be either way, positively or negatively.
Acosta-Harkes. I truly like this pairing in the middle and think that they will play a big role in D.C. United righting the ship. Lucho is even more confident this year and Ian is getting more comfortable with each passing game. They are the only two players on the field that regularly switch fields with their passes. They also don’t take too long to identify an option and get the ball to them. May be hard for some to see this early, but their is plenty of potential in the middle for the Black-and-Red.
Confidence. I asked Patrick Nyarko after the game about the team being hesitant in the attacking third at times, whether it’s not shooting or just sitting on the ball. His response was great, the full interview will be up on the site soon. It’s the one thing that Ortiz didn’t have a problem with, that kid was thinking “goal” everytime he was in that area of the field.
Ortiz. He’s not as refined as Mullins or polished I should say, but he’s certainly proved that he’s a legit option for the team up top. As Olsen stated in the post game presser, he hasn’t had much time with the first team and that was evident at times. Still, his work rate and confidence in the attacking third definitely impacted the game. A great first start for one of D.C. United’s newer pieces.
Bill. Several times last season his name ended up in this section and I’m sure it won’t be the last time this year. He was amazing in the second half when the team regressed to bunkering down and not sustaining possession. He seemed to injure himself late, looked to be left leg, I’m sure we’ll find out more this coming week. But he stayed in and finished the job, D.C. United does not get that three point result without his heroics.