There were plenty of people who expected D.C. United to lose their road encounter with the Dynamo on Sunday afternoon – it’s what they’d done nearly every other time they’d paid a visit to Houston, compiling a hapless 0-11-1 record over the past eight years.
United’s players and coaches were not among that group of pessimists.
D.C fought off a desperate Dynamo side that needed a result to stay in playoff contention and rode goals from Taylor Kemp, Fabian Espindola and Eddie Johnson to a 3-1 victory at Houston. It’s their first road victory against the Dynamo in any competition since the club’s inception in 2006.
"The stats are for the birds,” a smiling Bobby Boswell, who was on the other side of most of those meetings, told the media in attendance after the match. "They’re for you writers, and the media. This is a whole new group."
“It’s a great result,” added Boswell’s head coach, Ben Olsen. “It’s never fun. This isn’t a fun place to play. This is the type of team that can win here though – they know how to dig in and win the tough games. It’s another example of how this team has the right character.”
That includes Kemp, who’s not exactly a familiar name on the scoresheet. The left back scored just two goals during his entire college career at the University of Maryland and had yet to notch a goal at the professional level.
His lack of experience didn’t seem to matter in the 41st minute, though, when Kemp’s driven effort from just inside the box found the far side netting for United’s opener.
“It’s so nice to have a guy like that get on the scoresheet,” said Olsen, “to give him a little press, a little ego boost. He’s done fantastic for us and I’m glad his name is going to be mentioned [a bit more.]"
The win puts United six points clear of the New England Revolution with just two games to play. Their 39-point swing in points earned between 2013 and 2014 also ties them with the 1999-2000 MetroStars for the largest single-season turnaround in league history. A win or tie in their next two matches will make them the sole owners of that distinction.
United’s victory was not without cost: team scoring leader Luis Silva left the match late in the first half with an apparent hamstring ailment, perhaps contributed to by an hour-long lightning delay mid-way through the first half.
"It’s tough,” said Olsen. "You’re always at risk for a muscle injury after a delay – you try and do a good job of getting warm, but this happens sometimes. We’ll assess him. I don’t want to speculate, but I don’t like to see guys grabbing their hamstrings and pulling up lame like that."