WASHINGTON — Under-utilized, often-criticized and having barely played together this season, D.C. United’s two Designated Players finally came to play in their 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday night at RFK Stadium.
GOAL: Salihi cleans up
The DP duo of Branko Boskovic and Hamdi Salihi — along with 2011 MLS MVP Dwayne De Rosario — had started just one game together this season before the win over the Rapids, and that came all the way back in the opening day loss to Sporting Kansas City on March 10.
But the group combined for two goals against Colorado and controlled the play of the game, as United won for the sixth time this season — their fourth success at RFK Stadium — matching their output from the 2011 season.
“You could tell we had some soccer players out there,” United manager Ben Olsen said after the game. “They really know how to move the ball, and it could have been even better. But overall, it was a pretty good performance, and I’m very happy with the depth – they did a good job.”
While De Rosario has been leaned on this season for his production, Salihi and Boskovic have had problems finding time on the field to help the cause this term. But with a stretch of three games in ten days and after plenty of travel over the past couple of weeks, Olsen looked to his high-profile players to produce.
And at least for the night, they did.
Boskovic was critical in controlling much of the play for United, and was unlucky to have not found the back of the net. His golden opportunity was kept out by Rapids 'keeper Matt Pickens, but Salihi was on the spot to sweep home the rebound for his third goal of the season.
“It doesn’t matter how much you practice every day, you need games,” the Montenegrin Boskovic told reporters after the game. “I need one more game like this to be more prepared for the second half, because I went down a bit physically. But I am happy for our play.”
In addition to the output of the Boskovic and Salihi, Englishman Lewis Neal had a standout performance, in which he notched one assist, and helped create Salihi’s goal. Filling in on the left wing, Neal assisted De Rosario’s opening goal after picking up a loose ball in midfield, making his way towards the Rapids’ goal, and finding the run of De Rosario with a pin point through ball.
“I was looking for someone moving in front of me, and I saw [De Rosario] pull away, and thankfully I got the ball through the gap,” Neal told MLSsoccer.com. “It was right into his path, and he didn’t have to break stride, and he put it into the back of the net to put us 1-0 up.”
The win for United came on the back of a small swoon for the Black and Red, after they had lost two out of the last three games, following a stretch in which they went seven games without a loss. United oozed confidence against Colorado but with games against Toronto FC and the New England Revolution quickly approaching, there is little time to celebrate this victory.
“The first goal from [De Rosario] gave us a bit of confidence,” Salihi told reporters. “It was a good game, but it was only one game, and Saturday is another game.
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