D.C. United's 1-0 victory against the Los Angeles Galaxy was the kind of result any coach like United's Peter Nowak had to relish and an immensely talented 16-year-old like Freddy Adu has dreamed about.
Playing their second away match in four days before a sold out Home Depot Center, United became the first MLS team to take three points from the Galaxy in Carson through impeccable match management and a bit of magic from the dynamic, dimunitive Adu, who scored his second goal of the season in the second minute of second half stoppage time.
It was Adu's first career goal in the last five minutes of a match and his second match-winner, the other occurring Oct. 2 of last year in a 1-0 win against the MetroStars.
"It feels good. I'm not going to lie about it," said Adu, with seven career MLS goals. "I just tried to do what my coach tells me to do -- go at them with speed.
"As far as I'm concerned, all of our players get a 10. We're on the road. It's a big field. It's hot."
In returning to the scene of November's MLS Cup triumph, Nowak had to be giddy about a performance worthy of the Cup holder. United used a team effort to keep it tight and organized in the back and only take the offensive initiative when the opportunity presented itself.
In terms of executing a game plan on the road, where D.C. has only yielded seven goals in 10 matches, and grinding out a result in a professional and efficient manner, perhaps no United display has been more impressive this season.
"The better team won," winger Dema Kovalenko said.
Exercising caution in going forward, D.C. had just two shots on frame and four corner kicks. Yet the priority was in defending for a scoreless draw, and D.C. only allowed two quality chances to the Galaxy, again playing without league's premier star in Landon Donovan.
United goalkeeper Nick Rimando was not called upon to make any tough saves in recording his MLS-best eighth clean sheet.
"Tactically, we were a better team today," said Nowak, uncontrollably running around the D.C. bench and onto the pitch to celebrate Adu's decisive strike. "You get a 90-minute goal, it's always exciting. I think (Adu's) got the confidence from the other guys he plays around. This is a learning process."
Giving the ball away too easily and delivering dying balls from the corner flag, Adu hadn't done much of anything all day to create danger or look dangerous himself until regulation time had expired. It didn't help that D.C. never looked to build much of a sustained attack.
Yet, Galaxy coach Steve Sampson found out in a deflating way that Adu possesses the capability of being individually brilliant.
"Up until that (scoring) moment, he did very little," Sampson said of Adu. "But give him credit." D.C. defender Brandon Prideaux won a long, clearing ball from the back over Michael Enfield and headed it into space for Adu about 45 yards out from the Galaxy goal. Adu dribbled by rookie defender Ugo Ihemelu, then shook off his challenge. Jamil Walker's run right created the space to allow Adu, in front of defender Tyrone Marshall, to rocket a left-foot shot that slightly deflected off Marshall's leg and past goalkeeper Kevin Hartman into the upper left corner of the goal.
"We see that all the time in practice. It's not surprising to us," winger Joshua Gros said. "We're just glad he's doing it in the game now."
"This season, I know what to do with it because my movement off the ball has gotten a lot better," Adu said. "I wasn't frustrated (at the lack of attacking). Last year, I would've been. You have to have patience. I was very impatient last year.
"Usually (in a late-game situation) you want to hold the ball. You want to kill time. But the midfield was so open."
As elated as Adu felt with the goal, he was even more impressed with his team's discipline in not opening up and compacting its half of the park.
"We executed our game plan," Gros said. "I think we let them have one good chance, maybe another. I think we're definitely coming together as a team. We're not playing as good as we did last year yet."
Added Prideaux: "We were OK with them having it and knocking it around (around midfield). We knew that wouldn't hurt us. Playing during the day on this big field, you can't pressure up there. You have to drop off. Once they go into our defensive third, that's when we would pressure. We did a good job.
"It's been a tough week (including a 1-1 draw earned at Kansas City on Wednesday). With the travel and the heat, it was brutal. I'm gassed right now."
Damian Secore is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.