WASHINGTON–D.C. United ended a successful week with a 2-0 victory over 10-men New England Revolution and earned nine points in the standings over the last seven days.
“Today, we had to dig in and show a physical presence that this team hasn’t really had to deal with,” coach Ben Olsen said.
One week. Three wins. Nine goals and nine points in the standings.
“It was a long week and I asked a lot of these guys mentally and physically,” Olsen said. “They dug in and at times there was some great soccer.”
United opened scoring in the first half with a goal from Luciano Acosta. Midfielder Paul Arriola moved quickly around Revolution defender Brandon Bye, sending a ball across the face of the goal. Acosta sprinted in for his fifth goal of the season with one touch past goalkeeper Matt Turner.
“[Acosta] obviously has the talent to be at a high level. It is just can he sustain that maturity and discipline and make the right decision constantly,” Olsen said. “That is what I have been working with him on for a year and a half.”
United almost added a second goal five minutes later on a Rooney free kick. Rooney lifted the set piece into the air, aimed at goal. Turner came out of his box to block the shot but stumbled and failed to return to his line as Acosta launched the second ball toward the net. Midfielder Russell Canouse almost finished the shot, but was blocked by New England’s defense.
“The first half, we played some of the best football you will see in the league,” Rooney said. “It was a good performance all around.”
Since Rooney joined the squad, United is 5-2-1 and climbed from the basement to the middle potion of the Eastern Conference. Rooney has contributed three goals and three assists, but his biggest contribution is his presence. Rooney is a leader on the pitch and in the locker room. His play alone frees up United’s other attacking pieces.
“I put a lot of stress on 22, 23, 24 year olds in the last year and a half,” Olsen said. “Maybe my leadership alone in the locker room wasn’t enough. We needed, maybe, someone earlier on the field that could take the reigns. Wayne has helped a lot in that department.”
United slowed down its attack in the second half. The high-powered offense opted for a more defensive formation to withstand a scrappy New England.
“[The Revolution] came here to pick a fight,” Olsen said. “We, for the most part, did very well, matching a very physical team.”
The hard-fought match wore on United, whose legs were tired from a three-game week.
“We knew what they were going to come in here and do.” Hamid said. “They like to bully teams … We were prepared for it.”
The Revolution was punished for its rough play in the 73rd minute when referee Ted Unkel showed Scott Caldwell his second yellow of the match for unsportsmanlike behavior.
Substitute Zoltan Stieber added the insurance goal in the 89th minute to seal the United victory.
“I didn’t start the game, so I was obviously a little disappointed about that, but I think [the goal was the right answer] to that,” Stieber said. “The most important thing in the nine points in three games.”
Stieber entered the game in the 60th minute for Arriola, who left the pitch in frustration. At one time this season Stieber and Acosta started next to one another, but with the addition of Rooney and players returning to health, Stieber occupied the bench for the last two games.
“They are both great guys. They are selfless and they are team guys,” Olsen said. It is very very difficult to put one of them on the bench … on the other side, it is nice to have them on the bench. This is as deep a bench as I have ever had.”
United are six points back from a playoff position with four games in hand on Montreal. The Black-and-Red face rivals New York Red Bulls next Sunday with twelve games remaining. Nine of those matches will be at Audi Field.
“It has been a fun ride, but we have to keep pushing,” Olsen said. “We have a long way to go and we want to keep protecting this field and having nights like this.”