Surprising. Unexpected. Blue-collar.
You’d be hard pressed to find an article written about D.C. United in 2014 that doesn’t use one of those adjectives.
After a 2-1 road win over San Jose on Friday evening – United's third straight away victory and just their second at Buck Shaw Stadium since the Quakes re-entered the league in 2008 – it may be time to shelve that talk.
Just months removed from a season that saw them go winless on the road in league play, United have won away from home on four occasions – giving them a winning record (4-3-1) away from RFK Stadium.
To add a bit more perspective, those four road wins are actually as many as D.C. compiled in their entire 2012 campaign, one that saw them come within 90 minutes of a trip to MLS Cup. Prior to United’s current three-game winning streak, D.C. hadn’t won back-to-back league games on the road since August 2007.
So what have United done differently away from home in 2014? After a man-of-the-match worthy performance on Saturday evening, DC keeper Bill Hamid reflected on that query.
“I think to us it’s just a different mentality on the road now,” Hamid told MLSsoccer.com via telephone. “We can get points out of these teams, we honestly feel that way. We can get results when we bring that confidence and mentality to the table, we can do anything. It’s just been a totally different approach and mentality this year.”
Though United certainly did well in the game’s opening stanza to take their chances – riding an Eddie Johnson penalty kick and a Luis Silva deflection to an early 2-0 lead – they also weathered a late barrage to secure the victory, resisting the type of late-game breakdown that has plagued so many of San Jose’s opponents – including D.C. – over the past several years.
“I think all of us were under fire," said Hamid. “They pushed a lot of names forward. They pushed Goodson, Wondo, they brought on Alan Gordon. Lenhart was aggressive - they had a lot of height that we had to deal with, but I think we did very well to neutralize that, we showed our determination.”
That sort of grit was present in United head coach Ben Olsen’s 2012 side, and has once again come to the forefront of D.C.’s 2014 squad, to the ire of some who’d rather D.C. play a more attractive brand of soccer. But that ability to grind results out – combined with some veteran savvy and solid defensive play, has worked well enough to put United atop the Eastern Conference, five points clear of second place Sporting KC.
After Saturday's match, Hamid seemed pleased with his side’s performance and didn’t seem particularly concerned with how they arrived at the result.
“We just had to lock it down at the end,” said the 'keeper. "Credit to the guys in front of me. We kept it organized and clean, gave them chances we knew we could keep out of the net and brought home three points."