Just five games into the 2011 season and D.C. United have already scored more than half as many goals as they did away from home last year.
It’s a tribute to D.C.’s new approach to road matches in their first full season under manager Ben Olsen. Two goals in the first 10 minutes from Chris Pontius and Charlie Davies gave United its first road win of the year, on a field that has traditionally proven to be unwelcoming to visitors – Toronto FC’s BMO Field.
Forward Josh Wolff paid tribute to the team’s pre-game mentality that carried over into a strong on-field performance.
“Our mindset before the game was in the right place,” the veteran forward said. “Guys were excited, they were lively in the locker room and we preached getting after them even though we’re on the road in a tough place to play, and we decided for us it was about us pressing and really getting after their back four.”
That mentality paid off right away, as Pontius got on the board in the 5th minute. He controlled a loose ball in the midfield, and ran at the Toronto defense. When they didn’t close him down, he created space in the box, and hit a low drive that beat TFC goalie Stefan Frei.
Only five minutes later, Wolff and Davies combined to double the lead. Davies intercepted a stray Danleigh Borman pass, and found Wolff in space running towards the Toronto box. Frei saved Wolff’s initial shot, but Davies followed up to beat Frei and score his fifth goal of the season.
“Honestly I think every guy in the locker room before the game was saying ‘let’s drive for the first one, sneak something early and make the game a little bit easier on ourselves,’” Wolff said. “And it showed up right away.”
Coming away with those early goals left TFC shell-shocked and silenced the usually boisterous TFC crowd. But the game was far from over, and D.C.’s midfield struggled to dominate possession, especially after going up a man following Ty Harden’s sending off early in the second half.
While TFC threatened, the United defense held fast, setting the table for Pontius to add his second goal of the game on a counterattack in the 73rd minute to put the game away.
“We broke out on a counter and to just finish up the counter, put the stamp on the game, it let us relax a little bit more after the third goal knowing the game was pretty much finished,” Pontius said.
From there, it was a matter of holding on to the shutout – the team’s first of the year. And while there were a couple of close calls, including another goal-line clearance by D.C. defender Ethan White, United held on for a clean sheet and a road win that could very well set a new tone for the club in 2011.