CHESTER, Pa – D.C. United appear to have finally figured out how to close a game out.
After multiple late-game breakdowns which cost United five points over eight games, D.C. finished the match off quite well on Saturday afternoon, using a sound defensive approach and the occasional counterattack to preserve their 1-0 lead over the Philadelphia Union.
It marked the Black-and-Red's first regular-season road victory in 21 tries, a stretch dating all the way back to a 1-0 win at Toronto FC on Oct. 6, 2012.
So what was the difference on Saturday? Was it the hours United have spent watching film? Long days on the training field?
After the victory, United head coach Ben Olsen offered a far simpler theory.
“I think they were just tired of hearing about it.”
In an upbeat postgame locker room, United’s players offered a bit more thorough explanation.
“Every member of our back line, they get man of the match honors as far as I’m concerned,” D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “We’re just learning our lesson. It’s tough to come on the road and get results, especially with teams that need results like Philly. We held our own, though – we’ve watched film from other games where we’ve given up goals late, and we zeroed in on some things.
"Philly is very good on set pieces,” added Hamid. “We wanted to make sure everybody was tuned in, had their man, wouldn’t lose them on corner kicks.”
The veteran center back pairing of Jeff Parke and Bobby Boswell – who some had predicted might not have the pace to keep up with some of MLS’s more fleet-footed attackers – proved once again to be a reliable one, while outside backs Cristian Fernandez and Chris Korb were more than adequate and also provided options coming forward.
Hamid himself, though, deserves much of the credit for holding the result. Though shaky on a couple of corner kicks, the Homegrown product came up huge later in the match, saving the game in spectacular fashion on a 64th-minute double save.
In the end, most of the players and coaches who spoke to the media after the 1-0 victory were eager to share credit for the victory with their teammates, a positive sign in a still-bonding locker room.
"I think [the victory] says we’re growing on some of the stuff that hasn’t been good enough in this season,” reflected Olsen. "I thought we played much better [last week] in Portland and came away with nothing. Here, we found a way to hang on.
“There’s still a real character about this team, that they can grind out results even when it isn’t the best soccer game."