WASHINGTON, D.C. – The fans poured into RFK Stadium on Sunday for D.C. United’s encounter with New York City FC -- 30,943 to be exact.
On a picture-perfect fall day, they did not leave disappointed.
United bagged a trio of goals in the opening 45 and stormed to a 3-1 victory, clinching a spot in the Audi MLS Cup playoffs and dashing NYCFC’s waning hopes of finishing atop the Eastern Conference.
“No one player stands out in that first half, which is a beautiful thing when you’re up 3-0,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “[It was] a complete, collective effort. Everybody on high alert on every little play for the entire half. That’s what we can do.”
United wasted no time in grabbing control of the game, bossing a sluggish NYCFC side from the jump. It was indeed, as Olsen said, a complete, team effort . But former NYCFC forward Patrick Mullins put his own individual stamp on the game, scoring United’s first goal and assisting on their second. For Mullins, it was a game like any other.
“From the get-go, when [I was traded from New York to D.C.], I was always thankful for my time there. I put a lot of equity into the club when I was there and wanted to be special there and for the club to be special,” Mullins said. “Obviously they’ve had a great year. I think both the club and I have moved past that and have respect for each other.”
Unbeaten in six games, United seem to be peaking at the right time. There’s a fluidity to their play that’s been lacking in their past two campaigns, which saw them hobble into the playoffs, making an early exit on both occasions.
“I think there’s certainly an upward swing,” said Olsen. “The last two years I’d agree that we were limping into the post-season, and that was a big factor in us getting knocked out. So now, it’s about figuring out how we can continue to move in the right direction and not fade, keep winning games -- including next weekend’s. We can enjoy this tonight, but we want to be as high in the table as we can moving into the playoffs.”