WASHINGTON – Robbed of starting center backs Bobby Boswell and Steve Birnbaum by suspension and international duty, D.C. United were forced to give Jalen Robinson his first MLS start in a position that's still relatively new for him when Kei Kamara and the New England Revolution hit RFK Stadium on Saturday.
Not only did United cruise to an assured 2-0 win, Robinson turned in one of his team's best performances, completing 84 percent of his passes and limiting Kamara to two shots (both blocked) and only 35 total touches.
“Jalen was tremendous,” said goalkeeper Bill Hamid. “For him to get the start and do that well against one of last year's leading goal scorers in the league, it speaks volumes about how hard he's been working. A lot of eyes haven't been on him, so he's had to kind of work in the cut. But he's been pounding away at transforming himself into a center back … I'm very proud of him.”
The 22-year-old D.C. Homegrown was the foundation on which the Black-and-Red built what veteran Sean Franklin dubbed a “must-win” result, as United prepare to spend nearly all of July – four straight games – on the road against rugged opposition.
“We were hungry,” Robinson said. “We knew we needed this win, and then we have a big away stretch so we're gone for almost a month. We just really needed this result – we have to make RFK a fortress.”
Just as importantly for a D.C. side that has struggled at times in its efforts to evolve to a more assertive, proactive style of play, United were dominant when they needed to be against a Revs side packed with experienced, technical players. Rolling out a new-look 4-1-4-1 formation, Saturday's hosts enjoyed plenty of the ball early on as Argentine playmaker Luciano Acosta thrived in a free role underneath targetman Alvaro Saborio.
Acosta set up Lamar Neagle for the game's opening goal, a superbly taken volley, and Saborio's canny pass to Neagle set the stage for the Sean Franklin goal that assured the win.
“Some of it's about getting our most dangerous guys on the field together, and asking them to work in a way that isn't always natural for them, but doing it for the betterment of the group,” said coach Ben Olsen of the new tactical “wrinkle,” one that he said would be used again in the future.
“Today they did that, and at the end of the day that's why we come out with three points. … I'm looking forward to building off of this group that we played tonight.”