Pontius goal helps United solidify hold on first in East

Chris Pontius

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There was a moment in time after the ball had found its way into the back of the net when D.C. United were unsure whether or not they had scored a legitimate goal against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night. Confusion reigned as ref Ricardo Salazar seemed to indicate that the goal did not stand.

In the end, confusion was replaced by joy as Chris Pontius was awarded a goal in 78th minute as the Black and Red ran out 1-0 winners at PPL Park against the Union.

“About five minutes after I scored it,” Pontius jokingly said of when he realized the goal actually counted. “I was so confused because he blew the whistle so fast, and their guys starting taking off, so I was thinking he called a foul on us in the box. I knew that I was onside, I knew that I didn’t foul my guy, so I was looking around as confused as everyone else.”

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Pontius, playing in his first game since a May 12 tilt against the Houston Dynamo, timed a run perfectly at the far post to meet Branko Boskovic’s free kick. Having beaten his marker to the spot, Pontius needed to only redirect the ball home for his sixth goal of the season.

Facing off against Philadelphia for the second time in the past ten days, United saw a different side than the one that defeated them 2-1 in the fourth round of the US Open Cup. With John Hackworth replacing Peter Nowak as manager, Philadelphia came out in the game on Saturday with a different mentality.

“They were more strategic in the way they approached the game,” United ‘keeper Bill Hamid, who made four saves, told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “They tried to come at us by finding holes and gaps, and there certainly was a big difference from the Open Cup game.”

The biggest difference between the game on Saturday night and the Open Cup game last week was that United managed to find a way to take home all three points, despite being second best for most of the night. The defense held firm when needed, and the offense, clearly lacking the rhythm seen in previous games, did just enough for the win.

“They were good – give them a lot of credit,” United manager Ben Olsen told reporters after the game. “They caused a lot of problems with guys that had freedom to roam. At the end of the day, it’s about winning games. We defended the box real well all night long. That’s what you have to do in away games in this league.”

FULL LINEUPS AND BOXSCORE

With the win, United increased their lead in the Eastern Conference to four points over the New York Red Bulls, who have an opportunity to recapture those three points on Sunday. And though United failed to look the part of the first team in MLS with 30 points this season, the result was the main selling point on the trip up I-95.

“We didn’t play particularly well tonight,” Pontius added. They had most of the possession, and the better of the game. But our defense came up huge, and we didn’t give them many solid chances. And in these games it's about finding ways to win, and we did that tonight.”

HIGHLIGHTS: PHI vs DC