It was fitting that Zoltan Stieber’s debut end with a win, it was the third consecutive result for a D.C. United side in front of a home crowd of 13,539. The Black-and-Red had three of their new pieces in midfield in a game setting for the first time since acquiring them. The midfield as a unit played a role in the 1-0 win over New England. The home side has suddenly found an energy, possibly even a swagger over the course of the last three games. Coach Olsen made it clear that the team has a long way to go, but did comment on the new found “energy”. Said Olsen, “New energy, we’ve added quality and the players that have been here have all played up to their standard. That’s what has been missing over the course of the year.”
As coach alluded to, that “quality” hasn’t taken long to show. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Luciana Acosta, Stieber, Russell Canouse, and Paul Arriola were able to play well off eachother in the first outing in which they were all on the field. It’s a simple game and sometimes, just having players that see the game similarly makes things easier. There’s nothing quite like being on the same page or making the beautiful game work in it’s purest form, you don’t have to speak the same language to know how to play off each other. Those four along with Marcelo Sarvas, really help dictate the tempo of the game. That’s something that hasn’t happened much, if any for D.C. United this year. They’ve struggled to sustain possession and in the games in which they held their own, those possessions were seldom fruitful. That wasn’t the case last night as they were dangerous when in possession, almost a calm out there versus just a few games ago.
Stieber’s technical skill was on display almost immediately, he and Luciano connected quite a few times on the left wing and what made it so good was the simplicity of it. I give you the ball and I make a run, then vice versa. The same thing would happen at times on the other side with Arriola, Patrick Mullins did a great job of giving his teammates a target and holding up play when needed. This allowed D.C. United to open up the back line of the Revolution and spread it thin, several chances were created, but none got past keeper Cody Cropper. That pressure from the midfield allowed the ball to stay near or in the New England box for nearly a stretch of 8 minutes. Unfortunately for the home side, they weren’t able to score despite holding a 53% eddge in possession.
The visitors started the half aggressively, in the hope of regaining the tempo as it got away from them in the first half. They succeeded in doing so initially, but D.C. United was able to settle down.
That Black-and-Red midfield got back to dictating things and after failing to capitalize on few chances, they broke through in the 71st minute. Lloyd Sam had just come in for Paul Arriola, some three minutes later he played a ball into the box, specifically to the far post. Kofi Opare went up to get it and headed the ball back to the near post, Acosta made a very timely run and easily beat Cropper who was unable to close the gap in time. It was Acosta’s fifth tally of the season and a timely one for a team that has struggled finishing.
From there, D.C. United continued to keep the pressure on, nearly scoring a few minutes later as Stieber played a pretty thru ball to Patrick Mullins. He just couldn’t beat the diving Cropper who did well to close out.
After playing a game on Wednesday, there was a change to the backline as Sean Franklin started for Chris Korb. The unit didn’t surrender but one quality chance for the evening. The centre back pairing of Kofi and Jalen Robinson looked solid, they did a good job keeping the very dangerous Kei Kamara quiet. Opare spoke of Jalen’s play after the game. ” He’s a tremendous player. Obviously, I’ve been here four years now and every year, he just progressively gets better.Getting that opportunity, it shows he has the ability to step in and play well. The past couple games, he’s done really well for himself.” Kofi offered this when asked about the “energy” surrounding the team. “This group thinks we’re still capable of something this season. With the new guys coming in, that has injected new energy to the group. I think everyone is fighting for each other and working hard both offensively and defensively.”
The Black-and-Red proved for the third straight game that they still believe they have time in the season. It’s not a popular belief outside of the locker room, but it’s clear after being in the locker room post game, there is a growing confidence from the team.