WASHINGTON – The sound was unmistakable: that buzzing chatter that fills a winning locker room.
It had been absent from D.C. United’s home deep within RFK Stadium for longer than anyone associated with the organization cared to recall. But Saturday, after a 1-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes, United’s locker room buzzed once again and the club-record 13-match winless streak was finally over.
And while the fact remains that United still are in last place in the league and are extreme long shots to make the playoffs, this night allowed D.C. an opportunity to celebrate the positives.
“It’s been brutal,” said United coach Ben Olsen of the now-broken streak. “It’s been brutal for the staff and the players, it’s been brutal for the organization, it’s been brutal for our fans. But what I’m most proud of is we kept things moving forward.
"We had some bumps but for the organization, the owners with the loyalty they’ve had and the fans who haven’t given up hope, all that stuff means a lot to these players and my staff that continue to do the best we can.”
D.C. United’s owners Jason Levien and Erick Thohir (visiting from Indonesia) were in the locker room postgame to congratulate the team.
And, as so often accompanies a buzzing locker room, teammates Chris Korb and Bill Hamid teased Saturday’s goalscorer, Chris Pontius, as a throng of reporters approached him to talk about the club’s first win in 105 days.
“I felt like I actually got into a groove this game and it’s one of the first games this year where I actually felt like my old self again,” said Pontius, who returned from a concussion to convert his first of the year on an 11th-minute penalty kick. “It’s a bit of pressure off my back now. But a win means more to any of us than any [individual] scoring.”
Including US Open Cup play, United are 2-2-2 in their last six matches (with one of the draws being a win in penalty kicks) as the group believes things have started to turn for the better.
“I think we had a really good week of training and felt like this is heading in the right direction,” said United midfielder John Thorrington, who wore the captain’s armband Saturday with Dwayne De Rosario on the bench. “Then we get the win tonight. But our goals at the beginning of the season weren’t to win two games in MLS, so hopefully this is a stepping stone for more.”
Olsen said he rested De Rosario, who’s recovering from injury, partly with Wednesday’s Open Cup match against New England in mind.
Before leaving the field after the match, Olsen walked slowly toward the fans and raised his fist. They responded, in kind, with cheers. After roughly three months, another MLS win was in hand.
“We have to build on it,” Olsen said. “It’s not good enough to win this game and now relax and not understand that we’ve got a long way to go. But we’ll get there.”