The Black-and-Red ended their early season drought, they are finally in the win column after a 4-0 win over the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps yesterday. Through the first four games, the veteran led bunch has maintained that they weren’t worried and that it will come. Earlier in the week, Jared Jeffrey talked about the strides made in practice and it just needing to happen in games. It wasn’t a perfect outing, but it was definitely the best 90 minutes on the young season.
One of the biggest issues heading into the match against Vancouver was D.C. United being able to maintain their high pressure throughout the duration of the match. They came close yesterday, as there were a few lulls, but it was markedly better than the prior outings. There weren’t as many sloppy giveaways when transitioning from defending to attacking, the team stayed on the ball a bit better as well.
The telling point was how quickly the ball was moving, for the first time all year the ball didn’t get “stopped” and by that, meaning that it kept moving and made the Vancouver defense work. They couldn’t keep up with the ball, the home side did a good job getting the ball out wide and building their attacks. Fabian Espindola had his best game of the year, the creative and ever dangerous Argentine stopped holding the ball up and was more decisive when on the ball for the most part. He did a good job using his vision to create scoring chances for teammates, delivering several dangerous services into the box.
Nick DeLeon played his best match of the season as well, he was really involved in the attack and held when needed. In the 38th minute, on a counter attack, the home side got one past David Ousted. DeLeon got the ball in the middle of the field and played it up to a streaking Patrick Nyarko. He then found Chris Rolfe in the box, who was able to place a shot to the far post. Ousted did a great job of getting a hand on it. Then, Fabi raced in and tapped it past the keeper before he could corral it. It was an effort goal on the part of Fabi, but the speed at which the attack happened was great to see. The Whitecaps had to chase the play and were caught out of position.
Prior to the goal, D.C. United had come close on several chances only to have Ousted foil them. Nyarko beat a defender and tap danced down the touchline to fine Fabi in the box who placed a blistering shot on target, but Ousted got a knee on it. The home side went into the half with a 1-0 lead, delivering a pretty solid performance from front to back.
The Black-and-Red would go up 2-0 off of a corner kick in the 54th minute. Steven Birnbaum won the header on the service and rattled the crossbar, Fabi was even closer on this occasion to tap in the rebound. It would be their turn to dodge bullets shortly thereafter when Vancouver found space in the box and a shot rattled off the crossbar before being cleared away to safety.
D.C. United continued to pressure and get after the Whitecaps, there was a bit of a lull around the 75th minute. Coach Ben Olsen would insert both Luciano Acosta and Alvaro Saborio in the 77th and 79th minute respectively, coming on for Rolfe and Espindola. Rob Vincent would come on in the 86th minute for the final sub.
With a 2-0 lead and time running out, many figured that D.C. United would be able to dig in defensively and hold on for the win. Acosta and Saborio had different ideas as the tandem hooked up for not one, but two tallies in three minutes. Acosta got the ball in open space on both occasions, he held up the play long enough for Sabo to make two runs past the defense. The 21-year old delivered two pin-point passes that the veteran striker easily put past the keeper. A great way to cap a win, a key point was the one shot on target surrendered by the home side. Vancouver took seven shots to the home side’s 24, D.C. United was able to put 13 targets on frame.
While there’s plenty of reasons to be positive, there were still areas in which the Black-and-Red must improve. They haven’t found a way to regularly get the ball to Neagle in advantageous situations, if they do get it to him, it’s more often too late. Which ties into the next point, the ball doesn’t get switched enough. Sitting on one flank then into the middle and back, but hardly ever switched. Utilizing the entire field can only add to the attack, with Nyarko causing trouble on one flank, why not get Neagle going on the other? Obviously there’s a ton of time left in the season, but wanted to emphasize that there’s still a ways to go despite getting the first win of the year.