WASHINGTON – Despite earning a 2-1 victory on Saturday over New England and jumping back into fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings, there weren’t many happy parties in D.C. United’s locker room after the game.
Coach Ben Olsen was overall dissatisfied with his team’s “rusty, gutsy” performance and wasn’t wowed by anyone except his goalkeeper.
“Overall, I think nobody really on our team played great except Bill Hamid,” Olsen said after the win. “He made two [saves], I’ll have to see them again, but from the bench they looked incredible. Two big-time saves.”
Indeed, Hamid – who recently came in at No. 10 on MLSsoccer.com’s 24 Under 24 list – made two, arguably three monumental saves to help D.C. avoid a second straight last-minute heartbreaker at RFK Stadium.
Hamid, who finished with five stops, stoned Kelyn Rowe in the 85th minute and two minutes later came up huge against Benny Feilhaber to keep United ahead.
“It was hectic back there late on, but we wanted to stay as tidy as possible and not give them any chances,” Hamid said. “Unfortunately, we got a little mixed up at the end, but we stayed strong. Credit to the backline. They didn’t have many chances throughout this game [until the end].”
Back in action
Two United players who have been on the mend made appearances in Saturday’s match as second half subs. Forward Hamdi Salihi and defender Robbie Russell both subbed on and played 23 and seven minutes respectively.
Russell, who played in his first match since July 15, is working back to full strength after having surgery for plantar fasciitis. Salihi, on the other hand, played in both of Albania’s World Cup qualifiers and took two shots during his time on the pitch. It was his first action since he played one minute against Chicago on Aug. 22.
In addition, midfielder Branko Boskovic received his first start since Aug. 11 and forward Maicon Santos was in the starting lineup for the first time since July 15, all a direct result of the season-ending injury to captain Dwayne De Rosario.
“I’ve got to find the right group now that makes us perform at our best,” Olsen said. "Was that the group? I don’t know. Maybe we stick with that, maybe we tinker with some things. We’ll look at the film."
Olsen also said he’ll continue to evaluate the relationship between Santos (who played 67 minutes) and Lionard Pajoy up top to see how the duo plays off one another. Olsen said putting leading scorer Chris Pontius back at forward also is an option.
“The relationship between them is going to take a little time,” he said. “I thought [Santos] had some moments where it was nice to have him back and he had some moments of rust.”
Hall of Tradition
Before Saturday’s match, Olsen was honored at midfield by being inducted into D.C. United’s Hall of Tradition. Olsen’s family was there to commemorate the achievement.
He becomes the seventh player inducted into the Hall and ranks second in club history in games played, minutes played, game-winning goals and fouls suffered. He’s first in club history in fouls committed and seventh in goals.
“It’s a family day for me and for my kids to be on the field,” Olsen said. "I don’t think they really got what was going on, but I’m sure there’s a picture or two that they’ll see in 20 years and they’ll remember that this is a good day. I’ll probably be more excited 20 years down the line when I can look back and say I’m on there. For now, all I’m thinking about is going to bed.”