From the beginning of the season, D.C. United made it very clear that young players would have to play a central role in any success in 2011.
On Sunday, two rookies — Perry Kitchen and Blake Brettschneider — stepped up as a makeshift DC side sent the Portland Timbers to their first home defeat of the year with a 3-2 win.
The youngsters teamed up for the game’s first goal, scoring off a set piece early in the first half. In the 13th minute, Brettschneider flicked on a Chris Pontius throw into Portland’s penalty box, and Kitchen slipped in unmarked to stab home the first goal of his MLS career.
It was a play drawn up and perfected on the training field.
“We worked on that play all week in practice,“ Brettschneider told MLSsoccer.com over the phone. “It was something Pat [Onstad] and Chad [Ashton] drew up. Portland’s known for being good on set pieces and we wanted to try and beat them at their own game.”
Said Kitchen: “It was definitely awesome. It’s good to get that one under my belt.”
Scoring first was massive for DC, who have yet to lose a game when getting the game’s first goal. But it was only half the battle, with plenty of time left and a stout defensive effort was also required.
And that was where Kitchen and the rest of the defense stepped up, keeping Portland off the score sheet until the 68th minute, when Jack Jewsbury converted a third penalty try during a bizarre sequence.
United picked themselves up from that set back, scoring twice more, with Brettschneider supplying the assist on the third and ultimately winning goal. The forward got his head on a Bill Hamid long ball from the back, getting substitute forward Josh Wolff in behind the Portland defense with a flick-on. Wolff calmly chipped goalie Troy Perkins for DC’s third goal of the game.
Making only his third start and appearance of the season, the forward out of South Carolina was pleased with his 90-minute shift.
“I thought I did pretty well,” said Brettschneider. “I feel like I did what the coaches asked me to do — I tried to cause problems for them, tried to be dangerous, create chances.”
A second straight win on the road will do wonders for a young team, and with another tough match coming up on Friday against the LA Galaxy, DC will look to continue improving after making a statement in Portland.
“It does a lot for our confidence going forward,” Brettschneider said. “It’s a place known to be a hostile environment, against a team that’s played really well at home, and to get three points says a lot about our team and where we’re headed.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark