WASHINGTON – D.C. United raced out to an early lead on Saturday evening, and they made it count, for a change.
Riding a 7th-minute Steven Birnbaum opener and a Luciano Acosta insurance tally, United used a solid defensive performance – and a little help from the elements – to defeat the Portland Timbers at RFK Stadium.
For United fans, it was a refreshing change of pace. After back-to-back home results that saw D.C. jump out early and give up points late, United finally stuck the landing.
“I think it was an all-around good effort,” said United assistant coach Chad Ashton, filling in for a suspended Ben Olsen. “The guys put a lot of mileage and work in. [Portland’s] attacking pieces on the other side are real. To put up a shutout against them is a big statement. It’s just a credit to the entire team for putting in a great effort.”
This time United enjoyed the luxury of a two-goal lead, something they didn’t have in their previous two matches. D.C. kept it tight in the back, and let the city's record-setting heat and humidity take a toll on Portland, who faded badly after the 70th minute.
“The second goal was so important,” said United winger Lloyd Sam. “In the last two games [you remember what’s] happened and you feel a bit on the edge with one goal.
“Obviously you know with what’s happened in the last two games you need another, so I think that was crucial, the timing of the second goal right before that little break that we had. That meant a lot to the team, and I think it knocked a bit of the stuffing out of them as well.”
“We felt like overall we’ve let some points get away a little bit, so to put up the full three is a good deal,” Ashton said. “For our mindset, we need to start and finish off games to know that we’re capable of doing that. You do that against the reigning champs, it’s a big deal.
“So I think we felt like we were moving forward, and this feels like another step forward and hopefully we can just build on that.”